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.