Tag:AL West
Posted on: March 15, 2011 1:10 pm

Carter flashes power, but when will he arrive?

By Matt Snyder

Chris Carter is not a small man. He stands at 6-foot-4 and checks in at 245 pounds.

His amount of power isn't small either. The potential big-time slugger went yard twice Monday, including a prodigious shot off the left-field scoreboard. It was the first time this spring we've seen a glimpse of the kind of power he possesses, but there's more where that came from.

In 465 Triple-A at-bats last season, Carter connected for 31 home runs and 29 doubles. Since being drafted out of high school, the 24-year-old has destroyed pitching at every level of the minors, compiling 149 homers in 673 games (which multiplies out to 36 per 162 games).

Minor issues would be Carter's batting average (.258 last season) and strikeouts (138 last season in 125 games), but he's patient enough to erase those concerns. He took 73 walks in 2010, meaning his .365 on-base percentage (worlds more important than average) was vrey respectable.

Basically, it's not a matter of if the A's are going to slot his bat in the middle of the order, but when. And, boy, do they need his pop.

The A's finished 81-81 last season, yet the only teams that hit less home runs were the punchless Astros and Mariners. Only four teams had a lower slugging percentage.

With some seemingly stop-gap options in the house this season, it appears the A's are ready to relegate Carter to the minors one more season. Josh Willingam (left field), David DeJesus (right field) and Hideki Matsui (designated hitter) have been brought in. Willingham and Matsui have some power, but their ceilings aren't near as high as Carter's. Plus, Carter has already paid his dues in the minors and shown what he can do in Triple-A. He did struggle in a late recall last season, but struggling in your first 70 major-league at-bats is hardly anything unique.

The feeling here is Carter should be allowed to start at least four times a week with the big-league club to see how he can handle the majors this time around. Six years in the minors is plenty of time and he could very well be ready. If he is, he could be the centerpiece that bats like Matsui, Willingham and DeJesus support -- as none of those guys are feared enough (at least not anymore in Matsui's case) to change the complexion of the lineup on their own.

Carter will be. And it might just begin in 2011.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 10:22 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 11:52 am

Pepper: Injury bug biting Brewers

By Matt Snyder

Whether it's Zack Greinke's rib injury, Yuniesky Betancourt's quad or Carlos Gomez's back, things generally haven't been feeling physically well at Brewers camp. They seem to have at least a minor malady for everyone on the team -- even two guys with an intercostal injury, which I didn't even know was a thing. Apparently they are muscles on the rib cage that help contract the chest.

Chris Dickerson is someone who has that issue. He hurt his Monday against the Giants, when he had an ugly collision with Pablo Sandoval. It wasn't exactly a Casey-level beatdown, but Dickerson seemed to have lost. The collision prompted a somewhat humorous/somewhat realistic quote from Randy Wolf.

"Thank God Sandoval lost 30 pounds or that might have been a decapitation," Wolf told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel . "I thought he dislocated his shoulder. It sounded bad."

Wolf later added he's afraid to walk to his car, and he may not have been kidding.

The Brewers can take solace in the fact that it's only spring and they haven't lost anyone for the season yet, like their division-mate Cardinals.

DREW'S MOOD HATS: Potential Nationals closer Drew Storen had struggled this spring, but put together a solid outing Monday. If you peered inside the brim of his hat, you'd have seen: "Down." "Precise." "Focus through the target." The youngster followed his own advice, setting the Tigers down in order in his one inning of work. Writing reminder messages in his hats isn't new for Storen, as he's already cycled through four this spring and has countless left from last year.

"It's kind of like a mood ring, it's a mood hat," he told the Washington Times . "I keep them all. Since there's so much going on, I'll be the first to admit, you get caught up in thinking about throwing things and try to do too much. It's just a nice, easy way to bring your mind back into it."

If a quirk like this seems weird, you've never been around a baseball locker room. In fact, this is relatively normal. Hey, whatever works.

STRASBURG PROGRESSING: Speaking of Nationals pitchers drafted in the first round in 2009, Stephen Strasburg is reportedly making good progress as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. He's now throwing 90 feet off flat ground and eyes a September return. As you might remember, he had the surgery last September and the normal recovery period is 12-18 months. But just because he has high expectations doesn't mean he's impatient.

"I have to no choice [but to be patient]. I can't just wake up the next morning expecting to get on the mound. It's a slow gradual process. It's about the slow steady progress. It has to take its time and let the body heal naturally." (MLB.com )

IN OR OUT? Luis Castillo might win the second base job for the Mets out of camp because they have no better options. But manager Terry Collins reportedly doesn't really want Castillo around -- only he hasn't officially said as much. Some believe the higher-ups on the Mets would rather Castillo start, but J.P. Ricciardi backs Brad Emaus. Basically, no one really knows what is going on. (ESPN New York )

Monday, Adrian Beltre made his spring debut, and it went off without a hitch. The third baseman -- who had been sidelined with a strained calf -- played five innings, going 1-3. His only issue had nothing to do with his calf and should be completely expected under the circumstances. "I felt a little bit rusty," he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram .

PLAY IT AGAIN, RICH: In the least surprising news of the spring, Rich Harden needs to see a doctor. He hasn't thrown a bullpen since February 15, but felt an issue in his lat muscle Sunday and it looks like he's going to be shut down again. (MLB.com ) It's sad to say, but even at age 29, it's hard to see him ever regaining form for an extended period of time. That sparkling 2008 season -- 10-2, 2.07 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 181 K in 148 innings -- will likely go down as his best. With the kind of stuff he has, when healthy, that's a shame. UPDATE: Susan Slusser reports Harden will throw Wednesday and he hasn't suffered a setback.

WHAT IF ... : MLB Trade Rumors has put together a list of what the free agent class might look like at the end of this season if no one had signed extensions. It's worth a look for entertainment purposes.

IT'S ONLY SPRING, BUT ... : ... the Diamondbacks suck. The always-great Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic points out the Snakes would have a record of 4-13-3 if you only count the first five innings of every game this spring -- which is when the major-league starters are still in the game. Perhaps nothing could be more telling than a quote from manager Kirk Gibson: "I'm ready to be impressed, I can tell you that." Such a statement in the spring is troubling, because most of the time optimism is in the air.

BARTMAN MOVIE OUT SOON: Catching Hell , an ESPN 30-for-30 documentary about the infamous Steve Bartman foul ball (Cubs, Moises Alou, Marlins, 2003 NLCS, Game 6 ... c'mon, you know this) will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 20-May 1 in New York City. The one thing that's amazing to me in the years since that inning is how much people -- non-Cubs fans, to be specific -- seem to enjoy pointing out the loss wasn't Bartman's fault. The insinuation behind this is that all Cubs fans blame the loss on Bartman, which couldn't be further from the truth. Go talk to a group of educated Cubs fans and Alex Gonzalez's name is much more blasphemous. I'll reserve judgment on the movie until it comes out, but I can't help but think some myths are going to be further perpetuated because a few jerk fans threw things at Bartman -- which was reprehensible. In fact, expect a further rant from me on the subject when the movie is released. (Chicago Tribune )

"BEST SHAPE OF MY LIFE!" We've all heard it in spring training. We've all mocked it. But a sample of players the past few years who have declared they are in the best shape of their life have actually outperformed expectations more than players who didn't make such a declaration in the spring. It doesn't mean there's always merit behind the claim, but it's certainly an interesting query. (Baseball Prospectus )

Kevin Youkilis walked and then struck out to Yankees 20-year-old prospect Manny Banuelos Monday night. So, naturally, Banuelos is a stud, right? "He's going to be a Hall of Famer," Youkilis told reporters (New York Times ). He made it clear he was kidding, but didn't want to go overboard. When he got serious about the potential phenom, he was respectful.

"He's got three pitches he can throw pretty good, now he has to learn how to pitch," said Youkilis, adding: "If he figures it out, he'll be all right. Being left-handed and throwing hard, if you throw three good pitches and you're left-handed, you don't even have to throw 90."

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Posted on: March 14, 2011 7:00 pm

Feliz now says he wants to start

Neftali FelizBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Remember last week when the Rangers' Neftali Feliz said he wanted to be a closer? Sure you do, we wrote about it and everything.

Well, now he wants to be a starter.

"That's what we're working for," Feliz told reporters (via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). "Right now, [my goal] is to start."

Feliz threw four innings today against the Dodgers, allowing one run on three hits. He threw 59 pitches and then went to the bullpen and threw 25-30 more pitches.

Feliz, last year's American League Rookie of the Year, had 40 saves last season, with 71 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings and a 2.73 ERA (along with a 0.88 WHIP).

At 22, Feliz is a shut-down closer, but he'd be more valuable as a starter -- and also a potential ace for a playoff-caliber team lacking a true No. 1 starter.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 14, 2011 6:46 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:18 pm

A's Bailey to see doctor on Tuesday

UPDATED 8:30 p.m.

By C. Trent Rosecrans

A's closer Andrew Bailey will see Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday and is hoping for good news -- but searching for good news from Andrews is like looking for a vegetarian at a steakhouse -- it could happen, but doesn't seem likely.

Bailey left Monday's game against the Indians in Goodyear, Ariz., after suffering from elbow discomfort and forearm tightness. Bailey left with one out in the fifth inning after doubling over in pain following a pitch to Cleveland's Ezequiel Carrera.

He immediately left the game and saw the team's head trainer. He was not made available to the media after the game, but the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser caught up with him via text (and then tweeted about it).

The A's have taken it slow with Bailey this season after his 2010 was ended early following surgery to "clean out" his right elbow. He underwent Tommy John surgery in college. In a text to Slusser, Bailey said it didn't feel like his injury that required the ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery, "but that's obviously what I thought at at first."

It was just Bailey's second outing of spring.

If the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year misses any time due to injury, left-hander Brian Fuentes would be the obvious candidate to replace him as the team's closer. A four-time All-Star, Fuentes signed a two-year deal with the A's in the offseason. He has 187 career saves, including 24 last season for the Angels and Twins, as well as a major-league leading 48 in 2009.

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Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:28 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 5:46 pm

Seattle's Robertson to have surgery

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Michael PinedaMariners right-hander Nate Robertson will undergo elbow surgery on Wednesday, aidig the case of the team's top pitching prospect, Michael Pineda (right), as the team's fifth starter.

Robertson's surgery will remove "loose bodies" from his left elbow and won't be able to throw for four weeks after the surgery.

Robertson made two spring starts and was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA. He'd allowed 11 hits and six earned runs in seven innings pitched, along with seven strikeouts and two walks.

Robertson told the Seattle Times he would likely be ready to pitch for the Mariners by early June. He also said he was told by the team they'd like to keep him going forward. He signed a minor-league deal with the team in January. He was 6-8 with a 5.95 ERA with the Marlins and Phillies last season.

Pineda, a 22-year old right-hander, is the team's top pitching prospect. He's appeared in three games this spring, starting two, and allowed two earned runs in seven innings. He's struck out five and walked three, while allowing five hits.

Pineda can hit triple digits with his fastball and has shown improvement in his slider and changeup. He's expected to pitch again on Thursday against the Royals.

Pineda is already on the team's 40-man roster.

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Posted on: March 14, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 4:34 pm

Return from T.J. surgery tough for Outman, Devine

OutmanBy Evan Brunell

The comeback from Tommy John surgery is a lot more difficult than it may seem these days, with pitchers back in a year and some better than ever.

But the comeback trail is a hard one to bear with hours upon hours of rest and rehab before even picking up a baseball. And even when returning to game action, control is still shaky as pitchers have to relearn mechanics and proprioception, as Sports Illustrated notes in a look at Tommy John surgery and rehabilitation. Proprioception, in short, is the person's ability to sense where certain parts of our body are in space. Relearning that sense is difficult for pitchers to master after surgery.

Both Joey Devine and Josh Outman are pitchers currently returning from Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2009, which puts their current timeframe well beyond the usual nine to 12 months needed to return from T.J. surgery. The Athletics are finding the road back harder than anticipated, and Outman has all but accepted he will likely have to go to Triple-A to continue his work to iron out small tweaks to his mechanics that need to occur before he can face major leaguers.

"We've talked about bad habits I've had in the past, and [pitching coach] Ron [Romanick] has noticed me doing a few things here and there all of a sudden," Outman (pictured) told MLB.com. "It's really nothing major, just a few details out of order. I've been out there every morning, and things are slowly coming back."

Devine is in a similar situation, struggling with mechanics in the process of battling a stiff arm. Like Outman, it is unlikely Devine will be able to break camp with the big-league team.


"I'm doing stuff that my body hasn't done in two years, so my arm's reacting a little different," Devine said. "I've been gripping the ball too much, too hard, and it's causing me to lock up. I have to get back to strengthening the biceps back up and throwing with a smoother delivery.

"My biceps, it's almost like it shut down. I guess, self-consciously, when the arm wasn't working, I thought I had to grip the ball harder. Well, that just causes bad habits, because I couldn't feel my release point, and I was going all over the place."

As a result, Devine's progression has been scaled back to correct his mechanics. He had an off day Sunday and will throw again on Monday before evaluating his readiness to return to game action.

Tommy John surgery has befell two of the more well-known names in baseball lately, with Stephen Strasburg undergoing the knife in September and Adam Wainwright suffering the same injury at the start of spring training. Their returns will be heavily scrutinized, as the progressions of Outman and Devine prove that returning from Tommy John surgery is no picnic.


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Posted on: March 13, 2011 11:12 pm

3 up, 3 down for 3/12: Mo of the same

Mariano RiveraBy C. Trent Rosecrans

3 UP

1. Mariano Rivera, Yankees -- In his spring debut, Rivera struck out all three batters he faced -- the Twins' Jason Kubel, Matt Brown and Luke Hughes. Rivera got to spring training late because of his family's bout with the flu. The 41-year old is expected to pitch against on either Wednesday or Thursday.

2. Chipper Jones, Braves -- Jones went 2 for 3 with a two-run homer against the Astros and is now hitting .353/.421/.647 this spring. Not too bad for a guy many expected to be sitting at home this spring instead of coming back for another season with the Braves.

3. Danks brothers, White Sox -- Chicago starter John Danks allowed just one hit in five innings against the Dodgers on Sunday, while his younger brother Jordan was 2 for 5 with a grand slam in a "B" game against Cleveland. 


1. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals -- Garcia was perfect in his first two innings on Sunday, but then gave up four runs in his third, three earned. Garcia's struggled this spring. In his three starts, he's pitched nine innings, allowed 18 hits, 10 earned runs, walked four and struck out four.

2. Joe Nathan, Twins -- Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Nathan hadn't given up a hit or a run in his first four one-inning appearances of the spring. Sunday, he made up for lost time, getting just one out and allowing six runs. He allowed five hits and one walk and a three-run homer by Delmon Young. He did say his elbow felt fine afterward.

3. Tommy Hunter, Rangers -- Fighting for a spot in the Rangers' rotation, Hunter has struggled all spring. It wasn't any better on Sunday, as he allowed seven runs on nine hits and 3 2/3 innings against the Giants. After his outing, Hunter put it plainly: "This spring stinks."

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Posted on: March 13, 2011 3:39 pm

Mariners get good news on Gutierrez

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Mariners have been left scratching their head over Franklin Gutierrez's stomach since last season, until finally getting good news recently.

Franklin Gutierrez"There's nothing wrong with him," team physician Mitch Storey told the Seattle Times. "He's not sick. This is just a simple thing. … We [ran] a bunch of tests to rule out other things and they came back negative, as we had expected."

Gutierrez was diagnosed with a "slow digestive tract" that leads to bloating, stomach cramps and stomach pain.

Guiterrez is combating it with a mixture of diet and medication, but diet is the key competent.

"There's a lot involved in this to try to allow food to get through his stomach in a  timely fashion," Storey said. "In the past, because it was slow, it would back up into his stomach so he could get cramps and not feel good and that would last for a couple of days."

Gutierrez will have to battle this for the rest of his life, but if he takes care of his diet, it shouldn't interfere with his baseball career.

Gutierrez's numbers all fell last season, even as he picked up his first Gold Glove. Gutierrez hit .245/.303/.363 last season, .230/.269/.332 after the All-Star break.

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Category: MLB
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