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Late-breaking fantasy news

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We're just four days from the start of another exciting fantasy baseball season and if you are about to draft your roster, or think you need to make roster adjustments before the season begins, here are some of the latest news items which could change the way you are thinking.

Starting Pitchers

The San Diego Padres' Opening Day starter will not be righthander Mat Latos. He's suffering from a shoulder problem, though it appears he will not have to go on the disabled list because its already improving.

Tim Stauffer is expected to get the start and he's an interesting prospect. As a part-time starter last season. Stauffer was 3-2 with an impressive earned- run average of 1.83 and an equally good WHIP of 1.042. With an ADP of 229, he warrants a late-round flier selection because he could easily become a permanent part of the Padres rotation and you can never have enough guys pitching in PETCO Park. PETCO has been the No. 1 stadium for "pitching bias" in the major leagues in three of the last four seasons (see our link to MLB Park Factor).

The Cincinnati Reds pitching staff is in disarray with Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey expected to start the season on the DL and Bronson Arroyo suffering from mononucleosis. Travis Wood and Mike Leake should see plenty of early- season mound action.

Jake Peavy likely won't be ready to pitch for the Chicago White Sox until mid- May at the earliest, so taking him with anything but your last pick is a stretch. The same could be said for Johan Santana who could come back in July, or maybe not until 2012 if the Mets aren't a contender.

Closers

Phillies closer Brad Lidge is expected to start the season on the disabled list and Ryan Madson would be the top candidate to close until he returns.

Ron Gardenhire confirmed that Joe Nathan will be his closer, though you shouldn't expect him to pitch in three or four consecutive days situations which will mean that Matt Capps, who threw well this spring, could still get a few saves.

San Francisco closer Brian Wilson is dealing with a back and an oblique injury and may not be ready for Opening Day.

Oakland's Andrew Bailey also won't be ready for the regular season and that means Brian Fuentes is the likely closer. Before you sign Fuentes, know that while he has always gotten plenty of saves, he's a high ERA (lifetime 3.41), mediocre WHIP (1.238) guy.

David Aardsma is expected to start the season on the shelf after off-season hip surgery. Brandon League will handle the closer duties until late April or mid-May when he is expected to return.

Frank Francisco is another closer who won't be ready for Opening Day. Jon Rauch should be the Blue Jays closer until he returns.

Hitters

Carlos Beltran played in two minor-league games over the weekend and might not start the season on the DL. While he'll never be the guy who hit 33 HRs and stole 23 bases in 2007, he could be a fill-in fourth outfielder for your fantasy roster.

Indians centerfielder Grady Sizemore went 1-for-3 yesterday but will start the year on the disabled list which means he'll start the season at least two weeks late. If he comes back and is anything close to the 30-30 guy of 2008, he'll be a steal at his current ADP of 153.

Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales was going to be one of my sleeper picks for 2011 but he likely won't be ready for Opening Day and still isn't running well after breaking his leg in late May. His replacement is Mark Trumbo, who homered for the sixth time this spring on Sunday, and could have fantasy value until Morales returns.

Nyjer Morgan lost his starting job in Washington and was traded to Milwaukee where he'll split time with Carlos Gomez. Neither will be a viable fantasy option this season.

Clint Barmes was placed on the disabled list with a broken hand after being hit by an Ivan Nova pitch. Angel Sanchez will replace him in the starting lineup until mid-May.

Corey Hart is coming off an excellent season (.283, 31 HR, 102 RBI) but he has one of those injuries that lingers and lingers -- a strained oblique muscle. Be wary if you draft him and at the very least select an extra outfielder in case the injury lasts longer than expected.

The Phillies pitching staff better be as good as advertised because with Chase Utley, Placido Polanco and Domonic Brown all dealing with injuries and Jayson Werth playing in Washington, the offense which struggled in 2010 could be even worse in 2011. The jury is still out on Utley and if he ends up needing surgery it could keep him on the bench for the entire year. The Phillies have no fantasy-worthy replacement if that happens.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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