Tag:Chris Tillman
Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:59 am
 

Spring position battles: American League East



By Matt Snyder


Here we are for the fifth of six installments of spring positional battles. This one is the mighty AL East, the most polarizing and probably best division in the majors.

Previous spring position battles: AL West | NL West | AL Central | NL Central

New York Yankees
Designated Hitter: Andruw Jones vs. Russell Branyan vs. Free Agent vs. Revolving Door

I still feel like the Yankees will sign either Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez or Hideki Matsui -- any of whom likely nails down this job full-time. But it's undecided as of right now, and wide open. Will Andruw Jones or Russell Branyan hit well enough to justify being the full-time DH? Maybe, or maybe they platoon -- as Jones hits from the right side while Branyan is a lefty. Or maybe the Yankees use bench players like Eduardo Nunez, Bill Hall and Chris Dickerson in the field while using starters like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher at DH a few times a week in order to keep guys healthy and in tip-top shape.

Tampa Bay Rays
No. 4-5 starters: Jeff Niemann vs. Wade Davis vs. Matt Moore vs. Six-man rotation

Talk about a nice "problem" to have. The Rays obviously have David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson as the top three in the rotation. While there isn't a big problem with either Niemann or Davis, it's time to find a place in the rotation for Moore and I'm certain they will. The 22-year-old left-hander was awesome in his limited time in the majors last year, including a stellar outing against the Rangers in Texas for Game 1 of the ALDS. Moore's already received the type of team-friendly contract Evan Longoria got when he was a rookie -- as Moore is signed through 2016 with club options running all the way through 2019. So the question is, do the Rays demote either Niemann or Davis to the bullpen or trade one of them? Niemann would be the trade candidate, as Davis also has a team-friendly contract with club options that take him through 2017. And I doubt this happens, but the Rays could always go with a six-man rotation. Seeing how this plays out will a big spring storyline.

Boston Red Sox
Shortstop: Nick Punto vs. Mike Aviles vs. Jose Iglesias

After trading both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie this offseason, the Red Sox are left with what appears to be Mike Aviles against Nick Punto at short. Punto had a good offensive campaign by his standards last season, when he hit .278 with a .388 on-base percentage. He only had six starts at shortstop, though, and his career numbers don't indicate he's worthy of an everyday gig at shortstop. Aviles also only started six games at short last season, and he only hit .255/.289/.409. He did hit well for the Red Sox, but it was a small 107 plate appearance sample. So the choice between Punto and Aviles is dubious defensively and neither is a good offensive option. Enter Iglesias, the dazzling defensive prospect. He's a dreadful hitter -- his line in Triple-A was .235/.285/.269 last season -- but it's not like Aviles or Punto are going to be confused with Troy Tulowitzki or anything. Maybe the Red Sox just plant Iglesias in the nine-hole and enjoy the exceptional defense?

Corner Outfield spots: Cody Ross vs. Ryan Sweeney vs. Carl Crawford and his health

Crawford is said to be questionable for the start of the season after undergoing minor wrist surgery a few weeks ago. If he's healthy, he starts in left easily while Sweeney and Ross battle it out for the right field job. If Crawford can't start the season, Ross and Sweeney are the corner outfielders, yet still fighting for the right field job for when Crawford returns. At some point, Ryan Kalish will return from offseason shoulder surgery and could eventually fight for playing time in right field as well.

Toronto Blue Jays
Outfield logjam: Colby Rasmus vs. Eric Thames vs. Rajai Davis vs. Travis Snider

We know who mans right field, but these four guys are competing for the other two spots. Thames in left field and Rasmus in center seem the most likely, but Davis will get a shot at either spot and Snider is in the mix for left.

No. 5 starter: Dustin McGowan vs. Kyle Drabek

This may bleed up into the No. 4 starter as well, but I'll give Brett Cecil the nod for now, since he is left-handed. The top three are Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez. So, for now, I'll guess the last spot comes down to McGowan and Drabek. McGowan was once a very promising young arm. He went 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 169 2/3 innings back in 2007, when he was 25. He then made 19 starts before falling injured in 2008 and finally just resurfaced late last season -- two shoulder surgeries and one knee surgery later. Does he have anything left? He was good in 12 minor-league starts in 2011, but had a 6.43 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in the small sample of 21 innings pitched for the Blue Jays. Drabek was a top 30 prospect each of the past two years, according to Baseball America, but he fell flat last season for the Jays. He had a 6.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP and more walks than strikeouts for the big-league club. Even worse, he was knocked around for Triple-A Las Vegas, to the tune of a 7.44 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 75 innings. Walks, again, were an issue with Drabek issuing 41 compared to 45 strikeouts. Prospects Deck McGuire and Drew Hutchison could also figure in the mix eventually, but this feels like Drabek vs. McGowan heading into March.

Baltimore Orioles
The entire pitching staff: Johnny Wholestaff vs. Joe Allstaff

So let's see ... the following pitchers might have a chance at the starting rotation: Zach Britton (very safe bet), Jason Hammel (safe bet), Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland, Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Alfredo Simon and Tommy Hunter. That's quite a mix of pitchers to sift through, but the job isn't overwith yet, because we have to look at the bullpen.

Three pitchers -- Jim Johnson, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg -- will compete for the closer job, with Troy Patton, Pedro Strop and Darren O'Day also being part of the bullpen mix. Of course, guys like Simon, Hunter and Bergesen will get a shot in the bullpen if they miss out on the rotation, too. There are more (Willie Eyre, Armando Galarraga, etc.), but I already named 17 pitchers vying for 12 spots.

We could probably move Simon and Hunter to the bullpen while eliminating Eveland from the starting mix, but that still leaves eight guys in competition. In the bullpen, Johnson seems the best bet to win the closer gig, with Lindstrom and Gregg setting up. Add Strop, Patton, Simon and Hunter and you have your seven. But, again, we've thrown out Eveland and there would still be three extra starters along with O'Day, Eyre et al on the outside looking in.

I'll say one thing: Orioles manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair won't be bored this spring. Maybe frustrated, but definitely not bored.

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Posted on: September 21, 2011 11:41 am
Edited on: September 21, 2011 11:43 am
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Baltimore Orioles

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Baltimore Orioles
Record: 64-90, 29.5 games back in AL East
Manager: Buck Showalter
Best hitter: Adam Jones -- .283/.324/.466, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 63 R, 25 2B, 11 SB
Best pitcher: Jeremy Guthrie -- 9-17, 4.28 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 128 K, 202 IP

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Orioles haven't been in playoff contention since 1997. Following that season, they finished fourth nine times and third once. They're now headed for their fourth consecutive last-place finish.

2011 SEASON RECAP

Things appeared to be looking up early in the season for the Orioles. They started off 6-1, and this wasn't against pushovers. They swept the Rays, took two of three from the Tigers and then beat the Rangers. Of course, it was too good to be true. They proceeded to lose eight straight. They did battle back to .500 twice and lingered close to .500 until being buried by an awful stretch, when they went 6-23 from June 11-July 15. That would end any hope of breaking through, as the Orioles wouldn't be closer than 20 games in the AL East after July 22.

The Orioles did get younger in trading Derrek Lee, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez, and there were some positive signs. They now have a decent offensive core of catcher Matt Wieters, third baseman Mark Reynolds, shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones (any of the four could have been picked as the "best hitter" above). None of those players are older than 28. Of course, none are younger than 25, nor do any appear to be superstar material. On the mound, the Orioles saw enough from rookie Zach Britton to believe he's one of the pieces of the future, but Brian Matusz had a disaster of a season. Jim Johnson is showing himself the answer at closer and Pedro Strop -- who was acquired from the Rangers in the Gonzalez deal -- is throwing the ball very well in front of him.

2012 AUDIT

The outlook would be a lot more sunny in a different division. The fact of the matter is that the Orioles are set up to improve their on-field product, but probably not be drastic enough to translate into more wins next season -- because the AL East is so good. The Yankees, Red Sox or Rays don't appear to be getting much worse any time soon and the Blue Jays are pretty well set up to take some significant steps forward. That means that even if the Orioles get better, they're still behind the 8-ball, so to speak.

One area where they can improve is from simple progression from all the young players. Matusz can't possibly be worse, so long as he stays mentally balanced, healthy and works hard in the offseason. Tommy Hunter has good enough stuff to be a part of the rotation, too, just as Jake Arrieta does. Chris Tillman is still too young to give up on. Shifting to the position players: Brian Roberts will still only be 34 and should be healthy, so there's hope he comes back with a productive season. Luke Scott and Nolan Reimold are fine pieces of a supporting cast and we already mentioned the offensive core. Also of note: Wieters is becoming a great defensive catcher. That matters.

FREE AGENTS

Cesar Izturis, SS
Vladimir Guerrero, DH

OFFSEASON FOCUS

They need to quit trying to make a patchwork lineup (Lee, Guerrero) for the short-term and instead use some money looking long-term. You aren't competing in the AL East by filling holes with washed-up vets. Here are five big things I'd do to improve the Orioles with the eyes on the future.
  • Sign Prince Fielder. Whatever it takes. I mentioned above the offensive core is good, but lacking a centerpiece. Prince ties it all together. The top seven in the lineup would go something like: Roberts, Markakis, Fielder, Jones, Hardy, Reynolds, Wieters. That looks pretty good, no? Fielder might not want to head to the worst team in the AL East, but money talks. Blow him away. Worried about his durability due to weight? He's only 27 and hasn't played less than 157 games in a season until this year (and he's at 155 and primed to surpass that mark again). He just doesn't miss games. After the big splash signing, try to keep everything else in-house and see what other holes definitely need to be filled after '12.
  • Move Mark Reynolds to DH permanently. He's an absolute butcher at third, but his power and on-base abilities are helpful to the offense.
  • Let Josh Bell and Chris Davis compete for the third base job. Both players have upside, so the Orioles could strike gold here and make the lineup even stronger.
  • Trade Jeremy Guthrie. He's going to be 33 next season and -- as long as you can ignore the high-loss totals his Orioles have saddled him with -- isn't a bad pitcher. He could give a contender 200 decent innings as their fifth starter. Thus, he'll get something like a mid-level prospect back, but the main reason is the Orioles need to see what they have by giving extended looks to the young pitchers who have already seen time in the bigs. Go into the season with a rotation of Britton, Matusz, Hunter, Arrieta and Tillman and give it an extended look. By midseason, if one or two aren't working out, it's time to dip into the minors for others. If three or four aren't working out, more drastic measures will have to be taken in the offseason.
  • Stick with the Strop-Johnson duo at the end of games. There's no reason to go out and grab another retread like Kevin Gregg again. Trade Gregg if they could, but it's doubtful much comes back. Whatever, let him pitch in non-save situations.
This wouldn't make them a contender in 2012, but they'd be better and would have the chance to evaluate where everything stands with the young players after the 2012 season. You have to take babysteps to get back to respectability after finishing fifth four straight times.

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Posted on: June 7, 2011 10:31 am
Edited on: June 7, 2011 11:25 am
 

Looking back at second-round picks

Joey Votto

By C. Trent Rosecrans


While the first-round of the MLB Draft is gaining more attention in the last couple of years, the later rounds are where most of the work is done. 

The second round starts today at 11 a.m. ET, so here's a look at some of the best second-round picks in recent memory.

Angels: In 1999, the Angels took John Lackey out of Grayson County Community College with the 68th overall pick in the draft. In 1995, they took Jarrod Washburn with the first pick of the second round.

Astros: Perhaps the team's best player right now, outfielder Hunter Pence, was the 64th overall pick in 2004. 

MLB Draft

Athletics: The A's took Vista, Calif., high schooler Trevor Cahill with the 66th overall pick in 2006. Two years before that they took Kurt Suzuki in the second round and in 2003 they took Andre Ethier in the second round. They traded him for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez in 2005.

Blue Jays: Right-hander Dave Bush in 2002 is probably the team's best second-round pick since taking Derek Bell in 1987.

Brian McCannBraves: Current first baseman Freddie Freeman was selected with the 78th overall pick in 2007, but the best pick was easily 2002's No. 64 overall pick, a local high school catcher named Brian McCann.

Brewers: The Brewers took Yovani Gallardo with the fifth pick of the second round in 2004.

Cardinals: In 2001, the team took Dan Haren with the 72nd overall pick. More recently, Jon Jay was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft.

Cubs: You have to go back pretty far -- unless you go with Bobby Hill -- to find much success with the Cubs' second-round pick, but if you go as far back as 1984, they took Greg Maddux with the third pick of the second round and he turned out OK. Also among their second-round picks is former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter (1996).

Diamondbacks: A's starter Brett Anderson was Arizona's second-rounder in 2006. He was part of the big trade that send Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks.

Dodgers: The Dodgers got future closer Jonathan Broxton with the 60th overall pick in 2002.

Giants: Of recent vintage, the Giants have taken Nate Schierholtz in 2003 and Fred Lewis in 2002, but the most interesting second-round pick by San Francisco was in 1982. That year they took the son of a team legend with the 11th pick of the second round (39th overall), but Barry Bonds went to Arizona State instead.

Indians: Jason Kipnis is one of the team's top prospects, taken in the second round in 2009. In 1995, the Indians took first baseman Sean Casey out of Richmond with the 53rd overall pick.

Mariners: Recently-demoted Orioles starter Chris Tillman was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft. Keep an eye on 2009 second-rounder Rich Poythress, who had 31 homers in Class A last season.

Mike StantonMarlins: It wasn't until the 12th pick of the second round -- and 76th overall -- for someone to pick up Mike Stanton in 2007. 

Mets: There's some slim pickins for the Mets recently, but few Mets fans would trade their second-rounder of 1977, Mookie Wilson. (Seriously, this one was tough, the only players the Mets have picked in the last 15 years who have made the majors were Kevin Mulvey, Neal Musser, Pat Strange and Tyler Walker -- maybe that explains some things.)

Nationals (Expos): Jordan Zimmermann was the team's second-rounder in 2007. Current Reds All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips was taken by the Expos with the sixth pick of the second round in 1999.

Orioles: Nolan Reimold was taken 61st overall in 2005, but if you want to go back a few years, the team took Cal Ripken with the 22nd pick of the second round in the 1978 draft. Ripken was the third of four picks the Orioles had in the second round that year.

Padres: San Diego took Chase Hedley in 2005.

Phillies: Jimmy Rollins was the team's second-rounder in 1996, going 46th overall.

Pirates: Last year's pick was Stetson Allie, who many expected to go in the first round. Lefty Tom Gorzelanny was taken in the second round in 2003 and catcher Ryan Doumit was taken 59th overall in 1999.

Rangers: The only player taken by the Rangers in the second round of the last decade to make the majors is Jason Bourgeois.

Rays: The Rays famously took Josh Hamilton No. 1 overall in 1999, but their second-round pick that year was pretty good too -- Carl Crawford.

Red Sox: How about Justin Masterson (2006), Dustin Pedroia (2004) and Jon Lester (2002)?

Reds: NL MVP Joey Votto (2002) was the third pick of the second round (44th overall) and Travis Wood was taken in the second round of the 2005 draft. Keep an eye on 2009 pick Billy Hamilton, who already has 45 stolen bases this season for Class A Dayton.

Rockies: For recent vintage, Seth Smith (2004) is the pick, but you can go back a few years and pick Aaron Cook (1997).

George BrettRoyals: For all the prospects the Royals have stockpiled in the last couple of years, strangely not too many are second-rounders. Outfielder Brett Eibner (2010) was the only member of the Royals' Top 10 by Baseball America taken in the second round. You have to go back to Carlos Beltran (1995), Jon Lieber (1992), Bob Hamelin (1988), Mark Gubicza (1981), Darryl Motley (1978) and Dennis Leonard (1972) to find serious big-leaguers. Oh, and also a kid out of El Segundo, Calif., in 1971 named George Brett. He was pretty good, too.

Tigers: The Tigers took Brandon Inge with the 14th pick of the 1998 draft as a catcher out of Virginia Commonwealth. In 1976, Alan Trammell was the second pick of the round.

Twins: A nice run of arms earlier in the decade with Kevin Slowey (2005), Anthony Swarzak (2004), Scott Baker (2003) and Jesse Crain (2002). Frank Viola was the team's second-rounder in 1981.

White Sox: A's outfielder Ryan Sweeney (2003) is the team's best second-rounder since Bob Wickman (1990) -- not counting Jeff Weaver, who went back to school after he was picked in 1997 and was taken by the Tigers a year later.

Yankees: In the last 20 years, only two Yankees second-rounders have made the big leagues, Shelley Duncan (2001) and Randy Keisler (1998). Catching prospect Austin Romine was the team's second-rounder in 2007. In 1982, the team did take a shortstop from McAdory High School in Bessemer, Ala., who went on to play football at Auburn instead. His name is Bo Jackson. That was the year after the team took Stanford outfielder John Elway.

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Posted on: May 20, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Pepper: Scorching Hafner could hit DL



By Evan Brunell


HAFNER HURT: Indians DH Travis Hafner is hitting like it's 2006, as the oft-injured DH is roaring along at a .345/.409/.549 clip with eight doubles and five home runs in 127 plate appearances.

Sure, that average is over his head, but he's still geared up to have a quality season. It's about time, as Hafner has been one of the game's most overpaid players as he succumbed to injuries following his four-year, $57 million deal signed during the 2007 season. He's been a major reason why Cleveland finds itself in first place, and has helped fend off any type of decline that could have happened once Grady Sizemore hit the disabled list.

Unfortunately, Hafner may be joining Sizemore on the DL with a sore oblique. He was taking swings in the batting cage prior to Wednesday's game when one swing left him unable to swing any more. After being a late scratch, Hafner plans to get the injury checked out Friday with a MRI.

"One of the big things was how it felt [Thursday] morning," said Hafner. "It wasn't worse. That's kind of encouraging."

Obliques are the scourge of baseball these days, and unfortunately for Hafner, he's probably going to have to go on the DL and could be out for a month or more. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

LEYLAND'S BACK
: Jim Leyland still lives in Pittsburgh, but he hasn't been back in the stadium as an opposing manager since 2006, his first year with the Tigers. Leyland, of course, is well known for his 11 years managing the Pirates in the glory days, back when Barry Bonds was manning left field. (MLive.com)

RJM:
A nice story about Ricky Romero and J.P. Arencibia's night on Thursday. Romero went seven strong while J.P. Arencibia crushed a home run that eventually gave the team a 3-1 victory. Both players were reeling from the passing of a two-year-old fan after a battle with leukemia. (Toronto Star)

UNPRECEDENTED:
Jose Bautista's leap from last man on the bench to the best hitter in the game is still tough to wrap one's head around. But it's not the last time such a leap has been made. The closest comparable? Seattle's Bret Boone, who jumped in relevancy from 1999-2001. Of course, the likelihood that Boone used steroids is high, but unless you're really reaching or just hate Bautista/the Blue Jays, the same questions are not there for Bautista. (Fangraphs)

TURNING THE CLOCK BACK:
It's always entertaining to see players wear throwback uniforms. Sometimes these uniforms are preferable to the current set... sometimes they're nice memories or a way of learning more about history. Sometimes, they make us burst out laughing. History's being profiled Saturday when the Red Sox and Cubs wear 1918-era uniforms. (Boston Globe) Here's a look at what you can expect -- the 1918 uniforms of the BoSox and the 1918 road uniforms for the Cubs. And yes, no logo for the Red Sox.

FLIPPING THE BIRD
: Sometimes I wonder if we take ourselves a little too seriously. Andre Ethier, who was slightly irritated with a photographer prior to Monday's game, flipped him the bird before adding the other hand to the equation. Ethier joked about the situation before Thursday's game before issuing a standard mea culpa. "I wasn’t [angry] at all. If you’re going to stand there and take the same picture for 15 minutes, what’s the difference between the first and the 15th minute? It just got kind of annoying. I guess I slipped up, and that temper you guys sometimes like to write about, got ahead of me and I didn’t use my head and use the best judgment in that situation. I made a mistake of it and it’s unfortunate." Don't we have better things to worry about? (Los Angeles Times)

DISLIKED:
Are the Cardinals the most disliked team in baseball? Let's look at the evidence. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

WHERE'S ALLIE?
When talking about Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects (try saying that four times in a row), the conversation invariably turns to Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie. Except that Allie is nowhere to be found on the stats pages. That's because he's been at extended spring training, working on his windup and a lack of control. Things have progressed to the point where he is nearing game action. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

LIND ETA:
Adam Lind won't be back with the Blue Jays for at least 10 days and is still a week away from baseball action in his recovery from a sore back. (Sportsnet via Twitter)

WHO'S OUT IN BALTIMORE? When Alfredo Simon returns to the Orioles' bullpen on Sunday, someone's gotta go. Bet on one of Brad Bergesen or Chris Tillman, as Jeff Zrebiec writes. Both -- especially Bergesen -- have been very poor in the rotation and the team can go with four starters for several days because of Brian Matusz's looming return late next week. (Baltimore Sun)

JOHN SMOLTZ RULE: John Smoltz effected a rule change in minor-league baseball while on a rehab assignment with the Red Sox in 2009. Now, major-league pitchers on rehab starts down on the farm can use major-league baseballs in games. (MLBlogs.com)

TWITTER CLOSED: Tony Sanchez closed his Twitter account amid what we thought were the Pirates being too sensitive about players going on Twitter and expressing a personality. However, Sanchez closed his account on his own (although a stern talking-to from the brass didn't help). Sanchez was benched three games for criticizing umpires. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

GOLD: A pretty neat promotion the Angels are putting on in which fans will get an autographed baseball from a player. Those lucky enough to end up with a gold baseball will then get to meet that player and get four tickets to another Angels game. (Orange County Register)

DL-BOUND: Joe Blanton is returning to the DL and will take Shane Victorino with him. The Flyin' Hawaiian has been hobbled the last few days and now the Phillies have decided they can't wait for him to heal much longer. Don't expect Domonic Brown's promotion, as GM Ruben Amaro continues to hold Brown back. (Wonder if it has to do with service time?) Anyways, expect either Delwyn Young or Ronnie Belliard to get the spot. (CSNPhilly.com)

NO MORE TOBACCO: The call to ban all types of tobacco in baseball only got stronger with the Diamondbacks' CEO Ken Kendrick calling for such a ban. (Arizona Republic)

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Posted on: May 17, 2011 11:00 am
Edited on: May 17, 2011 11:05 am
 

Pepper: Galarraga rotation spot in danger



By Evan Brunell


BLOWUP: Think Armando Galarraga is nervous about doing his job? Check out this meltdown against a reporter...

Reporter: Do you worry about your spot in the rotation?
Galarraga: No, why would I be worried? Is there something I have to worry about?
Reporter: Well, after tonight's performance, possibly...
Galarraga: You think? Why don't we talk about it at the end of the season? I don't count five starts.
Reporter: Aren't you disappointed?
Galarraga: I'm disappointed for this start. I'm not disappointed for the rest of the season. What are you talking about? What are you talking about, "When I next start"? Huh? Who you say I'm gonna be worried about my next start? Huh? (Unintelligible) ... my next start, or are you saying I'm gonna lose my job. Are you trying to say that?

Galarraga has made eight starts on the year so far and has a 5.91 ERA to show for it. He was already in danger of losing his job prior to Monday and then gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings to the Padres, walking two and whiffing one.

Hey, it's not easy to be someone like Galarraga -- a fringe major-league player who won't ever haul in millions of dollars unless something changes fast. He's got minimal job security, is on his third team in his career and clearly sees the writing on the walk. Just chalk this one up to a bad day. Athletes are asked a lot to stand before a microphone day in, day out on both good and bad days -- and woe to those who aren't in the right frame of mind and run out of patience. Everyone's allowed one of these days. (AZ Snakepit)

APT COMPARISON?
What to do when a diminutive white player gains a cult following, the appreciation of a manager and minimal impact on offense? Easy -- compare him to David Eckstein, which Rays skipper Joe Maddon did to Sam Fuld. (St. Petersburg Times)

GOODBYE: Tyler Colvin was optioned to Triple-A to get more at-bats, as he's been buried behind the hot play of the outfielders. But GM Jim Hendry wasn't forgiving in his evaluation of Colvin. "He had a really good year for us and since the first days of spring training he never played up to that level. We're in the production business. It wasn't that he wasn't given enough at-bats. He didn't earn enough at-bats. The other guys here outplayed him, too." (Chicago Tribune)

A STEP FORWARD: Danny Espinosa has been slumping lately and especially hideous from the left side. So naturally, when the Pirates brought in a right-handed reliever to flip Espinosa, a switch-hitter, to the left side of the plate, he cracked a two-run homer to send the Nats to victory. (MASN Sports)

It's all injuries, all the time today at Pepper...

TUESDAY TEST: Chipper Jones will test his injured right knee Tuesday after receiving two cortisone injections. If all goes well, he could be back in the lineup Tuesday night. But if his torn meniscus doesn't respond, he may need arthroscopic surgery, which will force him to miss two  to three weeks of action. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

SORIANO OUT:
Rafael Soriano will likely be put on the disabled list if the latest report is any indication. Soriano told reporters that he will probably miss another week or two unless his examination Tuesday goes splendidly. He hasn't pitched in the last seven games and threw his team under the bus (again) by saying he didn't think he would have affected the outcome of these games and the poor offense is responsible for the futility. (New York Times)

GUTIERREZ EN ROUTE:
Franklin Gutierrez has been sidelined all year with a mysterious stomach ailment, but is progressing so well he could debut this week. He DHed at Triple-A Monday and will play a full nine in the field on Tuesday before going to Seattle for a status report. (Seattle Times)

BROXTON TOSSES: For the first time since hitting the disabled list, Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton played a game of catch. Exciting, right? There is no timetable yet on Broxton, nor any (public, at least) word on the next step. (MLB.com)

NISHIOKA TURNS CORNER: The Twins can't wait to have Tsuyoshi Nishioka back and received good news to that effect as "he's starting to turn the corner," trainer Dave Preumer says. He underwent sprinting drills Monday. (MLB.com via Twitter)

TILLMAN INJURED: Despite only having two pitches to work with, Chris Tillman was handcuffing the Red Sox through five innings and 88 pitches. He left the game and saw his bullpen cough up the game. Why? Now we know it's because he left the game with back tightness that flared up during the fifth. It was the second injury removal of the game, as Derrek Lee left the game in the third with a strained oblique. (MASN Sports)

DAVIES TOO: Vin Mazzaro gave up 14 runs against the Indians and is the story nationwide, but that never would have happened if not for Kyle Davies. Davies left Monday's game after just 21 pitches with shoulder soreness. He underwent a MRI, and the team is currently waiting for the results. If Davies hits the DL, Mazzaro may have been a candidate to replace Davies in the rotation... but then that whole 14-run thing... (Kansas City Star)

Rangers ON COMEBACK TRAIL: Good news for the Rangers, as two-thirds of their expected starting outfield could be back in the fold before long. Josh Hamilton is expected to head on on a rehab assignment as early as Wednesday and should be back with the big-league club at some point in their six-game homestand that begins May 23. Meanwhile, Nelson Cruz doubled in his rehab start Monday and could rejoin Texas on Friday. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

TEAHEN UP IN AIR: Mark Teahen, sidelined by a strained oblique, will be evaluated on Tuesday before a decision is made on whether to DL him. It's too early to guess which direction this goes in, but if Teahen is on the DL, it will constrain third base candidates to Brent Morel and Omar Vizquel. Dayan Viciedo will receive the call from Triple-A if needed. (Chicago Sun-Times)

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Posted on: May 6, 2011 1:42 am
 

3 up, 3 down: Boesch likes the 3 hole

Brennan Boesch
By C. Trent Rosecrans


Brennan Boesch, Tigers -- Detroit managed just four hits in its 6-3 victory over the Yankees, and Boesch had two of them. Boesch had an RBI single, a solo home run and a sacrifice fly, finishing with three RBI. Boesch is 4 for 7 in two games as the Tigers' third batter in the lineup.

Lance Berkman, Cardinals -- Has anyone ever been awarded the Comeback Player of the Year Award in the first week of May? Because Berkman may have already clinched it. His 10th home run of the season provided the Cardinals' the winning margin in their 6-3 victory over the Marlins and Josh Johnson. Berkman added a sacrifice fly for his big-league best 32nd RBI.

David Price, Rays -- The left-hander struck out seven of the first 13 batters he faced on Thursday and 10 overall. Price held the Blue Jays to just four hits before being pulled with an out to go in Tampa Bay's 3-1 victory over Toronto. Price had thrown 118 pitches when Joe Maddon brought in Kyle Farnsworth to face Yunel Escobar, who singled. Farnsworth got Adam Lind to finish the game.


Eduardo Nunez, Yankees -- For as many of us who have blasted Derek Jeter's defense, Nunez has been a disaster when he gets to play. At least Jeter makes the play when a ball is hit right at him, Nunez hasn't been able to do that. He made two throwing errors on Thursday, raising his season total to five in just 13 chances at shortstop this season.

Chris Tillman, Orioles -- The Orioles starter gave up four runs in the first, one in the second and three more in the fourth against the Royals. The Royals managed just two hits off relievers Josh Rupe and Clay Rapada in the 4 1/3 innings after Tillman was yanked, but the damage was done. Tillman gave up 10 hits and eight runs in 3 2/3 innings.

John Lannan, Nationals -- Coming in to Thursday's game with the Phillies, every Nationals starter this season had gone at least five innings -- and you know by the "coming into Thursday's game" part what's coming next… until today. Lannan lasted just two innings against the Phillies, allowing seven hits and six runs, while walking one and hitting another. That's a rough start anytime, but it's a death sentance against Roy Halladay.

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Posted on: April 14, 2011 10:34 am
 

Pepper: McGwire only one to dodge steroid fallout

McGwire

By Evan Brunell

DODGING THE BULLET: The steroid era continues to haunt baseball, as Barry Bonds' obstruction of justice charge is far from the end of the saga.

While Bonds is the posterboy for the whole mess, the former face of baseball has somehow survived a Congressional inquiry, years of self-imposed exile, a much-awaited admission and apology and returned to the game as a coach.

No one could have guessed this when Mark McGwire was stumbling over ways to avoid the past in front of Congress, but he's the only star to avoid any lasting damage, unless one counts his failed bids to make the Hall of Fame. It does really seem as if his lawyers gave him the right information all the way back in 2003 as he avoided lying to Congress and then hid away until it benefited him to come clean to avoid prosecution and get back into the game.

Look, there's no defending McGwire, both for his actions juicing up and for waiting until it behooved him best to admit using steroids, but in his second season as Cardinals hitting coach, there is no paparazzi stalking him and no controversy. At this point, McGwire is just another coach with a long history in the game. That's an impressive feat to pull off. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

BASEBALL TODAY: Can Cliff Lee get back on track tonight? Will Phil Hughes lower his ERA? Matt Snyder joins Lauren Shehadi to answer those questions and more.

STRASBURG BEHIND: Stephen Strasburg has yet to throw off a mound in his return from Tommy John surgery. That places him behind Jordan Zimmermann's own schedule last season, but the Nationals have cautioned everyone rehabs at their own pace and there is no rush. Strasburg has a shot to pitch in September for Washington, but given he has yet to step on a mound, that shot has suddenly become a long one. (Washington Post)

MANNY WHO? The Rays have already found a solution for replacing Manny Ramirez's bobblehead night on May 29. In his place, the club will give away a cape dedicated to Sam Fuld, who was a one-man wrecking crew in the abbreviated two-game series against the Red Sox. Click the link to check out the cape, which is pretty cool. (Tampa Tribune)

GOING CRAZY: Well, that didn't take long. Skipper Terry Collins reportedly went "ballistic" after Wednesday's stinker. A player said Collins didn't single anyone out, but made it clear he wasn't happy with how New York was responding to its recent slide, having lost six of seven. (New York Post)

PANIC ALERT: At the outset of the 2011 season, one keeps hearing how it's too early to draw any conclusions from the play of teams or players. But for one certain writer, it's never too early as he encourages you to go right ahead and panic. Something about how it's healthy and fun to panic. Me? I'd prefer to stay even-keeled, thanks. (Sports Illustrated)

SHORTSTOP PAINS: The Brewers are incredibly thin at shortstop, both at the major-league and minor-league level. Luiz Cruz left the organization to sign with the Rangers despite Milwaukee telling him he would be the first option up to the majors if needed. Then, Triple-A third baseman/shortstop Zelous Wheeler got injured, leaving journeyman Anderson Machado as the first line of defense at short. And if your first line of defense is Machado, you've got serious problems. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

TILLMAN BOMBED: Chris Tillman was smacked around by the Yankees on Wednesday, and manager Buck Showalter made it clear after the game that it was unacceptable. "You just can’t let them get away from you and keep the team in the game," he said, also declining to confirm Tillman would make his next start Monday. (Baltimore Sun)

UBALDO RETURNING: Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez had a strong rehab outing Wednesday and should make his return to the majors on Monday. (MLB.com)

BACK TO THE ROTATION? Jeff Samardzija has shuttled back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in his fledgling career and may be settling into a niche as a reliever. However, when the team needs a fifth starter again next week, manager Mike Quade says he'll be forced to consider Samardzija along with a host of other options. (Chicago Sun-Times)

MEETING THE PRESIDENT: A select number of Houston Astros coaches and players had lunch with former president George H.W. Bush, an invitation that occurs once a year. "I was a little star-struck when I saw him," third baseman Chris Johnson said. "You see athletes all the time. That’s totally different. It’s totally on another level." (Houston Chronicle)

HAPPY 70, CHARLIE HUSTLE: Pete Rose turns 70 on Thursday, an unthinkable thought to those who grew up idolozing Rose and the Big Red Machine. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

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Posted on: April 7, 2011 9:09 pm
Edited on: April 7, 2011 10:39 pm
 

So-so follow up by Tillman taxes bullpen

By Matt Snyder

In his first start of the 2011 season, 22-year-old starting pitcher Chris Tillman threw six hitless innings against the Rays. He was pulled due to a high pitch-count for this time of year (he walked three people and was admittedly "inefficient" with his pitches).

His second outing came Thursday night, and he only lasted 4 2/3 innings, giving up six hits, four earned runs and two walks. Most troubling for the Orioles was that Wednesday night they needed 5 1/3 innings out of the bullpen, after a short outing by Brad Bergesen. The mighty Texas Rangers' offense comes to town Friday, and the Baltimore relief corps is going to have some pretty tired arms.

As for Tillman, his ability falls in between the two outings. Obviously with a young talent like his, we're going to see inconsistencies. An outing like he had Thursday isn't overly troubling, aside from the pitch count. He threw 97 pitches in 4 2/3 innings. It's been a problem in each of his first two starts. He's got to find a way to limit his work in the early innings and give himself a chance to work later into the game.

Tillman was spared the loss, as the Orioles' offense kicked into high gear after his departure. The O's put seven runs on the board in the sixth and seventh innings combined. Adam Jones homered and drove in three, while Mark Reynolds also had three RBI.

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