Tag:AL East
Posted on: March 16, 2011 12:56 pm
  •  
 

Lester to get ball for Red Sox on opening day

By Matt Snyder

The news might be unsurprising, but it's still big for Jon Lester. The 27-year-old left-hander will make his first opening-day start for the Red Sox, manager Terry Francona officially announced Wednesday. (MLB.com )

Lester has already proven himself one of the best pitchers in the majors, and this is one of the final steps in establishing him as such in the public eye. He made his first All-Star Game last season and finished fourth in Cy Young voting. He was 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He struck out 225 batters in 208 innings.

The thing is, though, he was already pitching on that level for the two previous years. Lester started 65 games in the previous two seasons and compiled a 3.31 ERA and 1.25 WHIP along with a 31-14 record. He struck out 225 hitters in 2009.

Might the next natural step be a Cy Young award? It's entirely possible. He'll start his quest on the first day of the regular season.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

 

More MLB coverage
Category: MLB
Posted on: March 16, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: March 16, 2011 12:34 pm
 

Pepper: Sign spring's end is near



By Matt Snyder


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

 

More MLB coverage


Posted on: March 15, 2011 11:01 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2011 11:02 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/15: Ellsbury's back

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Jacoby Ellsbury3 UP

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox -- The Red Sox center fielder certainly appears recovered from the broken ribs that limited to just 18 games last season. This spring, he's hitting .414/.452/.724. His second homer of the spring came Tuesday off of Detroit's Justin Verlander, who allowed only one other hit in his start.

2. Brett Wallace, Astros -- The guy the Astros got for Roy Oswalt struggled last season, but is having a pretty decent spring -- buoyed by his performance on Tuesday, when he went 4 for 5 with two doubles, a grand slam and seven RBIs.

3. Jordan Lyles, Astros -- The Astros' top pitching prospect retired all six batters he faced against the Orioles, striking out three, including Luke Scott and Vladimir Guerrero. The 20-year old is expected to start the season at Triple-A Round Rock, but could make the Astros' choice for fifth starter difficult.

3 DOWN

1. Brad Bergesen and Kevin Gregg, Orioles -- Bergesen gave up three run on four hits and two walks, and only half of his 52 pitches went for strikes. In his last three starts, Bergesen's allowed 10 earned runs on 16 hits and five walks. He was "relieved" by Gregg, who got just one out, but gave up three hits and a walk, while giving up five runs, including a grand slam.

2. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs -- In the fifth inning of the Cubs' game against the Rockies, Soriano caught Esmil Rogers' sacrifice fly in shallow left field and unleashed a throw into the visitors' dugout, allowing another run to score. Soriano is under contract until 2014, so Cubs fans have four more years of his attempts at defense. But hey, he's owed just $72 million for those four years.

3. Wade LeBlanc, Padres -- The lefty gave up seven hits, six runs and a walk in five  innings against the Angels. Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Mark Trumbo homered off of him the fourth. Battling for the fifth spot in the team's rotation, LeBlanc has a 9.22 ERA this spring.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

More MLB coverage
Posted on: March 15, 2011 10:14 pm
 

Price named Rays' opening day starter

By C. Trent Rosecrans

David PriceMany of the opening day starting assignments are far from surprising, but they're still newsworthy just because, well, they are. Today's starter announcement is one of those. David Price will start for the Rays when they open the season April 1 against the Orioles.

Price has disposed James Shields at the top of the rotation, and understandably so. The former No. 1 pick was 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA last season in his first full season in the big leagues. Shields, though, struggled last season, going 13-15 with a 5.18 ERA and led the big leagues in hits (246) and earned runs (117) allowed.

Price said Shields was the first person to congratulate him on the news.

"He earned it, just like I earned it," Shields told the Tampa Tribune. "I'm happy for him. He had an unbelievable year last year."

Manager Joe Maddon said the rotation will also include Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson, although the order won't be set until later. Maddon wants to see how each pitcher matches up with the team's first few opponents before announcing it.

"We have some ideas, I'm not ready to reveal them yet," Maddon said. "We're still talking about it. It's not brain surgery. It just makes sense some of the stuff."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

More MLB coverage
Posted on: March 15, 2011 9:06 pm
 

Injuries muddle Jays' closer race

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Blue Jays went into camp with no shortage of closers with experience, but no real favorite.

Jon RauchTwo weeks into exhibition games, that apparently hasn't changed much.

"It's premature to say who's in that slot," manager John Farrell said (via MLB.com). "The main thing is guys that are taking the ball and getting on the mound are certainly putting themselves in a position to establish roles. So right now, we're not here to say who has that spot locked down."

That points toward Jon Rauch, left, because of injuries to Octavio Dotel and Frank Francisco, both scratched from their next scheduled outings because of injuries. Francisco, scheduled to pitch today against the Phillies, was out with a right pectoral injury and Dotel, expected to throw Wednesday and Saturday, has a sore left hamstring.

Rauch, signed two a one-year deal with a team option for 2012 in the offseason, had 21 saves for the Twins last season. Farrell also praised his recent performance, including a scoreless inning against the Phillies on Tuesday.

All three were acquired in the offsesason -- two signings and a trade -- after the team lost Kevin Gregg and Scott Downs to free agency.

Francisco is still expected to be ready for opening day, Farrell said.

"We feel like if we can get him three or four games [more] before we leave camp, he'll be fine," Farrell said. "He's not overtly concerned or overly alarmed. He feels this is a spring training aches and pains type thing that he's going through. The red flag is not up per se with Frankie."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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

Fun with closer stability vs. turnover

By C. Trent Rosecrans and Matt Snyder

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

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

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

And the research project was born.

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

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

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

See, we told you this was fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

 

More MLB coverage
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 )

BELTRE BACK:
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 )

THE GREEK GOD OF JOKES:
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."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

 

More MLB coverage

Posted on: March 15, 2011 12:09 am
 

Ear on Baseball podcast, Episode 7

By C. Trent Rosecrans

It's Ear on Baseball time again -- the Eye on Baseball team's podcast is back for Episode 7.

After a brief discussion of Andrew Bailey and Neftali Feliz, Matt Snyder and I talk to Jonah Keri, the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First, a look at the brief, but fascinating history of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Keri tells the tale of an exhibition team started by an owner with contempt for fans and not much interest in building a winner, and then its sale and ultimately the building of a modern franchise.

The title comes from a quote Rays principle owner Stuart Sternberg, when he's talking about how the Rays have to do things smarter and better to get that extra two percent edge, whether it's selling tickets, player signings or how to treat customers.

Under Sternberg, Matthew Silverman and "boy genius" general manager Andrew Friedman, the Devil Rays have gone from laughingstock to the Rays, a model franchise for the 21st century.

We talk to Keri about why the Rays won't move and Sternberg won't own the Mets, as well as Keri's role on a focus panel to build a new stadium for the Expos.

iTunes , Zune or XML.

Ear on Baseball, Volume 7 (50 minutes, 11 seconds)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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