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White Sox make Wise decision

Journeyman outfielder Dewayne Wise has earned the starting center field job for the Chicago White Sox. Wise, 31, will also take over leadoff duties in a White Sox lineup that should score plenty of runs.

In 57 games last year, Wise hit .258 with 6 home runs in 129 at-bats. He also stole 9 bases (in 9 tries)and scored 20 runs.

His career numbers, however, are less than impressive. He's got a .254 on-base percentage in more than 500 MLB at-bats. He might steal a few bags for you, but he's got to get on base first.

---Jay Skurski

Motte to get shot as Cards closer

Jason Motte will get the first opportunity to close games for the St. Louis Cardinals after 2006 first-round pick Chris Perez was sent to the minors Monday.

Motte, a former catcher in the minor leagues, made his MLB debut last season. He had a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings of work during a September call-up, striking out 16. In 10 appearances so far this spring, he's pitched 10.1 innings with a 1.74 ERA, 15 strikeouts and 4 saves.

If Motte struggles out of the gate, however, St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa made it clear he won't hesitate to make a change.  If you're desperate for a closer, though, Motte is a good option in the later rounds, or possibly on the waiver wire.

---Jay Skurski

Mauer, Santana sinking like stones

Anaheim Angels pitcher Ervin Santana and Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, last season's American League batting champion, continue to see their fantasy draft positions drop due to lingering injuries. 

Santana aims to be out only a month with a partially-torn tendon in his right elbow. He had a breakout campaign in 2008, pitching a career-high 219 innings while going 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA. He finished fourth in the AL in innings and second in strikeouts with 214.

Mauer's not expected to be readyfor Opening Day and it remains unclear as to when he'll make his return. His absence leaves a huge hole in the middle of the Twins lineup and further depletes a fantasy position already thin on talent.

My advice? Pass on Santana, but take a chance on Mauer. There's just not the depth at catcher. Even if he has to sit the bench for a couple weeks early in the season, his production will be worth it when he comes back.

---Jay Skurski

Who's your first pick?

That's the question asked of us here at the Buffalo News in our fantasy baseball league. A little more than half our 12-team league has voted thus far, and Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez leads the way with 43 percent of the vote. New York Mets third baseman David Wright is in second with 29 percent, while Phillies teammates Chase Utley and Ryan Howard each have a vote. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun is getting no love thus far.

Our draft isn't until April 4, so Geoff Nason still has plenty of time left on the clock to prepare the first overall pick. My team, which I co-manage with Greg Connors, picks fifth.

So who should go first in our league, and if you've already had your draft, who went first in yours?

---Jay Skurski

Get to know Ricky Nolasco

In Sunday's print column, I mentioned Florida's Ricky Nolasco as a potential sleeper at starting pitcher for your fantasy squad. I'd like to thank Mr. Nolasco for making me look smart Sunday.

The Marlins right-hander combined with two relievers to throw a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers. Nolasco struck out eight and faced the minimum 21 batters in seven innings. He's been nails this spring and looks to be in line to start on Opening Day for the Marlins.

One of Nolasco's biggest strengths is his ability to limit walks. He issued just 42 free passes in 2008, second among National Leaguers who logged more than 200 innings. And his goal is to reduce that amount this season.

Nolasco went 15-8 last season with a 3.52 ERA in 34 games, including 32 starts.

---Jay Skurski

LDT returns to a platoon

If, like myself, you drafted LaDainian Tomlinson in the first round of your fantasy draft last season, you don't need me to tell you what a mistake it was. LDT had the worst season of his eight-year career in 2008, putting up just 1,110 yards (3.8 yards a carry).

He's returning to San Diego for the 2009 season, but he's likely to split carries with Darren Sproles, whom the Chargers franchised this offseason. So just how far should Tomlinson fall?

Perhaps not as far as you think. For starters, Tomlinson still put up some decent touchdown numbers last season (11). Even though he's splitting carries, expect Tomlinson to get nearly all the goal-line carries. Plus, his re-worked contract basically means he'll need a solid 2009 if he wants to return. Nothing motivates a player like money.

Sproles will take away some carries, but I still expect Tomlinson to be a top-20 fantasy running back in 2009. That means in 12-team leagues, he likely won't make it past the third or fourth rounds.

--- Jay Skurski

Danis dominating for the Isles

If, as a Sabres fan, Saturday was your introduction to New York Islanders goalie Yann Danis, let me tell you a little bit more about the 27-year-old from Lafontaine (how's that for a town name), Quebec.

Danis' blanking of Buffalo wasn't his only solid appearance recently. In his last four games, he's 3-1 with a 0.75 goals-against average and .968 save percentage. The Islanders are home for the next three games and playing well lately, which means I'm, shockingly, backing an Islander for fantasy purposes.

--- Jay Skurski