Tag:Mark Prior
Posted on: November 17, 2011 3:46 pm
 

Kershaw latest youngster to dazzle

Clayton Kershaw

By C. Trent Rosecrans

When it comes to young pitchers and dominating seasons, many of us think back to Dwight Gooden in 1985 and Roger Clemens in 1986 -- but both of those seasons were before 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was born. Kershaw is the youngest Cy Young winner since Gooden in 1985, but he isn't the only player of his age to dominate baseball since Gooden and Clemens.

So, which pitchers age 23 or younger have put together the best pitching seasons since Kershaw was born on March 19, 1988?

• Mark Prior, 2003: In his second season and just 22, Prior went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA with an amazing 245 strikeouts for the Cubs. He not only threw 211 1/3 innings during the regular season, he also threw 23 1/3 innings in the postseason, including the infamous Game 6 of the NLCS against the Marlins. Prior finished third in the Cy Young voting behind runaway-winer Eric Gagne, who finished with 55 saves, and San Francisco's Jason Schmidt (17-5, 2.34 ERA). The 2003 season would prove to be the best season of Prior's career. He went just 18-17 with a 4.27 ERA over the next three seasons and has battled injuries and minor leaguers since then.

Felix Hernandez, 2009: The year before winning the Cy Young with a 13-12 record, a 23-year-old Hernandez led the American League with a 19-5 record and also put up a 2.49 ERA. Hernandez finished second in the Cy Young voting in 2009, losing to the Royals' Zack Greinke. Hernandez went 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA as a 24-year-old in 2010. "King" Felix was 14-14 with a 3.47 ERA in 2011, but is still one of baseball's best pitchers.

• Jake Peavy, 2004: Peavy won an ERA title in his third year in the majors, going 15-6 with a 2.27 ERA as a 23-year-old in 2004. That didn't garner him any Cy Young votes -- Roger Clemens claimed his seventh, and final, Cy Young that year. Peavy would win the Cy Young in 2007. 

• Joe Magrane, 1988: As a 23-year-old, Magrane led the National League with a 2.18 ERA, but had just a 5-0 record in 24 starts. The left-hander didn't receive any votes for the Cy Young, but did finish fourth (behind Mark Davis, Mike Scott, Greg Maddux and tied with Orel Hershiser) the next season when he went 18-9. Magrane was never the same after an elbow injury in 1990 and retired in 1996 at 32.

• Carlos Zambrano, 2004: With a 16-8 record and 2.75 ERA, the right-hander finished fifth in Cy Young voting, striking out 188 batters in 209 2/3 innings. Zambrano didn't lead the league in any categories other than hit batters (20), but was otherwise very good. Since then he's had a roller-coaster career, but from age 22-27 he was 91-51 with a 3.39 ERA, making at least 30 starts in each year from 2003-2008.

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Posted on: July 15, 2011 6:45 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 6:48 pm
 

Bauer wins Golden Spikes Award

Trevor BauerBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Trevor Bauer, the third overall pick in last month's MLB Draft, won the Golden Spikes Award as USA Baseball's top amateur player on Friday.

The right-hander went 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA in 16 starts for UCLA this season nd also led the country with 203 strikeouts. The 203 strikeouts was a Pac-10 record, eclipsing the mark set by USC's Mark Prior.

He's been compared to Tim Lincecum because of his unorthodox mechanics, but he's bigger than the Giants' ace.

Bauer was one of three finalists for the award, along with Texas right-hander Taylor Jungmann and Virginia lefty Danny Hultzen. Jungmann was drafted 12th overall by the Brewres and Hultzen went second to the Mariners.

The last 10 winners of the award were Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Buster Posey, David Price, Lincecum, Alex Gordon, Jered Weaver, Rickie Weeks, Khalil Greene and Prior.

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Posted on: June 4, 2011 9:52 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 5:29 pm
 

Best first-round picks of the last decade



By C. Trent Rosecrans

With the MLB Draft beginning Monday night at 7 p.m. ET, the Eye on Baseball crew is going to look at the best -- and worst -- first-round draft picks by each team in the last 10 years. 

With the way the baseball draft goes, there are plenty of busts in the first round every year, but there are a lot of great players in the game that were drafted in the first round and the supplemental first round. Tomorrow we'll look at the misses, but for today, here are the hits.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Most first overall picks make the majors and many (Alex Rodrgiuez, Ken Griffey, Chipper Jones) find their way to superstardom. Justin Upton may not be a superstar yet, but the first overall pick of the 2005 draft already has one All-Star appearance under his belt and will probably have more to come.

Atlanta Braves: With the 14th pick in the 2007 draft, the Braves took a local kid, outfielder Jason Heyward. Nice pick.

MLB Draft

Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters is close to taking this spot, but for now it's still Nick Markakis, who was taken with the seventh overall pick of the 2003 draft out of Young Harris College in Georgia.

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox had five picks in the first round and the supplemental first round in 2005, and as good as Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie are, the pick here is right-hander Clay Buchholz, taken 42nd overall out of Angelina College.

Chicago Cubs: While his name is now a cautionary tale, it's easy to forget just how good Mark Prior was before arm trouble. Drafted with the second pick of the 2001 draft, he won six games in 2002 and 18 in 2003, his best season. Overall, Prior was 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA.

Gordon BeckhamChicago White Sox: Even with his struggles last year and this season, Gordon Beckham has been a productive player for the White Sox after he was taken with the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft.

Cincinnati Reds: Taken out of high school with the 12th overall pick in 2005, Jay Bruce is the reigning National League Player of the Month and only seems to be getting better at 24. He already has 85 homers in his career, including a National League-best 17 this season.

Cleveland Indians: How bad have the Indians' first-round picks been the last decade? The 18 players taken by Cleveland in the first round and the supplemental first round over the last 10 years have collected just 506 games in the majors, 334 for Cleveland. Lonnie Chisenhall (29th overall in 2008) may eventually be their best in this list, but for right now it's the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie, who at least has 40 big-league wins.

Colorado Rockies: While the Indians' choice was tough, the Rockies' wasn't -- Troy Tulowitzki was taken with the seventh overall pick in 2005.

Detroit Tigers: With the second pick in 2004, the Tigers took Justin Verlander.

Florida Marlins: The team's best pick of the last decade came in the fourth round of the 2002 draft when it took high school pitcher Josh Johnson, but as far as first-round picks, their best is right-hander Chris Volstad, taken with the 16th pick of the 2005 draft.

Chris BurkeHouston Astros: The Astros didn't have first-round picks in 2003, 2004 and 2007 and haven't had much production from any of them. There's really just two choices, Chris Burke (10th overall, 2001) and Jason Castro (10th overall, 2008). Castro has potential, but is out this season and has played in just 67 big league games, so the pick is Burke, who played in parts of six seasons with three teams, but his 18th-inning walk-off homer (left) to clinch the 2005 NLDS against the Braves is one of the franchise's signature moments.

Kansas City Royals: This choice could be much more difficult in five years, but for now it's pretty easy -- Zack Greinke. The Royals selected him sixth overall in the 2002 draft and he won the American League Cy Young Award in 2009.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Jered Weaver was the 12th pick of the 2004 draft.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers took lefty Clayton Kershaw with the seventh pick of the 2006 draft out of a Texas high school.

Milwaukee Brewers: This could change in a couple of years, but for now, Prince Fielder (seventh overall, 2002) leads Ryan Braun (fifth overall, 2005). Fielder is a free agent this offseason, while Braun is under contract through 2020.

Minnesota Twins: There were those who questioned the pick of hometown boy Joe Mauer with the first pick in the 2001 draft instead of Prior. Not anymore.

New York Mets: Fred Wilpon may not think he's a franchise player, but David Wright is the team's best first-round pick in the last decade, taken with the 38th overall pick in 2001.

New York Yankees: The Yankees have plenty of first-round picks on their roster, although few were their picks. Two key pitchers, starter Phil Hughes (23rd overall in 2004) and reliever Joba Chamberlain (41st overall in 2006), were Yankee picks. The pick here is Chamberlain, who has allowed fewer runs in a similar number of innings and is currently pitching.

Oakland Athletics: A chapter of the book Moneyball focuses on the 2002 MLB Draft and Billy Beane's distaste of drafting high school players. In the book, the team is excited the Brewers take a player they won't touch (Fielder), and the team also doesn't want Zack Greinke, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels or Matt Cain -- all high school player. But they get the man they want the most, Nick Swisher at No. 16. It's a good pick, as is Joe Blanton at 24 -- but it's hardly Greinke, Fielder, Hamels or Cain. The team also picked Jeremy Brown, a catcher out of Alabama, and Mark Teahen in the supplemental round. 

Philadelphia Phillies: Another pick from the Moneyball draft, the pick after the A's took Swisher, the Phillies snatched up Hamels, the left-hander from a California high school with the 17th pick.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The 2005 draft featured six players listed as center fielders taken in the first round -- and all six have made the big leagues. The second one taken was the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen with the 11th overall pick. The others were Cameron Maybin (10), Bruce (12), Trevor Crowe (14), Ellsbury (23) and Colby Rasmus (28).

San Diego Padres: The Padres may have had one of the biggest busts of the last decade in Matt Bush, the first overall pick in 2004 draft, but he's not been their only bad pick. The best of the lot was Khalil Greene, taken No. 13 in 2002, who had a promising start of his career, but his troubles with social anxiety disorder drove him from the game. Still, he's the Padres' career leader in homers by a shortstop with 84.

San Francisco Giants: Nine teams passed on the right-hander out of Washington, some scared off by his funky motion and small stature. Tim Lincecum proved them wrong.

Evan LongoriaSeattle Mariners: Adam Jones (37th pick in 2003) played in just 73 games for the Mariners, but was named an All-Star and won a Gold Glove with the Orioles in 2009.

St. Louis Cardinals: With a compensation pick for the Red Sox signing Edgar Renteria, the Cardinals used the 28th pick of the 2005 draft to take Rasmus out of an Alabama High School.

Tampa Bay Rays: Were Luke Hochevar and Greg Reynolds better than Evan Longoria? The Royals and Rockies took those two right-handers with the first two picks of the 2006 draft, leaving Longoria (left) for the Rays.

Texas Rangers: Funny story here -- in 2001 I was working at the Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia and was covering the NCAA Regional in Athens when a Teixeira-led Georgia Tech squad was bounced from the tournament. After his last game, a kid from the student radio station asked Teixeira if he thought his poor showing in the regional would hurt his draft status. The Georgia Tech coach, Danny Hall, took the microphone before Teixeira could answer and said, "No." So did the Rangers, who took him fifth overall.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays took lefty Ricky Romero out of Cal State Fullerton with the sixth pick in the 2005 draft.

Washington Nationals: Another pick that could change with the emergence of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but that's still several years away because of the fourth pick of the 2005 draft,  Ryan Zimmerman.

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Posted on: April 11, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:54 am
 

Pepper: No change in the Cards at closer

Ryan FranklinBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Three out of four isn't bad. Well, unless you're a closer and you've blown three of four save chances.

The only thing worse than having a closer that can't close is the manager having zero confidence in anybody else in the bullpen. 

When St. Louis manager Tony La Russa was asked if he was considering changing his closer from Ryan Franklin, he answered, "who's better?"

"Somebody's got to come up with somebody that's better on our club right now," La Russa told MLB.com's Matthew Leach. "The fact is that right now those young guys aren't better."

The young guys are Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte, both of whom are being groomed to take over for Franklin.

In fairness to Franklin, errors by Albert Pujols and Colby Rasmus with two outs in the ninth led to two victories by the Giants on Friday and Saturday, respectively. However, the way the Cardinals are constructed, defense will not be bailing out too many pitchers this season, and Pujols and Rasmus are two of the teams' better defenders.

Sunday the Cardinals found a way to avoid a closer breakdown -- by giving its pitchers a five-run lead to close out. They were successful, salvaging the series against the Giants with a 6-1 get-away day win in San Francisco.

RED-HOT Rangers -- Jeff Wilson of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram joins Lauren Shehadi to talk about the Rangers' great start.

CABRERA HELPING CABRERA -- The influence of veteran Orlando Cabrera has already started paying off for the Indians. During spring, Cabrera noticed Asdrubal Cabrera's approach in batting practice was that of a slugger, not a shortstop. He told him to try that in a game sometime. During the Indians' seven-game winning streak, Asdrubal Cabrera is hitting .316 with three homers and nine RBI. Asdrubal Cabrera had three homers all of last season. [MLB.com]

SIX-MAN ROTATION? -- The White Sox may look at a six-man rotation when Jake Peavy returns because of the performance of Phil Humber, at least on a short-term basis. [Chicago Tribune]

NICE MATCHUP -- For just the 21st time in history, two authors of perfect games will start against each other tonight, as Oakland's Dallas Braden faces Chicago's Mark Buehrle.

DUNN TAKE BP -- White Sox slugger Adam Dunn took batting practice before Sunday's game against the Rays and could return to the team's lineup as soon as today.

"It was good to get out of solitary confinement and hang out with the general population, you know what I mean," Dunn told the Chicago Tribune's Dave van Dyck.

However, Dunn said he was done making predictions about when he'd return when asked if he could play today against Oakland.

TINKERING -- Derek Jeter isn't the only Yankee messing with his mechanics -- right-hander Phil Hughes tinkered with his motion during his bullpen session on Sunday. Hughes is attempting to use more of the bottom half of his body in his delivery. [New York Times]

ROUSING THE TROOPS -- Rays manager Joe Maddon tried to eject all four umpires in Sunday's 6-1 loss to the White Sox. [St. Petersburg Times]

Enjoy this video while it lasts (why MLB.com won't allow embedded videos, I just don't know...)

LAROCHE CONFIDENT HE'LL BE BACK SOON -- Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said he doesn't expect to miss any time after leaving Sunday's game with a strained left groin. LaRoche left in the 11th inning against the Mets, but said today's day off for the Nationals would give him ample healing time. [MASNSports.com]

ZIMMERMAN UNSURE OF RETURN -- Unlike his teammate LaRoche, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is unsure when he'll return from his strained abdominal muscle. Zimmerman will be re-evaluated on Tuesday following the off day. [Washington Post]

YOUNG UNHAPPY -- Mets right-hander Chris Young wasn't perfect on Sunday and  that wasn't good enough for him or the Mets. In his first seven-inning outing in nearly two years, Young allowed just one hit and two walks, and the walk came back to hurt him, accounting for the lone run he gave up to the Nationals. After he left the game, Washington tied the game in the eighth inning before winning it in the 11th. Young picked up a no-decision, but is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in two starts for the Mets this season.  [ESPNNewYork.com]

BACK-TO-BACK -- Mark Prior pitched on back-to-back days for the Class A Tampa Yankees on Saturday and Sunday as he makes the transition from starter to reliever in an attempt to return to the majors for the first time since 2006. Prior's fastball reached 91 on both days. [MLB.com]

NO BIG DEAL -- Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins downplayed conflicting statements from pitcher Matt Garza and manager Mike Quade following Garza's loss to the Brewers on Saturday. [Chicago Sun-Times]

NO REPLICAS FOR FANS -- The Giants will not make replica World Series rings available to fans, but you can by commemorative jewelry from the team. So, you know, if you've outgrown your class ring, you can get a ring that's symbolic of an achievement you had absolutely zero to do with earning yourself. But, you know, if you have $3,570 dollars just lying around with nothing else to really do with it, why not? It's not like there are charities that could use it more than you can use a 14K white gold ring with diamonds and your name on it that will repel women. Seriously, just buy one of the cool hats with the gold SF the team wore the other day. [San Francisco Chronicle]

NEW BOX -- The fine folks over at FanGraphs have unveiled their new boxscore. I swear there are some stats that aren't real in there just to see if you're paying attention. Seriously, there's just about everything you'd ever want in this box, and going through one could take longer than actually watching the game. And I mean that in the most awesome way possible. [FanGraphs.com]

OLD GLOVES -- A cool graphic on the evolution of the baseball glove, or at least Spalding's gloves (and a bonus Wilson one, even though I've always been a Rawlings guy). [UniWatchBlog]

NICE DAY AT THE PARK -- What's better than a beautiful Sunday at the ballpark? Try a day at the park followed by a post-game concert by the Avett Brothers. The band performed at Turner Field yesterday following the Phillies' 3-0 victory. My sisters-in-law and other friends went, plus one of my sisters-in-law met Kevin Gillespie in the beer line -- not a bad day.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 9:55 am
 

Pepper: Battered Brewers breath sigh of relief



By Matt Snyder


With Zack Greinke on the shelf, the Brewers badly need Shaun Marcum -- who missed his previous spring start with shoulder soreness and has some injury history -- to come out of camp healthy. He threw four innings Monday in his last spring outing and felt fine. (Brewers blog )

So that's the good news.

The bad news is the Brewers have been injury-riddled this spring -- they'll start with five players on the disabled list -- and it's exposed the fragile thin layer of major-league talent they have.

There is certainly reason for optimism in Milwaukee, because they have some really good players. They can hit the ball, have good starting pitching -- so long as everyone is healthy, that is -- and what appears to be a capable closer. But when you're trading for Sergio Mitre and Nyjer Morgan in the last few days of spring to shore up depth, that's hardly a flawless team. Injuries can bury this team, the spring should merely serve as a warning.

With the Reds' injury woes, Adam Wainwright going down and Cubs having obvious flaws, this seems like a race that will be determined by the team with the best luck in terms of health. And the Brewers are already starting off on the wrong foot, even if Marcum felt fine Monday night.

SAVING CASHNER:
The Cubs correctly named Andrew Cashner the fifth member of the starting rotation over the former albatross, Carlos Silva. There are concerns with Cashner's workload, however, as he's never thrown more than 111 1/3 innings in a season. As a full-time starter, he should be expected to go over 150. The Cubs have pointed out they will "constantly" monitor his load this season, in terms of pitches and innings, to ensure the long-term health of their former first-rounder. (Chicago Sun-Times )

PEREZ PUKES, IS PEEVED: So Indians closer Chris Perez threw up on the back-end of the mound in the ninth inning of a spring game Monday (Jordan Bastian via Twitter), but then threw out a tweet himself about it, saying, "all right, enough of all this Perez threw up bs, I had low blood sugar and was dizzy, and only water came up."

THE AMAZING ECKSTEINS: I'm not even going to try and do this justice. It's too long and too good. Just read the whole thing. David Eckstein's family has donated five kidneys to each other and another six more are likely to be needed. David hasn't taken a turn yet, but he's "on deck." (The Post Game )

PRIOR DETERMINED: Mark Prior was demoted all the way to Class-A after a spring that saw him put up a 1.17 ERA in 7 2/3 innings of work. He still feels like he's going to help the Yankees at some point this season, and manager Joe Girardi said, "I think he's got a pretty good shot." (ESPN New York )

OH JOSE: Jose Canseco did some nice work on Twitter Monday. Let's see ... he said ESPN is owned by Major League Baseball, so they lie. "You will never know the real truth is you keep listening to the media." (That one was weird for me because I have never, ever been told what I can or cannot write by anyone). And the cherry on top, this gem: "Just remember the media is write 20 percent of 50 percent of the time." That one was aptly followed by him accusing other people of being ignorant. This all came on the heels of the news that Canseco pulled a bait-and-switch at a charity boxing event. Of course, Canseco's whole reason for the tirade was that he wanted to see if anyone was smart enough to figure out what actually happened. And it's all the media's fault. The funny thing is, Twitter is a media that gives Canseco a forum to tell his side. Don't tell us to guess what happened. Don't take a few days to reveal what happened, as it looks like you're cooking up a story, Jose. If there's a different truth, just tell it. But that's the problem, isn't it? (Jose Canseco via Twitter)

MOST DEPRESSED? A website put together a list of the most depressed baseball cities among the 18 teams that haven't won the World Series in the past 20 years. Oddly enough, Washington D.C. checked in at the top. These types of things are pretty immeasurable, really, but I guess it's entertaining enough to look at this point. We're just killing time until opening day anyway by now. (via Ultimate Astros )

MATUSZ STRUCK, STILL OPTIMISTIC:
Orioles starting pitcher Brian Matusz was throwing a simulated game when he was struck in his left biceps by a line drive, forcing him to stop his session well early. It's fortunately just a bruise, as the Orioles aren't even going to go through precautionary X-Rays. He's had a rough spring, but still remains confident for the regular season. (MASN.com )

SALT RIVER FIELDS FOREVER: The Diamondbacks and Rockies shared the new Salt River Fields facility this spring and it has been all the rage from pretty much everyone who has seen the place. The attendance has shown the popularity, as the place has drawn pretty staggering numbers. The D-Backs have drawn over 189,000 fans, averaging 11,161 per game. The number is almost double last season's spring attendance for the Snakes. The Rockies have similar figures, bringing in 10,485 fans per game, just about double last season's number. The facility has set all kinds of attendance records, with the Diamondbacks ranking first in spring attendance and the Rockies checking in at No. 3 -- the Yankees were second. (MLB.com )

NO BRACKETS FOR YOU: With the gambling accusations against former clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels, the Mets have refrained from running any NCAA basketball tournament bracket competitions. Manager Terry Collins said there was no specific mandate to avoid it, but everyone just thought it would be a bad idea. They must have known how things were going to shake out, huh? (Newsday )

ON-DECK ACCOUNT: Remember Aaron Guiel? He played for the Royals from 2002-2006 and then a little bit for the Yankees late in '06. Well he plays in Japan now, and he was on deck in a NPB game in Yokohama when the big earthquake happened. He described the event from his point of view to Canadian Baseball Network .

LEYLAND ON 'PLAYER X:' By now everyone's surely heard of ESPN the Magazine's "Player X," in which an anonymous player writes about the sport in which he plays. The latest baseball entry, "Player X" took on Miguel Cabrera, specifically wondering why he doesn't pay someone to drive him when he's out drinking. Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't care for the column, saying: “To me that’s a gutless (jerk) that doesn’t put his name to it. If somebody would have said, ‘Hey, this is Jim Leyland and this is what I say, he should do this or this, then that’s fine. But when you (another expletive) hide behind somebody else’s expense, that’s chicken (expletive) to me." (Detroit Free-Press ) I can see the logic in that. Since my name is on this, I'll ask the same question, though: How do any players ever get a DUI? Miguel Cabrera makes $20 million a year. Why can't he -- or anyone else in the league who has gotten (or will get) a DUI -- pay someone something like $50,000 a year to be his driver? It would make things easier on everyone -- provide a job to someone, avoid the questions of alcoholism, keep guys out of jail, etc. I just don't get it.

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 9:53 am
Edited on: March 1, 2011 10:21 am
 

Pepper: Finding Mauer in Montero


Posted by Matt Snyder


In the latest Ear on Baseball podcast , C. Trent Rosecrans and I had Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein on, and among other things we discussed how Yankees star catching prospect Jesus Montero may eventually be ticketed for a position change.

Interestingly, in a Tuesday morning Bats blog (via New York Times ), there's a piece on Joe Mauer discussing similarities between the two catchers and how he believes Montero should do everything he can to remain a catcher, if that's what he wants to do.

"Too big. Not quick enough. I heard everything under the sun," Mauer said. He's 6-foot-5, while Montero is 6-foot-4.

Mauer also encouraged Montero to learn everything he can from veteran catchers Russell Martin and Jorge Posada in camp, and to learn everything about the pitchers he might be catching.

Montero, 21, is generally considered one of the top prospects as a hitter, but many scouts believe he'll be inadequate behind the plate in the bigs. Mauer believes he heard the same, but I think there's a difference. Most scouts knew Mauer could handle duties behind the plate, if memory serves correctly, it's just that many believe he needs to move away from behind the plate eventually in order to lengthen his career. He's too good a hitter to physically fall apart by his early 30s. That doesn't mean he's a bad defender.

CARLOS AT THE BAT: Yes, Cubs manager Mike Quade will use pitcher Carlos Zambrano as a pinch-hitter when the game dictates this season. While his actual skill with the stick pales in comparison to the sheer entertainment value of an at-bat, he can swing it. He has three Silver Sluggers and 21 career home runs to go with a .236 average and .631 OPS. Obviously that's pretty bad for an actual hitter, but if you're looking for someone to extend the bench, he's serviceable enough. In fact, he's hit at least .300 in a season twice, as recently as 2008 -- when he hit .337 with an .892 OPS. He was a better hitter than Derrek Lee that year. Seriously. (Chicago Tribune )

ZITO VS. PRINCE, PART II:
Last season, Barry Zito and Prince Fielder had a slight flare-up in spring training after Zito plunked the portly first baseman -- in retaliation for a Fielder celebration in 2009. Monday, the two had a spat ... over a walk? Really, guys? They were seen jawing at each other, but fortunately both took the high road after the game. Zito said he asked Fielder how his offseason went and how his family was doing. Fielder said they were discussing dinner plans. Boys will be boys, even when it's not yet summer, so there's no reason to make a mountain out of a molehill. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel )

OBLIGATORY YOUNG UPDATE: Michael Young is not unhappy, nor is he dogging it in spring training. In fact, he's working just as hard as he ever has and made the first appearance of his life at first base Monday. He even accepts the addition of Mike Napoli, who is expected to steal plenty of at-bats from Young at DH this season. "He was a thorn in our side when he was in Anaheim. He can hit for power," Young said. "I think what he’s done in his career speaks for itself. When he got here in camp I think we’ve all been impressed with just how good a teammate he seems. That’s the kind of thing guys look at first. He seems a really good guy. Seems like he’s fit in really well since Day 1 and I’m excited that he’s here." (ESPN Dallas )

SCHLERETH INJURED: Tigers relief pitcher Daniel Schlereth injured his hamstring Monday. He actually felt a pop, but early the prognosis sounds positive, as the medical staff reportedly told the lefty it was a strain and not a tear -- which would cause him to miss significant time. Instead, it seems only a minor setback. In fact, he's more annoyed with the injury than anything else. "This is stupid," he said. "This isn't important. I'm not too worried about it. I just want to play. I want to make the team." (Detroit Free-Press )

TIME MACHINE: Mark Prior threw a perfect inning. In 2011. Granted, it was a single inning early in spring training, but it had to have been an encouraging outing for a man whose career was prematurely derailed years ago by injuries. For the optimistic out there, he's still only 30. There's time. (Star-Ledger )

WHO NEEDS OBP? The Rockies are ready to use catcher Chris Iannetta in the eight-hole this season. When you look at his batting average (.234) last season it makes sense. When you look at his OBP, it doesn't. His .353 career OBP is better than teammates Seth Smith, Ian Stewart, Dexter Fowler and Ty Wigginton. But his batting average is lower. It still amazes me how hard this concept is to grasp for so many. It astounds me that people look at batting average before OBP. Think about it in reverse. On-base percentage is a measure of how many times you don't get out. Isn't that the actual goal when you step in the batter's box? In this specific case, you could argue Fowler and Stewart are still young and could get better, but Iannetta's 27 and has torn up minor-league pitching for years. And when he takes a ton of walks this season with the pitcher on deck, his batting average won't be near as high as his OBP. Serenity now. (Denver Post )

SOLID INTERVIEW:
Another thing we discussed in the Ear on Baseball podcast was how incredibly loaded the Royals' minor league system is. General manager Dayton Moore sat down with John Sickels of Minor League Ball for an interview. I'm not going to bother to summarize or cut it down at all, just click through. The whole thing is worth a look. And while I'm not a fan of the Royals or anything, it's worth noting I'd like to see everything come to fruition with this group. It's been a long time since the Royals were a serious contender, so a little change there wouldn't hurt anything. Now, about those Pirates ...

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Posted on: November 21, 2010 12:53 pm
 

Mark Prior deciding between three teams

Prior It's time for the annual Mark Prior comeback story.

By now, the story has entered baseball lore alongside David Clyde: a top college starter is rushed to the majors, becomes a major part of the team's success from 2002-03 but is run into the ground by the manager. He struggles with losing control over the next two years, gets bombed in nine starts and falls off the face of the earth.

Prior has yet to return to the majors since that 2006 pasting, but to his credit, the now 30-year-old isn't quitting. The last three-to-four years have been stolen from Prior, as he's pitched just one inning in those four years, that lone inning coming in 2010 when he appeared in one game for the Rangers.

Now, he's back on the market and is currently deciding between three teams as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reveals. Prior, who has had a hell of a time recovering from a torn labrum, will decide soon which team to sign with.

The signing team may finally get something out of Prior this year after previous comeback stints with the Cubs, Padres and independent ball. Prior has improved his fastball from the low 80s to low 90s. Couple that with a readiness to return to the field (for now), and Prior really may be ready to take the next step on the comeback trail.

The Rangers may be in the lead for Prior, given that the club originally signed the righty with the long-term in mind, not 2010 as Jeff Wilson of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram said.

-- Evan Brunell

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