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Tag:AL Central
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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Posted on: March 9, 2011 9:20 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 12:46 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/9: Holland emerges for Rangers

HarangBy Evan Brunell

3 UP

1. LF Alex Gordon, KC: 3 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 2 RBI. Gordon really needed this game, as a 3-for-3 night lifted his average to just .263. Already termed a bust, Gordon is likely on his final shot to contribute to the Royals. Heck, K.C. would take simply being an average contributor. In the same game, Lance Zawadski went 2 for 3 with 3 RBI and one run scored. He's a Triple-A player who got a cup of coffee with the Padres last season. Why is this mentioned? Because Zawadski was my double-play partner in high school. Rubbing shoulders with greatness, I am.

2. SP Javier Vazquez, FLA: 4 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. Vazquez is looking to reclaim his status as one of the better pitchers in the game after his second turn as a Yankee was just as bad as his first. It's too early to speculate on his velocity, but the early results have to be promising for the Marlins who could be a sleeper in the NL East.

3. SP Derek Holland, TEX: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K. Holland certainly vaulted himself into being a favorite to win the No. 4 rotation spot in Texas with this outing. Reports had Holland looking electric, and he may be ready to fulfill his top prospect billing.

3 DOWN

1. SP Aaron Harang, SD: 3 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. Yuck. Harang (pictured) got blasted against his former team who dressed just one projected starter in Brandon Phillips, making this outing all the more worse. Harang felt he was simply too nervous. "You kind of want to go out there and do well against your old team," Harang told the Associated Press. "I guess I look at it that it's better to get it out of the way down here than having it happen the first time throwing against them during the season." At least, Harang hopes that's the reason. The Padres, too.

2. SP Scott Kazmir, LAA: 3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 1 K. "What's Kaz doing here if he didn't give up any earned runs?" you ask. Did you happen to notice he coughed up nine baserunners in three innings? Kazmir also contributed an error when attempting a pickoff. The Angels will be very impatient with Kazmir after being nothing but a bust since the trade with Tampa Bay. The lefty says he's close to a breakthrough after simplifying his delivery. For his sake, we hope so.

3. 1B Miguel Cabrera, DET: 3 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 2 K. Cabrera was in the news Wednesday for all the wrong reasons as details emerged about the night of Feb. 16, when it was exposed to the world that Miggy still had a drinking problem. It's been three weeks since the incident and Cabrera is apparently in the best shape of his life, but he's still hitting .174 on the spring. But remember: spring statistics aren't worth the pixels on the computer screen.

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Posted on: March 9, 2011 8:10 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 10:25 pm
 

Startling details emerge in Cabrera incident

Cabrera

The Florida state attorney's office released on Wednesday a 41-page report dealing with the incident that saw an intoxicated Miguel Cabrera arrested for driving under the influence and resisting an officer on Feb. 16. Also released was a 911 call along with video, with thesmokinggun.com providing the police report.

Previously, all that was known was Cabrera was discovered on the side of the road next to his disabled Range Rover and was belligerent with officers, requiring handcuffs and several "knee strikes" to get the Tigers slugger to comply.

Wednesday, however, it was revealed that the 27-year-old had an incident prior to his arrest, when he turned up at Cowboys Bar-B-Q & Steak Co. in Ft. Pierce around 10:15 p.m. as the restaurant was being closed. The manager, Fletcher Nail was speaking with an off-duty wildlife officer named Kyle Patterson when Cabrera walked in, reeking of alcohol. Nail and Patterson allege that Cabrera pointed to his shoulder bag while saying "I know all of you, and I will kill all of you and blow this place up."

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Why he was unhappy exactly is unclear, but when you're as drunk as Cabrera was, anything can set you off, including the news that a restaurant is closing for the night.

Nail finally convinced Cabrera to leave, but not before the first baseman said "you don't know me," leaned near his face and said "I will kill you," patting his shoulder bag again.

Then came the altercation with officers on the side of the road, where Cabrera told police to shoot him and drank in front of the officers. "F---ing shoot me. Kill me," Cabrera is reported to have said, before continuing on. "Do you know who I am?" he asked the officers. "I'm Miguel Cabrera. I play for the Detroit Tigers. You don't know my family."

Just sad news all around to hear more of Cabrera's unfortunate night. He is currently undergoing treatment, and a contrite Cabrera addressed the incident days later. He previously had an incident at the end of the 2009 season when he blew a .26 BAC and got in a fight with his wife, necessitating a 911 call. He later apologized for his actions and by all accounts had successfully managed his alcohol problem... until the fateful night of Feb. 16.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 9, 2011 5:53 pm
 

Buehrle could retire after 2011

By Matt Snyder

Though he's not definitely leaning either way, White Sox starting pitcher Mark Buehrle hasn't ruled out retiring after the 2011 season, when his current contract with the White Sox comes to an end.

"I've set out this year that I'm hoping to play for a couple more years," Buehrle told "The Danny Mac Show" Wednesday (via Chicago Tribune ). "I'm not going to just go out there and play for the money or play in a spot that I don't want to be, just to play for a couple years to get some more money. It's going to have to be a contender and somewhere where me and my family are comfortable. If it happens, good, and if not then if I have to walk away from this game after this year I think I'll be happy with everything I've done."

What Buehrle has done is go 148-110 for 11 seasons with the White Sox. He's made four All-Star Games, finished fifth in Cy Young voting once, won two Gold Gloves and thrown a pair of no-hitters (one a perfect game).

He turns 32 this month and, as a left-hander, it would be pretty surprising he couldn't find work under a pretty solid two-year deal from someone -- even if not the White Sox, who Buehrle mentions might be pining to have Chris Sale join the rotation next year. His 4.28 ERA and 1.40 WHIP weren't great last season, but serviceable enough to stay in a rotation. Plus, his biggest value is that of a durable workhorse. Perhaps the most impressive thing on Buehrle's resume is the fact that he's thrown at least 200 innings in 10 consecutive seasons.

An innings-eater like that at age 32 won't stay on the free agent market too long. If he wants a job, he'll find one. If not, Buehrle will retire with a very admirable major-league career.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 8, 2011 9:47 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 9:54 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/8: End of line for Ollie?

BeckhamBy Evan Brunell

3 UP

1. SP Kyle Davies, KC: 3 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K. An impressive outing for Davies, who lowered his spring ERA to 2.57. This from a guy with a career 5.49 ERA, but he's just 27. The Royals could really use a leap ahead by Davies, as the rotation looks downright frightful in what is going to be a very long season for Royals fans as they await the new guard. In the same game, Dontrelle Willis hurled two perfect innings and is shaping up nicely to claim a spot in the Reds' bullpen.

2. CF Chris Young, ARI: 4 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 4 RBI, 1 HR. Young has 30-homer power, but has yet to truly break out into being a star. He doesn't necessarily need to to provide value to the Diamondbacks, especially given his strong defense, but what's holding him back is batting average with a career .241 mark. Even after Tuesday's explosion with a two-run homer, Young's at a .250 batting average. He is what he is at this point in his career, and as long as he keeps boppin' them homers, he'll do just fine.

3. 2B Gordon Beckham, CHW: 4 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 1 RBI. Great day for Beckham, who is now batting .412 on spring training. Beckham got 2010 off to a brutal start before recovering down the stretch, but his season was already ruined statistically. A great sleeper as someone who could break out into a star.

3 DOWN

1. SP Zack Greinke, MIL. The Brewers' new ace will have to wait to make his debut, as bruised and fractured ribs will sideline Greinke for the first couple weeks of the season, if not longer. Milwaukee should be very concerned about its depth, of which it has none to replace Greinke. Manny Parra is a failed starter, and going with Mark Rogers is fraught with risk. By the way, in Tuesday's game, Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee took exception to the Dodgers' Roman Colon fist-pumping after a strikeout. Benches cleared, but no punches were thrown.

2. SP Oliver Perez, NYM: 3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K. Perez had two scoreless innings to finish his outing, but that underscores how bad he got the first inning started by allowing the first four batters to reach. This figures to be the end of the line for the experiment doomed to fail with Ollie as starting pitcher. Never fear, Perez fans: the Mets will continue to give lip service toward the lefty making the team as a reliever. 

3. SP Brandon Dickson, STL: 3 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. Dickson can't be too pleased with this outing as there's a job up for grabs that he's in the running for: Adam Wainwright's replacement. The righty is battling with several other candidates, but there are no clear-cut ones, so every outing counts, even if people are still working out the kinks this early in the spring training schedule.

HONORABLE MENTION

Brian Wilson, for making his beard even more legen -- wait for it -- dary, courtesy MLB.com.

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:50 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 8:40 pm
 

Feliz to close; rotation fallout in Texas

By Evan Brunell

FelizOn Wednesday, the Rangers will throw Neftali Feliz into a spring training game expecting three innings out of the hurler. However, Feliz won't be putting in his work at the start of the game as is common for those who aspire to make the starting rotation. Instead, Feliz will be covering the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Why is that?

"I don't think I have to tell you why we're doing that," manager Ron Washington told MLB.com.

And so comes to a close -- well, almost -- on the experiment to make Feliz (pictured) a starter. While nothing is official, all signs are pointing to the AL Rookie of the Year continuing in the role that saw him nail down 40 saves in Texas' run to the AL pennant last season. While Feliz was open to returning to the rotation, he made clear to team president Nolan Ryan and the media that he was simply more comfortable remaining as closer simply due to his familiarity with the role. While Feliz came up through the minors as a starter, his success at the major league level has been out of the bullpen and he has certainly delivered. But Feliz will continue to pitch multiple innings in spring training to work on his slider and changeup in an attempt to diversify beyond simply a wicked fastball.

"We're going to keep him stretched out so he can use all his pitches," Washington said.

Meanwhile, the absence of Feliz means there are now seven candidates for three spots in the rotation, and that's not even counting the injured Scott Feldman and Brandon Webb. Feldman had surgery in the offseason to repair a microfracture in his right knee but is not expected to be ready to pitch at the major league level until well into May, if not longer. Webb, meanwhile, has a rotation spot waiting for him but the Rangers feel the former Cy Young Award winner won't be ready for Opening Day.

"He's progressing," Washington said. "That's a good step forward. We went from long toss to bullpen to throwing live BP. Depending on how that goes, we'll set a plan from there."

Even if Webb isn't ready when time to line up along the foul lines and be introduced to the crowds, he shouldn't be that far behind, which only puts added pressure on the other candidates to step up their game.

Of the remaining candidates, top prospect Tanner Scheppers (ranked No 77. on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects) profiles as a reliever long-term and is currently battling back stiffness, while Feliz's compatriot in the bullpen, Alexi Ogando, is gamely trying to win a rotation spot but is likely to return to his setup role. Dave Bush, the former Brewer, is in camp hoping for a rotation spot along with prospect Michael Kirkman, a lefty who had 14 relief appearances for Texas last season and could reprise that role in 2011.

Related

Tommy Hunter appears to be the one candidate with the best shot at a gig as he posted a 3.73 ERA (4.70 xFIP) in 128 innings over 22 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen. Hunter also posted similar statistics in his 19-start stint with the Rangers in 2009. 

The other favorites are Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. Holland is a former top prospect who has not yet locked down a permanent spot in the rotation but could be the club's best pitcher by year's end. The 24-year-old had a 4.08 ERA (4.40 xFIP) in 10 starts and four relief appearances for the Rangers and also appeared on the postseason roster along with Hunter. The lefty will start Wednesday in Feliz's place.

Harrison, meanwhile, has impressed early in camp. However, his peripherals don't come close to what Holland can put up and the club used him almost exclusively in relief last season with six starts and 31 bullpen appearances.

One has to imagine that Hunter and Holland will occupy the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the rotation, respectively, with Bush and Harrison battling for the final spot that will eventually be turned over to Webb. There is also thought to be a long-relief spot available which could go to the loser of the rotation sweepstakes.

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 11:11 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 12:49 pm
 

Morneau returns to action

Justin Morneau
By C. Trent Rosecrans

After playing in his first game in eight months, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said he was optimistic that his concussion symptoms are behind him.

Morneau played in a  "B" game for the Twins against the Pirates at a back field at the Lee County Sports Complex, home of the Twins' camp.

The former American League MVP had a double and three RBI in two at-bats against the Pirates, while playing four innings in the field.

"It feels good," Morneau told reporters, including the Minneapolis Star-Trirune's Joe Christensen. "It felt good for a while. You can only take batting practice for so long before you find out how it's going to react in a game."

Morneau said he'd take Wednesday off and possibly play in Thursday's game against the Blue Jays.

"It's going to take a while to get back into game shape, but as the brain goes, we're hopefully past all the symptoms and all the rest of that stuff," Morneau said. "And hopefully we're where we need to be."

Morneau hadn't played since suffering a concussion in a game July 7. He saw a doctor on Monday that gave him clearance to play after a  one-hour phone conversation. Morneau had seen the same doctor in Pittsburgh last week. 

In the stands to watch Morneau were his wife Krista and five-month-old daughter Evelyn, along with an estimated 200 fans, reporters and scouts.

The Twins didn't announce Morneau's return before the game, but reporters noticed him warming up.

While Morneau is getting a late start, it's not so late that it will stop him from starting the season on time.

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 10:38 am
 

No structural damage in Zumaya's arm

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Joel ZumayaFamed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews found no structural damage in the right arm of Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya, the team announced on Tuesday.

Zumaya saw Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday. The doctor recommended Zumaya not throw for at least another week and once he is pain-free, he can start throwing again.

The Tigers' flamethrower pitched against the Blue Jays on Feb. 27, but hasn't pitched since. He had offseason surgery on his right elbow.

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