Tag:AL Central
Posted on: March 13, 2011 11:15 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:35 am
 

Pepper: Gordon's last shot?

Alex Gordon
By C. Trent Rosecrans

Remember when Alex Gordon was the next George Brett? Royals fans sure do.

Now, though, the former second-overall pick in the draft, is an afterthought in the deep, talented Royals system.

Taken ahead of the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki, Gordon has a career line of .244/.315/.355 in 1,641 plate appearances in the big leagues and has since been moved from third base to the outfield.

While no longer one of the core building-blocks of the Royals rebuilding job, Gordon still has some talent (and a little trade value). He's also starting to get hot in the Cactus League, going 8 for 12 in his last five games. He's also shown good plate discipline, drawing 11 walks.

"The timing was off. I was seeing the pitches good, I was just late and not making solid contact," Gordon told MLB.com. "Lately, I've been getting easy earlier and seeing pitches better and making good contact, and that's what it's all about. So definitely a big change in the last week."

Gordon, 27, spent his offseason working with Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, someone who knows a little bit about living in the shadow of the Royals' lone Hall of Fame player. Seitzer's emergence at third base moved Brett from third base to first in 1987 and even made the All-Star team as a rookie. Seitzer has been the team's hitting coach since 2009.

"I think I've pulled my hands back so I'm loaded instead of trying to find the load during the swing. I'm ready to go right off the bat," Gordon said. "I think that's helped, and I'm not late on pitches anymore, and I'm being aggressive."

With the Royals throwing out a placeholder roster for 2011 before the prospects begin to trickle in later this summer, Gordon may be getting his last chance to prove he's more than a Four-A player. Soon, that Royals influx of talent could make him the next Clint Hurdle in Royals history.

SILVA ON THE BLOCK: Three Nationals scouts, among others, watched the Cubs' Carlos Silva in his latest spring training start, ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine writes.

According to Levine, the Nationals and Yankees have had scouts at each of Silva's outings. Both teams are looking to fill their rotation and could afford Silva's $12 million salary.

Chicago has had good spring showings from Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, making Silva expendable.

Dave MartinezHAIR CLUB FOR MEN: With Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez now Rays, manager Joe Maddon wants his team to follow the example of his newest stars.

"I encourage the growth of follicles," Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times. "I want them all to go nuts with their hair this year."

Although Ramirez is known for his long dreadlocks and Damon is now sporting a fauxhawk, the inspiration for his goal of being "the hirsute club" was bench coach Dave Martinez's bushy beard (pictured).

"Sometimes I just go with my instincts, and I just think it could turn into a lot of fun for the group," Maddon said, noting he'll let his hair grow out as much as possible. "So whatever keeps you focused on the field and having fun off it, I'm all for it."

FORMER CUBS OK: The Chicago Tribune caught up with former Cub Micah Hoffpauir, who is now playing in Japan.

"My first earthquake," Hoffpauir told the Trib. "And good Lord willing, it will be my last."

Hoffpauir, now a member of the Nippon Ham Fighters, was in his room on the 26th floor of his hotel in Tokyo when the earthquake hit, approximately 250 miles to the north.

"It felt like someone started shaking the whole country of Japan," Hoffpauir said. "At one point I thought, this building is going to fall down. But I was assured later that [swaying] is what the building was supposed to do."

He said he was evacuated from his hotel and was able to contact his wife in Texas to let her know he was OK. He said he has also been in touch with former Cub teammate Matt Murton, who was training further south in Osaka, and he was OK.

GARFOOSE FUNDRAISER: Author and Rays reliever Dirk Hayhurst will call you up and thank you personally if you donate $50 or more to Mercy Corp Fundraising for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. (DirkHayhurst.com)

HIDDEN TREASURE: Investigators found a jackpot of 1986 Mets memorabilia in a  Port St. Lucie storage facility following their case of former Mets clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels.

Samuels is accused of theft and illegal gambling.

Among the treasure found in the storage facility was signed uniforms from the 1986 Mets team that defeated the Red Sox in the World Series. The collection is reportedly worth "hundreds of thousands of dollars." (New York Daily News)

SIZEMORE GETTING CLOSER: Indians manager Manny Acta said he thinks center fielder Grady Sizemore is scheduled to start running bases today and could be cleared to play in games sometime in the last 10 days of spring training. (MLB.com)

D-TRAIN OFF THE RAILS: Dontrelle Willis left Saturday's game with a sprained ankle, tripping on a bat after backing up the plate on Bobby Scales' two-run single. Willis had a rough outing, allowing two hits and two walks while recording just a single out. (MLB.com)

THANK YOU, COME AGAIN: Commissioner Bud Selig said Saturday that the stake in the Diamondbacks once owned by Padres chief executive Jeff Moorad has been sold. Current Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick absorbed the eight percent of the Diamondbacks  for $21 million. Moorad's group owns 49 percent of the Padres. (MLB.com)

HARDEN OUT OF ROTATION MIX: Rich Harden is officially out of the race for the Athletics' fifth-starter sport. Harden could still find a spot in the bullpen, but it's getting crowded too. Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer are still competing for the fifth starter spot, with the losers then looking to make the bullpen. (San Francisco Chronicle)

STATS FOR DUMMIES: The great Joe Posnanski gives you a primer on advanced offensive statistics. (JoePosnanski.com)

LINEUP CONSTRUCTION: Little has more breath and keystrokes wasted on it more than lineup construction. It's a fan's favorite nitpick to show why their manager is an idiot, yet it doesn't really matter that much in the long term. (Although, it makes the most sense to get your better hitters at the the top of the order, because they get the most at-bats). But anyway, Astros manager Brad Mills discusses his philosophy for filling out his lineup card. (Houston Chronicle)

RAYS RESURRECTION: Former top pick Matt Bush is making a comeback in Tampa's training camp. (Tampa Tribune)

BASEBALL PROJECT: If you missed our Ear on Baseball podcast with the Baseball Project, what's wrong with you? Seriously?

Anyway, you can catch up with Scott McCaughey, who says despite touring the world with various rock bands, he's always kept up with baseball because it's a "a sort of zen thing for me" and reading boxscores is "like meditation" -- I think we can all understand that. (Athens Music Junkie)

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Posted on: March 12, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 1:52 pm
 

Pepper: No more Cubs-White Sox rivalry

Guillen, Quade

By Evan Brunell

It's never quite made sense why intra-city rivals hate each other in baseball, especially since both teams are usually in opposite leagues.

The Mets and Yankees have a healthy dislike for each other, the Giants and Athletics don't quite have a rivalry but don't have a need for the other (especially since the Giants are blocking the A's move to San Jose) and the White Sox and Cubs take home the prize for most contentious intra-city rival.

But these fans should be thrilled to have two teams to root for. And yet, Chicago has been split between the north and south sides for years. And admittedly, both sides have ratcheted up the rhetoric in recent years. Think Michael Barrett punching A.J. Pierzynski, or when ChiSox GM Kenny Williams said "The unfortunate thing for me is it’s a shame that a certain segment of Chicago refused to enjoy a baseball championship being brought to their city [in 2005 by the White Sox]. The only thing I can say is, 'Happy Anniversary.'"

Williams was referring to the 100th year anniversary of the Cubs not winning the World Series. Safe to say, as late as a few years ago, both sides had no use for each other.

That's changed.

"I have a good relationship with [board chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf], same with Kenny, and it’s no secret that [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] and I have had that relationship for a while and he knows that," Cubs GM Jim Hendry said. "I talked to him before the World Series in ’05. I don’t like [the Sox] six days a year, that’s how I try to look at it."

Williams concurred earlier this season, saying that he would pull for the Cubs to win the World Series if the White Sox were out of it due to how much the community and fans would profit from such a win. Could there be a thaw in the rivalry? Stay tuned... (Chicago Sun-Times)

NO GRAY HAIR: Guillen is a fan of new Cubs skipper Mike Quade (both of them are in the photo), who is an unusual choice to manage the club given the team's more recent high-profile selections. While Guillen admitted managing in Chicago is tough, he feels Quade can get through it, and guaranteed something Quade probably appreciates. "I know [Quade] is not going to lose his hair, that's for sure," Guillen said. "I guarantee that he won't lose his hair. And he's not going to get gray." (ChicagoBreakingSports.com)

SCANDAL? WHAT SCANDAL? Even though the Bernie Madoff fallout is threatening the Wilpons' hold on the Mets, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber believes the Wilpons would be "a great fit" for a MLS team. The league is hoping to add a second team into New York City. (New York Times)

MOR(S)E IS BETTER: Waiting with baited breath to find out who wins the left field job for the Nationals? It's not Roger Bernadina or Rick Ankiel, at least so far. Manager Jim Riggleman tabs longtime utilityman Michael Morse the favorite, who is having a hot spring and showed life in his bat last season. Don't worry Roger and Rick, you're still in the hunt for the center field job, competing with Nyjer Morgan. (Washington Post)

IT'S TIME TO SEE ADRIAN: Adrian Gonzalez will make his spring training debut for the Red Sox Saturday at 1:05 p.m. Gonzalez has been slowed by rehabilitating his surgically-repaired right shoulder but is still expected to be ready for Opening Day. (MLB.com)

NUMBER 42: For those that are fans of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Larry Granillo is here for you. Penning his Wezen-Ball blog, Granillo comes up with some Vogon poetry on baseball. You'll have to click through for the rest, but here's the opening verse: "Oh round orb, An epidermis-bovine corpuscle, Sutured in red, Resembling the estrused stripplegrats of Kria." Yep, Vogon poetry -- the third-worst poetry in the universe. (Baseball Prospectus)

PUT ON YOUR MEAN FACE: Kevin Jepsen is likely to setup for the Angels this season, but could eventually take the ball at the end of games. However, ex-Angels closer Troy Percival thinks Jepsen needs to stop being so nice if he wants to succeed as a closer. And you can bet Jepsen is listening. (Los Angeles Times)

HEEEEERE'S RONNY: Slowed by visa issues, Mets backup catcher Ronny Paulino finally arrived in camp. The Mets plan to be aggressive with him so he is ready to go, but still has to serve the final eight games of a 50-game suspension for violating the substance abuse program last season. (New York Post)

HARPERMANIA: An excellent feature by Dave Sheinin comes your way on Bryce Harper. The takeaway? Get excited. (Washington Post)

I'M A GIANT NOW: Longtime Padres player, coach and broadcaster Tim Flannery followed Bruce Bochy to San Francisco after the 2007 season and now considers him a true Giant. "It's black and white, cut and dried," Flannery said. "We're Giants. I had nice experiences down there, but it was all to prepare me to be a San Francisco Giant." (San Jose Mercury News)

'ZONA'S NOT GETTING YOUNG: These Michael Young-to-Diamondbacks rumors won't die and recently surfaced a few days ago. And yet, word is still trickling down to reporters that a trade is unlikely to happen for a variety of reasons. For those rooting for Young to head to the desert, look elsewhere. (Arizona Republic)

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 7:36 pm
 

Twins finally get Morneau back in lineup

By Matt Snyder

It had been since July 7 that Ron Gardenhire was able to put Justin Morneau's name into the middle of the Twins' lineup. So, even though it was only spring training, filling out the March 11 lineup card had to feel nice.

Morneau had taken part in some game action earlier this week, but it was only in so-called "B" games. Friday marked the first time he was in the lineup with his fellow big league bretheren. There was no Joe Mauer, but he got to join Delmon Young, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel among others.

Though he was hitless in two at-bats -- including one strikeout -- just playing in real game action was a huge step forward for Morneau in a long road back from a brutal concussion last July.

"When you're not out there playing, when you're not out there battling, you don't always feel like you're part of the team," Morneau said. "You feel like you're on the outside looking in." (via Big League Stew )

He played four innings in the field, in addition to the two plate appearances.

From here on out, assuming there are no setbacks, it's probably safe to assume Morneau will be in the Twins' opening day starting lineup. If he returns to form, that's bad news for opposing pitchers. He had a menacing 1.055 OPS through 81 games before going down last season.

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 11:01 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 11:51 am
 

Pepper: Wagner coach at 28; Japan quake fallout

Pepper

By Evan Brunell

These days are certainly different for Ryan Wagner, a 2003 first-round pick of the Reds. He debuted that same year at age 21 and looked as if he would deliver on his promise, but injuries and attrition caused him to struggle over the next two years before being dealt to the Nationals in a contentious deal, with Cincinnati later alleging that the Nationals then-GM Jim Bowden wasn't up-front about the injury issues of reliever Gary Majewski. 

With the Nats, Wagner was nothing more than a fungible reliever who regressed in effectiveness before undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in 2007. After two years of trying to rehab the injury, Wagner called it quits in 2009. And now, he's a 28-year-old manager, accepting a job with the Victoria Generals in the Texas Collegiate League, a college summer league.

"The college level is where I want to be," Wagner said. "I love coaching the younger boys, but it's definitely a slowdown from the big leagues.

"With the little kids, it's fun teaching the fundamentals and watching them grow. But a lot of these kids are D-I players and when you tell them something they are able to make the adjustments." (Victoria Advocate)

DEVASTATION IN JAPAN: While Americans were sleeping soundly, Japan was the victim of the worst earthquake since 1900, measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale. A tsunami developed that will hit Hawaii, but isn't expected to devastate the island. Other places, such as Thailand, may not be so lucky. In the midst of all this, Japan has canceled all professional baseball games for Saturday along with other major sporting events. (Yakyubaya.com)

CONCERN FOR GRANDMOTHER: There are plenty of Japanese ballplayers and media members stateside for spring training that have left many scrambling to contact friends and family. One such player is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has heard from his family and friends but has not been able to reach his grandmother. (Boston Herald)

Yankees LEGEND OK: Yogi Berra suffered a fall at Yankees spring training camp Thursday and was taken to the hospital as a precaution. The Hall of Famer is doing just fine and may even return to camp Friday. (New York Daily News)

STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES: Stephen Strasburg has had a Twitter account for several months but only recently has been tweeting with any frequency. One such tweet yesterday: "Keeping it freaking stupid with coach today!" Who knows what that means, but good to know. (Washington Post)

WILD THING: "Adaptable, even-tempered and not easily rattled" were words used to describe Charlie Sheen. Huh. Interesting. But these words are from the Sheen of three decades ago when he was a relief pitcher for Santa Monica High School. Sheen served as a "very efficient" bullpen ace, coach Jose Lopez recalls. (Los Angeles Times)

MORE Mets MESS: Everyone knows about the Wilpons' struggle to hang onto the Mets in light of the Bernie Madoff scandal, but there's an entirely different scandal being dealt with at this point. Back in November, the Mets fired team employee Charlie Samuels, who admitted to gambling on baseball and also provided mob associates with insider tips. He is also under investigation for stealing memorabilia from the Mets clubhouse and then selling them. The New York Police Department's Organized Crime and Control Bureau was at Mets camp Thursday to interview players and employees about Samuels in the hope of ferreting out more information for the case. Baseball investigators were also on hand to see if illegal gambling is being conducted by other employees and players. Investigators spoke to people with close ties to Samuels, such as  Mike Piazza and Francisco Rodriguez. (New York Daily News)

AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT GAME: Rockies manager Jim Tracy finally got Denver Nuggets basketball coach George Karl in town, with Karl assisting Tracy in managing Thursday's game. While Karl's the basketball guru, he may have had a hand in Todd Helton cracking a double, speaking to the first baseman just before the at-bat. A bit of a stretch, but whatever, it's spring training. (Denver Post)

QUESTIONING COLE: MLB Trade Rumors has a bunch of questions for college pitcher Gerrit Cole, who should be a top-five pick in the upcoming amateur draft. Cole was plucked out of high school by the Yankees, but opted to go to UCLA and doesn't regret the decision. Also in the interview: Cole's relaying of a Charlie Sheen story. (MLB Trade Rumors)

OZZIE'S IMPRESSED: Dayan Viciedo has impressed manager Ozzie Guillen the most at spring training. The Cuban defector is currently converting to right field from third base as he looks unable to field the position and first base is locked up. Viciedo was hitting .476 in spring training games but a fractured right thumb will sideline him about a month and guarantees a ticket to Triple-A, which was likely coming regardless. If he can show some semblance of plate discipline, he could be a nice bat for years to come. (Chicago Sun-Times)

ON THE WAY BACK: Erik Bedard was one of the better left-handed starters in the game but missed all of 2010 and had just 30 games started combined between 2009-10. Clearly, Seattle's trade for Bedard hasn't quite worked out, but the lefty had a strong start Thursday and felt he was approaching how he felt during his 2006-07 run. That's all well and good, but the 31-year-old needs to actually pitch in a major league game multiple times before anyone gets excited. (MLB.com)

BIG SWEAT: Dennys Reyes makes himself known to Red Sox fans, as the portly left-hander appears all but a lock to snag a spot in the Red Sox bullpen as the requisite lefty. Reyes has quite an interesting story of how he dislocated his right shoulder, which forced him to begin throwing left-handed. He didn't get the shoulder treated, which is why his right shoulder has a six-inch hunch over the left and still causes him pain on certain fielding plays. (Boston Herald)

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Posted on: March 10, 2011 10:44 pm
 

Getting to know the Tigers

By Matt Snyder

MVP


If we can set aside the concern for him as a human being -- which should be very sincere -- there is no question the most valuable player for the Detroit Tigers is Miguel Cabrera. This isn't to say there's no talent on the roster. With the likes of Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander and several others, there's plenty. It's just that Cabrera was the runner-up in AL MVP voting last season (and some would argue, including myself, he should have won). He was an absolute monster at the plate, with 38 home runs, 126 RBI, 111 runs, 45 doubles and a .328 average. His .420 OBP and 1.042 OPS were huge figures, and he was so feared he drew 32 intentional walks. If he can keep himself together this season, he's a really strong bet for AL MVP.

PLAYER ORACLE - Ty Cobb to Austin Jackson

Ty Cobb played with Danny Clark on the 1922 Detroit Tigers

Danny Clark played with Red Ruffing on the 1924 Boston Red Sox

Red Ruffing played with Yogi Berra on the 1946 New York Yankees

Yogi Berra played with Tug McGraw on the 1965 New York Mets

Tug McGraw played with Juan Samuel on the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies

Juan Samuel played with Johnny Damon on the 1995 Kansas City Royals

Johnny Damon played with Austin Jackson on the 2010 Detroit Tigers

POP CULTURE

Could have gone a lot of different directions here, as the Tigers are a storied franchise. Still, I can never shake the very brief mention of Ty Cobb in Field of Dreams . It seems to pretty well sum up the sentiment of many players at the time, according to most historical accounts. Enjoy ... (and beware the dreaded "B" word if that offends you)



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Posted on: March 10, 2011 9:08 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 9:18 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/10: Slam edition

By Matt Snyder

Hitting a grand slam is pretty cool. It's really a home run where you happened to come up to bat with the bases jacked, but, then again, batting with a runner on all three bases is a whole different animal than hitting with no one on. How about doing it two days in a row?

3 UP

Alex Liddi, Mariners. Yep, Liddi hit a granny Wednesday and followed suit Thursday. The 22-year-old third baseman has only had 11 at-bats in the spring, so he's hitting a grand slam every 5.5 at-bats. That's a pretty decent pace. Maybe pull a George Costanza and leave 'em wanting more? Just sit the rest of the spring!

Randy Wells, Cubs. Considering the pretty solid job Carlos Silva is doing imploding and the fact that the Cubs are looking to fill two spots, Wells is probably safe. He threw four shutout innings Thursday, running his spring scoreless streak -- well, counting only earned runs -- to nine. He's struck out six and only allowed eight baserunners. Also notable in this game was Andrew Cashner closed the game with four strong innings, allowing just one run (a solo homer). These two look the part as the final two members of the rotation -- but Wells is a much more sure thing.

Mike Moustakas, Royals. One of the Royals' (many) prized prospects was struggling in the spring, coming in with just three hits in 17 at-bats. Thursday, however, he collected a pair of hits in two at-bats, including a game-winning 2-RBI single in the eighth.

3 DOWN

Brad Bergesen, Orioles. According to Twitter nation, the first thing Bergesen said to reporters was, "I sucked. Any other questions?" Well, not really. We will pass along the line to those who didn't get a chance to see it: 2 2/3 innings, six hits, three earned runs, two walks. He was slated to work four innings, but couldn't make it. (via Roch Kubatko Twitter )

Tom Gorzelanny, Nationals. It was his first start of the spring, so some rust could be forgiven -- even if getting knocked around the yard by the Astros is what we're forgiving him for. The line: 2 1/3 innings, five hits, three runs (two earned), three walks and a strikeout.

Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers. The strapping closer had a disaster of an outing, getting only one out while allowing three hits, four runs, a walk, a home run and a hit batsman. He took the loss. Of course, it was only one game. In fact, all three of these pitchers here should remember that. Pitchers should always have a short memory, but especially in the spring.

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Posted on: March 10, 2011 7:13 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:24 am
 

Jinxed by Guillen, Viciedo breaks thumb

By Matt Snyder

Thursday afternoon, Ozzie Guillen told the Chicago Sun-Times that 22-year-old Cuban import Dayan Viciedo was the only player in camp who had impressed him. Later Thursday afternoon, Viciedo took a Dave Bush pitch to the right thumb. It is fractured and he'll reportedly miss three to four weeks. (Sun-Times)

What, jinxes and curses are only allowed to be blamed on the North side of Chicago?

It's a shame because the youngster had been really shining for the White Sox this spring. He was hitting .476 at the time of the injury. He was playing well enough all around that Guillen, when asked who had impressed him thus far in the spring, answered, "So far? There's only one guy, that's Viciedo."

Now, Guillen did back that statement up that others were playing well, but that he expected it out of those guys. So it's probably more accurate to say Guillen was simply most impressed with Viciedo.

The young corner infielder/outfielder was probably headed to Triple-A anyway, as the Sox need him to continue to grow as an everyday player, rather than sit on the bench and see occasional at-bats with the big club. Last season, his second in America, Viciedo hit .308 with an .840 OPS in 104 at-bats after a September recall. He certainly showed his big-time power, pounding seven doubles and five home runs in that limited time. In 86 Triple-A games, Viciedo hit 20 home runs.

He'll get to flash that power in Triple-A once that thumb is healed, assuming Guillen doesn't work his magic again.

[Disclaimer alert: In case there's any confusion, let us point out there are no such things as curses or jinxes.]

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Posted on: March 10, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: March 10, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Pepper: Rites of spring


By C. Trent Rosecrans

Every spring we get excited and pick winners for every division, count out teams, give a couple of other teams a free ride to the World Series and then sit back and are surprised when it doesn't happen.

The thing is, in baseball and in life, things change quickly and can change drastically.

Since the start of spring training games -- a little less than two weeks -- we've seen the Cardinals and Brewers lose some of their luster in the NL Central and the Phillies go from 110 wins to a struggling offense. We've even seen Carlos Zambrano be the calm, collected, sane member of the Cubs staff.

It's a rite of spring to project and to then react and overreact to anything we see on the field in these four weeks of meaningless games. And even when meaningful games start, there's enough time for injuries to happen, players to return and players to emerge to really know what's going to happen at the end.

And that's the fun of it. We don't know. You never know.

Sure, we can all expect a Red Sox-Phillies World Series, but there's no guarantee that'll happen. But if it does, I guarantee the road there will be completely different than we all imagined. And that's why this game is so great. You just never know, even if you think you know.

FEELING 'HITTERISH': Nationals über-prospect Bryce Harper has been nearly as entertaining off the field as on it, as he coin a new term on Wednesday.

From the Washington Post:

"I feel really confident in myself. There's guys who are going to come after you. I want to hit right now. I'm feeling hitterish. I'm trying to go up there and get some hacks in. I'm not going to be here for a long time. I want to try to go up there and get my hits in."

So, what's the definition of "hitterish" Adam Kilgore asked?

"You wake up in the morning, and you're feeling hitterish, you're going to get a hit that day," Harper said. "That's what it is. If you get a hit every day, you're feeling hitterish, for sure. Wake and rake."

Harper had an RBI single in his only at-bat on Wednesday and is hitting .357 this spring (in 14 at-bats).

BELTRAN BETTER: Carlos Beltran won't play in a Grapefruit League until next week, but he does feel "a lot better" and has not been "shut down." He took batting practice and played catch on Wednesday.

The Mets are looking at Willie Harris and Scott Hairston in right field if Beltran can't go, and are also giving Lucas Duda extra work in right field to prepare him to play there if needed. (New York Daily News)

GARLAND GROUNDED: Dodgers starter Jon Garland is expected to start the season on the disabled list after leaving Wednesday's game with a  strained oblique muscle on his left side. He had an MRI on Wednesday and the team is expected to announce the results today.

The team has already lost starter Vicente Padilla for at least the first month of the season after surgery to repair a nerve below his right elbow.

The injuries mean the once-pitching rich Dodgers are down to four starters, although the team won't need a fifth starter until April 12. John Ely and Tim Redding would likely be candidates if Garland and Padilla are still sidelined. (Los Angeles Times)

GOOD ADVICE: Maybe the Dodgers could get that old guy to take the mound -- the one working with Ted Lilly on Wednesday. That guy was Sandy Koufax.

"He still loves to watch baseball, loves the art of pitching," Lilly told MLB.com. "You know he was great. But he's also smart, he's passionate about pitching, he understands and sees things. Sometimes they are little things.

"I enjoy learning about baseball and talking about it with someone like Sandy Koufax, and I enjoy talking about it with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland. There are always ways to move forward, even if they are small."

ZOOM GROUNDED: Tigers manager Jim Leyland is planning his bullpen to start the season without Joel Zumaya, who has been sidelined with pain in his surgically repaired right elbow this spring.

"I don't think right now, from within camp or by trade, that you can replace a healthy Joel Zumaya -- and I emphasize a healthy  Joel Zumaya," Leyland told MLB.com. "So you have to just keep looking and try to come up with somebody, mostly from within."

The Tigers did go out and spend a lot of money on a set-up man, Joaquin Benoit, so the path leading up to closer Jose Valverde isn't barren. Ryan Perry is expected to handle seventh-inning duties, which he was expected to shoulder with Zumaya.

SALAZAR IMPROVING: Several Braves players said they feared for the worst after minor league manager Luis Salazar was hit in the face by a foul ball on Wednesday. 

"A ball hit that hard, at that short a distance, can certainly kill somebody if it hits them in the right spot," Chipper Jones told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm so glad to hear that he's conscious and breathing on his own."

Salazar was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Brian McCann and was airlifted to an Orlando hospital. MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports Salazar suffered multiple facial fractures, but did not suffer any brain damage. He was able to interact with family members later Wednesday night.

D-BACKS COACH BREAKS FOOT: While not nearly as serious as Salazar's injury, the timing does take away several light-hearted remarks I could make, but Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams may miss the beginning of the regular season with a broken foot.

Williams took a line drive off the foot while throwing soft toss to his son, Jake, on Monday. He's expected to miss two-to-three weeks. (Arizona Republic)

FIRST AT FIRST: Indians catcher Carlos Santana played his first-ever professional game at first base on Wednesday.

Santana cleanly fielded all nine chances he got at first and also had a double in the Indians' 9-2 loss to the Padres.

The Indians are searching for ways to keep his bat in the lineup and keep the young catcher healthy. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

PILING ON: A New York  storage company is joining in on making jokes about the city's easiest target -- the Mets.

In an ad on the city's subways for Manhattan Mini Storage, it says, "Why leave a city that has six professional sports teams, and also the Mets?" (New York Times)

WHEN HIDEKI MET RICKY: New A's slugger Hideki Matsui has connected with team icon Rickey Henderson, whom Matsui admired growing up in Japan -- and the feeling is mutual. (MLB.com)

HIGH PRAISE: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera says 19-year-old left-hander Manny Banuelos is the best pitching prospect he's ever seen.

"I like everything about him," Rivera told ESPNNewYork.com. "The makeup and how he keeps his composure. I notice situations and how you react in situations. Where you make your pitches in tough situations, where you spot your pitchers, he has the ability to do that."

WHITE RETIRES: Former West Virginia and Miami Dolphins quarterback Pat White has retired from baseball.

After White was released by the Dolphins last September, White signed a minor-league contract with the Royals and played in the Fall Instructional League. On Wednesday, the team said White did not report to spring training.

The Dolphins drafted him in the second round of the 2009 draft. He was also drafted by the Angels, Reds and Yankees. (Associated Press)

RISING WATER: It's been raining here in Cincinnati, but check out just how much -- this photo from Reds assistant media relations director Jamie Ramsey gives you a big-picture view of just how high the water is on the banks of the Ohio River.

He adds another picture of flood gates set up around Great American Ball Park. (Better Off Red)


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