Friars closer Jason Motte has been sidelined by a serious elbow injury and is attempting to rehab his arm without having surgery. It is believed that if Motte is forced to have surgery, he will be lost for the season. The Friars had rather prudently obtained some veteran insurance, signing RHP Fernando Rodney through the 2013 Draft and adding former Yuma setup man Rafael Soriano as a free agent. Still, Motte's departure (even if only temporary) means that St. Francis will continue to pursue bullpen arms on the trade market.
One arm not making its way to opening day: former Brooklyn prospect Daniel Schlereth. The journeyman left-hander did not pitch well enough this spring to earn a roster spot, despite openings in the pen, and he has been optioned to AAA St. Michel after agreeing to a minor-league split contract that raises his salary $250,000. "We can afford this penalty to obtain some insurance," remarked team president Scott Hatfield.
Veteran Bronson Arroyo, despite a mediocre 2012 BARB campaign (10-10, 6.75), has earned the nod for Opening Day starter. He will be followed in the rotation by 2013 Draftee Wade Miley, veteran LHP Clayton Richard, rookie hurler Matt Harvey and last year's #2 starter, LHP Derek Holland . Waiting in the wings: RHP Shelby Miller (who had a great spring and will being the year at AAA St. Michel) and former Brooklyn RHP Clay Buchholz, signed off the scrap heap as a free agent. RHP Henderson Alvarez, who showed flashes at times in 2012, will begin the year on the disabled list, while prized prospects Danny Hultzen and Dylan Bundy are returning to AA Georgetown for more seasoning. All three could eventually play a role with the parent club, or serve as trade bait.
The glut of young pitching meant that neither RHP Edinson Volquez or LHP Travis Wood would get a rotation spot, but instead would begin the year in the St. Francis pen, while veteran RHP Aaron Harang (actively shopped by management) would be the club's spot starter and primary long man for now. "We are in an unusual position for any club, much less St. Francis, " Hatfield mused. "Virtually all of our starters are healthy and had decent springs, and we have as a result tremendous depth in the rotation. We expect to be active in the trade market precisely for that reason."
In other news: C Jesus Montero will go north again despite a disappointing spring, and the Friars will (for now) carry three catchers. Montero's main role, however, will be as a DH against left-handers and veteran Kelly Shoppach is expected to get most of the playing time off the bench to back up starting catcher Salvador Perez.
During the spring, observers were surprised to see slugging RF Jose Bautista play occasional innings at both 1B and 3B, as Bautista is still dealing with injuries from last season and hasn't played regularly in the infield since 2010. "I thought it would be good for my workout to make sure I was using all my skills," Bautista said, "and maybe it will come in handy for the team, as well." Bench strength is a concern for the club, with no left-handed hitters
available and only one player (IF Todd Frazier) likely to play a utility
role, so perhaps Bautista's unusual prep will in fact become part of
the club's style of play in 2013.
Meanwhile, three other infielders (Aaron Hill, Pedro Alvarez and Ike Davis) are expected to get most of the playing time at 2B, 3B and 1B. All three run-producers came over last August as part of a blockbuster trade with the Arizona franchise in a swap for Shawn Marcum, which is now looking like one of the most one-sided exchanges in league history. Marcum, who battled injuries last season, is now once again sidelined to start the year and when he returns he is expected to be no better than a #3 starter.