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Pitching injuries not a fantasy

Spring officially started this past Monday, which means that Opening Day is right around the corner. It also means that fantasy baseball league drafts and leagues will be getting underway as well (in fact, many leagues have already held their draft). Injuries are a part of the game for “real” baseball managers but many are concerned right now with the impact on their starting rotations. Injuries in Spring Training mean less time to prepare for the season, which in turn can mean those pitchers won’t be ready to go when the season starts on April 2. With that in mind, do not take the following advice as gospel, just as advice for those in standard 5 x 5 rotisserie leagues or head-to-head leagues:

David Price: The Red Sox anticipated a powerhouse rotation of newly acquired Chris Sale, 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, and 2012 Cy Young recipient Price. But, Price felt pain in his prized left elbow and forearm and had to make the dreaded visit to orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews for an expert opinion.

The Red Sox are optimistic that treatment and rest will get Price healthy. But, Comcast Sports New England speculated on Monday that Price may not pitch in the Majors until May. Red Sox Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had this to say:

“I think he’ll be fine based upon what the doctors have told me, what David feels,” said Dombrowski. “We got to take our time.”

“You don’t ever want to rush that. I’m sure that we could have pushed him a little bit further at this point even quicker. I think he’ll be fine. And I think that he’ll be a good pitcher.”

“I think part of the thing that he did, to me, probably what happened is, which is unfortunate but it did, he did some winter time work this year, which was discussed with him which he did great, some pilates and all that type stuff. Really loosened up his hip. His delivery was free and easy. Probably overdid it a little bit that one day (he was hurt). But he was throwing hard earlier, but that’d be my instinct.

“He was getting out there and it probably irritated him a little bit at that point. Nobody knows for sure, I don’t really know what happened. I know he was throwing well all spring. I think he’ll be fine.”

Even if he misses the first month of the season, Price could still have a big fantasy impact in AL-only or mixed leagues. However, Price’s 2016 numbers are another reason for concern. In his first season in Boston last year, he pitched to a 3.99 ERA and allowed 30 home runs. He also had the second-worst WHIP (1.204) of his career. Price has averaged over 230 innings over the last three years and it could be catching up to him.

Advice: Proceed with caution, aka buy low. Save your money for a healthier arm. And, an arm not regularly facing the AL East.

Max Scherzer: It’s not uncommon for parents or mentors to tell a perceived underachiever to “knuckle down” or to “get serious”. But, Scherzer isn’t one of those people who needs verbal motivation and he certainly doesn’t want any non-medical advice concerning knuckles. Scherzer broke the knuckle of his ring finger last season but it wasn’t diagnosed until December.

The two-time Cy Young winner (Detroit, 2013, Washington, 2016) is arguably one of the three best pitchers in baseball. Scherzer couldn’t pick up a baseball until pitchers and catchers reported in mid-February, and even then he had to take it easy.

A month later, Scherzer has thrown batting practice and this past Sunday threw a two-inning simulated game. Nats’ manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Mike Maddux were happy with the results.

“He looked pretty sharp,” Baker said. “I didn’t get a velocity on him. I didn’t have a chance to talk to him after he threw, but he looked pretty good.”

Added pitching coach Maddux: “I thought Max looked really good. Threw all four pitches for strikes, had velocity and finish on the ball, no holdback. Liked everything we saw.”

Scherzer could miss Opening Day, but he may pitch in a Grapefruit League game this weekend. While the Nationals are being cautious, it appears that he shouldn’t miss too many regular season starts.

Advice: Go big in NL-only and mixed leagues.

Chris Tillman: In the ultra-competitive AL East, teams can’t afford to lose pitching depth.The Baltimore Orioles find themselves in that situation right now with their ace, Chris Tillman sidelined with shoulder inflammation. Tillman missed three weeks during the 2016 season with the issue and it cropped up again in December.

Doctors treated the issue with a platelet-rich plasma (click here to learn more about PRP) and Tillman received a cortisone injection a little over a week ago. Tillman, who also had a cortisone shot last August, cannot receive another injection of the steroid for six months.

Manager Buck Showalter doesn’t expect Tillman, who won’t be ready for Opening Day, to miss too much of the season. Of course, that is an optimistic point of view at the moment. Tillman threw over 200 innings in 2013 and 2014 but tossed 173 and 172 innings in the last two seasons, respectively. He won’t throw until Sunday, a full ten days since he received his cortisone shot.

Advice: Be semi-cautious in AL-only and mixed leagues. And, if you are in a league where you can bench players, you might want to sit Tillman in hitter-friendly Camden Yards. Tillman was much better on the road than at home last season.

Sonny Gray: The Oakland A’s righty struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness last season and has been dealing with a strained lat muscle this Spring. On Tuesday, Gray got the go-ahead to start throwing from 75 ft. after he received good news from an MRI scan.

Gray is the de facto ace of the A’s staff despite just 96 career starts. The Vanderbilt product was selected as the 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Gray threw only 117 innings last year topping 200 innings in his first two full seasons (2014-2015) in the Majors. Gray may be another the victim of too many innings too soon.

Though he finished third in the 2015 AL Cy Young voting, proceed with caution when it comes to Gray. He hasn’t built up enough of a resume to believe he won’t miss a number of starts to begin the season.

Advice: Buy low in AL-only and mixed leagues. Gray has been the subject of trade rumors since last season, so you don’t want to spend a lot in an AL-only league, only to see him shipped to the NL.

Carlos Carrasco: Had the Indians’ right-hander been healthy during the World Series, it might have been Cleveland that was celebrating the end of a long World Series drought.

In a mid-September game, the Tigers’ Ian Kinsler hit a comebacker that fractured Carrasco’s pitching hand and ended his regular season. He also missed a combined three weeks back in April and May with a hamstring injury.

Discomfort in his right elbow has caused Carrasco to get off to a slow start this year. When the medical staff found swelling in the elbow, Carrasco was shut down for a week. The prognosis came on the heels of a start in which Carrasco allowed eight runs in one inning of a Cactus League start.

The medical team checked him out recently and gave him the go ahead to throw a bullpen session last Saturday. He then received approval to make a minor league start this Monday. The Indians are not likely to rush him to be ready by Opening day but are optimistic he will start by mid-April.

Advice: Carrasco received better news in the last week. Buy medium-to-high in AL-only and mixed leagues. He’ll throw a complete clunker here and there but Carrasco is developing into one of the best pitchers in the AL.

Good luck in your drafts and remember: let the buyer beware!