Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 3/20/14
Fister is ready to ramp things up as he preps for Opening Day (John McDonnell/The Washington Post). Finally some positive pitcher news! After being sidelined for the past 17 days with elbow inflammation, Doug Fister has been cleared to throw to big league hitters this Saturday. Nats Insider, Mark Zuckerman, reports, “He’ll pitch three innings on Saturday, then four innings on March 27 in the Nationals’ Grapefruit League finale against the Mets.” His availability for the start of the season is still in question because the Nationals may want to stretch him out before he makes his Nationals debut. In other positive news, Mat Latos made his first appearance against live hitters since undergoing knee surgery in February. C. Trent Rosecrans reported his fastball sat around 92-94 mph and touched 95 mph on several occasions. It looks as though Latos should be ready to join the Reds rotation by Opening Day or at the latest mid-April and you shouldn’t be worried about drafting him. Profar comes in, Andrus goes out Just when Jurickson Profar was able to take the field defensively, Elvis Andrus has been shut down until at least tomorrow with elbow tightness. This is the second time this spring the Rangers have shut him down with an elbow problem. The injury doesn’t seem serious as Andrus was shocked he wasn’t playing on Wednesday. Andrus is coming off a career year where he posted highs in RBI (67) and SB (42) and with the additions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo should help him create plenty more runs in 2014. The Rangers are overly cautious for a reason and hopefully this doesn’t become a larger injury concern. Ogando still leading candidate for 3rd rotation spot despite struggles At the start of spring training it was expected Alexi Ogando would begin the season as the Rangers third starter. However, he struggled for second straight outing and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports Ogando is still the leading candidate for the third spot. That being said, the Rangers are still considering a myriad of pitchers for the last three rotation spots. Even if he makes the rotation this is a player you do not want to draft. His stellar 3.11 ERA last year is a mirage as he posted a 4.64 xFIP along with his lowers strikeout rate (16.8%) and highest walk rate (9.6%) of his career. Add in the fact that he landed on the DL three times last year with various shoulder problems and you have a pitcher with too much risk for my tastes. Johnson could be a nice value now that he’s in San Diego (Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY). Quick Hits Yesterday I wrote Yordano Ventura would most likely be under an innings cap of 170-180 IP because he pitched a career-high 150 IP last year. Well, Royals manager Ned Yost said today that Ventura will not have an innings limit and could throw 180-200 IP. I’m taking anything that Yost says with a grain of salt as it was just three months ago when he was excited about the possibility of Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar being in the starting rotation. Usually I don’t put too much stock into Spring Training stats, but one that I do pay attention to for pitchers is K:BB ratio. So far Josh Johnson has a 13:4 K:BB ratio with a .196 BAA. His 295 ADP in NFBC drafts is far too low with a player with this much upside. Let’s not forget that he’s now in San Diego too. Taijuan Walker threw a successful 40-pitch bullpen session Wednesday. He is going to play catch on Thursday and if that’s successful he may face live hitters soon. He’ll begin the year on the DL, but it looks as though he is on track to come back sooner rather than later. He’s being passed on in drafts and should provide very good value. Ryan Cook has been out since mid-February with shoulder tightness, but he successfully threw a simulated game on Wednesday with no pain. When looking for the next pitcher in line for saves in Oakland Luke Gregerson is the reliever you want, but Cook is a sleeper candidate to keep an eye on. Scott Kazmir threw a 35-pitch bullpen session and he says it “went great.”
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