Tag:NL Central
Posted on: March 7, 2011 4:14 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 4:22 pm
 

New start for Astros' Barmes

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Clint BarmesIf Wally Pipp had lost his spot because he slipped carrying Bambi's mom, he'd be Clint Barmes.

Barmes looked like he'd be the 2005 Rookie of the Year when Todd Helton gave him a gift of deer meat. Carrying the meat up to his apartment, he slipped and broke his left collarbone. In 86 games before the meat incident, Barmes was hitting .318 and in the 579 since, he's hit .244. He lost his swing, struggled in 2006 and was replaced by Troy Tulowitzki in 2007.

"It's one of those things where everybody is like, 'What would have happened if I didn't get hurt?'" Barmes told Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle. "I've thought about that. I'm not going to lie."

Many have. Barmes has gone from an emerging star to expendable. The Rockies traded him to the Astros for pitcher Felipe Paulino last November. Barmes is now getting a chance to be the Astros' everyday shortstop.

"I feel like I'm kind of starting over again," Barmes said. "That makes it exciting. I've got expectations for myself. The club has expectations for me. The biggest thing is they're going to let me go out and play, do what I do. It's on me to go out and produce."

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Posted on: March 7, 2011 3:59 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 10:26 pm
 

Carpenter feels 'twinge,' will miss next start

By Matt Snyder

Chris Carpenter is doubtful to make his next scheduled start -- which is Friday -- after he felt what was described as a "twinge" in his injured hamstring Sunday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch . UPDATE: He's now been officially scratched from the start. 

Carpenter, the lone remaining Cardinals ace after Adam Wainwright's season-ending injury, was throwing a light bullpen session when experiencing the slight discomfort. He initially injured his hamstring March 1, his first start of the spring.

The Cardinals are still expecting Carpenter to be the team's opening day starter, even though the day keeps getting closer and closer.

"I'd send him out there opening day if his arm was sound and his leg was sound with zero [more] innings," La Russa told the Post-Dispatch. "He's got a wealth of experience and competitive fire in his gut. But the whole key is get him healthy and we'll go from there, whenever that is."

They are preaching patience when it comes to the healing process. As most know, a hamstring tweak is one of those annoying little injuries that doesn't feel especially bad -- but just seems to linger far too long.

Missing spring starts isn't a huge deal, but the anxiety has to be starting to mount, at least internally. The team's best pitcher is already done and the second-best is an injured 35 year old who has had injury troubles in the past. With opening day less than four weeks away, it's not yet time to panic -- but it's certainly time to at least worry a little bit.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 7, 2011 2:29 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:35 am
 

Miller gives perspective

Corky MillerBy C. Trent Rosecrans
One of my favorite players I've covered is Reds catcher Corky Miller. Miller turns 35 later this month and is still kicking around because he knows he'll have a job, even if it's in Triple-A. He's a solid backup catcher and even more solid person. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer passes along this tidbit:
So when he heard some players complaining about signing autographs, he dropped the best line of the spring: “If you don’t like it, play worse.”

Fay notes Reds media relations director Rob Butcher is planning on framing a picture of Miller (and his magnificent mustache) with the quote. It certainly should put it in perspective for many players.

Miller signed a minor-league deal with the Reds this offseason, despite knowing the team has Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan at the major-league level. Plus, Cincy has two top prospects, Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal, who are catchers and coming up the system fast. Of course, that's one of the big reasons the Reds wanted Miller back.

Miller's played in 199 games in the big leagues over the last 10 years for the Reds, Braves, Twins, Red Sox and White Sox. He's logged 852 minor-league games since being signed as an amateur free agent out of Nevada-Reno by the Reds in 1998.

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Posted on: March 7, 2011 10:28 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Astros searching for catching

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Jason CastroWhen Jason Castro went down with a sprained knee, the Astros were content with what they had in camp to cover their catching needs.

But when the news came back that Castro had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (on the play seen at the left) and would miss the majority of the season, that plan changed.

"We're reassessing it," Astros owner Drayton McLane told Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle

Castro is still the team's long-term catcher, but the team may look outside for a stopgap solution. Currently the team has Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles -- neither of whom profile as much more than quality backups.

The team has just three other catchers in camp, Carlos Corporan, Brian Esposito and Rene Garcia. Neither Corporan, 27, nor Esposito, 32, are prospects, while the 20-year old Garcia hit just .250/.288/.308 combined at the two levels of Class A last season.

"At the end of the day, I'm hoping the guys we have here step up and do what they're capable of doing and win the job," general manager Ed Wade said. "At the same time, if I get a call from somebody and they say, 'Hey, we've got so-and-so available, and this is what we're looking for,' and it fits what we're trying to do, we'd be prepared to do something today."

Ryan DoumitFront-line catching talent isn't exactly easy to find. One of the few catchers on the trading block is Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit.

However, Doumit is owed $5.1 million this season and is far from Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate. But he does have a bat and a bat that would play well at Minute Maid Park. In 72 career plate appearances in Houston, Doumit has hit .292/.347/.446 with three home runs.

Still, Pirates GM Neal Huntington said his phone hasn't exactly been ringing off the hook for Doumit.

"There's really no conversations going on because everybody's focused on their own clubs," Huntington told Ron Musselman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

UPDATE: MLB.com's Bill Ladson writes the Astros have asked the Nationals about Jesus Flores, but is concerned about the health of Flores' right shoulder, which has kept him off the field the last two seasons.
The Nationals have depth at catcher with starter and future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez, along with Wilson Ramos, who is considered their catcher of the future. The team also things Derek Norris is ready to hit at in the big leagues and is improving defensively.
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Posted on: March 7, 2011 9:24 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Pepper: Raise a glass


By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Orioles are a trendy pick to be better in 2011, and they should be. But no matter how the Orioles do on the field, things will be better this season in Baltimore because Natty Boh is back.

Before the take-over of the beer industry by the big brewing companies, regional beers were king -- be it National Bohemian (known as Natty Boh in Baltimore) in the mid-Atlantic, Hudepohl in Cincinnati or Hamm's in Minnesota.

These were different than the great microbrews of today, they were the macrobrews of yesterday. It's what you remember your grandpa dinking, whether it was an Olympia in Washington or an Old Style in Chicago. These were American, working-class beers. And they belonged with baseball, at the ballpark and at home, listening along to the local nine on the radio.

Well, one of these greats, National Bohemian, is back where it belongs, at the ballpark at Camden Yards. And for that, America and baseball are better than they were before. (Baltimore Sun)

For more fun, check out this video of old Natty Boh commercials (with an added bonus of Maryland history):

GARDNER MAY PUSH JETER FROM LEADOFF: The Yankees front office wants Brett Gardner, not Derek Jeter, leading off, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes.

Jeter has batted first or second for most of his career, but it seems natural to put the speedy Gardner atop the lineup. Gardner had a .383 on-base percentage last season, along with 47 stolen bases. He also saw an MLB-best 4.6 pitchers per plate appearance, giving him a good case to bat first for the Yankees.

HOLD 'EM OR FOLD 'EM: Boston's Mike Cameron had his name thrown around a bit this weekend after Philadelphia lost Domonic Brown to a hand injury, but with J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury roaming the outfield, is it wise for the Red Sox to get rid of any outfielder?

Although Cameron is making $7.5 million this season, that would hamper many other teams, but not the Red Sox. Cameron is also a rarity in the Red Sox clubhouse, a right-handed hitter. (Boston Globe)

HART SIDELINED: Brewers right fielder Corey Hart missed the last week after straining a muscle in his side. He was expected to miss two weeks, but after a setback during a throwing exercise on Saturday, Hart said he doesn't expect to be back in the original timeframe.

However, manager Ron Roenicke said he expects Hart to be ready for opening day. (MLB.com)

MOM KNOWS BEST: Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli said he was feeling sorry for himself after suffering a broken bone in his left foot, until his mother set him straight.

"I woke up positive and [said] 'Let's do it,'" Cervelli told the New York Daily News. "That's it. Start the work, the therapy and get better. A lot of people in the world don't have legs or arms; I'm healthy. I just have something in my foot, but it's going to be OK."

MONTERO MAY BACKUP: Cervelli's injury may have opened the door for Yankees top prospect, Jesus Montero.

Many thought the Yankees would want him to play every day and not have him break camp just to back up Russell Martin. One who doesn't buy that theory, apparently, is Brian Cashman.

"There is a lot of knowledge that a catcher has to absorb that you just won't get at Triple-A," Cashman told FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. "If it's the second week of April and he has only pinch-hit or started one game, I won't consider it a lost week. There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that he has never experienced before.

"He can watch, see how [Martin] goes through it -- pre-game, advance scouting meetings, all those things. When he gets in there in the future, he'll be fully prepared, rather than just sink or swim."

The Yankees know Montero's bat can play right away, but many question his ability to stick behind the plate.

TRADE STUNG SAUNDERS: Former first-rounder Joe Saunders said he was upset last season when the Angels traded him to Arizona.

"I was pissed off. I'm not going to lie to you," Saunders told the Orange County Register.

Saunders said it was weird heading into the visitor's clubhouse at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Angels' spring training home.

MULLET MANIA: Travis Schlichting has the greatest mullet in baseball history, and Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan has the story.

AUTHOR-PITCHER: Rays reliever Dirk Hayhurst -- better known as the author of The Bullpen Gospels than anything he's done on the field -- said he's walked a fine line between being truthful and writing a tell-all.

Hayhurst's often hilarious characters in the book (really, it's worth checking out, a fun, quick read), are real, but he doesn't name names. He's also working on a second book and has a contract for a third, but those will also be done in his particular style, where the only specific player you get dirt on is Hayhurst himself.

The Rays seem like a perfect fit, if only for the fact that when asked about Hayhurst, manager Joe Maddon used the word "ameliorated" in his response. (St. Petersburg Times)

OLIVO CONFIDENT: Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo had a scare on Saturday when he pulled up lame with a hamstring injury and had to be helped off the field. Olivo will have an MRI today, but he told reporters on Sunday that he's confident he'll be ready for opening day. (Seattle Times)

BOOF REMAINS A MYSTERY: Even Boof Bonser doesn't know how his name came about, even though he's legally changed it. (Star-Ledger)

FORTUITOUS CUT: Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is pretty happy he cut reliever Cristhian Martinez last year when both were with the Marlins. Martinez was optioned to Triple-A at the end of spring training last season and then designated him for assignment on April 3. The Braves signed him and now he's competing for the final bullpen spot.

Martinez struck out five in two innings against the Nationals on Sunday. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

MAYBIN MAY RETURN: San Diego's Cameron Maybin may return to action today after suffering concussion symptoms when he hit his head on a post during Wednesday's practice.

Maybin, the team's newly acquired center fielder, took batting practice on Sunday and said he felt good afterwards. (MLB.com)

D-LEE STILL OUT: Derrek Lee won't make his debut with the Orioles in the Grapefruit League until Wednesday at the earliest. (Baltimore Sun)

PEAVY TO MAKE SECOND START: White Sox starter Jake Peavy said he's sore from Saturday's start, but he's good enough to start on Wednesday. (Chicago Tribune)

FIRST BASE BATTLE: Here's something you don't hear very often -- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said defensive will be a key component to the team's search for a regular first baseman.

Russell Branyan, Brandon Allen and Juan Miranda are the other leading candidates for that job. (Arizona Republic)

ZAUN TO RETIRE: Veteran catcher Gregg Zaun is set to retire after 16 seasons in the big leagues.

Zaun, 39, was in the Padres camp. He's a career .252/.344/.388 hitter, but better known for his defense, spending most of his time as a backup catcher.

His retirement gives Rob Johnson the inside track at the Padres' backup job. (Sportsnet.ca)


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Posted on: March 6, 2011 9:45 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/6: Walk-off edition

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

By C. Trent Rosecrans

3 UP

1. D.J. LeMahieu, Cubs. Yes, it's just spring training, but an extra-innings, pinch-hit, walk-off home run is always special. LeMahieu was the Cubs' second-round pick in the 2009 draft and had a solid 2010 in Class A Daytona, hitting .314/.346/.386 with 73 RBI and 15 stolen bases, playing second, third and short. LeMahieu had just two home runs as a pro, so this one may have been even more unlikely.

2. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Twins. The newly-minted Twins second baseman went 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBI on Sunday against the Orioles. As impressive as his triple was, a third-inning hit-and-run got his manager's attention. With Alexi Casilla on first, Nishioka, batting left-handed, noticed the second baseman going to cover second and hit the ball in the vacated spot, allowing Casilla to advance to third.

3. Tim Lincecum, Giants. This skinny little kid for the Giants may end up being someone to watch. Lincecum was a little wild on Sunday, walking three and giving up three hits in 3 2/3 inning, but he also struck out seven batters.

3 DOWN

1. Mat Latos, Padres. I don't like to make much of early-March numbers, but after his outing on Sunday he  went back to the dugout and fired his glove up against a wall. Latos allowed three runs on two hits and two walks before being lifted after just 2/3 of an inning, when he was scheduled to throw three. He struggled with his command, just 21 strikes among his 38 pitches. In his first start, he went just 1 1/3 innings and walked four batters, with 15 of his 34 pitches called strikes.

2. Mark Buehrle, White Sox. Buehrle was the first White Sox pitcher to go three innings this spring, yet it didn't do too well, allowing nine hits and five runs against the Royals on Sunday. It could have been worse -- the Gold Glover snared a Lorenzo Cain liner that appeared to be headed for a hit in the third inning, which was followed by a double.

3. Alcides Escobar, Royals. My mother always told me not to scratch bug bites or they'd get infected, and I never believed her. Sorry mom, you were right. The Royals shortstop was -- pardon the pun -- scratched from the team's lineup on Sunday following the infection of a bed bug on his right wrist. He'll miss Monday's split-squad games, but is expected back later this week.


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Posted on: March 6, 2011 12:53 pm
 

White Sox give Thornton an extension

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Matt ThorntonThe White Sox agreed to a two-year extension worth $12 million with reliever Matt Thornton, the team announced.

Thornton will make $3 million this season and is guaranteed $5.5 million for 2012 and 2013. The team holds a $6 million option for the 2013 season with a $1 million buyout.

An All-Star last season, Thornton went 5-4 with a 2.67 ERA with eight saves in 61 appearances. He struck out 81 batters in 60 2/3 innings, while walking 20.

With Bobby Jenks gone, Thornton, 34, is the favorite to take over as Chicago's closer.

This spring, he's made two appearances, giving up four hits and no runs, striking out one in two innings of work.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 6, 2011 10:09 am
Edited on: March 6, 2011 11:35 am
 

Pepper: Phillie concern

Domonic Brown

By C. Trent Rosecrans

After nothing but (deserved) rave reviews this offseason, reality is hitting the Philadelphia Phillies.

Still the favorite in the National League East, the same problem that kept them in a division race last season is popping up again -- injuries.

Chase Utley is already getting cortisone shots and, as our own Danny Knobler wrote it perfectly, if the Phillies are concerned -- and they're saying they're concerned -- it's not a good sign.

And now Domonic Brown is out with a broken hamate bone in his hand. Although Brown was struggling this spring -- hitless in 15 at-bats -- and was likely headed to Triple-A, he was still part of the team's plans for 2011.

The hamate injury is a tricky one -- he'll likely be able to play this season, but he won't be the same. Last year when I was around the Reds a bit, I talked to two players who were in different stages of the same injury. One, Yonder Alonso, suffered the injury in 2009, the other, Chris Dickerson, had the surgery during last season.

Dickerson was able to return and even played with the Reds and Brewers after the surgery. Alonso had the surgery in June of 2009 and was back that season, as well. However, the injury saps power. Alonso told me several times that the ball just didn't jump off his bat the same, what would be a double in the past wasn't getting past outfielders, and what was a homer in the past just died in the outfield. As doctors told him, about a year fate the surgery, his power was back. 

Brown can return this season, but don't expect him to be the same player he has shown to be in the minor leagues and that he'll be in the future.

The Phillies are counting on Ben Francisco and Ross Gload to fill in for Jayson Werth until Brown is ready. Now they'll be counting on those two longer.

Pitching won't be a problem for Philadelphia, and it wasn't the problem last year. When the team got in trouble, it was injuries and offense. With uncertainly to the health of Utley and then general uncertainty with Jimmy Rollins, there's cause for concern in Philly.

That said, they're still the favorites, but maybe not quite the prohibitive favorites they were before.

STAYING PAT: The Yankees appear to be happy with the starters they have in camp -- CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova.

Brian Cashman tells the Boston Globe the team is unlikely to trade for a starter before opening day.

"Can't rule it out, but it's highly unlikely," Cashman said. "Normally anything of quality doesn't become available until after the June draft. That's why you try and get as much as you can get accomplished in winter."

HOT DOG RUN: Apparently because the team mom forgot the orange slices, after his stint in Saturday's game, Boston's Dustin Pedroia ducked out of the Red Sox clubhouse to the concession stand for three hot dogs.

"They probably didn't think he was a player," Red Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters, including the Providence Journal. "Did you see that outfit he had on? He looks like he's going into second grade."

NATS OPTIMISM: A scout tells Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman (via Twitter) that Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is "back." He's throwing 94-95 mph with a "superb" slider. Said the scout, "if they had [Stephen] Strasburg, they'd be dangerous."

The Nats don't, but Zimmermann offers hope for 2012, as he had Tommy John surgery in August of 2009, a year before Strasburg. 

AMBASSADOR GRIFFEY: Ken Griffey Jr.'s new job with the Mariners is to be an ambassador of sort, but before he does that, he served the same role for the U.S. State Department in the Philippines. 

Griffey just returned from working with coaches and youth players in the Philippines. 

USA Today's Paul White caught up with him last week before his trip. Griffey still refuses to talk about his exit from the game, but he'll likely be seen around the Mariners some this season. His new job requires about a month's worth of work with the team, doing a little bit of everything.

More importantly, he's being a dad. His daughter Taryn recently led Orlando's Dr. Phillips High School to the Florida girls basketball championship. Taryn Griffey, a freshman point guard, had 21 points in the championship game.

His son, Trey, is a junior safety and wide receiver who is being recruited, as well.

PIAZZA NOT BUYING Mets: Mike Piazza tells the New York Post he's interested in buying part of a baseball team "someday" but not now.

"I think everything is timing," Piazza said. "It's an interesting time in the game. There's a lot of change going on … but as far as anything on the forefront, there's nothing. Let's just say I talked to some people that are interested in getting into the game … It doesn't cost anything to talk. At least not yet."

NO PANIC FOR Braves: Atlanta's 23-year-old Craig Kimbrel has the inside track to replace Billy Wagner as the Braves' closer, but he's not been very good so far this spring. He's struggled with his command and has allowed four runs and six hits in three appearances this spring.

"If there is a trend like this later in the spring, then you start worrying about it," manager Fredi Gonzalez tells MLB.com. "But not right now."

CAIN FEELS BETTER: Giants pitcher Matt Cain played catch for about eight minutes on Saturday and felt no pain in his right elbow.

Cain was scratched from his last start and won't make his scheduled start on Tuesday, either. (MLB.com)

PIONEER LAID TO REST: About 500 people reportedly attended the funeral of Wally Yonamine in Hawaii on Saturday, according to Sanspo (via YakyuBaka.com). A memorial service will also be held in Tokyo later this month.

Yonamine, the first American to play professional baseball in Japan, died earlier this week at 85. The New York Times had a good obituary earlier this week, and a column in the Honolulu Star Advertiser shed light on how Yonamine dealt with death threats and other pressures when he started playing in Japan.

However, Yonamine became a star in Japan and was elected to the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994. He was also the first Asian-American to play in the NFL.

NOT THAT IT'S GONNA HAPPEN: But contraction isn't going to happen.

Union chief Michael Weiner tells the St. Petersburg Times that the union will fight any attempt to contract teams.

"Having been in bargaining in baseball since the late 80s, anything is fathomable, so we don't either take anything for granted or rule anything out," Weiner said. "All I would says is if that changes, if contraction becomes a goal of the owners in this negotiation, the tenor of the talks would change quickly and dramatically."

Bud Selig tells the Los Angeles Times it's not a goal for the owners, and it's certainly not a fight they want to take up.

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