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Richard Justice

Despite April concerns, no need for teams to panic

Early inconsistency, injuries can generally be addressed internally

Despite April concerns, no need for teams to panic

No one makes a trade in April. Well, almost no one. At least not a trade of significance. So just take a deep breath and let things play out. Sure, you've got worries about your rotation (Angels) or bullpen (Cardinals) or offense (Rays). Yes, those injuries to Zack Greinke, Jered Weaver and Jose Reyes have changed the look of the Dodgers, Angels and Blue Jays. Still, there's a long way to go. In April.

Even if your favorite team's general manager is as worried as you are, there's not much he can do about it. If he believed in his blueprint a month ago, he surely believes in it now. If he has lost faith, tough luck. Most meaningful trades happen in the second half of the season after internal options have been exhausted.

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At that point, some teams have decided the time has come to begin planning for next season. That's getting tougher and tougher in this era of so much parity. There could be two dozen teams within striking distance of a playoff berth at the All-Star break, and in most cases, those teams aren't about to make a deal that smacks of giving up on the season.

In fact, this season began with so many teams seemingly bunched together that it appeared the playoff berths were likely to be decided by injuries or the general manager best able to separate his team from the pack.

The Dodgers look different without Greinke in their staff for a couple of months. They seemed like a playoff slam dunk with Clayton Kershaw and Greinke at the top of their rotation. Now, not so much. Even if the Dodgers and Blue Jays found a team willing to trade, there are most likely no players available as good as Greinke and Reyes. For now, everyone has to work with what they have.

Are there legitimate worries? Yes, some.

Weaver's velocity was down even before he broke his left elbow, and the overhauled back of the Halos' rotation -- Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson -- is 1-5 with a 7.00 ERA.

Likewise, Toronto's three new starters -- R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle -- have combined for two victories and a 7.36 ERA. One of those victories was a strong start by Buehrle on Monday, so maybe things are headed in the right direction.

The Cardinals have concerns, too -- well, a few. They lead the National League in runs and have the second-best rotation ERA. But their bullpen ERA is the highest in the Majors, and manager Mike Matheny is having trouble getting the ninth inning nailed down in the wake of closer Jason Motte's potentially season-ending injury.

Worry? No, not really. The Cards have terrific arms in the bullpen, including Trevor Rosenthal's 100-mph fastball. They also have some of the most coveted prospects in baseball.

If the Cardinals don't have an in-house option -- and it says here they do, whether it be Rosenthal or Edward Mujica or Mitchell Boggs -- general manager John Mozeliak will have the chips to make a deal.

But Mozeliak seems likely to let the season play out and to be patient. That's his track record, and the Reds, who are without ace Johnny Cueto for at least a couple of weeks, don't look like they're going to run away with the NL Central.

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski is dealing with the same issue as Mozeliak. That is, he has some very good arms in his bullpen, but he's not sure if he has a guy comfortable pitching the ninth inning.

Detroit has already blown three saves and is 26th overall in bullpen ERA (5.59). Manager Jim Leyland is sorting through his ninth-inning options to see if there's a guy right for the job, or if he'll have to use different people depending on the matchup.

Leyland would like to have roles more clearly defined, but that'll happen only if one guy emerges as his closer. Meanwhile, former closer Jose Valverde is working himself back into game shape. Unless something changes, Dombrowski will aggressively seek help from outside.

Like the Cards, the Tigers are so good in other areas that they'll have some time to figure things out. Not that it would matter. Trading season is still a couple of months away. Enjoy the ride, fellas.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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