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Tag:NL Central
Posted on: March 20, 2011 1:53 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:48 am

Pepper: Collins to dial down intensity


By Evan Brunell

TIME TO LOOSEN UP: Terry Collins is well aware of his reputation as a no-nonsense manager whose intensity lost the respect of his players when he helmed the Astros and Angels.

However, to hear Collins tell it, he realizes where he went wrong and wants to make changes.


"I’ve thought about it a lot," he said. "I took it way too serious. Even though I enjoyed it, I didn’t enjoy it. It was all about the winning, winning, winning, instead of enjoying being around these guys and watching them play, enjoying the experience and the challenge of competing. That’s what I love to do.

"There was that thing that I had to prove something. I still want to prove that we’re good enough, but I don’t think it’s the same type of attitude I had in the past. And with that comes the fact that these guys are human beings, and they need communication."

Collins plans to have the Mets play aggressively, as his Angels did -- which still continues to this day under manager Mike Scioscia. He also places a premium on players aspiring to be great and staying focused, which sounds a lot like the old Collins, but the skipper knows that.

"Hopefully, the energy -- or whatever people want to say, the intenseness that I have -- may work here," Collins said. (New York Times)


IZZY COULD SET UP: Jason Isringhausen was once one of the Mets' most heralded pitching prospects before injuries completely wrecked his early years. He was later moved to Oakland and became a closer, famous for his time in St. Louis. Now, after missing most of the last two years, Izzy appears poised to set up closer Francisco Rodriguez back in New York. (New York Post)

IT'LL BE PUDGE: After a brief skirmish among Nationals reporters as to the state of the catching, it appears Ivan Rodriguez will certainly start Opening Day for Washington -- but Wilson Ramos figures to get the bulk of work behind the plate in short order. (Washington Post)

NO MORE GUYS: Five Guys is a weakness of Evan's, and it will no longer taunt him in Nationals Park, as the burger chain has opted not to renew its lease despite being one of the more popular options for customers. (

SILVA'S SPOT IN DANGER: Carlos Silva has had a beyond-awful spring training and although he's slated to take the bump once more next Wednesday, that may not happen. Manager Mike Quade and GM Jim Hendry are expected to sit down and make some touch decisions prior to then. It's entirely feasible that Silva will be put out of the running for the No. 5 starter's spot at that time. (Chicago Sun-Times)

GOOD NEWS FOR BREW CREW: Milwaukee already has enough problems figuring out who will replace Zack Greinke in the rotation, so bad news regarding Shaun Marcum is not ideal. However, the righty believes while he may have to skip a start in spring training, he will be on track for the regular season. (

THE NATURAL: Ken Griffey, Jr.'s talent on the field sometimes evoked comparisons to the immortal Ray Hobbs, but who knew that Griffey had untapped potential? Griffey stopped by the Mariners' broadcast booth for five innings Friday and drew rave reviews. (

BENGIE WANTS TO PLAY: Don't call Bengie Molina retired, brother Jose of the Blue Jays says. Rather, Molina isn't interested in playing unless any contract he signs "shows him sufficient respect." Is it just me, or is an offer to extend your career and haul in at least another half-million plenty of respect to give? (FOX Sports)

INCREMENTAL PROGRESS: The Yankees haven't made formal who the Nos. 4 and 5 starters will be (bank on Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia) but now we know who is following CC Sabathia on the mound: A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes, respectively. (New York Post)

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 8:21 pm

3 up, 3 down for 3/19: Say goodbye to Oliver

By Matt Snyder


Oliver Perez, Mets. The much-maligned lefty has been a huge talking point all spring for Mets fans and scribes alike. Will the Mets simply cut their losses and eat the remainder of his contract -- which is one year and $12 million? They are already eating $6 million after dismissing Luis Castillo. Saturday, Perez probably put the nail in his own proverbial coffin. He entered the game in the seventh inning and coughed up back-to-back jacks after inheriting two runners. Reports have the Mets cutting ties with him as early as Sunday.

Cole Hamels, Phillies. For the second-straight outing, Hamels was torched. He allowed seven hits, five earned runs and three walks in 3 2/3 innings. He did strike out five.

Jason Marquis, Nationals. Not to be outdone by his fellow NL East bretheren, Marquis served up nine hits, six earned runs and three walks in 3 2/3 innings to the Mets. Despite Perez's best efforts to let the Nats back in the game, Marquis still took the loss -- as if that really matters in the spring.

3 UP

Derrek Lee, Orioles. He took a walk and scored a run in two plate appearances. His other was a strikeout, but the main thing was the veteran first baseman played for the first time this spring and reported afterward he was pain-free.

Trevor Cahill, A's. He had struggled thus far in the spring, but not Saturday. Cahill worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing only four hits and one earned run. He struck out three.

Travis Wood, Reds. At the same time Johnny Cueto was leaving a game injured, Wood was making a strong case to make the Reds' rotation even if Cueto is completely healthy. He was straight dominant through four shutout innings, and finished with four hits, one earned run and four strikeouts in five innings. He did seem to tire a bit in the fifth, but we're still a few starts away from the regular season. He'll get there.

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 5:06 pm
Edited on: March 19, 2011 7:18 pm

Cueto leaves start early with apparent injury

By Matt Snyder

Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto was slated for up to four innings and 60 pitches Saturday in a split-squad game against the Rockies. Instead, he departed after just one. He has battled stiffness issues in his throwing biceps and forearm through much of the spring.

Reds manager Dusty Baker said the malady Saturday was "similar" but "not as bad." Cueto indicated he wanted to stay in, but the Reds opted to err on the side of caution. (Mark Sheldon via Twitter )

Cueto immediately met with a doctor and reportedly will talk to the media later Saturday. It's "unlikely" he begins the season in the starting rotation, reports John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer UPDATE: Now Fay tweets that pitching coach Bryan Price said, "if this was the playoffs, he wouldn't have said anything. But this time of year, we're being ultra-cautious." So maybe Cueto will be fine by the start of the season after all.

On the bright side for the Reds, they aren't starving for starting pitching depth. If Cueto went down for any amount of time, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood and Mike Leake could round things out behind Edinson Volquez and Bronson Arroyo. The three combined to make 58 starts last season, which each having at least 17.

Wood pitched in the other split-squad game for the Reds Saturday, against the Diamondbacks, so he would make sense to slide into the No. 3 spot in the rotation -- should Cueto be injured.

Cueto, 25, was 12-7 with a 3.64 ERA and 1.28 WHIP last season.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 19, 2011 1:04 pm
Edited on: March 19, 2011 1:11 pm

Report: Three teams after Castillo

By Matt Snyder

Luis Castillo was cut by the Mets Friday. Considering the Mets were still on the hook for his $6 million salary for the season and any team acquiring Castillo would only have to pay the league minimum ($414,000), he figured to be relatively sought after.

And he is, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports .

Reportedly, at least three teams are after Castillo -- the Phillies, Cubs and Marlins. Rosenthal also mentions the Orioles as a team that might enter the mix, considering the back issues of Brian Roberts.

Castillo, 35, only played 86 games last season due to injuries and ineffectiveness. In 2009, though, he played 142 games and hit .302 with a .387 OBP, scoring 77 runs and stealing 20 bases. He's a three-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, though neither has happened since 2005.

Expect him to be signed rather quickly when he clears waivers Sunday. It's not a question of if, it's a question of by whom.

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 11:21 am
Edited on: March 19, 2011 11:49 am

Pepper: Live from my mother's basement!

By Matt Snyder

It just won't go away, this petty little feud.

I speak, of course, of the "old school" baseball people who hate blogging -- yet blog themselves, which is weird -- and despise anyone who dares to disagree with their beliefs, especially when it comes to "newer" statistics (though OBP is hardly new). Check out this really awesome paragraph from Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle :
It won't be long before we get the first wave of nonsense from stat-crazed dunces claiming there's nothing to be learned from a batting average, won-loss record or RBI total. Listen, just go back to bed, OK? Strip down to those fourth-day undies, head downstairs (to "your mother's basement and your mother's computer," as Chipper Jones so aptly describes it) and churn out some more crap. For more than a century, .220 meant something. So did .278, .301, .350, an 18-4 record, or 118 RBIs. Now it all means nothing because a bunch of nonathletes are trying to reinvent the game?
Now, I'm not gonna go nuts. Several people already have across the 'net, though the great Joe Posnanski already took care of the heavy lifting in the most rational post possible -- and came back for a little more .

I'll just add that my personal feeling is that it's always dangerous to side with someone who attacks people for simply disagreeing. I prefer on-base percentage over batting average because not making outs is a much better measure of a good baseball player than disregarding walks and hit-by-pitches and figuring a hit percentage. In fact, I don't understand how it's not obvious -- seriously, a walk doesn't even count in batting average! -- but I'm not about to attack the character of someone who disagrees. If you feel compelled to freak out and use a decade-old joke that makes no sense, maybe you are the one with the problem? Just a thought.

As for the "non-athlete" thing, I have a short anecdote to illustrate my point. I realized I hated batting average as compared to OBP one time when I went 0-1 with three walks and three runs scored -- noticing it was a .000 batting average for the day, yet a pretty damn good day of helping my team win.

And the game wasn't even in my mother's basement. Seriously!

Honestly, though, don't you think guys in a similar situation in the bigs would feel the same way? What about a pitcher who throws a complete game and only allows one unearned run, yet loses 1-0. And he goes home and sees on MLB Network that a pitcher for the Yankees allowed seven earned runs in five innings and got the win because the Bombers' offense went nuts. Judging pitchers on wins and losses would have us believe the latter performed better. Really?

Again, I don't understand how it's not obvious these stats aren't the best ones. If this was elementary school you'd get an F for disagreeing. Maybe I should start making lame jokes in return instead of having an actual, meaningful conversation. Apparently that's the best way to plead your case when it comes to the old school.

MORNEAU AT NIGHT: Justin Morneau played his first night game in a long, long time Friday night, and things went well. "It's just different. For the most part, the stuff has come on later in the day. So I wanted to see, because we usually play night games during the season, I wanted to see where I was at, and I felt pretty good." That "stuff" to which he is referring, in case you've been asleep since last July, would be lingering symptoms from his concussion. ( )

STOREN STRUGGLES: Second-year pitcher Drew Storen was supposed to be the Nationals' closer this season. He still very well may be eventually, as he has the highest upside of any of the candidates. But he's had a pretty disastrous spring and might be in jeopardy of being optioned to the minors. It's not likely, but possible. (Washington Post )

DON'T DOUBT DAVIS: Doug Davis has worked out for four teams in Arizona and is looking to catch on somewhere (MLB Trade Rumors ). It's uncertain that he'll definitely be able to grab a job in a rotation at some point this year, but I don't plan on wagering against the veteran. He's already kicked cancer's butt.

UBALDO GETS NOD: We've been posting the announcements of opening day starters as stand-alone pieces, but Ubaldo Jimenez as the Rockies' opening day starter is far too obvious. It would have been shocking if he wasn't handed that responsibility. Just a heads-up, don't expect posts on CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay or Felix Hernandez on this subject either. ( )

Elvis Andrus hit a home run Friday. He hasn't done so in a regular-season game since September 2 ... of 2009. (ESPN Dallas )

You always wonder if teams take these sort of things under consideration, but it's incredibly rare -- if not unprecedented -- for a team to admit fan venom played into a move. But the Mets did so with Luis Castillo (ESPN New York ). Manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson both admitted that the Mets' fans' collective hatred of Castillo played a role in the team cutting him.

WESTY'S ROAD BACK: Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland has stared death in the eyes and survived. Now he's on the comeback trail. I won't even attempt to do this lengthy feature justice, instead I'll just say please go read it. It's great stuff. ( )

RETURN TO DODGERTOWN? The Dodgers' spring training games are not drawing well. In fact, attedance is down 42.3 percent from last season in Camelback Ranch. The average draw per game is barely over half the capacity. (Los Angeles Times )

Scott Rolen hasn't played more than 140 games since 2006 and not more than 150 since 2003. He's 36. He faltered in a big way in the second half last season. But he's saying all the right things and preaching accountability. ( )

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 10:39 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 10:40 pm

3 up, 3 down for 3/18: Wake and Rake


By Evan Brunell

It's pitching day here at 3 up, 3 down with only Melky Cabrera the non-pitcher to be featured in this lineup. While some hitters had some fine days, the most interesting lines came from pitchers, as we'll find out...

3 UP

1. SP Francisco Liriano: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K. Liriano has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason, with the rush continuing into spring training. Apparently Liriano's now going to be the hot name in trade talks after Cliff Lee dominated that arena for two years. Lirano got spring training off to a brutal start but really shined Friday against the Orioles, who had a dominating performance by Brian Matusz to hang tough.

2. SP Brandon Morrow: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K. Don't sleep on Morrow, whose K/9 would have led the AL had he pitched enough innings to qualify. The Jays will lift their protective hands off Morrow just a bit more in 2011, and Morrow could soon become a household name after coming within a final out of a no-hitter last season. His showing Friday knocked his spring ERA down to an eye-popping 0.75.

3. CF Melky Cabrera: 3 AB, 2, R, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K. The Melk Man is hitting a scorching .529 and it could actually be possible that Cabrera's ready to bounce back from a dismal season in Atlanta, where he was out of shape and it showed. After thrilling fans with the Yankees, Cabrera seems doomed to being overhyped and flaming out. But while spring statistics don't mean much, Cabrera's strong showing so far means the still-just-26-year-old could actually have some life in his bat.


1. RP Tim Wakefield: 3 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 4 HR, WP. Um... yeesh. What is there to say? Wakefield's spot with the Red Sox is tenuous at best, as this sobering piece from the Boston Globe reports. Could the knuckleballer's career be coming to an end? Probably not, but four home runs in the span of six batters is pretty gosh-darn bad. For what it's worth, manager Terry Francona said Wake's knuckler has been the best he's seen so far this spring, but starting in the second inning, the knuckler wouldn't move outside of the strike zone. Such is the life of a knuckleballer.

2. SP Wily Peralta: 1/3 IP, 5 H, 5 HR, 2 BB, 0 K. Ouch. Double ouch. Triple ouch. The first ouch was for Zack Greinke getting hurt. The second for Shaun Marcum experiencing shoulder tightness that could be an issue. And triple ouch for Peralta's day, which gives him a spring ERA of 9.00. Peralta's just 21, but was thought to be right up there in terms of getting a shot to start with Greinke out. But this start doesn't help him leapfrog ahead of... uh... who are the other candidates again?

3. SP J.A. Happ: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 1 K. It's not every day that allowing zero runs gives you a bad day, but Happ is quite an interesting character. He has long defied the laws of ERA, as his career mark is 3.27 against an xFIP of 4.61. How long can Happ continue to defy the baseball gods with a criminally-low BABIP and strand rate? So far, he's defying them just fine.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 3:25 pm

Zambrano likes hitting way too much

By Matt Snyder

It might be really entertaining to watch, and he might be one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball, but at some point Carlos Zambrano just needs to settle down and back away from the lumber.

The most recent movement on Z's everlasting quest to be this generation's Babe Ruth is that he took so much batting practice his left wrist is now wrapped. (Chicago Tribune )

And, of course, he's got a charity home run derby on the horizon.

I guess getting Big Z "cured" from his bad temper was the first step. Next up, his shrink needs to convince him that he's a pitcher.

A pretty good one at times, in fact.

From August 14 on last season, Zambrano was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. He went 8-0 with a minuscule 1.24 ERA. He's still only 29, so it's not out of the question for the three-time All-Star to pitch like he did in the past -- when he finished fifth in Cy Young voting three times.

He can also hit, which might cause a problem if he doesn't just settle down. He's won three Silver Sluggers. He's a career .236 hitter, which is excellent for pitchers. He has 21 career home runs. In 2008, he was actually productive enough to be considered good by position player standards -- hitting .337 with an .892 OPS. Last season, though, he was down to .231 with a .543 OPS.

Anything Zambrano gives the Cubs' offense in 2011 is obviously good, but it's gravy. A pitcher isn't expected to produce anything offensively other than the occaisional sacrifice bunt.

Look, it's OK to take batting practice. It's great to be enthusiastic. It's even better to want to help the team with the bat. But when you're doing so much work in the cage you have to wrap your wrist, maybe it's time to dial it back a notch.

Fortunately Cubs manager Mike Quade is using the designated hitter Friday for Zambrano's spring start. It's the right move.

After all, Zambrano is paid over $18 million a year to be a starting pitcher, not to hurt himself in the batting cage.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 4:17 pm

Looking at possible landing spots for Castillo

By Matt Snyder

Now that Luis Castillo has been given his walking papers , there's a veteran second baseman on the market who could fill a void toward the end of the lineup for someone else.

He's obviously not an overly attractive player in the present, but he has good pedigree and would be dirt-cheap -- the Mets are paying his salary for this season, so someone else could swoop him up for the league minimum. He did hit .302 with 20 stolen bases and play decent enough defense in 2009.

Thus far, the only team that has reportedly expressed interest is the Dodgers (Los Angeles Times via Twitter), but we can expect that list to grow soon, even if only marginally. For the Dodgers, it looks like Casey Blake might be starting the season on the disabled list, which would mean they'll need to use Juan Uribe at third and Jamey Carroll at second -- a situation that cripples the bench depth. Adding Castillo would ease that situation.

Here are some other teams where Castillo might fit:

Cubs: They do have Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker fighting for the starting job, but neither are going to blow your socks off. With an aging lineup in some spots, the Cubs might feel like seeing if he can bring something to the team a la Jim Edmonds in 2008 (who was picked up after the Padres cut him).

Rockies: I'm not sure they'd want to add to the logjam, but the Rockies are currently sitting with Jose Lopez, Ty Wigginton and Eric Young Jr. in the spot.

Tigers: Carlos Guillen isn't healthy and Jim Leyland has been talking about moving Ryan Raburn into the infield to fill the void. Simply snagging Castillo and giving him a chance would make a good amount of sense.

Marlins: It's pretty unlikely, but Castillo did play there for a decade. Plus, the Fish don't really have a third baseman. Adding Castillo could allow them to use Omar Infante at third. Plus, we know the Marlins love the price tag on Castillo.

Phillies: Assuming the Chase Utley health situation doesn't come to a close soon -- and it really doesn't feel like it will -- Castillo could be a nice stop-gap until Utley returns. Plus, with the whole rivalry and Castillo's likely bitterness toward the Mets, he'll be motivated to stick it to the Phillies' rivals.

Cardinals: With the injury to Nick Punto, the Cards are lacking some depth up the middle. Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker are slated to start with Tyler Greene backing them up. Adding Castillo would probably be a good mutual fit, as many middling middle infielders seem to thrive under Tony La Russa (Aaron Miles, for example).

The overwhelming majority of this is idle speculation and the smart money is on the Dodgers, Tigers or Phillies (dependent upon Utley). Just keep in mind the most likely destination is a place where they're expecting to win now, but has a hole due to injury or weak competition at the position.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or