With Final Cuts Nearing, It's Phantom Injury Time

Opening Day is less than a week away, and MLB teams are facing their final cutdowns to trim their roster to the 25 they'll take north to start the season. As such, roster manipulation is in full swing and, if you're a fringe candidate to make a team, any bump or bruise could become an "injury."

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Consider, for example, the case of Brewers starting pitcher Jeff Suppan. Suppan was one of baseball's worst starting pitchers last season, but is also still owed $12.5 million on a four year contract he signed following the 2006 season. He's been a candidate to be released for much of the spring, and has clearly been outperformed by other rotation candidates in Brewer camp.

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Clearly, it was time for Suppan to visit the doctor. Tuesday morning, the Brewers revealed that Suppan has been battling a "neck issue" all spring, and might have to open the season on the disabled list. This is the first time any injury issue for Suppan has come up in public this spring. Certainly, it's possible the team is telling the truth, but it's convenient that it just now came up.

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The Brewers most definitely wouldn't be the first team to use the DL for this purpose. It's also occasionally used for teams to hold onto Rule 5 picks, who would have to be offered back to their previous organization if they weren't kept on the active roster or DL. As noted in this Bucs Dugout post, the Pirates used some dubious injuries to get 2009 Rule 5 pick Donnie Veal two month-long "rehab assignments" in the minor leagues. 

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While they're a clear violation of the spirit of the law when it comes to the disabled list, phantom and exaggerated injuries are a popular roster manipulation tool this time of year. Don't be surprised if several teams use them to make room for one last player on their roster this spring.

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