A week ago, Michael Bourn expressed optimism that his strained left hamstring wouldn’t keep him out of the Opening Day lineup. He sang a different tune Monday after a meeting with general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona led to the decision that a trip to the disabled list was in order.
"I'd rather have my leg healthy and be ready to play for the long haul," Bourn told MLB.com, "than try to make it for Opening Day just because."
Bourn is currently only running in a straight line and wouldn’t offer a percentage as to how his hamstring is feeling, only saying that he’s “pretty good.” It’s possible he’ll try to run the bases as soon as Tuesday, but that’s up in the air.
The Indians will backdate his DL stint to where he could return as soon as April 5, missing just four games. While the Tribe wouldn’t rule out a return that soon, it’s hardly a given. They’re going to proceed cautiously with Bourn given how integral his legs are to his value.
Bourn’s DL stint has opened up a roster spot for Nyjer Morgan, who spent last year in Japan and came to camp as a non-roster invitee. The Indians seem committed to keeping Michael Brantley in left field, which means Morgan should see plenty of starts in center against right-handed pitching while Bourn is out. Mike Aviles and Elliot Johnson have also seen time at the position in Cactus League play since Bourn was injured.
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Braves Opt for Harang Over Garcia
With all the injuries in the Braves’ rotation, Freddy Garcia had seemed like a lock to be part of the starting five at the beginning of the season. As it turns out, the club had another veteran right-hander in mind.
After granting Garcia his release Monday afternoon, Atlanta acted fast to find a replacement by signing Aaron Harang that evening. Harang had been given his walking papers by the Indians at virtually the same time Garcia was getting cut loose by the Braves.
On the surface it looks like a lateral move, and that’s probably what it’s going to wind up being. For what it’s worth, Harang easily out-pitched Garcia this spring, posting a 2.00 ERA and 6/2 K/BB ratio over nine innings for the Tribe. Garcia held a 4.76 mark and 14/6 K/BB ratio in 17 frames for the Braves.
Ideally, Harang will only be needed until Mike Minor (shoulder) returns from the disabled list, which should be before the end of April. However, it’s possible he could need to stick around until Gavin Floyd (elbow) is ready in May. The Braves gave Harang a major league deal, so he’ll probably stick around in a relief role once he’s no longer needed in the rotation.
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Jaso Back Behind the Dish
John Jaso missed the final two and a half months of last season with post-concussion issues, which was the main reason why many had thought a full-time move to the designated hitter spot was coming in 2014. But there Jaso was Monday, getting a second straight start behind the dish. The A’s plan on it being a regular thing, as it appears Jaso will again be the primary backstop versus right-handed pitching.
"He's handled everything great," manager Bob Melvin said about Jaso to MLB.com. "I think after the first couple of days you just don't even think about it anymore. You're back to your normal routine. He's actually taken a bat to the mask and a foul ball as well. We monitor that pretty closely, but so far so good."
Jaso handling catching duties again means the DH spot versus righties will belong to Brandon Moss, with Daric Barton covering first base. Barton is just a .223/.334/.298 hitter over the last three seasons, but the A’s like his glove at first and remain confident in his ability to draw a walk. Michael Taylor looks to be the favorite to start in the DH spot against left-handers.
The biggest loser of playing time in this scenario is Derek Norris, who had been looking at a possible everyday catching role. Now it appears he’ll again be on the short side of a platoon, a role that resulted in just 308 plate appearances last season.
Castro, Reyes Eyeing Opening Day
Starlin Castro returned to the field Monday, playing defense for the first time since suffering a strained right hamstring back on March 2. Although he didn’t have a ball hit to him in the minor league game, Castro had an RBI single and ran the bases with no issues.
"I feel great, really good," Castro told MLB.com. "I tried to do all the moving, and I feel pretty good."
Castro will play in another minor league game Tuesday and will also take batting practice and do some defensive work beforehand.
"We're going to push him," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He's going to be very active [Tuesday]."
Opening Day is less than a week away, but it’s looking like the shortstop will be in the lineup next Monday in Pittsburgh if he gets through Tuesday with no hiccups.
Jose Reyes’ status for Opening Day is a bit less certain, but the Blue Jays’ shortstop did get some good news Monday when an MRI on his left hamstring revealed only a minor strain. Reyes just suffered the injury on Saturday and is still feeling some tightness.
"It's about the same; it's a little bit better, but there's still some tightness there," Reyes told MLB.com on Monday. "You don't want to take a risk with a hamstring. When you feel something, you have to back off a little bit because that's a tricky injury."
Should Reyes need a stint on the disabled list, the Jays could slide Ryan Goins over to shortstop and start Maicer Izturis at second base. However, manager John Gibbons doesn’t seem to think it will be necessary, referring to Reyes’ injury as “very mild and minor” and saying he’s “really not” concerned.