Daily Dose: Opening Dose

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While the Red Sox and Yankees give us a pretty decent Game 1 of 2,430, here are some news and notes from around baseball …
* As expected, the Rockies placed Huston Street on the disabled list Sunday with a sore shoulder. Street already experienced a setback with the injury during spring training, so while he’s expected to return fairly soon Franklin Morales should have quite a few save chances in the meantime and needs to be owned in all leagues. If he throws strikes, he can dominate.
* By designating Jack Cust for assignment the A’s are essentially betting that no team will claim his $2.65 million salary on waivers, in which case they can stash him at Triple-A (unlike Jake Fox, who’s out of minor-league options) and basically use a 26-man roster for a while. Cust would help a few teams at that price–including the punchless A’s, of course–but fitting him into the lineup and budget at this late date could be tough.
* By jettisoning Cust (for now, at least) the A’s are suddenly counting on Eric Chavez to play regularly again, albeit at designated hitter. Chavez seems unlikely to stay healthy even at DH and regardless of that hasn’t produced DH-caliber offense since 2005 or 2006. Chavez is worth a flier in AL-only leagues, but don’t feel obligated to stay with him if/when things go south.
* Fox not only made the Opening Day roster in Oakland, he’ll serve as Kurt Suzuki’s backup after the A’s chose not to keep a true second catcher. Fox caught full time early in his minor-league career, but hasn’t played the position regularly since 2006 and started just twice behind the plate last season between Triple-A and the Cubs. He has plenty of offensive upside, but doesn’t seem likely to play a whole lot early on.
* Mike Leake was the eighth pick in June’s draft after starring at Arizona State and now he’s leap-frogging the minors altogether so the Reds can rush him into their rotation at age 22. Leake is often praised for his command and polish, but handing a young arm to Dusty Baker is always risky and a couple months at Triple-A would have been better for everyone involved. Long term, he projects more as a solid mid-rotation guy than an ace.


* Alex Gordon will begin the season on the disabled list and may not be ready to return from a broken thumb until late April or early May, leaving Alberto Callaspo to play every day at third base. Callaspo hit .300/.356/.457 in 155 games last year to rank second on the team in OPS, yet it took Gordon’s injury for the Royals’ braintrust to avoid benching him after handing second base to Chris Getz.
* Mike Aviles will also be part of the Royals’ infield mix after securing an Opening Day spot by going 24-for-51 (.471) this spring. Aviles came out of nowhere to bat .325 in 102 games as a 27-year-old rookie in 2008, but then hit .183 in 36 games before undergoing Tommy John surgery last season. If healthy Aviles could (or at least should) push the execrable Yuniesky Betancourt for starts at shortstop, but keep expectations modest.
* John Bowker beat out Nate Schierholtz for the Giants’ right field job, which gives the 26-year-old one more chance to show that his strong minor-league numbers are no fluke. Bowker has hit just .244/.291/.402 through 142 games in San Francisco, but batted .322/.424/.546 with 23 homers in 129 games at Triple-A and .307/.363/.523 with 22 homers in 139 games at Double-A. He’s definitely worth a flier in NL-only leagues.
* Ron Washington announced that Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden will split time behind the plate initially, combining for what has to be the most letters ever for a catching platoon. Saltalamacchia is a question mark because of a unique condition that gave him rib, shoulder, and neck problems, so easing him back into the lineup isn’t a bad idea. However, ultimately if both guys are healthy he should claim most of the starts.
* Injuries and poor performances have pushed Travis Buck off the radar since hitting .288/.377/.474 in 82 games as a rookie in 2007, but thanks to a strong spring training and Coco Crisp’s fractured finger he’ll be the Opening Day right fielder for the A’s. Buck is certainly capable of being a lot better than he’s looked over the past two seasons, but lacks the power or speed to make a major fantasy impact even if things go well.
* Andres Blanco is slated to start at second base for the Rangers while Ian Kinsler is out with a sprained ankle, but don’t expect fantasy value from the 26-year-old journeyman. Blanco has hit .252/.295/.324 in the majors after batting .264/.319/.352 in 317 games at Triple-A. He’s a utility man, at best. Kinsler is hoping to return within a couple weeks, but high-ankle sprains can be tricky.

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.