As April began, bad news continued to roll in, as Jeff Francis joined the list of S.S.S. participants who began the season on the D.L. Of our eight starters, only two made appearances in the season's first week. The good news is, both pitched spendidly.
Freddy Garcia took a bit of a hard luck loss in his first outing, as his duel with Scott Baker was decided by a Jason Kubel two-run homer in the seventh inning. Nevertheless, Garcia looked sharp, especially early in the game, as he threw the kitchen sink at the Twins, mixing in all his pitches and throwing in the upper eighties. He did seem to fatigue a bit in the sixth and seventh as he allowed more baserunners, struggled with his command, and suffered a slight dip in velocity. However, at that point in the game, particularly in April when arm strength is still somewhat in question, fatigue is fairly typical for any pitcher. The White Sox should be very encouraged.
On the same day that Garcia had his strong showing against the Twins, Jeremy Bonderman was shutting down the Indians. Bonderman was not allowed as long a leash, as he got pulled after only five innings and 91 pitches, but the results were solid. He gave up only one hit, a Travis Hafner single in the fourth, and a couple of walks (also in the fourth), leading to one run, while he struck out five. The Tigers gave him some early breathing room, as Magglio Ordonez hit a two-run homer in the first and they tacked on two more in the third. Bonderman did touch 94 MPH at times, but more impressive was his new splitter, which he threw frequently and for strikes.
It should be noted that both Bonderman and Garcia, unlike most of the other pitchers in our survey, did make brief appearances at the end of 2009, so they were significantly ahead of everybody else in the rehab process.
Francis's injury apparently had nothing to do with his shoulder and he is expected to join the rotation within a couple of weeks.
Similarly, back stiffness has slowed the progress of Ted Lilly, but his arm has been strong in his extended Spring Training outings and the Cubs expect him to join the rotation before the end of the month.
Brandon Webb, whose return is the most anticipated of any player in this survey, had a cortisone injection on the first of the month. He appears unlikely to rejoin the Diamondbacks before May, at the earliest. He is playing catch, but not throwing from the mound.
Chien-Ming Wang was placed on the 60-Day D.L. to begin the season, meaning he won't be eligible to join the Nats until June. His is throwing bullpen sessions and that timetable seems reasonable thusfar.
Erik Bedard is throwing pain-free bullpen sessions of around 50 pitches. The Mariners are tentatively saying his is "ahead of schedule," which means he'll likely rejoin the rotation before the All-Star Break.
With the Blue Jays off to a hot start thanks largely to the performance of their young starting rotation, which posted five quality starts in six games during the first week, Toronto has no reason to rush McGowan, who dealt with some arm fatigue this spring as he worked his way back from major reconstructive surgery. The Jays haven't announced a timetable, so waiting until the second half may not be unreasonable.