It was already going to be a close call as to whether Jayson Werth (shoulder) would be ready for Opening Day, and now one of Werth’s outfield mates has joined him on the injured list.
Denard Span had to undergo surgery on Monday to repair a right core muscle. Although the Nationals haven’t provided a timetable for his return, it will be 4-6 weeks before he’ll even be allowed to resume baseball activities. Given that news, you have to figure there’s a good chance he’ll miss at least the first month of the season. It’s the second operation in three months that Span has had on his midsection, as he had hernia surgery in December.
"[The pain] was off and on," Span told MLB.com. "I got to spring training. I tried to play on Thursday and it didn't respond well."
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As for Werth, who is working his way back from January surgery to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder, he’s been taking dry swings and is expected to begin throwing next week. Werth is holding out hope of being ready for Opening Day, but he has probably a 50/50 shot, at best, and it could take a while after that before his power resurfaces.
The Nationals will turn to Michael Taylor in center field to pick up the slack until Span returns. Taylor is an intriguing talent, as the soon-to-be 24-year-old batted .304/.390/.526 with 23 home runs and 37 stolen bases in 110 games last season between Double- and Triple-A while also getting a cup of coffee in the majors. His power/speed combo makes him an interesting target in fantasy leagues even if he might only have a starting job for a month or so.
If Werth isn’t able to get ready in time for Opening Day, Nate McLouth should handle left field and Tony Gwynn Jr. could make the club as a non-roster invitee. McLouth is coming back from shoulder surgery of his own but is ahead of Werth.
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Floyd Set to Undergo MRI
When the Indians signed Gavin Floyd over the winter, they expected him to show up to camp basically fully recovered from last June’s surgery to repair a fractured olecranon in his right elbow. The reality is that he’s been behind and it’s now totally up in the air as to when he might catch up.
Floyd began feeling more elbow soreness last week and on Monday underwent an MRI, with the results expected to be revealed Tuesday. Manager Terry Francona noted that the right-hander has felt discomfort in a few different spots in his elbow.
"He's feeling some things," Francona told MLB.com. "We just want to make sure he's all right. He's been through a lot, and we don't want him to go through more."
Even if the MRI doesn’t reveal anything serious, the odds are probably against Floyd getting in enough work to be ready for Opening Day. The Indians had a bunch of guys competing for the No. 5 spot in the rotation this spring, but as it is they could now have two openings.
Danny Salazar will almost surely come away with one of the spots. The hard-thrower got off to a poor start last season and spent time in the minors, but he finished very strong with a 3.50 ERA after rejoining the rotation in the second half. T.J. House is another intriguing arm after holding a 3.35 ERA across 102 innings in 2014. He seems likely to grab a rotation spot should Floyd begin the year on the DL. Zach McAllister is also in the mix and it’s worth noting that he’s out of options, but the Tribe could just slide him into a long relief role.
Braves in “Ongoing” Talks with Olivera
The case of Cuban defector Hector Olivera has taken various twists and turns, but he’s finally been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and we’re starting to get a clearer picture as to which teams will be his most serious suitors.
Two days after Baseball America’s Ben Badler listed them among the favorites to sign Olivera, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi says the Braves are in “ongoing discussions” with the 29-year-old. Badler also lists the Padres and Dodgers as the most likely landing spots for Olivera. Most have viewed Olivera as a second baseman, but he could wind up playing third base for any of those three clubs. The A’s and Giants are among other teams that have been connected to Olivera, but it appears they may no longer be in the mix.
There was a report last week that there was fear Olivera had damage to his ulnar collateral ligament and might need Tommy John surgery, but various outlets have since debunked the report. The Cuban infielder should sign relatively soon and is expected to command a contract in the $50-70 million range. The feeling is that he’s major league-ready now.
O’s “Keeping an Eye” on Howard
One of the Phillies’ trade chips likely went by the wayside over the weekend when Cliff Lee developed renewed soreness in his pitching elbow. Another one, however, is still on the market and it appears at least one team is keeping tabs.
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury has reported that the Orioles are “keeping an eye” on Ryan Howard this spring. The O’s have been connected to Howard as far back as the Winter Meetings, but they’ve re-signed Delmon Young and traded for Travis Snider since then. It might take an injury for Baltimore’s interest to really pick up, although they could probably find a decent number of at-bats for Howard right now between first base and the designated hitter spot.
Of course, the biggest obstacle is Howard’s contract. The former National League MVP is owed $50 million over the next two seasons and has a $10 million buyout for 2017. The Phillies have expressed a readiness to pay down most of the deal, but whether it’s enough and they can find a willing trade partner remains to be seen.