- Jake Peavy is looking to be ahead of schedule. Throughout the off season the consensus has been that Peavy likely wouldn't be ready to go until early May. Then a couple weeks ago we started hearing Pitching Coach Don Cooper suggesting that Peavy could come back sooner than anticipated.
At the time I didn't make much of it, you never hear anything but positive news for the most part during spring training after all. But with Peavy throwing a full bullpen a couple days ago and now scheduled to actually go out and pitch on Tuesday, well, that means a whole lot more than some positive words. Of course, pitching in a spring training game and actually being able to pitch against Major League hitters are two very different things. Still, this should be viewed as a huge positive.
- The Twins have two key players returning from injury, the first in chronological order would be closer Joe Nathan. Nathan's 2010 season ended early in spring training last year when he ruptured a tendon in his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. Now a year later he he's looking to make spring training a time to get back into the game.
Nathan has been throwing for a couple months now and he's already working off a mound and doing bullpen drills. The Twins of course are saying all the right things, suggesting that he's already working in the high 80s and low 90s. I'm always skeptical, especially with the Twins who have a history of grossly overselling players returning from injury. But the fact that Nathan is out there and getting his work in every day is definitely a good thing. A lot remains to be seen with him however.
- The other key player for the Twins who will be making his way back this spring is Justin Morneau. Morneau of course was on pace to lap the rest of the American League field when he put up a 5.2 WAR in just slightly over half a season of work. Then he took a knee to the head sliding into second base trying to break up a double play and never made it back from concussion symptoms that plagued him all year and into the off season.
Now that he's back in camp however, things seem to be looking good. He's taken the field for full workouts every single day and his swing looks strong as he's already taken top prospect Kyle Gibson deep a couple times. So far, he looks like an off season of rest has done him well.
- The Twins also have a couple other small injury related tidbits as starter Scott Baker, who had surgery to clean up his elbow this off season has been dealing with extra swelling in that elbow this spring. Fellow starter Francisco Liriano has also reported some shoulder discomfort, though until something more serious arises, it's probably best to chock that up to rust, but it's worth keeping an ear to the ground for.
- The Tigers big injury return is that of Carlos Guillen who underwent microfracture surgery on his knee last year and missed much of the 2010 season to various injuries. Mircofracture surgery has a pretty spotty record - a lot of guys just never make it back. Some guys do, but it takes years to regain their full strength. Guillen however appears to be recovering brilliantly and while he'll almost certainly open the season as the teams DH, his encouraging mobility so far suggests the possibility of him seeing legitimate time as the Tigers second baseman exists.
That could be a big boost for the Tigers as keeping the DH spot open to give other veterans like Magglio Ordonez and Victor Martinez rest while still keeping their bats in the lineup would be big.
- The other notable AL Central player to undergo microfracture surgery was Grady Sizemore, and unfortunately, the early signs aren't good. Sizemore is still experiencing a lot of discomfort while running and performing baseball activities and it would appear there is a good likelihood that he opens the 2011 season on the DL.
Further complicating matters, likely backup Trevor Crowe is having shoulder issues and the team is concerned that he'll miss the start of the season as well. Speedy outfielder and presumptive opening day left fielder Michael Brantley has been getting time in center so far and is the most likely candidate for the job should neither Sizemore nor Crowe be capable by the beginning of the season. If so, that would likely shift backup outfielder Austin Kearns into left or it may open the door for prospect Nick Weglarz.
- For the Royals, the biggest injury issue so far would be that of Jason Kendall. Kendall almost certainly wont be ready to open the season for the team, and at this point the team is simply trying to determine which catcher it will bring north to join Brayan Pena until Kendall is ready to return. That might not be until late May or early June.