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Shuffling the Rotations for Week 1

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Last week's series in Tokyo between the Mariners and A's was like a nouvelle cuisine appetizer, but now comes the main course. Actually, with just 46 games over five days, Fantasy Week 1 (April 4-8) also comes to us as a mini-sized portion. After six months without Fantasy Baseball, though, it will be a treat to our taste buds.

With a downsized schedule, only 92 pitchers will get a start in Week 1, and there are no two-start pitchers, unless you are counting the four starters who pitched last week in Japan. That means that typically low-end options like Chris Capuano and James McDonald have cracked our weekly top 70, as many of the pitchers you would normally rely on in standard mixed leagues won't be making their first starts until Fantasy Week 2 (April 9-15).

Among those who will get Week 1 off include Cole Hamels, C.J. Wilson, Anibal Sanchez, Yu Darvish, Brandon Beachy, Trevor Cahill and Shaun Marcum. Head-to-Head owners anxious to get starter innings from RP-eligible Matt Moore and Neftali Feliz will have to wait another week, though owners of Cory Luebke will get production right away, as he will take the mound against the Dodgers on Friday.

Here is our inaugural top 70 starters list for the 2012 season. You will not only find pitchers viable in standard mixed leagues ranked here, but also their matchup information and ownership and start rates.

Starting Rotation breakdown for Fantasy Week 1
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2 Stat of note
1 Roy Halladay @PIT (Bedard) N/A 10 HRs allowed in 233 2/3 innings in 2011
Halladay's ERA has actually shrunk in each of the last two seasons, so he shows no signs of slowing down.
2 Clayton Kershaw @SD (Volquez) N/A Career-best 2.1 BB/9 last season
Kershaw has cut his walk rate by 57 percent over the last two years, but he still strikes out more than a batter per inning.
3 Cliff Lee @PIT (Karstens) N/A Four straight seasons with fewer than 2.0 BB/9
At age 33, Lee continued to get better, increasing his K-rate for the fifth straight season.
4 Justin Verlander BOS (Lester) N/A Career-high 251 innings in '11
Verlander cut back on walks last season, but still needed 4.07 pitches to get through an average plate appearance.
5 Felix Hernandez @OAK (Colon) N/A Career 2.97 ERA in 11 starts at O.co Coliseum
Though Hernandez's ERA rose by 1.20 last year, his xFIP rose by only 0.03, showing he has the potential to win another Cy Young Award.
6 Jered Weaver KC (Chen) N/A 15 percent pop-up rate in 2011
Swinging strike and strikeout rates reverted back towards career norms in '11, but still a top option thanks to flyball outs.
7 Dan Haren KC (Hochevar) N/A 7.3 K/9 rate lowest since 2006
Haren is about as consistent as they come, but he is starting to show some small signs of decline.
8 David Price NYY (Kuroda) N/A 5.22 ERA vs. Yankees a year ago
Price did not fare well against the Bombers in five starts last season, but he's capable of beating anyone at this stage of his career.
9 CC Sabathia @TB (Shields) N/A 4.08 career ERA in March and April
Sabathia is a notoriously slow starter, but he did post a tidy 2.25 ERA through the end of April last year.
10 Zack Greinke STL (Wainwright) N/A Career-high 10.5 K/9 in 2011
If Greinke can just bounce back from subpar strand rates over the last two seasons, he can be a legitimate NL Cy Young candidate.
11 Ian Kennedy SF (Lincecum) N/A 2.64 home ERA last year
Kennedy could easily allow more than nine homers at Chase Field this year, but improved control makes him ace material.
12 Yovani Gallardo STL (Garcia) N/A Career-worst 12 percent HR/FB ratio in '11
Gallardo allowed 27 homers last year after giving up just 12 in 2010, but he should find the happy medium this year.
13 Matt Cain @ARI (Collmenter) N/A 4.22 career ERA at Chase Field
Cain has had his struggles pitching in Arizona, but he could still pick up a "W" opposing Collmenter.
14 Daniel Hudson SF (Bumgarner) N/A Averaged 27.9 batters per game last year
Hudson's sharp control helps him to be economical, making him especially valuable in Head-to-Head leagues.
15 Josh Johnson STL (Lohse) N/A Allowed 23 homers over last 70 starts
As good as Johnson has been in avoiding the long ball, he could be even stingier in the Marlins' spacious new ballpark.
16 Mat Latos MIA (Nolasco) N/A 4.6 runs of support per nine innings in 2011
Latos shouldn't suffer through another 9-14 season with the Reds' potent lineup backing him instead of the Padres'.
17 Tim Lincecum @ARI (Kennedy) N/A 79 percent strand rate last year
Walks haven't hurt Lincecum's ERA much, as he has stranded at least 75 percent of his baserunners in four straight seasons.
18 James Shields NYY (Sabathia) N/A 11 complete games in 2011
With a lower WHIP and fewer homers last year, Shields showed that he can be a workhorse when he doesn't get in his own way.
19 Ricky Romero @CLE (Masterson) N/A 14 percent line drive rate a year ago
An extremely low line drive rate accounted for most of Romero's improvement last year, but he will be hard pressed to repeat it.
20 Matt Garza WAS (Gonzalez) N/A 48 percent ground ball rate in '11
Garza induced frequent worm-burners after failing to break the 40 percent ground ball rate threshold in either of his two previous seasons.
21 Madison Bumgarner @ARI (Hudson) N/A 70 percent quality start rate last year
Bumgarner had a few clunkers last season, but far more often than not, he was somewhere between decent and great.
22 Jon Lester @DET (Verlander) N/A Left 76 percent of runners on base in '11
As with Lincecum, Lester's WHIP suffers from too many walks, but he has never had a strand rate below 74 percent over a full season.
23 Adam Wainwright @MIL (Greinke) N/A 2.50 career ERA at Miller Park
Wainwright can keep the ball down, so he won't get hurt by homers when pitching in Milwaukee.
24 Ervin Santana KC (Sanchez) N/A 2.90 ERA over last four months of '11
Something clicked for Santana midseason when he suddenly became grounder-prone, but can he keep it going in 2012?
25 Josh Beckett @DET (Fister) N/A 175 Ks in 193 innings last year
Beckett is erratic in all sorts of ways, but he has struck out at least eight batters per nine innings in every season but one (2006).
26 Tommy Hanson @NYM (Santana) N/A 2.44 ERA in first half of 2011
Hanson was so miserable before getting shut down last year, we forget how good he was before his shoulder woes ruined his season.
27 Stephen Strasburg @CHC (Dempster) N/A 19 walks in 92 career innings
Strasburg can do more than just whiff batters, as he has also shown pinpoint control.
28 Gio Gonzalez @CHC (Garza) N/A Career 4.32 road ERA
The move to the NL may add some Ks to Gio's stat line, but he has not been as effective away from Oakland over his career.
29 Justin Masterson TOR (Romero) N/A 5.23 ERA over last seven starts
Masterson boasted a 2.71 ERA into mid-August, but he faded down the stretch, so owners should see how he bounces back from a 216-inning season.
30 Jordan Zimmermann @CHC (Samardzija) N/A 1.7 BB/9 rate last year
Zimmermann threw more than two-thirds of his pitches for strikes, which kept him efficient and contributed to a 1.15 WHIP.
31 Johnny Cueto MIA (Buehrle) N/A 26.3 batters faced per game in 2011
Reds pitching coach Bryan Price says that Cueto excels at avoiding wasted pitches, which is why he goes far deeper into games than he used to.
32 Jaime Garcia @MIL (Gallardo) N/A .327 BABIP in '11
Garcia gave up a lot of hits on balls in play for someone with a league-average line drive rate, so expect a better WHIP and ERA this year.
33 Cory Luebke LAD (Billingsley) N/A 9.7 career K/9 as a starter
Many thought Luebke's K-rate would plunge as a starter, but he was every bit as good as when he was a reliever.
34 Derek Holland CHW (Peavy) N/A Career .468 opponents' SLG vs. righties
Holland is murder against lefties, but A.J. Pierzynski will probably be the only lefty in the latter two-thirds of the White Sox's order.
35 Wandy Rodriguez COL (Guthrie) N/A 13 starts in 2011 of at least seven innings
Rodriguez failed to make it at least six innings only six times in 30 starts last season, so you can rely on him for innings, if not wins.
36 Doug Fister BOS (Beckett) N/A 5 BBs in 70 1/3 innings with DET
We knew that Fister was a control artist, but his performance late last year was at a new level -- one he is unlikely to repeat.
37 Vance Worley @PIT (McDonald) N/A Ranked first in NL in called strike percentage in '11
Worley didn't get so many called strikes as a minor leaguer, so perhaps his 8.1 K/9 rate was a little fluky after all.
38 Jeremy Hellickson NYY (Hughes) N/A 1.0 career K/BB ratio vs. lefties
Hellickson will surely rank higher in future weeks, but a matchup against the lefty-loaded Yankees has the potential to end very poorly.
39 Ubaldo Jimenez TOR (Morrow) N/A 2.83 career ERA at Progressive Field
Five starts is a small sample, but for those looking for a silver lining, Jimenez has pitched well at his home park.
40 Hiroki Kuroda @TB (Price) N/A 4.33 career ERA vs. AL teams
Kuroda has pitched better against AL hitters than his ERA would suggest, but nine homers in 68 2/3 innings have hurt him.
41 John Danks @TEX (Lewis) N/A 4.68 career ERA at Texas
Danks has been homer-prone in his own home park, but Rangers Ballpark in Arlington hasn't been any kinder to the lefty.
42 Max Scherzer BOS (Buccholz) N/A 50 percent career quality start rate
Scherzer is highly inconsistent, so it's hard to trust him against a quality lineup like Boston's. Given the lack of alternatives, though, you may have to.
43 Gavin Floyd @TEX (Harrison) N/A 65 percent strand rate in 2011
Floyd is normally better at stranding baserunners, and he probably deserved a much better ERA than last year's 4.37.
44 Clay Buchholz @DET (Scherzer) N/A 17 percent liner rate since '08
Buchholz may not be a great strikeout pitcher, but consistent avoidance of line drives gives him solid value in standard mixed leagues.
45 Brandon McCarthy SEA (Vargas) N/A 0.72 WHIP vs. SEA since 2011
He is not alone in this distinction, but McCarthy has owned the Mariners since coming to Oakland.
46 Brandon Morrow @CLE (Jimenez) N/A 65 percent strand rate in '11
Morrow's difficulties with leaving runners on base may look like a bad-luck fluke, but it has been a pattern for him as a starter.
47 R.A. Dickey ATL (Jurrjens) N/A 3.58 pitches per plate appearance in 2011
Dickey isn't going to be the best pitcher for strikeouts and wins, but his aversion to walks will help him with ERA, WHIP and innings.
48 Colby Lewis CHW (Danks) N/A 5.54 home ERA last year
Lewis won't be viable in standard mixed leagues for many home starts, but a lack of better options could force you to stick with him in Week 1.
49 Bud Norris COL (Nicasio) N/A 52 percent quality start rate in '11
Norris turned in quality starts more often last year, but he still has more work to do in developing consistency.
50 Francisco Liriano @BAL (Chen) N/A 3.39 ERA from May to July 2011
Overall, Liriano's 2011 season was a train wreck, but he was his regular self during a healthy midseason stretch.
51 Erik Bedard PHI (Halladay) N/A 1.82 career ERA vs. NL teams
Bedard has spent his whole career in the AL up until now, but he was dominant over his 18 interleague starts.
52 Jair Jurrjens @NYM (Dickey) N/A 6 Ks over last four 2011 starts
Jurrjens wasn't himself before his season ended prematurely in August as he dealt with a knee injury, but he was missing bats again this spring.
53 Mike Minor @NYM (Niese) N/A .276 opponents' Avg on grounders in 2011
Minor got outs on ground balls at a rate far below his team's average, but fewer hits should get through this year.
54 Phil Hughes @TB (Hellickson) N/A 3.52 career ERA at Tropicana Field
Hughes is an advisable start in most leagues this week, but use caution when he starts at Yankee Stadium (4.77 career ERA).
55 Jonathon Niese ATL (Minor) N/A 3.1 K/BB ratio in 2011
Niese has developed into an ultra-efficient strike-thrower, and he could be one of this season's bigger surprises.
56 Bartolo Colon SEA (Hernandez) N/A 3.45 ERA road ERA with NYY
Colon can leave his Yankee Stadium struggles from last year behind, as he is a pitcher built for his new spacious home park in Oakland.
57 Ryan Dempster WAS (Strasburg) N/A 3.94 ERA from May '11 on
Dempster's 4.80 ERA last year was his highest in five years, but he was fine after a horrid April.
58 Ricky Nolasco @CIN (Latos) N/A .339 BABIP in 2011
Nolasco's high BABIP from last season might look like an indication of bad luck on balls in play, but he hasn't registered a rate lower than .323 since 2008.
59 Mark Buehrle @CIN (Cueto) N/A 3.32 career ERA vs. NL teams
This may be Buehrle's first year in the NL, but he has already amassed 271 innings against senior circuit hitters and has done well.
60 Johan Santana ATL (Hanson) N/A 6.5 K/9 rate in 2010
Maybe Santana can regain some of his old velocity, but 2007 was the last time he posted a K/9 rate above 8.0.
61 Matt Harrison CHW (Floyd) N/A .374 opponents' SLG in 2011
Harrison didn't give up many extra-base hits last season despite middling strikeout and ground ball rates, which raises doubts about a repeat in 2012.
62 Jonathan Sanchez @LAA (Santana) N/A 4.8 BB/9 in April/May 2011
Sanchez was extremely wild last season, but he was no worse than usual until June, when biceps tendinitis was likely starting to affect him.
63 Luke Hochevar @LAA (Haren) N/A 8.3 K/9 over last 10 starts
Hochevar got more movement on his slider late in the year, and perhaps as a result, his K-rate soared.
64 Jason Vargas @OAK (McCarthy) N/A Career 8.1 K/9 rate vs. OAK
Vargas is hardly a strikeout pitcher, but he gets his Ks against the A's, including a career-high 10 on 9/26/11.
65 Juan Nicasio @HOU (Norris) N/A 3.54 xFIP in 2011
Making a remarkable comeback from a broken neck, Nicasio is just a lower line drive rate away from being a dependable standard mixed league starter.
66 Chad Billingsley @SD (Luebke) N/A 8.7 percent swinging strike rate in '11
Billingsley's swinging strike rate has fallen by 24 percent over the last two seasons, which is why he is now a mediocre strikeout pitcher.
67 Chris Capuano @SD (Moseley) N/A 8.1 K/9 rate in 2011
An unheralded strikeout pitcher, Capuano's worst enemy is gopheritis, but he could have a very good start at PETCO Park.
68 Edinson Volquez LAD (Kershaw) N/A Career 1.50 WHIP
Everyone focuses on Volquez's move to PETCO Park, but a pitcher-friendly stadium can't stop him from being wild.
69 James McDonald PHI (Worley) N/A .302 Avg by opposing lefties in '11
McDonald has problems against lefty batters, but he catches a break with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the DL.
70 Jake Peavy @TEX (Holland) N/A 61 percent strand rate in 2011
Peavy had his issues last season, but it seems unlikely that he will allow nearly two of every five runners to score again this year.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Red Sox's Henry Owens impresses during camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:19 am ET) Red Sox pitcher Henry Owens impressed during batting practice recently, according to the Boston Herald

Owens hadn't faced big league hitters since last spring training, and had something to prove. While Owens didn't have great fastball command during the session, his changeup was spot on. 

"Great deception, hard to pick up," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "He got me on the changeup today because you can’t see the spin. It looks just like his fastball. That’s a huge advantage."

Pitching coach Juan Nieves agreed, but said he wasn't sure whether Owens was ready for the majors just yet. "Is anybody ready to come to the big leagues?" Nieves said. "I don’t know. We don’t know until they get there and experience the competition."

The 22-year-old Owens enters the year as the team's second-best prospect according to Baseball America. He posted a 2.94 ERA over two minor-league levels last year. 


Brewers GM confident Jean Segura will bounce back
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed confidence Saturday that shortstop Jean Segura will bounce back after a subpar 2014 season, the Journal Sentinel reports.

"I'm pretty confident he's going to bounce back," Melvin said. "He had a very good September. He had a lot of stuff going on last year. But everybody says he's a much happier person and everything. He's a good, athletic player that we need."

After delivering a .294 average, smacking 12 home runs and stealing 44 bases in 2013, Segura hit just .246/.289/.326 with five home runs, 31 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 513 at-bats in 2014.


Brewers' Dontrelle Willis making a good impression in camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Brewers pitcher Dontrelle Willis has made a favorable impression during camp, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

In particular, Willis has impressed manager Ron Roenicke. "He's got a great attitude," Roenicke said. "The things he said are exactly what you want a player to say. He gets it." Willis has also made a strong impression on his new teammates.

Willis, 33, has not pitched in the majors since 2011. He's attempting to make a come back with the Brewers this spring. 


Blue Jays' Michael Saunders: 'No pain' day after surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders said Saturday that he's feeling no pain one day after undergoing knee surgery, the Toronto Sun reports.

"I feel great," Saunders said. "I couldn’t believe it when I woke up this morning and I was walking around just fine. I walked out of surgery just fine. I actually started doing some exercises today and just got checked out by the doctor and he was pleasantly surprised with what he saw. There’s not as much swelling as he originally thought. Everything is checking out so far and everything is good news. No pain. It feels like I banged my knee on a pole and it’s a tiny bit swollen."

Saunders suffered a torn meniscus while tracking a foul ball Wednesday, tripping over a sprinkler head and hearing a popping sound. After initially being told he could need to have the meniscus repaired, a procedure that carries a recovery time of three-to-five months, Saunders had the torn portion of the meniscus removed, which places him on track to return to action within six weeks. While the outfielder is excited to be back on the field in a much shorter time, he indicated he'll be cautious with his rehab.

"I’m going to miss some spring training but it could be a lot worse," Saunders said. "My ligaments are intact. For me this is the best-case scenario. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready to go. I’d love to say that I’ll be ready opening day. That’s my goal. But we’re targeting more mid-April, on the safe side. At the end of the day I have to listen to my knee. It’s a long season. I’m going to get this right the first time and not rush back."


Athletics' Doolittle hoping to throw in a week or two
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle is hoping to be cleared to throw in a week or two, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

Doolittle was able to participate in strength tests on Saturday, and the results were positive. He has not been cleared to throw just yet, but is hoping that will come shortly. Doolittle has been sidelined by a shoulder injury during the start of camp. 

The 28-year-old posted a 2.73 ERA over 62 2/3 innings last year. 


Rays release OF Josh Sale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) The Rays have released outfielder Josh Sale, Baseball America reports.

Sale was suspended for use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2013 as well as for conduct detrimental to the team that same season. He received a 50-game suspension last August for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. Before his most recent suspension, he hit .238/.313/.344 with four home runs and 46 RBI in 323 at-bats with high Class A Charlotte.


Yankees' Cashman downplays Bailey's chances of making team
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Yankees general manager Brian Cashman downplayed reliever Andrew Bailey's chances of making the 25-man roster, according to the Journal News.

Bailey, 30, is attempting to come back from a shoulder injury. He has not pitched in the majors since 2013 due to the issue. While Bailey has been able to participate in bullpen sessions this spring, Cashman took a more realistic view of the situation. "It’s one of those things where, non-roster situation, it’s a flyer, and the odds are against it," Cashman said. "And it didn’t work out for us last year. But because of who he is, his makeup, his work ethic, all those things, it made it easier to say, 'All right, let's keep trying,'" he added. 

Cashman stressed that while things look good now, the team wants to see how Bailey will respond in game situations. Bailey, meanwhile, has been optimistic during camp, saying he feels like he's finally over his injury.

Bailey posted a 3.77 ERA over 28 2/3 innings back in 2013. 


Hinch: Astros' Torreyes has 'earned every chance to get a look'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Astros infielder Ronald Torreyes checks in at about 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, but his success at avoiding strikeouts has manager A.J. Hinch ready to give him a chance at showing what he can do this spring, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"You like to see these guys play," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He can look to our starting lineup at the top or hitting first or second and he’ll see a guy who is pretty successful who is not the biggest guy in the world. I see a unique size for this level, but the way he’s hit and the way he’s performed he’s earned every chance to get a look."

Torreyes was added to the team's 40-man roster in November after hitting .298/.345/.376 with two home runs, 46 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 460 at-bats with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2014.

"He doesn’t look like a ballplayer because he’s little like me, but he’s a young bull," Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. "He hits a lot and plays good defense. Last year they put him on the 40-man roster because he has a good chance to help us. There aren’t many players like him so skinny and little in the big leagues, so when you see him for the first time you say, 'You know he has to be good to be here.' Then when you see him hit you realize the organization has a good reason to give him this opportunity."

Torreyes will look for an opportunity to latch on as a utility player this spring. He's capable of seeing work at second base, shortstop and third base as well as in left field and center field.


Yoga has Twins' Trevor May 'much fresher than ever before'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Twins starting pitcher Trevor May has looked to improve flexibility coming into his competition for a rotation spot this spring by turning to yoga to help repeat his delivery, the Star Tribune reports.

"I’ve been doing yoga for 30 or 40 minutes every morning, and I’m much fresher than ever before," May said. "Every scouting report I’ve ever seen on myself says, 'Has trouble repeating his delivery.' Well, yoga is literally repeating moves, keeping your body under your control. I do the warrior pose, which is [the same as] striding and throwing a baseball. It has to help."

May initially struggled in his major-league debut last season, but he hopes the perseverance he showed and his improvements near the end of the season help set him apart in the battle for a rotation spot this spring.

"Obviously I don’t know exactly what the people who are making decisions are thinking, but showing I can be successful after having my face beat up for two months, showing I can work through it, it’s a trait you have to have," May said. "I take pride in the fact that I didn’t give up. I didn’t let it get me down."


Twins 1B Joe Mauer happy with 'normal' offseason
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Twins first baseman Joe Mauer was happy to have a "normal" offseason after dealing with concussion-like symptoms the previous year, MLB.com reports.

"I had a very productive offseason," Mauer said Saturday. "The last couple years I had a lot of things to deal with, especially last year with the concussion. I didn't really get a good base heading into the year. I feel great this year and I hope it stays that way."

Mauer believes that his vigorous stretching exercises this offseason will help keep him healthy in 2015.

"You have to pay attention to your body. I'm getting older," Mauer said. "I'm finding out what works and doesn't work. Trying to make adjustments."

Manager Paul Molitor indicated that he's noticed a difference in Mauer this spring.

"I think it means a lot for him," Molitor said. "I think coming back last year after what had happened the previous season, you always have those questions. He's got friends that have gone through it with Corey Koskie and Justin [Morneau]. We all know how validated our concern is over concussion issues. I'm sure there was a little hesitancy there. Like I said when I had a chance to visit with him this winter, he's excited to be back and not have to be concerned about those type of things."

Mauer endured a down offensive performance last season, hitting .277/.361/.371 with just four home runs in 455 at-bats.


 
 
 
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