Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen took the first significant step in his recovery from mid-February foot surgery on Tuesday afternoon, playing catch from a distance of 60 feet at Camelback Ranch. He had been keeping his arm loose over the past four weeks by throwing a baseball with his surgically-repaired left foot stabilized on a chair, but that kind of caution is no longer necessary.
"I was able to land on the foot and there was no pain," Jansen told MLB.com beat writer Ken Gurnick after Tuesday’s workout. "I just have to take it slowly. It's still healing, but I didn't feel anything wrong."
Jansen also ditched his crutches on Tuesday, though he’ll be in a walking boot for another couple weeks. The hard-throwing right-hander, who needed a growth removed from a bone in his foot on February 17, is aiming to join the Dodgers’ bullpen by the end of April.
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There’s been very little talk from the Dodgers about what the plan will be for the ninth inning while Jansen is sidelined, but we can speculate. 38-year-old right-hander Joel Peralta is over his early-spring shoulder discomfort and would bring experience to the role. Brandon League carries even more high-leverage experience than Peralta, but League has allowed five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings this spring and is currently shut down with upper-arm soreness.
Chris Hatcher, acquired from the Marlins this winter in the Dee Gordon trade, may be the diamond in the rough for those April saves. The former catcher throws hard, and he’s posted good strikeout numbers in the minors and majors. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times and Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles -- writers embedded in camp with the Dodgers all spring -- both seem to think Hatcher could be the guy.
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Cobb Likely To Miss Opening Day Start
Rays manager Kevin Cash announced at the beginning of March that Alex Cobb would take the ball in the club’s regular-season opener on April 6 against the Orioles, but we can go ahead and scratch that plan.
Cobb made an early exit from his third Grapefruit League start Tuesday versus the Phillies after experiencing discomfort in his right forearm. The early diagnosis is tendinitis -- not anything major that would require surgery -- but Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times says Cobb will likely miss the first few weeks of the regular season. Drew Smyly is in a similar position with a minor left shoulder injury, so Chris Archer is probably going to get the Opening Day nod for the Rays.
Cobb, 27, posted an excellent 2.87 ERA, 1.136 WHIP, and 8.1 K/9 in 166 1/3 innings last season.
He’s still safe to draft early.
Marco Making A Case In Cards Camp
Carlos Martinez seemed like the heavy favorite for the fifth spot in the Cardinals’ rotation when spring training began and the fiery Dominican right-hander probably still is the frontrunner to ultimately win the job, but young left-hander Marco Gonzales is making things interesting.
Gonzales held the Marlins to one run over 4 2/3 innings Tuesday in his third Grapefruit League appearance, lasting longer than any other Cardinals starter has this spring. Gonzales yielded no runs and just two hits over his first two outings, and he now boasts a 0.84 ERA through 10 2/3 frames in this year’s Grapefruit League. Compare that to a 6.75 ERA in eight innings (three starts) for Martinez.
Not to be forgotten in this discussion is 28-year-old southpaw Jaime Garcia, who finally appears to be healthy after being limited to a total of 13 starts in 2013-2014 due to chronic shoulder injuries. Garcia struck out five batters over four innings of one-run ball last Thursday against the Orioles.
Whoever comes out on top in this competition will be worthy of a late-round draft pick. Garcia owns a 3.50 ERA and 7.2 K/9 in 594 2/3 career major league innings, along with a 2.91 career ERA at Busch Stadium. Gonzales wasn’t great last year in his first taste of the major league level, but the 2013 first-round pick has a 2.48 career ERA and 8.7 career K/9 in the minors. Carlos Martinez carries the most upside of them all with his filthy-but-inconsistent raw arsenal. A winner should be crowned late next week.
A Minor “Uh Oh” For Uehara
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara suffered a strained right hamstring while doing some conditioning on Tuesday morning in Fort Myers, Florida. Boston’s medical staff insists the strain is minor, but it’s going to cost the 39-year-old righty a couple of Grapefruit League appearances and he seems like a guy who needs to get some things ironed out.
Uehara surrendered 10 earned runs over his final 7 2/3 innings last season and he’s given up two earned runs on seven hits through three innings this spring. Few relievers have been more dominant than Uehara over the last three regular seasons, but he turns 40 years old on April 3. Could a full-on collapse be coming in 2015?
Edward Mujica and Junichi Tazawa are next in line for the Red Sox. Mujica posted a 1.78 ERA after the All-Star break last year and Tazawa has registered a 2.62 ERA, 1.135 WHIP, and 181/34 K/BB ratio in 175 1/3 innings since the beginning of the 2012 campaign. Just something to keep in mind. Uehara is still the guy for now and might wind up being perfectly fine.