Tag:AL East
Posted on: March 18, 2011 10:33 am
Edited on: March 18, 2011 11:18 am
 

Pepper: Kemp has something to prove



By Matt Snyder


Prior to last season, the common sentiment was that Matt Kemp was headed to stardom. It made sense. He was only 25 and was coming off a season where he hit .297 with a .352 OBP and 26 homers, 101 RBI, 97 runs and 34 stolen bases. Though he did hit two more home runs last season, he regressed rather significantly. His average dropped 48 points and OBP was a poor .310. He stole 19 bases, but was caught stealing 15 times. And the stat-line wasn't the worst part. His love life and butting heads with coaches made more news than his actual play.

But the proverbial page has been turned this spring.

"He seems great. I shouldn't say 'seems,' because he's been great," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told the Los Angeles Times .

Kemp came into the spring with that cliche of being in the best shape of his life. So far, it's coming through on the field, as he's hitting .316 with three home runs and three stolen bases. He's looking for it to carry over into the games that actually matter, and there's an extra motivation at play.

"Last year was a very disappointing season, personally and team-wise," he said to the Times. "I felt like I failed in some way. This year, I'm going to try to make sure that doesn't happen again, that we get back to the playoffs and get to where we should be."

HEILMAN ON THE HILL: Aaron Heilman hasn't started a game since 2005, but he's making a strong case to break camp as the Diamondbacks' fifth starter. Two of the three between Heilman, Barry Enright and Armando Galarraga will join the D-Backs' rotation, and Heilman became the first Arizona pitcher to toss five innings Thursday. He allowed two runs -- coming on a Matt Kemp homer, coincidentally. (MLB.com )

ABOUT FELIX'S NO-TRADE CLAUSE: A popular topic this week on the interwebs has been this list of teams Felix Hernandez has on his no-trade clause. Specifically, he can block a trade to the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Phillies and two still-unnamed teams. Now, upon first glance, it might seem he's scared to play in a large-market, high-pressure situation. Quite the contrary, however, as this is actually a savvy move by Hernandez and his agents. Reports indicate these are the teams they felt were most likely to try and acquire King Felix and would be able to offer financial incentives to waive the clause. While we're here, Yankees fans, Felix is not going to be traded this year. It's time to turn the page. (FOX Sports )

NICE CATCH:
Yankees legend Yogi Berra was speaking with Rays manager Joe Maddon Thursday when Berra tripped and began to fall. Maddon caught him. "It's one of those things, you just see it and he's going down. There's Yogi Berra falling right in front of me," Maddon said. "I try to catch him. It might have been my best play as a professional." If not for Maddon's steady hand, it would have been the second fall this spring for Berra. (TBO.com )

OUTFIELD DEFENSE: The best defensive outfield? The Mariners, followed by the Rangers, Giants and Yankees. (MLB.com )

BIG DAY: Kendrys Morales is either going to play Sunday or start the season on the disabled list. He did say rather definitively that he plans to play, but words can only carry you so far. If he's not fully recovered from last season's broken leg, he's just not ready. Mark Trumbo would be the Angels' starting first baseman if Morales can't go. (MLB.com )

ROLEN FOR HALL: This is interesting to me because I rarely consider a Hall of Fame case for a guy who has yet to retire, but Fangraphs.com takes a look at the possible Hall case for Scott Rolen. He probably doesn't pass that gut feeling test -- you know, when people say you should be able to hear the name and automatically just say "Hall of Famer!" if he belongs in -- but it does look like his numbers will merit strong consideration. Fangraphs does warn Rolen is in danger of becoming Ron Santo 2.0.

DEFUNCT LOGOS: This is a fun one. SBNation's Beyond the Box Score takes a look at its top 30 defunct MLB logos. I'm partial to the No. 5 logo, but there are some good ones in there.

LASTINGS IMPRESSION: It's easy to forget that Lastings Milledge is only 25. After all, he was a first-round draft pick in 2003 and was in the majors in 2006. Since then, it's been mostly disappointment, but he is raking this spring with the White Sox -- hitting .314 with four home runs and nine RBI. He hit two bombs in Thursday's win. The biggest plus might be seeing the humility. "Whatever production they get out of me is a plus. I’m not a key piece," he said. (Chicago Sun-Times )

A SIX-YEAR HIATUS? How about a Darren Dreifort comeback? He hasn't pitched since 2004, but threw a bullpen session this week at Dodgers camp. He's 39, but had severe injury woes in his career and retired at age 32. I'd say don't hold your breath. It's spring and sometimes people are just trying to file any story even remotely interesting. (MLB.com )

ON CONTRACTION:
The New York Post has a theory on what the majors could do with the Rays, A's, Mets and Dodgers. The Rays and A's would be contracted while the respective ownership groups would take over the messes that are the Mets and Dodgers. In order to curb the complaints of the player's union, major league rosters would be expanded to 27 players, thereby not eliminating jobs -- it would actually very slightly increase the number of major-league players. It's decent fodder for this time of the year, when we're killing time until the regular season begins, but I just don't ever see contraction happening.

SOUTH KOREAN IDOL: Shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee has fully embraced life in America, as he's become a huge fan of KFC and Papa John's, for example. He's also a big American Idol fan and sings really well -- according to himself. (TampaBay.com )

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Posted on: March 17, 2011 11:10 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/17: St. Patrick's Day edition

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Dontrelle Willis3 UP

1. Dontrelle Willis, Reds -- Not only did Willis pitch a scoreless inning to lower his spring ERA to 2.84, he also tripled and scored a run off of Indians' opening day starter Fausto Carmona.

2. Jason Heyward, Braves -- After missing the last five games with back discomfort, Heyward had a two-run homer and scored twice. He's hitting .440 this spring.

3. Jake Fox, Orioles -- The Orioles catcher had two homers in Thursday's 13-3 victory over Pittsburgh. He now has seven this spring, including four in the last three games. Still, manager Buck Showalter said defense will determine whether he makes the club out of spring.

3 DOWN

1. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox -- Boston's closer has had a terrible spring -- and it wasn't any better on Thursday. For the second time this spring, he was lifted in the middle of an inning, allowing four runs on two hits in 2/3 of an inning. He's now 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA this spring.

2. Cliff Lee, Phillies -- Lee gave up homers to Toronto's Juan Rivera and Edwin Encarnacion in a five-run fourth inning. Only three of those runs were earned, but he's given up six earned runs in his last two starts. Just a hunch, but I think he'll be OK.

3. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies -- Coming into Thursday's game against the White Sox, Jimenez hadn't given up a run all spring. He gave up seven on at Salt River Fields on eight hits.

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Posted on: March 17, 2011 5:39 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 5:43 pm
 

Molina could be personal catcher for 2 Jays

By Evan Brunell

MolinaJose Molina could crack 200 at-bats for the third time in his career this season, as Blue Jays manager John Farrell reveals Molina will likely be the personal catcher for two starting pitchers.

Molina will link up again with Brandon Morrow, as he did for 20 of Morrow's 27 starts, but will also add Kyle Drabek to his duties if the youngster can make the rotation. That would line him up to easily surpass 200 at-bats in a career and give him a shot to set a new career high provided Morrow and Drabek stay healthy.

Molina grabbed 268 at-bats for the Yankees in 2008 thanks to a Jorge Posada injury and hit .216/.263/.313. Of course, Molina isn't in the majors for his bat, but rather his defense which is a trademark among the Molina brothers (although less so for Bengie) along with being completely unable to run. Molina also had 203 at-bats for the then-Anaheim Angels back in 2004.

The belief is that Molina can handle power pitchers better than rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia could, as pitchers would be less comfortable overruling Molina's calls than they may otherwise with the still-green Arencibia.

"We don’t want to say that certain pitchers can’t pitch with other catchers behind the plate," manager John Farrell told the Toronto Sun, "but I think you’re looking at two pitchers with similar stuff and to make sure that they don’t go away from their secondary stuff and become so reliant on their fastball and just become hard, hard, hard. Sometimes a power pitcher’s mentality can revert to that throwing mindset. That’s where some of [having Molina] can be beneficial."

Such an arrangement would limit Arencibia to three out of five days of playing time, which seems like an odd way to treat someone who could have a long future in Toronto. Arencibia is known more for his bat than his defense, but it's still important to get him used to the majors. It's possible Toronto could DH Arencibia on the days he sits, which would likely push Juan Rivera or Edwin Encarnacion to the bench.

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Posted on: March 17, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 4:56 pm
 

Red Sox reveal rotation order

BeckettBy Evan Brunell

The Red Sox have revealed the remainder of the rotation after Jon Lester was named opening day starter.

Following Lester will be John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. There isn't much surprise to the order except for Beckett's drop to No. 4 after many expected him to grab the No. 2 spot.

"Ultimately, if they pitch like they should, it's not going to matter," manager Terry Francona sagely observed to MLB.com. "And if they don't pitch like they should, it's not going to matter."

Ultimately, the Red Sox opted to put Beckett No. 4 so he could face the Indians instead of the Rangers, where Boston opens its season. 

"Just watching the way last year unfolded, we want to get him off to a good start," Francona said. "We'll pitch him that game in Cleveland. I think that's a good place for him to start."

Beckett, of course, struggled last season with injuries and being unable to put the ball where he wanted. He ended up with a 5.78 ERA in 127 2/3 innings, coughing up 20 home runs, his worst career mark outside of his first season in the AL of 2006. He also had the worst walk rate of his career outside 2006, although his strikeout numbers remained consistent.

Given that terrible season, plus his sketchy spring training so far, it's no surprise Beckett's pitching fourth, as he has to be considered the fourth-best pitcher. What is a surprise is that Francona slotted him there, after sticking with Beckett atop the rotation the last couple of years despite Jon Lester deserving the nod. Beckett for his part supported Francona's decision but did not indicate that he agreed with the decision, which is no surprise.

"Those are his decisions, and just like I would feel like he would always back me up, I back him up on his decisions as well," Beckett said. "It is what it is. I don't get paid to make those decisions. Tito makes those decisions. I don't want that job. I'll never want that job."

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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 11:15 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 12:01 am
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/16: Super Nova

Ivan Nova

By C. Trent Rosecrans

3 UP

1. Ivan Nova, Yankees -- The right-hander competing for a spot in the Yankees' rotation showed he could handle AL East competition on Wednesday, dominating the Orioles. Nova didn't allow a hit in six innings, and just two O's reached base. Nova hit Robert Andino to lead off the game and Adam Jones reached on an error in the fourth inning. Nova faced 19 batters, one over the minimum, throwing 59 pitches, 41 for strikes.

2. Elliot Johnson, Rays -- Competing for a spot on the Rays' bench, Johnson -- who has mostly played at second base -- made his spring debut in center field, and made quite the impression. Johnson stole three bases -- including a steal of home in the sixth inning, also had a double and as ingle, two runs and two RBI.

3. Joe Mauer, Twins -- Twins catcher Joe Mauer made his spring debut on Wednesday and singled on the second pitch he saw. Mauer served as the team's designated hitter and is expected to catch on Thursday in a minor league game.

3 DOWN

1. Tyler Clippard, Nationals -- The reliever coughed up his team's four-run lead by walking the first two batters he faced, then giving up two doubles, a triple and an RBI single to score the winning run.

2. J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks -- Another reliever, another disaster. Putz faced five batters and didn't retire one. He did, however, get credit for 1/3 of an inning because Erick Aybar was caught stealing. He walked three, gave up two hits and four runs. He also added a wild pitch to boot. But hey, he was throwing 92-94 mph, so there's that.

3. Daniel Schlereth, Tigers -- Well, while we're at it, why not make it a trilogy? Lefty Daniel Schlereth faced four batters Wednesday against the Cardinals and walked all four of them. Coming into Wednesday's game, he'd walked just one batter and hadn't allowed a run in 2 1/3 innings.

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Posted on: March 16, 2011 5:01 pm
 

Smoltz to play in Nationwide Tour event

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Move aside Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson, the latest two-sport star is coming -- and it's John Smoltz.

The former Braves pitcher will play in the Nationwide Tour's South Georgia Classic next month. Smoltz, 44, has previously attempted to qualify for the U.S. Open and the Georgia Open, but he's using a sponsor's invitation to the 156-player tournament scheduled for April 28-May 1 in Valdosta, Ga.

John Smoltz"I don't want to step on anyone's toes," Smoltz said on the Golf Channel on Wednesday morning (via PGATour.com). "I'm not looking to take anybody's spot who is aspiring to be a [PGA] Tour professional. I have a lot of respect for everybody who does what they do on the Nationwide Tour. 

"I'm not afraid to fail, but failure is right there. I know it's not easy. I just want to see what it's like. I want to know what my body feels like. I want to know if that tension creeps up. I just want to see what that's like."

In his playing days, Smoltz and his fellow pitchers famously had the Braves add a putting green inside Turner Field when the team was designing its new home. 

Smoltz has often played with Tiger Woods, and even played at Augusta National with Woods. He also played at Iseworth in a foursome with Woods and Annika Sorenstam, beating Sorenstam, according to a 2009 interview with Smoltz in Golf Digest.

In that same interview, Smoltz said his realistic goal is to play on the Champions Tour.

"I'm fighting age and time, but I'm not afraid of the challenge," Smoltz said.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:37 pm
 

Chamberlain to miss week with oblique strain

By Matt Snyder

Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain underwent an MRI on his oblique muscle and Wednesday it was confirmed he had a strain. He will sit "about a week" while hoping the injury heals.

"Better to deal with it now than to let it linger into the year," Chamberlain noted. (Star-Ledger )

Manager Joe Girardi said Chamberlain would be placed on the disabled list if this was the regular season, as the team could ill-afford to be down a bullpen arm.

Chamberlain was once the Yankees' next great starting pitcher. Then next Mariano Rivera. Then next great starter. Then next Rivera. Now? He's buried behind Rivera and Rafael Soriano in the bullpen -- with the Yankees scrambling to fill out their starting rotation from the likes of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.

The good news is he's still only 25. It's entirely possible, once he gets healthy, he can regain at least some of his early form -- the form that saw him put together a 0.38 ERA in 19 appearances in 2007.

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