Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
AL Central, you've been warned. Justin Verlander seemed to be in a period of adjustment last year, going from a Springsteen pitcher—you know, blowing that speedball by you—to one who needed to actually pitch. It's a Roger Clemens-learns-a-splitter moment, and most pitchers can't do it.
The problem is that it looks like Verlander is now more Nolan Ryan than Roger Clemens. The groin issue may have been the whole problem, and with that fixed, he looks like the dominant pitcher he was.
Matt Harrison is back out and throwing. He's not fully recovered, mostly due to his back, but scouts tell me that he looks normal. Given a pair of back surgeries and non-throwing shoulder surgery, normal is pretty good. He won't be ready for the start of the season, but the earlier the Rangers get him back, the less they'll need someone like Robbie Ross to step up and out of the pen. I wonder if the Rangers have discussed going with a four-man and using Ross as a swingman.
Elvis Andrus is looking more and more like a guy who has bone chips in his elbow, though the Rangers haven't given any sort of diagnosis. "No structural damage" doesn't mean "no bone chips," so now the question is: Do they risk Andrus now, or do they shift things around and make sure that he is back and healthy down the line?
Bone chip surgery is so minor that I've been wondering why the Rangers would delay if they know that's the problem, but sources tell me that with Jurickson Profar being setback by his teeth, they're not sure if he can just shift back over to his normal shortstop. Look for this to come to a decision over the next week. Either way, it doesn't seem too serious for Andrus in the long term.
Jacoby Ellsbury is injury-prone but not as badly as people think. As long as he keeps from running into things, he's pretty durable. A calf strain doesn't help, but he is not the pure speed guy that people think he is either. It's funny that such a well-known and oft-watched player like this could be misunderstood, but it does open up some value in drafts for those of us who do get him.
The Reds rotation is a mess right now. Mat Latos is coming back from a pair of surgeries. Homer Bailey has a groin strain. Now Johnny Cueto might have the most concerning situation.
He has a scapula problem, which means that he's showing another injury that's moved down the kinetic chain. That's a very negative pattern and one that suggests any mechanical changes haven't made a positive effect. I'm very down on Cueto and think the Risk Ratings may have even underrated how risky he is.
Olt has been a bust so far since coming over in the Matt Garza deal, but the shift off third that's happening now might be a good thing. His shoulder is acting up, but with Kris Bryant coming fast and thus far not being so bad that he has to move off third, Olt could be getting a jump on a needed move to first. Of course, Anthony Rizzo is there, so that won't work. The Cubs will watch Olt closely over the next week to see if he'll start at third or on the DL. Expect the latter, which could open up some playing time for Emilio Bonifacio and his speed.
Hamilton got back into games this week after missing much of spring training with a calf strain. He looks fine so far, but it's Hamilton, so the Angels are expecting something weird. So far, he's shown no signs of recurrence and the bat is there. You can probably take Hamilton where you were going to in your draft, although no one has any idea what this guy is going to do.
Gordon Beckham once looked like he could be a star. Now, he's fighting to come back from an oblique injury so that he can get a last chance from the White Sox. Leury Garcia is a versatile player, but he could also lock in at second with a hot start. Beckham hopes to get in games this week, but Herm Schneider will have to make sure Beckham isn't setting himself up for a recurrence.
The Pirates went back to the well this offseason, bringing in Edinson Volquez. They did so well with Francisco Liriano that maybe the same team could do well with Volquez. The similarities and background are there, but so far, he has been awful. That means the Pirates will need Jeff Locke to get back from his oblique strain quickly, or they may need to go to Jameson Taillon sooner than they'd like.
Locke is a guy who benefits from a set schedule, so these kinds of injuries set him back more than some others. If you're looking for a sleeper starting pitcher, Stolmy Pimentel could get some starts in between Volquez and Locke and ahead of Taillon.