Tag:NL Central
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 )

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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 )

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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.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 5:26 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2011 5:27 pm
 

Astros fan learns there's no free breakfast

By C. Trent Rosecrans

AstrosIt sounds like a riddle -- how much does a free doughnut and coffee cost?

Trick question, right? It's free!

Yeah, unless you're the IRS. According to the IRS, it's worth $927.61, and someone has to pay their part of that.

Houston resident Bob Choate received a 1099 from Washington's finest last month as secondary prize. The original prize was a year's worth of coupons for a coffee and a free doughnut or a dozen doughnut holes from Texas chain Shipely's Do-Nuts. He won the prize as part of the Astros' Fan Appreciation Day at Minute Maid Park.

Because the "fair market value" of the prize was more than $600, he was issued a 1099 stating the valueof the prize or gift. A glazed doughnut at Shipley's is 83 cents, a dozen doughnut holes are $1.25, as is a small cup of coffee. At a maximum bill of $2.50 times 365, the tax bill came out to approximately $927.61.

Choate said he's used about eight coupons and gave 30 to his son.

"I don't feel very appreciated," Choate told the Houston Chronicle. "If I had known this was going to cost this much. I wouldn't have accepted. It was pretty poorly handled. I don't think [the Astros] thought a lot about their customers when they had their Fan Appreciation Day. I know I'm not going to get the full taxable benefits out of this, that's for sure."

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Category: MLB
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.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Carpenter won't be held back in return

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Chris CarpenterCardinals starter Chris Carpenter, who left a game on March 1 with a left hamstring strain, will throw at least 45-50 pitches, if not more in his second start of spring, tomorrow against the Marlins. He threw 61 pitches in live batting practice on Friday.

"He kept his arm in shape, so it's not going to be a traditional first time out there," Tony La Russa told reporters, including MLB.com's Matthew Leach. "It's going to be his second time. I think it will be a little bit more than a first appearance. [We'll] just watch him. He's strong."

Carpenter is excepted to have two more spring starts and then start opening day against San Diego.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 15, 2011 2:04 pm
 

Rogers demoted, Peralta likely No. 5

By Matt Snyder

Shortly following the injury to ace Zack Greinke, the Brewers seemed to indicate Mark Rogers was the front-runner to take the temporary gig as their No. 5 starting pitcher.

Tuesday, however, that plan was blown out of the water, as Rogers has been demoted to the minors (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ). While manager Ron Roenicke was reportedly unimpressed with Rogers' outing Monday, the performance itself wasn't what made the decision. Instead, it was the fact that Rogers could only work one inning. Other pitchers in camp fighting for the temporary slot are throwing five innings and will easily be ready for opening week (Journal-Sentinel ).

At this point, the front-runner for the April 6 start -- the first time the Brewers need a fifth starter -- is 21-year-old right-hander Wily Peralta. He will have to fight off Marco Estrada and Eulogio De La Cruz.

Related
Peralta split time between Class-A and Double-A last season, starting 25 total games. In Double-A, he went 2-3 with a 3.61 ERA and 1.58 WHIP, striking out 29 and walking 24 in eight starts. He has a 4.66 ERA in 9 2/3 innings this spring.

Estrada has a 2.25 ERA in four spring innings while De La Cruz has a 9.00 ERA in five innings.

None of the three candidates are overwhelmingly impressive in terms of stuff or resume, but this is only a temporary spot.

Much of this discussion could be rendered relatively moot anyway, as the Brewers won't again need a fifth starter until April 15 and after that second spot start, Rogers -- or even Greinke -- could be ready to step in.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 12:48 pm
 

Bill Hall too angry for spring training

By Matt Snyder

So, let's set the scene: Bill Hall steps into the batter's box -- in a spring training game, mind you -- and believes Cole Hamels quick-pitched him. That means, for those unfamiliar, he wasn't really settled in the box when Hamels began his delivery. It's perfectly legal but quite annoying as a hitter. So before next pitch, Hall calls timeout and steps out before Hamels has a chance to quick-pitch him again. This is also perfectly legal and also very annoying for the pitcher. Next, Hamels brushes Hall back off the plate.

He didn't hit him in the head or around the knees or ankles -- all no-nos when it comes to making a statement from the hill. He just backed him off the plate. Still, Hall took enough exception that he started yelling at Hamels. Fortunately Laz Diaz was behind the plate and got between the two.

After the game, Hamels couldn't have been more professional, saying nothing more than Hall is a "good guy" and he didn't really want to talk anymore about the small incident.

Of course, Hall was a bit opposite. He felt -- here we go! -- disrespected. Via MLB.com :
"He's definitely a marked man for me now, so when I do some damage off him, I'm going to let him know I did some damage off him. I can guarantee that. ... If you disrespect me, I'm going to do my best to disrespect you back. Obviously not in a way to disrespect the game, but obviously I'm going to let him know when I face him."
Please.

I'm normally totally against the uppity, old-school types who proclaim things like, "back in my time ... " but guys nowadays are way to sensitive about being "disrespected." It's such a tired act. Two players annoyed each other, that's all. It should have been buried there, just as Hamels tried to do.

And, really? We have Bill Hall talking trash about what he's going to do to Cole Hamels? And it's not if, it's "when?" Wow. On one side we've got an All-Star; a World Series MVP who had a 3.06 ERA last season. On the other, a guy who had a really good season in 2006 and now can't find more than a temporary home as a sub. Even funnier, Hall is 3-22 career against Hamels (.136) with seven strikeouts, no walks and zero extra-base hits.

Maybe take Hamels' lead and go with the high road next time, Bill.

Hat-tip: C. Trent Rosecrans

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