Who knew it was so dangerous to be a closer for a major league baseball team? Just about half of the teams in the league have switched closers either due to injury or ineffectiveness. In the past week, a couple more went down. Pretty soon, you could send your resume to your favorite team’s general manager because teams are running out of ninth inning options. So without further adieu, here is the next edition of the walking wounded.
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1. Mariano Rivera (RP-NYY). In what is known as the “shag heard ‘round the world” Yankees closer Mariano Rivera suffered a torn ligament in his knee and will require season-ending surgery. Rivera is the greatest closer in baseball history and an absolute lock for between 30-40 saves, so this is a devastating loss for fantasy owners. If you were able to, you should have picked up David Robertson and/or Rafael Soriano who are the most likely candidates to close out games for the Yankees. If you are in a keeper league, Rivera plans on coming back in 2013 so you can hold on to him.
2. Jayson Werth (OF-WAS). The Nationals $126 million dollar man Jayson Werth suffered a broken left wrist when attempting to make a sliding catch. He underwent surgery and is expected to miss 12 weeks. Werth has been an average at best fantasy option since joining the Nationals, so his absence from your team will not be drastic. Keep him stashed on your disabled list because he should be back around the All Star break.
3. Ryan Howard (1B-PHI). Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard took batting practice this week at the team’s spring training facility down in Florida and did not report any problems afterwards. There is no timetable for when he might return, so don’t get your hopes up yet. Howard is still recovering from his Achilles injury sustained during the playoffs in 2011. He was likely drafted or purchased at a discount, so fantasy owners are anxiously awaiting the influx of power to their teams. Keep him stashed on your bench or disabled list because he will be back at some point.
4. Chase Utley (2B-PHI). Chase Utley, the oft-injured Phillies second baseman, could be weeks away from making his season debut. Manager Charlie Manuel reported on Wednesday that Utley would be heading down to Florida for baseball activities which is akin to spring training for him, along with a rehab assignment. Utley is the oldest 33 year old player in baseball, which is a shame because of how talented he is and the way he plays the game. He is no longer a top fantasy option, but he should give your team a boost when he does return. If he is still floating around as a free agent in your league, pick him up…and then consider playing fantasy baseball with people who actually know what they are doing.
5. Huston Street (RP-SD). The maladies to closers hit San Diego as well as Huston Street sustained a shoulder injury and had to be placed on the disabled list. He expects to be back shortly after he is eligible to return, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that. In the interim, Andrew Cashner looks like he will be given the opportunity to close games for the Padres so he is a viable option if you need a replacement. However, the Padres don’t score many runs and likely won’t win a lot of games this year so the opportunities for saves in San Diego will be limited. Hold on to Street and see where he is at in two weeks before making a true roster decision on him.
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6. Justin Morneau (1B-MIN). The black cloud hovering over Twins first baseman Justin Morneau just continues to grow. The former MVP was placed on the disabled list again with a sore left wrist, just months after he had surgery on it. He hasn’t been the same player since he started suffering all of these injuries, so his fantasy value has diminished quite a bit over the years. It isn’t known how long he will be out this time, but hopefully you have another viable option at first base on your fantasy team. Keep him stashed on your bench or DL, but don’t hold your breath waiting for him to come back and be productive.
7. Desmond Jennings (OF-TB). The injuries have piled up in Tampa Bay’s lineup as Desmond Jennings has been sidelined with a knee injury. He missed another game on Wednesday but feels he should be back in the lineup by the weekend. Tampa Bay is sure to be cautious with Jennings who relies so heavily on his speed for both offense and defense. The Rays will want to be sure he is fully healed, so monitor his progress each day and hope he is back in the lineup by Friday.
8. Will Middlebrooks (3B-BOS). Red Sox rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks left Tuesday night’s game with tightness in his left hamstring. This was just days after he had a hamstring cramp, but Middlebrooks has downplayed the severity of the injury and doesn’t expect to miss much time. He has hit extremely well since his debut, and there were talks of having him play some outfield when Kevin Youkilis is activated off the disabled list. However, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine denied those rumors. It isn’t as though Bobby V hasn’t played the media before so take what he says with a grain of salt. Boston is in desperate need of offense with the injuries to Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, so keep an eye on whether Middlebrooks does get a shot in the outfield.
9. Ruben Tejada (SS-NYM). Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada suffered a strained quad while running out an infield hit and subsequently falling face first over the first base bag. He was placed on the disabled list but should return as soon as he is eligible to come off. Tejada has become a viable option in many fantasy leagues with his .300 batting average. He has no power and won’t drive in many runs, but he is a decent option at shortstop if you are truly desperate to fill a spot.
10. Jason Bay (OF-NYM). This past weekend Mets manager Terry Collins indicated that Jason Bay, one of the worst free agent signings in the history of baseball, is still in pain when he laughs or coughs. He is recovering from a fractured rib and will not be activated off the disabled list for quite awhile. If he wants to avoid laughing hysterically, then he probably shouldn’t watch any video of his at bats during his tenure in New York. If you are in a deep league with DL spots available, it is worth stashing Bay. If not, set him free and don’t look back.
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