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Top 70 starters for Week 20

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The revolving door of available Fantasy starers just keeps spinning.

CC Sabathia exited the building this weekend, going on the disabled list with a sore elbow, but Tommy Hanson is expected to be back in the mix. Hanson (back) will make a rehab start Sunday at Triple-A Gwinnett, which should be his final tuneup before returning to the Braves next weekend. Because his return is not a given, though, Hanson is not included among the top starters for Fantasy Week 20 (August 13-19). Tim Hudson is included, and due to a two-start week he is ranked 39th. Hanson's return could rob Hudson of a second start, and while a one-start Hudson is still worth starting in standard mixed leagues, owners in shallower leagues should follow this situation closely prior to the locking of lineups on Monday evening.

Brandon Morrow (oblique) could possibly return next Sunday as well, but weekly league owners won't likely get confirmation of this prior to the Monday lineup deadline. Aside from Morrow's owners, standard mixed league owners shouldn't feel much of an impact from this situation, as only Henderson Alvarez (who could lose a second start) would see his value change for Week 20.

Here are this week's viable starting pitching options for standard mixed leagues, including their matchup information and some related statistical nuggets.

Starting Rotation breakdown for Fantasy Week 20
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2 Stat of note
1 Cole Hamels @MIA (Eovaldi) @MIL (Fiers) Pitched seven or more innings in eight of last nine starts
Hamels is well past his midseason swoon, and only a lack of run support has kept him from being one of the top Fantasy options in recent weeks.
2 Gio Gonzalez @SF (Vogelsong) NYM (Young) 67 percent strand rate, last two starts (per FanGraphs)
Uncharacteristically, Gonzalez has gone eight and nine innings, respectively, in his last two starts, but a low strand rate has put a damper on a couple of otherwise strong performances.
3 Clayton Kershaw @PIT (Rodriguez) N/A One home run allowed over last eight starts
Justin Ruggiano's long drive on Friday night marked the first time since June 26 that Kershaw had allowed a homer. While he's proficient at avoiding the gopher ball, he's benefited from good venues, and he will again in Week 20.
4 Justin Verlander BAL (Hunter) N/A Career 0.8 HR/9
Though Verlander leans towards being a flyball pitcher, he has shown throughout his career that he is very good at limiting home runs.
5 Felix Hernandez TB (Hellickson) N/A 9.7 K/9 at home
As expected, Hernandez has been less homer-prone at Safeco Field, but he's also enjoyed a jacked-up strikeout rate in his home games as well.
6 Jered Weaver TB (Shields) N/A 15 doubles allowed
Weaver hasn't just been stingy with home runs; he has eschewed extra-base hits of all kinds, and has limited opponents to an astounding five doubles in 58 2/3 home innings.
7 Ryan Vogelsong WAS (Gonzalez) @SD (Richard) Second-most effective fastball in majors (per FanGraphs' pitch value data)
Though Vogelsong's velocity is down from last year, he is getting far more movement on his fastball and more swings-and-misses on it as a result.
8 Zack Greinke CLE (Jimenez) TB (Moore) Six percent swinging strike rate with LAA
Greinke hasn't missed many bats since joining the Angels, but over the past five-and-a-half seasons, he has been getting whiffs consistently, so chances for a turnaround are strong.
9 Cliff Lee @MIL (Estrada) N/A Seven straight starts with no more than one walk
Lee's strikeout rate has been receding, but over his last seven starts, he is average less than a walk every nine innings.
10 David Price @LAA (Haren) N/A 0.93 WHIP over last 10 starts
Price's quality start streak is now up to 10 starts, and over that stretch, he is getting more than a strikeout per inning and holding batters to a .194 batting average.
11 Roy Halladay @MIA (Buehrle) N/A 13 percent line drive rate, last three starts
A high liner rate sabotaged Halladay's efforts in his first two starts back from the DL, but batters haven't mustered much hard contact against him since then.
12 Ian Kennedy @STL (Kelly) @HOU (Galarraga) 1.1 HR/9 on the road
Kennedy has been scorched by 11 home runs in only 64 home innings this year, but with a pair of road starts -- including one against the woeful Astros -- owners should get the benefits of his strong command without the risks of an excessive homer rate.
13 C.J. Wilson CLE (Masterson) TB (Cobb) Induced 20 double plays (T-4th in MLB)
Wilson's high walk rate (4.1 BB/9) has inflated his WHIP, but his ERA has been spared in part due to all of the twin killings he has generated.
14 Adam Wainwright ARI (Saunders) N/A 2nd-most Fantasy points among SPs, last 21 days (standard scoring)
Wainwright has been nothing short of dominant over his last four starts, and only A.J. Burnett has provided a higher payoff for owners in points leagues over that span.
15 Jake Peavy @TOR (Villanueva) @KC (Chen) 2.03 ERA vs. TOR
Peavy has struggled against the Royals in three starts this year (5.93 ERA), but he has had few problems with the Jays, and now he gets to face them without several key bats in the lineup.
16 Stephen Strasburg @SF (Lincecum) N/A One extra-base hit allowed over last two starts
A Scott Cousins double represents the only extra-base hit off Strasburg so far this month.
17 Matt Cain @SD (Ohlendorf) N/A 69 percent strikes thrown vs. COL on Sat.
During his recent funk, Cain had not displayed his usual level of command, but he pounded the strike zone to good effect against the Rockies in his latest start.
18 Johnny Cueto CHC (Raley) N/A 21 Ks, 3 BBs over last three starts
Cueto is in the midst of his least-impressive stretch of the season, and yet he is still commanding the strike zone as well as ever.
19 R.A. Dickey @CIN (Leake) N/A Three straight starts of seven innings or more
Dickey already has a streak of six straight seven-plus inning starts this year, and with his complete game victory over the Marlins on Thursday, he appears to be in the midst of another roll.
20 Hiroki Kuroda TEX (Harrison) BOS (Beckett) 11 or more ground balls in five of last six starts
As Kuroda has been getting gobs of grounders over the past month, only Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo and Alex Avila have managed to go yard against him during that stretch.
21 A.J. Burnett STL (Westbrook) N/A 3.57 pitches per plate appearance (7th-lowest in NL)
Burnett is throwing strikes at the highest rate of his career and walking batters at his lowest rate in six years. Once notorious for his wildness, Burnett is among the most efficient starters this season.
22 Josh Johnson PHI (Kendrick) @COL (Pomeranz) 59 percent outside-the-zone contact rate (per FanGraphs)
Johnson is back to being a reliable source of strikeouts, as he has been the eighth-best pitcher in the majors at getting batters to whiff on pitches that should be balls.
23 Mat Latos NYM (Young) CHC (Volstad) Opponents' .145 Avg over last three starts
Latos' mastery over the righty-heavy Brewers on Wednesday was to be expected, but he has also had good starts recently against more balanced Rockies and Pirates lineups.
24 Madison Bumgarner WAS (Zimmermann) N/A 40 Ks over last 32 innings
After a slow start in the strikeout category, Bumgarner has approached his K-rate from last year with a string of five games with seven punchouts or more.
25 Jordan Zimmermann @SF (Bumgarner) N/A 82 percent strand rate
Very few pitchers can sustain a strand rate in the upper 70s or high 80s, but in Zimmermann's defense, he allows few homers and he has been leaving a higher proportion of runners on base in each successive year in the majors.
26 Yovani Gallardo PHI (Worley) N/A 78 percent quality start rate (T-3rd in MLB)
Because Gallardo occasionally has dramatic meltdowns, owners might be tempted to think of him as inconsistent, but he delivers quality starts at one of the highest rates in the majors.
27 Matt Moore @SEA (Millwood) @LAA (Greinke) Opponents' .236 Avg (8th-lowest in AL)
Moore's erratic control has been frustrating at times, but the rookie has emerged as one of the most unhittable starters in his league.
28 Mike Fiers @COL (Francis) PHI (Hamels) 0.3 HR/9
Should we fear Fiers in the thin air of Colorado? In 10 of his 12 starts, he has pitched in home run parks, so despite being a flyball pitcher, Fiers may have a knack for preventing hitters from squaring up.
29 Jeff Samardzija HOU (Galarraga) @CIN (Redmond) 3.1 runs of support per nine innings (lowest in MLB)
Samardzija deserves much better than a 7-10 record, and now that Cubs are scoring a little more often, maybe he can become a better source of wins.
30 Dan Haren TB (Price) N/A Opponents' .210 Avg, last four starts
Haren has been wilder than normal of late, but he is still doing a good job of preventing base hits.
31 Doug Fister @MIN (Duensing) N/A 6 BBs over last 45 1/3 innings
Remember when Fister came to Detroit at the trade deadline in 2011 and barely walked anyone? He's not quite at that level now, but it's close enough.
32 James Shields @LAA (Weaver) N/A 3 HRs allowed to righties
Shields has been undone by the long ball in several of his starts, but right-handed hitters have barely touched him up. That should encourage Shields' owners as he sets to face Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo.
33 Clay Buchholz @BAL (Tillman) N/A Induced 22 double plays (2nd in MLB)
Buchholz has been providing a low WHIP over the last couple of months, but even it rises again, his propensity for the double play ball will help him to keep his ERA low.
34 Chris Sale @KC (Mendoza) N/A 28 percent line drive rate, last five starts
Sale has been getting away with a high line drive rate over the past five-and-a-half weeks, but he may not be so lucky when he faces the Royals, who are one of the majors' best line drive hitting teams. That earns Sale a downgrade this week.
35 Anibal Sanchez @MIN (Deduno) BAL (Chen) 3.70 xFIP
Sanchez has been a little too homer-prone this year, but he deserves better than a .323 BABIP, and according to xFIP, his ERA should be more than a half-run lower than it is.
36 Ryan Dempster @NYY (Phelps) @TOR (Villanueva) 12 BBs over last 56 1/3 innings
Over the first two months of the season, Dempster walked batters at what would have been a career-low rate. Skeptics take note: all he has done since then is drop his walk rate even lower.
37 Ben Sheets LAD (Capuano) N/A .379 BABIP vs. righties
Right-handed hitters have racked up a .300/.378/.425 line against Sheets, but that's over just 45 plate appearances, so that high batting average -- and the BABIP behind it -- are likely to shrink.
38 Mike Minor SD (Stults) LAD (Harang) .085 flyball BABIP
Minor has held opponents to a .247 average, but owners can trust this favorable stat. It's built on a low flyball BABIP that is sustainable, given Minor's flyball tendencies and the Braves' outstanding outfield defense.
39 Tim Hudson SD (Richard) LAD (Billingsley) 6.7 K/9 at home
Few, if any, owners start Hudson to get strikeouts, but at least in his starts at Turner Field, he's close to an average strikeout pitcher.
40 Jeremy Hellickson @SEA (Hernandez) N/A 43 percent ground ball rate
Given that he has allowed 19 home runs, you wouldn't know it, but Hellickson has been much less of a flyball pitcher this season. Safeco Field is a good place for Hellickson's homer rate to do some regressing to the mean.
41 Francisco Liriano @TOR (Laffey) N/A 17 percent line drive rate
Liriano still walks too many batters, but batters continue to have trouble making contact against him or getting hard hits when they do make contact.
42 Jonathon Niese @WAS (Detwiler) N/A 1.40 ERA vs. WAS since 2011
Niese has totaled 21 Ks over his last 19 1/3 innings against the Nats, and he should be able to take advantage of their free-swinging ways yet again.
43 Max Scherzer @MIN (De Vries) N/A 1.73 WHIP over last three starts
It might look like Scherzer is getting stuck in yet another one of his ruts, but a .500 BABIP is responsible for the damage to his WHIP, and that figure can only go down from here.
44 Phil Hughes BOS (Morales) N/A 20 percent foul ball rate
Even though Hughes is merely average at getting swinging strikes, he can maintain a decent K-rate due to his consistent ability to get batters to foul balls off.
45 Clayton Richard @ATL (Hudson) SF (Vogelsong) 161 2/3 innings pitched (5th in MLB)
Richard has taken his control and efficiency to new levels this season, and that has enabled him to become a top 40 pitcher in points leagues.
46 Kyle Lohse ARI (Cahill) N/A Fifth-most effective slider in majors (per FanGraphs' pitch value data)
Lohse is throwing more sliders this year and having more of them taken for strikes, which is helping him to achieve an ultra-low 1.7 BB/9 rate.
47 Wade Miley @HOU (Keuchel) N/A 11 percent swinging strike rate, last six starts
The Nationals missed on only four swings against Miley on Saturday, but that lack of whiffs has been the exception for the rookie since the All-Star break.
48 Jason Vargas MIN (Diamond) N/A Eight consecutive quality starts
Vargas is known for his lopsided home/road splits, but he has posted four quality road starts since late June. All but one were in pitcher's parks, but with a home start in Week 20, owners won't have to worry about what all this means.
49 Justin Masterson @LAA (Wilson) @OAK (Parker) 5.8 percent XBH/PA ratio (9th-lowest in MLB)
Masterson's skill stats aren't much different from C.J. Wilson's, and like the Angels' southpaw, he is very adept at avoiding extra-base hits. As a strand rate victim (67 percent), his ERA does not reflect the similarities.
50 Lance Lynn PIT (Bedard) N/A 59 percent strikes thrown, last four starts
Lynn's results have been mixed lately, but he is falling into a pattern of consistently poor command. While he is still capable of success, he is becoming more of a low-end option in standard mixed leagues.
51 Yu Darvish @TOR (Happ) N/A 59 percent strikes thrown, last three starts
What goes for Lynn also goes with Darvish. He's still worth starting based on the hope of a return to form, but he's dangerously close to being benchable.
52 Kris Medlen SD (Marquis) N/A 88 pitches thrown at NYM on Sat.
Medlen crossed the 80-pitch barrier for the first time this season, and more important, he made it to the seventh inning. Now that he is stretched out, Medlen can be trusted in a one-start week.
53 Brandon McCarthy @KC (Hochevar) N/A 3.44 pitches per plate appearance (2nd-lowest in MLB)
McCarthy hasn't been getting grounders like he did last year, but he's no less valuable now. He still avoids homers in pitcher-friendly venues (like Kauffman Stadium) and continues to be one of the game's most efficient hurlers.
54 Matt Harrison @NYY (Kuroda) @TOR (Alvarez) 0.7 HR/9 since 2011
Though he is much more of a ground ball pitcher than Mike Fiers, like his Brewers counterpart, Harrison manages to avoid home runs despite pitching home games in a hitter's park. That skill should transfer to his starts at Yankee Stadium and Rogers Centre.
55 Jarrod Parker @KC (Guthrie) CLE (Masterson) 12 percent called strike rate, last six starts
Parker is throwing more strikes lately, but his pitches in the zone have been getting clobbered. That makes him a risk with one start, but with two starts against mediocre offenses, Parker is worth a shot.
56 Jon Lester @NYY (Phelps) N/A 3.34 road ERA
A start at Yankee Stadium is not an easy week for anyone, but for Lester, it probably beats just about any start at Fenway Park, where he has been monumentally bad.
57 Chad Billingsley @PIT (Correia) @ATL (Hudson) 1.06 WHIP over last six starts
Billingsley's control has been unusually good since early July, and he has sustained the improvement long enough to be worth trusting with a two-start week.
58 Franklin Morales @NYY (Hughes) N/A Six innings or fewer in six of seven starts
Morales can help with strikeouts, ERA and WHIP, but his inefficiency makes him a poor bet to help with innings, even when his pitch count goes over 100. He would rank higher if these rankings only applied to Rotisserie formats.
59 Bartolo Colon CLE (Kluber) N/A No earned runs allowed in last 23 2/3 innings
Colon will not have a two-start week as initially anticipated, but he is in enough of a groove that he can be used with his lone start against the Indians.
60 Dan Straily @KC (Smith) N/A 51 percent flyball rate
In his second start, Straily served up 14 flyballs, four of which left the yard. Good news: he also induced three popups. Better news: the Royals' lineup doesn't pose as many threats as the Angels' lineup did.
61 Scott Diamond @SEA (Vargas) N/A 2 HRs allowed over last 50 1/3 innings
Diamond hasn't pitched in a hitter's park since June 24, when he started at Cincinnati, but the schedule should continue to help him out in Week 20 when he and the Twins travel to Seattle.
62 Wei-Yin Chen BOS (Beckett) @DET (Sanchez) 3.41 ERA over last six starts
Even including Thursday's shellacking by the Royals, Chen has an impressive stat line from his last half dozen starts, as he has been getting easy flyball outs and close to a strikeout per inning.
63 Josh Beckett @BAL (Beckett) @NYY (Kuroda) .373 BABIP over last six starts
With Felix Doubront getting skipped, Beckett is in line to draw two starts. His 7.39 ERA since early July might make him look like someone to bench, but he just may have been a victim of bad luck on balls in play.
64 Jeff Karstens LAD (Harang) @STL (Kelly) 11 percent swinging strike rate
Karstens had increased his whiff rate to the point where he is close to being an average strikeout pitcher, and he hasn't lost any of his pinpoint control.
65 Jose Quintana @TOR (Alvarez) @KC (Guthrie) Opponents' .371 SLG vs. lefties
Quintana's strikeouts are disappearing, but the extra contact hasn't hurt him, at least against left-handed hitters. That's an encouraging trend for this week, especially against the Royals.
66 Alex Cobb @SEA (Beavan) @LAA (Wilson) 71 percent strikes thrown, last three starts
Cobb is starting to show the control he demonstrated in the minors, and that has contributed to three straight quality starts.
67 Miguel Gonzalez BOS (Cook) N/A 12 percent popup rate
Flyball-prone Gonzalez is a risk to get hurt by homers, but his ability to coax infield flies means that his .252 BABIP and 1.23 WHIP shouldn't regress much, if at all.
68 Carlos Villanueva CHW (Peavy) TEX (Dempster) Two walks or fewer in five of seven starts
Control can still be an issue for Villanueva at times, but since becoming a starter, he has been a fairly reliable strike-thrower.
69 Ivan Nova TEX (Holland) N/A Eight quality starts in last 13 attempts
After three straight sub-quality starts, Nova got back on track with a strong effort at Toronto on Saturday, getting whiffs like he had before his mini-slump.
70 Aaron Harang @PIT (Karstens) @ATL (Minor) 0.8 HR/9
Harang is allowing homers at his lowest rate since his 2002 rookie season, as he's even avoiding them on the road. With visits to pitcher-friendly Pittsburgh and Atlanta, he can have continued success.

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
Rangers' Alexander Claudio hoping to earn a role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:27 am ET) Rangers pitcher Alexander Claudio is hoping to be the team's lefty in the bullpen, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Claudio is one of three lefties in camp competing for the job. He performed well in his first taste of spring training, retiring two lefties during his inning of work. He allowed one hit, and struck out two batters. While Claudio's fastball barely registers on the radar gun, manager Jeff Banister still came away impressed.

"I like the secondary stuff," Banister said. "He's accepted the type of pitcher he is and is willing to be that guy. He’s really intriguing with the kind of deception he brings."

Claudio posted a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings last season.


Dodgers' Erik Bedard willing to go to Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Erik Bedard is willing to go to Triple-A if he doesn't break camp with the major-league club, according to MLB.com.

Bedard allowed one run over two innings in his first taste of spring action on Wednesday. The veteran said he knows that if the Dodgers five starters are healthy, he'll be sent to the minors. "I know where I stand," Bedard said. "The game is still fun. I like to play baseball."

Bedard posted a 4.76 ERA over 75 2/3 innings last season. 


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero willing to play third base
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero has been willing to learn third this spring, according to MLB.com.

Guerrero is in a bit of a unique position. With Howie Kendrick entrenched at second, Guerrero doesn't really have a spot in the team's infield. Due to his contract, however, the team can't just send him to the minors. Guerrero can block the move, and has already said he plans to do so if the team tries to send him down. If he can play third well, that may not be a problem.

For what it's worth, manager Don Mattingly believes Guerrero has looked better this spring. "I really do think the second year [in camp] he looks a lot different as far as being relaxed," Mattingly said. "He's swinging the bat well and he keeps improving."

The 28-year-old hit .333/.371/.621 over three minor-league levels last season. 


Twins' Byron Buxton doubles twice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton doubled twice on Wednesday against the University of Minnesota.

Buxton came into last season ranked as one of the best prospects in the minors. He had injury issues, which ended his season early. While Buxton is still considered the Twins top prospect, he was passed by other players in the overall prospect rankings due to the injuries. 

Buxton seemed to be 100 percent on Wednesday, doubling twice during the contest. He scored one run and drove in one RBI. The 21-year-old should open the season in the minors, but could debut as early as this season depending on his performance. 


Twins' Jose Berrios strikes out four on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins starter Jose Berrios struck out four during his first spring appearance on Wednesday.

Berrios took on the University of Minnesota, and turned in a good showing. While Berrios is a minor-leaguer, he's only 20, and was taking on players his age. Berrios allowed one hit and one unearned run over two innings of work. He struck out four batters.

Berrios is the team's third-best prospect according to Baseball America. He's expected to begin the year in the minors, but could move quickly based on how well he performs. 


Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley makes debut Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley pitched two innings in his spring training debut Wednesday, allowing just one baserunner and recording one strikeout. Shipley admitted he was a bit worried in his first appearance, reports AZCentral.com.

"I was a little nervous going in, but that was expected," Shipley said. "I think it was more excitement for me. That was really fun."

Manager Chip Hale said he expects Shipley to make starts in his next few appearances this spring.


Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson faces batters for first time this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson was able to face live batters for the first time this spring since recovering from back surgery, the 27-year-old tweeted Wednesday.

Anderson was only able to pitch 43 1/3 innings in 2014 with a 1-3 record and 2.91 ERA after suffering the back injury that cut his season short. 


White Sox SS Tim Anderson looking to become long-term solution
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) White Sox prospect Tim Anderson is on a mission in spring training this year. He wants to prove that he belongs in the majors with the big boys.

"Just show them I can stay at short and my defense has come a long way and it's going to get better," Anderson said. "I want to be a shortstop for a long time. I'm going to be a shortstop. I'm going to work hard to stay there."

Anderson is currently considered Chicago's No. 2 prospect and could be just the prospect the White Sox are looking for. In his 2015 debut, Anderson smacked a two-run single.

"I'm just staying calm and trying not to do too much and just doing what I've been doing to be here," Anderson said. "It has been exciting to get in here and work with all the big leaguers and get my reps in and see how they go in the daily routine."


Reds' Kevin Gregg hoping to win a spot in the bullpen
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Reds pitcher Kevin Gregg is hoping to win a spot in the team's bullpen, according to MLB.com.

Gregg may be 36-years-old, but understands he still needs to prove himself.  "I don't mind coming in and earning a spot," he said. "I'm coming off elbow surgery. At this point in my career, it's something I need to do."

Gregg had bone chips removed from his elbow in August, but was able to hit 92 mph in a showcase in February. He believes his velocity has improved since then.

Manager Bryan Price had good things to say about Gregg thus far. "He looks great. He looks durable," Price said. "He's got hand speed. He's crisp with his location. I've been extremely impressed with Kevin to this point."

The 36-year-old tossed just nine innings in the majors last year.


Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds sidelined with oblique injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds was scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, but was unable to do so while dealing with a sore right oblique, reports MLB.com.

"I'm like, 'I'm in here again, I can't get out of this darn room,'" Reynolds said.

Reynolds missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he isn't having any issues with the elbow.

"My elbow feels real good," he said. "It feels strong."


 
 
 
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