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Tag:AL West
Posted on: March 17, 2011 11:55 am
 

Expect Neftali Feliz to close

FelizThe Rangers will likely keep Neftali Feliz as closer, reports USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale.

The Rangers are concerned about their ability to replace Feliz in the closer's role this season, with manager Ron Washington and team CEO Nolan Ryan also indicating concern.

"Who do we have in our bullpen that’s closed ballgames down?" Washington asked, according to ESPN Dallas. "We ain’t talking about 'might be able to.' This ain’t about 'might be able to close a ballgame down.' We need somebody that’s bona fide to close ballgames down. But, like I said, if we need to stay in-house, we’ll figure that out."

Internally, the team has Mark Lowe and Alexi Ogando as options for the closer's role, although Ogando is also being considered for the rotation. There hasn't been any thought toward Arthur Rhodes or Darren Oliver filling the closer's spot, so unless the team is comfortable with going a reliever with no closing history, Feliz will be the man.

Related

Feliz has been stretched out all spring training and recently said he wants to start, a change from indicating he would prefer to remain as closer. However, given the club's obvious concern about who would replace Feliz as closer, it's clear an announcement switching Feliz back to the role that earned him the AL Rookie of the Year Award last season will come soon.

But Feliz's future remains in the rotation, as Nightengale expects the right-hander to start in 2012, adding that there will be a lot of closers on the free-agent market this offseason. Given Texas' resources, the club has a reasonable expectation of being able to sign one of these closers. Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Frank Francisco, Ryan Franklin, Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Koji Uehara and Jose Valverde could all hit the market. That's a lot of closers, and Texas certainly can expect to walk away with one of those names.

Given Feliz's talent and success so far in spring training, one could argue the move should be made now to get a possible ace in the rotation. But the Rangers clearly are concerned about filling the closer's role to the point where they would prefer Feliz to close. The club doesn't have fantastic arms for the rotation, but they have enough depth that it's certainly defensible to put Feliz into the closer's role again. But Feliz's long-term role still best profiles as a starter.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 17, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: March 17, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Pepper: Chavez was on Hall of Fame path

Chavez

Eric Chavez was once headed to the Hall of Fame.

At least, that's what Athletics GM Billy Beane believes.

"If you take a look at those seasons, understand that he was just 26 and extrapolate it to a 12-, 13-year career, you are talking about a guy who is going to end up with 400 or so homers and 10-12 Gold Gloves," Beane said.

Up through the 2004 season, Chavez was one of the better young third basemen in the game with three Gold Gloves on his resume along with a career .277/.354/.502 line with 163 home runs in 3,507 plate appearances -- posting a career-high 29 home runs in 2004 despite playing in 125 games. Chavez was extremely durable at the time, appearing in over 150 games from 2000-03 and would hit 160 games played in 2005. Beane studied data that showed players who hit the majors early and produced (such as Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter) would go on to have a long career.

Thus, Beane inked Chavez to a six-year, $66 million deal and eschewed long-term deals for Miguel Tejada or, later, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito

"Up to that point, he had been very healthy," Beane said. "And if you take away the injuries, he would have been in the conversation [for the Hall of Fame]."

Now, Chavez is looking to extend his career at age 33, a shell of his former self and one who had to turn down more playing time with the Dodgers for fear that his body wouldn't hold up. He is currently on track to make the Yankees' roster as a bench player. (New York Post)

White Sox PICK WINNING: ChiSox owner Jerry Reinsdorf revealed that Chicago chose to spend money in free agency rather than rebuild. "We just could not see where the players we would have remaining were going to bring us the talent we needed to get better in 2012,"  Reinsdorf said. "So that just left us looking into what do we have to do to get better than Minnesota." (ChicagoBreakingSports.com)

I'LL STAY, THANK YOU: It's not often you hear of a star indicating he wants to stay in Kansas City, but that's exactly what 26-year-old Joakim Soria wants to do. Even the prospect of a brutal 2011 doesn't faze him, with the closer indicating he believes in what the Royals have done so far and sees a bright future. The Royals, for their part, have no interest in trading a player expected to be a linchpin of the next contending K.C. club. (Kansas City Star)

A MAN AMONG BOYS: Joe Posnanski spins a story of the best offensive players on a World Series team, and it isn't close. George Brett tallied up 8.0 wins above replacement for the 1985 Royals, with the offense as a whole contributing 8.9 WAR. Also: Should Brett have won 4 MVPs instead of one? (Joe Blogs)

MUSIC TO BASEBALL'S EARS: Check out this really cool picture (and video, if so inclined) by a musician in the National Symphony Orchestra. What's cool about it? The musician is playing a violin made out of a baseball bat. (Fangraphs.com)

SNEAK PEEK? This season, the Tucson Padres will adorn what may eventually be the San Diego Padres' uniforms. The Padres president indicated in the past that the club may go to a more retro feel in the future, which Tucson certainly has while keeping San Diego's current color scheme. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

BE REAL: That's what Dusty Baker says in an interview, Esquire-style. A great look into the mind of one of baseball's more successful managers of the past two decades. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

TEN MORE YEARS IN PALM BEACH: A deal has been reached that could keep the Marlins and Cardinals in Palm Beach, Fla. for the next 10 years provided the spring training stadium is upgraded. Both teams can opt out of the agreement in 2017 if less than four teams remain in Southeast Florida, which would complicate travel. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW: The Royals' reassigned top prospects Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to minor league camp in order to get at-bats and turn the focus at the major-league level toward getting Mike Aviles, Wilson Betemit and Kila Ka'aihue ready for opening day. (MLB.com)

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Posted on: March 16, 2011 8:40 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2011 10:31 pm
 

Griffey left to avoid being a 'distraction'

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Ken Griffey Jr.Ken Griffey Jr. returned to Mariners camp on Wednesday, the first time he was with his former teammates since abruptly retiring and leaving last June. He also spoke about his retirement for the first time in public, saying he left because he felt he had become a distraction to the team.

"I felt it was right for me to leave. I'm not going to [apologize]," Griffey told reporters, including the Seattle Times' Geoff Baker. "Because it's not intended to hurt people. It was a decision that I made. I made that 15 years ago … there are some people who are upset and some people who are not. I can't worry about it. I had to do what I thought was right for me."

The move upset some, but surprised none that had spent much time with him. Those who know Griffey know he'd long talked about retiring and just leaving -- with no fanfare, no press conference, nothing. Personally, I've heard him say it myself. And that's just what he did last year.

Griffey told team president Chuck Armstrong that he was retiring and started driving from Seattle to his home in Orlando.

Since then, he's spent most of his time doing what he loves the most, being a dad. His son Trey is a junior in high school and being recruited to play football. His daughter, Taryn, just led her high school team, Dr. Phillips, to a Florida state title in basketball as a freshman. He has another son, Tevin.

He's also recently went to the Philippines on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. He is now back with the Mariners as a special consultant.

Griffey said he's not talked to former Mariners' manager Don Wakamatsu -- "my phone rings," he said when asked several times about Wakamatsu.

"I just thought that it was best for me and the organization to retire," Griffey said (via MLB.com). "There was no fault. Things happen. I'm not upset. People thought I was upset about certain things. That wasn't the case. I just felt it was more important to retire instead of becoming a distraction."

The Seattle Times now has a full transcript of Griffey's press conference here.

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Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:51 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:25 am
 

MLB bus trips less glamorous than you think

By C. Trent Rosecrans

You ever wonder what it's like on a bus with a Major League Baseball team on a spring training roadtrip?

Well, thanks to Torii Hunter's Twitter feed, it appears that it's no different than your junior high field trip.

From earlier today:

Torii tweet

That was followed by this:

Torii tweet

Yesterday was Hunter's first bus trip of the spring, and he had a similar theme:

Torii tweet

So really, big league ball players, they're not much different than you or me... when we were 11. Ain't technology grand?

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 16, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2011 2:23 pm
 

Morales will begin season on DL

By Matt Snyder

A big piece of the Angels' lineup will not be available for the start of the season. Kendrys Morales -- remember, it's not Kendry anymore -- is recovering from a broken leg and has reportedly hit a "plateau" in his rehab efforts. (Los Angeles Times )

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has stated Morales needs to get on the field this weekend in order to be ready for the start of the season, but Morales was unable to run curves in the grass Wednesday.

"It's not a setback; there are just some plateaus guys hit," Scioscia told the Times. "You can't force things. He's going to keep working, keep moving forward."

If Morales can't do anything but run straight forward on the dirt, he can't do much good for the Angels. It looks pretty likely he'll be a week or two late to the majors during the regular season, but there shouldn't be setbacks after that. The silver lining here moving forward is it's a bone injury -- not ligament or muscle -- so once it's healed completely, he shouldn't have to worry about reinjury. It's just a matter of getting himself back into shape.

Morales hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 RBI in 2009. Last season, he was .290/.346/.487 until fracturing his lower left leg during a celebration after he hit a game-winning grand slam.

Fortunately for the Angels, they do have Mark Trumbo waiting in the wings. The 25-year-old slugger is tied for the league lead with five spring home runs. He hit .301 with a .945 OPS, 36 home runs, 122 RBI and 103 runs in Triple-A last season.

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Posted on: March 16, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: March 16, 2011 12:34 pm
 

Pepper: Sign spring's end is near



By Matt Snyder


How can you best tell when spring is winding down and the real Major League Baseball season is nearing? Well, a few things. The snow finally stops falling. I guess, though this year who really knows. It's liable to snow at some places into May at this rate. Another good sign is watching the NCAA basketball tournament on CBS (shameless plug alert). How about baseball teams starting to name -- or get close to naming -- a fifth starting pitcher? That's a pretty good one, and it's happening in a lot of different places right now.

We've already passed along that Mark Rogers has been demoted, which leaves Wily Peralta the Brewers' likely five . We've also noted Michael Pineda being in Seattle's driver's seat as well. But there are plenty more.

Esmil Rogers looks like he's opening up a lead over John Maine and Greg Reynolds for the Rockies, after working five innings Tuesday and only facing the minimum 15 batters. (Denver Post )

Brandon McCarthy has gotten in the good graces of manager Bob Geren for being "impressive" and "consistent" in looking to win the A's fifth starting job behind a pretty underrated top four of Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez. (San Francisco Chronicle )

Ever since Adam Wainwright went down with injury and the Cardinals said they were going to look internally, Kyle McClellan has been the front-runner to take the remaining spot. And every outing since then, he's gotten rave reviews and been tabbed as the front-runner. Thus, it would be pretty shocking if he didn't get the job. Still, the word from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is that McClellan is merely "closer" to getting the nod.

Speaking of shocking, it would be just as shocking if Randy Wells doesn't win one of the Cubs' two remaining rotation slots. He's throwing well this spring and has the past experience. It also appears that former first-round pick Andrew Cashner is putting some distance between himself and the rest of the field as well. We'll get back to Cashner in a second. (MLB.com )

Of course, there is one team a bit behind the curve here. The Texas Rangers, your defending American League champs, still have a whopping seven guys in the mix for two spots. If a decision is made to start Neftali Feliz, one that seems increasingly likely with each passing day, that narrows the field to six guys for one spot. Those six: Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Michael Kirkman, Alexi Ogando, Dave Bush and Eric Hurley. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram )

THE PROFESSOR: Of the two nicknames you see listed for Greg Maddux on baseball-reference.com, I always preferred "the Professor," even though it's nowhere near mainstream. He was so much more cerebral than his opposition, seemingly getting guys out just with his mind. Thus, it's only fitting he's passing along some knowledge to Cashner in Cubs camp as a special assistant. His latest nugget? "Walks are overrated." It's not surprising, coming from a guy who probably never walked someone by accident in his prime. Those who remember watching him in the mid-90s are nodding in agreement. You could feel when Maddux was walking someone on purpose; otherwise it didn't happen. Oh, and if Maddux's wisdom isn't enough, Kerry Wood has also taken Cashner under his wing. (Chicago Tribune )

RUSSELL THE MUSCLE: Hey, someone has to fill the void left by Mark Reynolds -- both in terms of power and strikeouts. Despite his lackluster defense -- which is reportedly a concern for manager Kirk Gibson -- Russell Branyan is turning heads by killing the ball this spring, to the tune of a 1.274 OPS. And don't scoff. While Branyan has a bad batting average and strikeout issues, his career OPS-plus is 115 and he averages 31 home runs over the course of 162 games. He need only hold off Juan Miranda and once-big prospect Brandon Allen. (MLB.com )

NO WORRIES: Clayton Kershaw was torched Tuesday by the Rangers, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly isn't worried about his likely ace. Nor should he be, considering it's only the spring and Kershaw entered the game with a 0.00 ERA through 11 1/3 innings. (Los Angeles Times )

SWITCHBACK: Prior to the ALDS last year, the rules for the dreaded catwalk at Tropicana Field were altered, but now those rules are reverting back to where they were in the regular season of 2010. Check out the complete list on St. Petersburg Times .

GETTING GRADY BACK: Sunday could be the day. Grady Sizemore hasn't seen game action in about 10 months, but reportedly he has a real shot to play Sunday. Obviously huge news for the Tribe. (Cleveland.com )

KEEPING DICE-K: There's been a lot of talk about the Red Sox trading Daisuke Matsuzaka of late. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe makes a good case to fans that Dice-K is actually a pretty average major-league pitcher and that, as the fifth starter, that's really all the team needs. Put the absurd salary aside and just enjoy the good Red Sox team, he pleads. I tend to agree. (Boston Globe )

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 4:39 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Fun with closer stability vs. turnover

By C. Trent Rosecrans and Matt Snyder

So while Trent was looking at the Rangers' closer situation if Neftali Feliz moves to the rotation, he first thought that it would at least be the fourth year in a row Texas had a different closer, and then looked at the list and noticed it would actually be the seventh consecutive year the team had a new closer (if you defined a team's closer for a season as the guy with the most saves.)

He found that pretty amazing, so on chat asked Matt if he knew who was the last player to lead the Rangers in saves in back-to-back years. Matt guessed John Wetteland. Nope. C.J. Wilson? Nope.

After given the hint that this guy was still a closer and has been an All-Star for two teams other than the Rangers since he left, the answer became quite easy. It was Francisco Cordero, who had 49 saves in 2004 and 37 in 2005 before being traded during the 2006 season along with Julian Cordero, Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix for Nelson Cruz and Carlos Lee.

And the research project was born.

Some fun trivia questions are abound here. You could quiz your friends on any individual team, specifically, who is the last player to lead the team in saves for two consecutive seasons?

You could also go for the big fish: There are three pitchers who are the answer to the question for two different teams. Who are they?

Two are pretty well known these days, which are Francisco Cordero and Jose Valverde. But the possibly tricky part is Cordero isn't the answer to the Brewers' question and Valverde isn't the answer to the Tigers' question. The third? Bob Wickman.

See, we told you this was fun.

There are 16 teams who have had a single closer lead the team in saves for at least the past two seasons. Some are merely the past two, some are a long, long time (ahem, Mariano). Here they are:

New York Yankees (Mariano Rivera, 14 years)
Boston Red Sox (Jonathan Papelbon, five years)
Chicago White Sox (Bobby Jenks, five years)
Kansas City Royals (Joakim Soria, four years)
Philadelphia Phillies (Brad Lidge, three years)
St. Louis Cardinals (Ryan Franklin, three years)
Cincinnati Reds (Francisco Cordero, three years)
San Francisco Giants (Brian Wilson, three years)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Brian Fuentes, two years)
Oakland A's (Andrew Bailey, two years)
Seattle Mariners (David Aardsma, two years)
New York Mets (Francisco Rodriguez, two years)
Florida Marlins (Leo Nunez, two years)
San Diego Padres (Heath Bell, two years)
Los Angeles Dodgers (Jonathan Broxton, two years)
Colorado Rockies (Huston Street, two years)

Interesting to note, but totally coincidental, is that of the nine teams in the West divisions, only two haven't had closer stability for at least the past two years.

Now, the aforementioned Rangers are actually tied for the longest streak of having a new pitcher lead the team in saves, with six, and they'll still be tied for first after this season if Feliz moves to starter. The chain goes Feliz, Frank Francisco, C.J. Wilson, Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka before Francisco Cordero led the team in 2004 and 2005.

Their cohort is the Rays. Tampa Bay has a chain that goes from Rafeal Soriano to J.P. Howell to Troy Percival to Al Reyes to Tyler Walker and finally to Danys Baez, who led the team in 2004 and 2005.

Here's the rest of the league, in order of the most consecutive years with a new guy (closers listed chronologically from most recent to last man that led the team in at least two straight years):

Toronto Blue Jays (5): Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor, B.J. Ryan, Jeremy Accardo, B.J. Ryan
Cleveland Indians (5): Chris Perez, Kerry Wood, Jansen Lewis, Joe Borowski, Bob Wickman
Milwaukee Brewers (5): John Axford, Trevor Hoffman, Salomon Torres, Francisco Cordero, Derrick Turnbow
Arizona Diamondbacks (4): Juan Gutierrez, Chad Qualls, Brandon Lyon, Jose Valverde
Atlanta Braves (4): Billy Wagner, Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, Bob Wickman
Washington Nationals (4): Matt Capps, Mike MacDougal, Jon Rauch, Chad Cordero
Chicago Cubs (4): Carlos Marmol, Kevin Gregg, Kerry Wood, Ryan Dempster
Detroit Tigers (3): Jose Valverde, Fernando Rodney, Todd Jones
Baltimore Orioles (2): Alfredo Simon, George Sherrill
Minnesota Twins (2): Jon Rauch, Joe Nathan
Pittsburgh Pirates (2): Octavio Dotel, Matt Capps
Houston Astros (2): Matt Lindstrom, Jose Valverde

As for the correlation to success? There pretty much isn't one. Note some franchises like the Braves, Rays and Cubs that had multiple playoff appearances with new closers while teams like the Yankees and Red Sox keep winning with the same guy. On the flip-side, some bad teams have had stability, like the Royals.

But that's not what we were trying to do here anyway. Go take the info and stump your buddies.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Wanted: Experienced closer, likes Texas heat

Neftali Feliz

By C. Trent Rosecrans

If Neftali Feliz is starting for the Rangers, it doesn't appear the close is in camp with the defending American League champions.

"I have confidence in Jon Daniels and our scouts," manager Ron Washington told reporters, including ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon on Tuesday. "If that's the case, I'm 100 percent sure they'll go out there and find somebody to close ballgames down for us."

If that's the case, the Rangers will be looking for their seventh different closer in the last seven seasons (defining "closer" as "dude with the most saves."). The last Ranger to lead the team in saves in back-to-back years was Francisco Cordero in 2004-05. Cordero has since been an All-Star for two different teams.

Alexi OgondoThe Rangers' internal candidates appear to be Mark Lowe and Alexi Ogando (right). Or the team could go with a closer-by-committee until the trade deadline, also using veteran lefties Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver along with Lowe and Ogando. Prospect Tanner Scheppers is another (remote) possibility. The Rangers traded Frank Francisco, their closer in 2009, to the Blue Jays in exchange for Mike Napoli in the offseason.

As for trade candidates, the team could go out now, or wait until the trade deadline when more candidates would be available.

Among those available could be the Padres Heath Bell, the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez and the Orioles' Michael Gonzalez. The Blue Jays have several experienced closers on their roster, including Francisco, Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch.

If the team waits until the trade deadline, if the Mariners David Aardsma could be available, as well as Cordero, who could be supplanted by Aroldis Chapman (or Nick Masset). Others that could be available include Kevin Gregg, J.J. Putz and Brandon Lyon.

However, Washington did tell reporters in the same sitting that he felt confident enough with the rotation as it is and Feliz in the bullpen. It also appears, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jeff Wilson writes, that Washington would prefer to keep Feliz in the bullpen unless Daniels can get another closer.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com