Tag:Kyle Drabek
Posted on: June 13, 2011 1:37 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 1:58 pm
 

Drabek bombed, Jays refuse demotion to Triple-A

Drabek

By Evan Brunell

Isn't it high time to send Kyle Drabek back to Triple-A?

Manager John Farrell is adamant that won't happen, as the Blue Jays feel the right-hander needs to develop in the majors.

“I just want to cut that off right now,” Farrell said before Drabek's start on Sunday to the National Post. “There’s been no discussion of sending Kyle to Triple-A or to suggest that what he’s dealing with, in his own maturity right now, is leading to that. So that needs to be squelched right now."

Sorry, John, but there's no squelching to be had after Drabek's brutal outing against the Red Sox, lasting just four innings (and not registering a single out in the fifth, facing five batters) and throwing 91 pitches, just 49 percent for strikes. He gave up eight earned runs with an eye-popping three home runs allowed. He did strike out five, but his control issues continued unabated with four walks, pushing his season total to 52. Compare that with 48 strikeouts, and you have a beyond-awful K/BB rate. His 0.92 ratio is last in baseball among qualified starters, with the Angels' Tyler Chatwood second-worst at 1.01. Compare that to MLB leader Roy Halladay and his 7.57 mark.

“I’m very frustrated right now," the 23-year-old said.  “I couldn’t tell you the last real quality game I’ve had. It’s frustrating walking people and giving up hits, not giving your team a chance to win.”

No one, not even Drabek, knows why he's so erratic with command. Drabek claims he is fine between starts when he tosses bullpens, but once the game starts, he can't throw strikes. That was particularly evident in the third inning when Drabek fell behind the final five batters of the inning by throwing 13 balls and six strikes.

But a demotion? Nope, Farrell says. Again, why?

“He’s learning as he goes,” Farrell said before the game. “And we are fully accepting of the growing pains that he is going to be better for in time. He may walk out today and throw seven shutout innings, and now all of a sudden he’s overcome all his issues.”

This is all the more confusing given the Jays demoted another struggling young starter, Brett Cecil, to the minors where he is working on regaining his lost velocity and spotting it. It seems as if Farrell's reasoning is based solely on Drabek suddenly figuring things out, but couldn't you say the same of Cecil? Even if Toronto contends that Cecil needed work beyond just suddenly figuring it out, like they seem to feel Drabek can do, couldn't Drabek benefit from rediscovering his lost command in the minors where he would have a chance to boost his overall confidence, which could lead to improved pitching?

Right now, Drabek is 4-5 with a 5.70 ERA. That's not a major-league pitcher, and Toronto needs to re-evaluate its stubborn decision to not keep Drabek down on the farm. Drabek's next start comes against the Reds on Saturday. If he's not able to turn in a quality start, Farrell needs to rethink his position on sending Drabek down.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: June 2, 2011 1:59 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Jimenez dazzles, Drabek falls

Drabek

By Evan Brunell


UpUbaldo Jimenez, Rockies -- In Wednesday's On Deck piece, Jimenez's struggles were documented, as his ERA ranked fourth-worst in baseball among those who were still in the majors and qualified for the ERA title. Well, that ranking just improved as Jimenez dazzled with a complete-game shutout of the Dodgers, stifling them with four hits and no walks with seven whiffs, dropping his ERA under 5.00 to 4.97. That's a major step forward for the righty who is hoping to find the magic that sparked his 2010 run of a 10-1 record.

Francisco Cordero, Reds --
Cordero reached a milestone Wednesday with his 300th overall save, pitching a clean inning with two whiffs against the Brewers. Cordero's having a sublime season so far with a 1.71 ERA and 10 saves, which is surprising coming off his up-and-down 2010, making him a prime target for those who expected Aroldis Chapman to be closing games by now. Jay Bruce and Joey Votto each slammed a two-run home run, one in the seventh and one in the eighth to make Cordero's save possible. The win pushed the Reds to their fourth win in 15 games.

Billy Butler, Royals --
The Royals/Angels game was deadlocked at zero apiece before Billy Butler stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth inning. He then sent fans home happy on a walkoff home run with a two-run job to send the Royals to victory, pushing Los Angeles to .500. But it wasn't actually a homer in the first place, as umpires originally ruled it a double. Good thing too, because Jeff Francouer stopped running on the play and wouldn't have scored had the play been upheld. "I ran out and told (umpire) Fieldin Culbreth, 'I've got no stinking idea where that ball hit,'" Royals manager Ned Yost told the Associated Press. "He said, 'Don't worry about it. We're going to do the right thing right now because I'm not really sure either. We'll go check it.' The replay showed it did make it over that fence and bounced back."

DownKyle Drabek, Blue Jays --
Drabe's fall from grace was only a matter of time, as his 1:1 K/BB ratio going into the game did not portend success. The touted right-hander can eventually emerge as the ace of the staff, but for now, it's clear the 23-year-old still has some work to do. Drabek lasted only two outs of the game, exiting after coughing up three walks and four earned runs to balloon his ERA to 4.69. And as Jeff Sullivan notes, Drabek made some unwanted history, as his strike rate of 54.8 percent would represent the worst rate over the last 12 years in baseball by a pitcher with at least 100 innings to his name. (Drabek has 63 1/3 innings on the year.) That's history you don't want.

Tim Lincecum, Giants --
The Freak was anything but Wednesday, as the Cardinals teed off for five runs in 6 1/3 innings, coughing up 10 hits although he struck out nine and walked zero, so it wasn't all bad. Still, that pushed his ERA to 2.59 after he had shaved it down with a 1.22-ERA May. It looked as if he would head to a loss before the Giants scored one in the top ninth then tacked on two in the 11th to seal the deal. The big blast came from Allan Craig, who had a pinch-hit, two-run home run in the seventh to send the Cardinals up by one.

Alcides Escobar, Royals --
Escobar's 0-for-3 night dropped his OPS to a putrid .497 on the "strength" of a .212/.249/.249 line. He has 41 hits in 193 trips to the plate and only seven extra-base hits, all doubles. Still, Escobar will get plenty of playing time as K.C. loves his defensive work. There's something to be said for shipping him to Triple-A and allowing him to gain confidence against lesser pitchers, but Escobar has plenty of time logged in the bigs and at some point, needs to start producing. To be fair to him, he made a crucial defensive play with the bases loaded in the eighth to preserve the tie.

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Posted on: June 1, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: June 1, 2011 8:27 pm
 

On Deck: Correia goes for MLB-best eighth win

On Deck

By Evan Brunell


CorreiaCHASE FOR EIGHT: Raise your hand if you thought Kevin Correia would be the first pitcher in baseball to reach eight victories. Yeah, didn't think so. But Correia can do just that Wednesday night against the Mets and Chris Capuano. The game being in New York can only help the right-hander's cause, as he's won six of seven games away from his home park. The Pirates will also go for their 17th victory on the road, a mark they didn't reach last season until Oct. 1. If Correia can limit the 25-29 Mets to two runs or fewer, it will mark 13 straight games a Pittsburgh starter has accomplished the feat, the first time since a 14-gamer in 1968. Pirates at Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET

IndiansJaysNEW STREAK: The Indians lost five of six games before pulling out a victory Tuesday, with Grady Sizemore collecting his first two hits since returning from the disabled list four days ago. Sizemore had been 0 for 12 with seven whiffs, but his fortunes changed as the Indians dropped the Blue Jays to one game over .500. Now, the AL-best Indians will look to put Toronto at .500 by sending Josh Tomlin to the hill. Tomlin has been one of the early surprises this season, with a 6-2 mark and 2.74 ERA. He'll oppose Jays rookie right-hander Kyle Drabek, who hasn't been terribly impressive so far this year with a 4.16 ERA and a poor 1:1 K/BB ratio. Indians at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. ET

JimenezSKIDDING ROX: Hard to believe the Rockies are slipping out of the race for first place, but a 2-10 swing in their last 12 games has dropped them into a tie with the Dodgers for third place. Working off a 25-29 mark, the Rockies need ace Ubaldo Jimenez to step up and earn his first win of the season. Jimenez, who was 10-1 with a 0.78 ERA at this point last season, has been slowly improving since his rough start to the season, but he coughed up six runs to the Cardinals last Friday to drop his ERA to 5.86. Among starters with at least 40 innings pitched in the NL, Jimenez's ERA is sixth-worst -- and two of the pitchers ahead of him no longer have major-league jobs. The Dodgers aren't an easy mark for Jimenez, as he's lost three of his last four starts against them. Rockies at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET

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Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.



Posted on: May 10, 2011 6:12 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 6:15 pm
 

On Deck: Aces Halladay, Johnson battle

Halladay, Johnson
On Deck

By Evan Brunell

BEST MATCHUP: Get excited. Tuesday night's best matchup pits Roy Halladay against Josh Johnson. In the earlier going, JJ has been the better pitcher with a 1.68 ERA, while Halladay will look to push his ERA under 2 from 2.19. Johnson is coming off a 7 1/3 inning, 5-run effort against the Cardinals in which he drew his first loss of the year while Halladay coughed up two in seven innings to beat the Nationals. Last season, Halladay's perfect game came against Johnson on May 29, and this is the first time Halladay will toe the mound in Miami since. There's a bit of a mentor-mentee relationship as Johnson has spoken at length about how much he looks up to Halladay and was able to watch one of Halladay's bullpen sessions last season. Phillies at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. ET (Watch live)

GONE STREAKING: Jacoby Ellsbury will look to push his hitting streak to 19 as the Red Sox hit the road with a trip to Toronto before the first Red Sox-Yankees series of the year will dominate the media. Meanwhile, Jon Lester looks to win his fifth straight start which will propel Boston to .500 for the first time all season. It will have been the latest in a season the Red Sox reach .500 since 1996, when it took until Aug. 22. Lester will be opposed by rookie Kyle Drabek. Red Sox at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. ET (Watch live)

BIG Z DOMINATION: Chris Carpenter has been one of the best pitchers in the game over the past decade, but he can't seem to solve Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs. The Cubs are 5-2 in Carpenter-Zambrano tilts and haven't lost a game since July 22, 2005, as the Chicago Tribune reports. Weird, right? That trend may very well continue Tuesday night as Big Z is 4-1 on the year with a 4.23 ERA while Carpenter is searching for his first win amid two losses and a 4.19 ERA. Oh, and Cardinals shortstop Ryan Theriot returns to his old stomping grounds after saying he was finally "on the right side of the rivalry" and being threatened with a knockdown pitch. Cardinals at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. ET (Watch live)

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Posted on: May 1, 2011 1:43 am
Edited on: May 1, 2011 1:51 am
 

3 up, 3 down: Shields, Halladay baffle batters

Shields

By Evan Brunell

3 UP

James Shields, Rays -- Shields delivered a dominating performance and may be on the way back towards being an ace. However, Shields is an inconsistent player, so we'll have to see how he performs more. Still, he twirled a beautiful start against the Angels, going eight strong with an eyebrow-raising 12 strikeouts against one walk, six hits and an earned run. He combined to strike out the first three batters of the game six times, holding them to 1 for 13 with a walk. This game pushes Shields' ERA down to 2.14.

Roy Halladay, Phillies -- What else do you expect? Halladay rivaled Shields for best pitching performance as he pitched a complete game seven-hitter, allowing a walk and punching eight out. The Mets -- especially Jason Bay in an 0-for-4 night with three whiffs -- were helpless as Philly squeaked out a 2-1 victory. That offense is starting to run a little cold in Philadelphia, who were lifted by reserve outfielder John Mayberry Jr.'s first home run of the year plus a sac fly by Placido Polanco. Carlos Beltran did have two hits, continuing a nice return from knee problems.

Michael Brantley, Indians -- The league's best hitting performance that also directly won the game for Cleveland by Brantley, who sparked the team to victory by first tying the game at two-all in the sixth by ripping a solo home run and then scoring the winning run on an Orlando Cabrera single. All in all, the leadoff man who was playing center as Grady Sizemore took a breather, stepped up to the plate with a 3-for-6 night (so did Cabrera), scoring those two runs and driving in himself on the homer to edge the Tigers 3-2. Top Indians pitching prospect Alex White got throw his start by throwing six innings and allowing just two runs despite coughing up four walks and six hits -- two home runs -- and whiffing four.

3 DOWN

Matt Thornton, White Sox -- Ozzie Guillen must be furious. In his house, that is, as he was suspended two games for his comments about the umpiring earlier in the week and then tweeting about it. Matt Thornton was called in by bench coach Joey Cora to keep the ChiSox in the game as they trailed 2-1 in the eighth. Phil Humber had a two-run, seven-inning start, calling into question whether he should be demoted when Jake Peavy returns. Against the Orioles, Thornton went as such: single, stolen base, strikeout plus Pierzynski error allowing a run to score and batter to reach, single, wild pitch, walk, infield RBI single, sacrifice fly, and -- that was it for Thornton as Jerry Gray sandwiched two outs around a hit by pitch. Not a good day at the park for Chicago's closer at the beginning of the season who has already lost his job.

Red Sox offense -- What can the Red Sox offense do for you? Well, it can mount a seven-hit attack on Doug Fister, walk six times, and ... leave 11 men on base in a 2-0 defeat. Awesome. David Ortiz want 0-for-4 with two whiffs, coming up in a key situation that could have changed the complexion of the game. The Red Sox left the bases loaded in the first (yes, really) and fourth, with Jacoby Ellsbury ending the threat in the fourth by getting doubled off second in a mistake. Oh, and no Mariners game is complete without a Milton Bradley ejection. The mercurial outfielder delivered a RBI double in the second to send Seattle up 1-0 then argued with the second base umpire about a play in which Miguel Olivo grounded to first and got the heave-ho. Skipper Eric Wedge was in the process of leaving the field after mounting his own complaint, but he didn't get tossed.

Kyle Drabek, Blue Jays -- Drabek got a little lesson in humility Saturday night, lasting just 2 1/3 innings. Drabek has been a bit up and down in his first full major-league season, but was still doing decently enough. Now his ERA rests at 4.45 after giving up five runs on seven hits, four walks and four strikeouts against the Yankees. He was dinked to death, but those runs count and can be even more deflating than a single big blow. You can attribute giving up a grand slam to one misplaced pitch, but you can't justify any of your stuff when everything is being rifled. Oddly enough, no Yank had more than one hit, but everyone did sans Derek Jeter (all together: when will he be demoted to No. 8 in the lineup? -- hey, look a reunion of the top two in the order from last season... at the bottom).

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Posted on: April 4, 2011 10:01 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:12 pm
 

Pepper: Closer concerns in NL Central

Brandon Lyon

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The National League Central appears to be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, with up to four legit contenders for the crown, so every little difference is going to be magnified when it comes to the end of the season.

While we're a long way from magic numbers, but the division's closer could be cause for concern.

In the first weekend of games, NL Central closers blew four of eight save chances -- including the first three -- and had an ERA of 12.91. Only Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan (who is 2 for 2 on save opportunities) hasn't allowed an earned run among the division's six closers.

All six closers have had save opportunities, and half of them are save-less. Milwaukee's John Axford has allowed four earned runs and hasn't finished an inning in two appearances, allowing a walk-off three-run homer to Cincinnati's Ramon Hernandez on Thursday and allowing two hits on Sunday before being replaced.

St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin gave up a game-tying homer in an eventual opening-day loss to the Padres and Houston's Brandon Lyon allowed six hits and three runs, picking up the loss against the Phillies on Friday.

The Cubs' Carlos Marmol struck out the side on Saturday for his first save, but Sunday he walked one and allowed two hits to cough up a lead, sending the Cubs to a 5-4 loss to the Pirates (and setting up Hanrahan's second save).

And then there's Cincinnati's Francisco Cordero, who picked up a save, but didn't instill much confidence in anyone, allowing two hits and a run in Saturday's Reds victory against the Brewers.

It could be a wild ride this year in the NL Central this season, and that's just the ninth inning.

HOMETOWN BOY -- Padres manager Bud Black said part of his reason for setting his rotation as he did was to allow San Diego native Aaron Harang make the start for the Padres' home-opener at Petco Park on Tuesday.

Black said it also helped that Harang has a history of opening day starts. Harang started five consecutive opening days in Cincinnati. He is in his first season with the Padres. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

PRETTY MUCH -- Dustin Pedroia on the Rangers' sweep of the Red Sox: "They kicked our ass, that's it." [Boston Herald]

RAY OF HOPE -- On opening day, the Rays announced a long-term deal with Wade Davis. The team's No. 1 starter, David Price, said he'd be interested in a long-term deal as well.

"Everybody here knows that I feel very comfortable here with the Rays," Price told MLB.com. "And I feel like I fit in very well with this organization and how they do stuff. If it's something we're able to get done, it's definitely something I'd like to do."

TURF CALF? -- Johnny Damon said Tropicana Field's artificial surface may have contributed to his right calf tightness that forced him to be scratched from Sunday's lineup. [St. Petersburg Times]

ANGEL TOURISTS -- Howie Kendrick and Torii Hunter talk about how special the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City is to them. [Orange County Register]

BASEBALL ART -- Aubrey Huff made a diving catch in Los Angeles on Saturday and before Sunday's game, Pat Burrell, Dan Runzler and Brandon Belt taped a body outline in the outfield where Huff made his catch. Here's a picture of their art.

HALLOWED GROUND -- Volunteers cleaned up at the old Tiger Stadium and finished off with a pickup game of baseball. The Navin Field Grounds Crew will be doing this every week during the summer in Detroit, hoping to allow everyone to use the field. [Detroit Free Press]

JAPANESE HERITAGE DAY -- The best highlight of Sunday's Japanese Heritage Day in Oakland was when Ichiro Suzuki caught Kurt Suzuki's fly in right and threw out Hideki Matsui at third base. The A's and their fans also raised more than $65,000 for earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. [San Francisco Chronicle]

HUMIDOR SECURITY -- MLB has tightened its security procedures concerning the humidor at Coors Field, an "authenticator" will keep an eye on all the baseballs from when they're taken out of the humidor to the umpire's room where they're rubbed down to the Rockies dugout, where they're kept. During the game, he'll watch the bag. [Denver Post]

CARDS OWNER CONFIDENT -- Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. is happy with his team and confident, but added the team does have playroom flexibility of "several million dollars" if the team needs something later in the season. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

COPYING BAGWELL -- Astros shortstop Clint Barmes will wear a protective pad on his left batting glove when he returns to action. Barmes suffered a fractured bone in his hand late in spring training when he was hit by a pitch. Barmes said it's the exact same pad attached by velcro that former Astro Jeff Bagwell used to wear. Barmes said he wore a similar pad after breaking his hand in 2002, but will make it a permanent addition this time. [MLB.com]

VLAD THE ENIGMA -- Vladimir Guerrero has wowed us on the field for years, but not much is known about him off the field. But the Baltimore Sun's Kevin Van Valkenburg and Jeff Zrebiec have managed to write a really interesting feature on the new Oriole. For instance, before every home series, Guerrero writes down the name of all the Spanish-speaking players and coaches coming to town, and will then have his mom cook food for all the Latin players and bring it to the park. Guerrero's mom has lived with him since he was in Montreal. [Baltimore Sun]

REALLY? -- Wearing a guy's jersey to a game is one thing, but a whole uniform, catching gear and all? This Philadelphia fan was at Sunday's game wearing complete catcher's gear, a glove, mask and even taped wrists. I wonder if security allowed him through the gate with metal spikes? [Philadelphia Daily News]

OAKLAND'S 'DUMP' -- Apparently the field at the Oakland Coliseum smells like sewage. And that's not all that's wrong with the Coliseum. [San Francisco Chronicle]

GREINKE PROGRESSING -- The Brewers expect Zack Greinke to throw off the mound at some point during the team's week-long homestead starting today. Greinke still isn't expected to return this month, but throwing off the mound is the first step to determining when he can return. He played long toss and threw from 60 feet before Sunday's game in Cincinnati. [MLB.com]

BLAKE BETTER -- Casey Blake is eligible to come off the disabled list on Wednesday and hopes to be ready when he is eligible. The Dodgers are in Denver on Wednesday. [Los Angeles Times]

REWARD OFFERED -- A $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest in the case of Dodger fans beating Giants fan Bryan Stow, 42, a Santa Cruz paramedic and father of two. Stow is currently in a medically induced coma. [Los Angeles Times]

SIGNS YOU'RE OLD -- When Jim Thome faced Blue Jays rookie Kyle Drabek on Saturday, the TV folks accidentally put up Thome's career numbers against Doug Drabek, Kyle's father. [UniWatch Blog]

IZZY SHELVED -- Jason Isringhausen, attempting a comeback with the Mets, left an extended spring training game on Saturday after feeling a "twinge" in his back. [New York Daily News]

DIFFERENT SWING -- John Smoltz talks about his attempt at a golf career. [Detroit Free Press]

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Posted on: April 2, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2011 11:56 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 4/2: Big bats, slow arms

By Evan Brunell

SanchezToday felt like baseball season with a full slate of games, all in the afternoon and night. It was a fun day to pig out if you're a baseball fan, which we all are 'round these parts.

3 UP

Chase Headley, Padres -- Headley broke through with some fireworks Saturday, netting four RBI on the night including a two-run shot in the ninth to cap off an 11-3 victory. Ryan Ludwick had some fun in front of Headley, scoring four times. Headley isn't known for a stick, so it'll be interesting to see if his power sticks.

Kyle Drabek, Blue Jays -- Drabek had such filthy stuff that Denard Span would say afterwords it was a relief that the Twins didn't end up no-hit. Drabek went seven strong, whiffing seven, walking three and giving up a lone hit and earned run. Drabek is quite the exciting young hitter and it appears the Jays are well on their way toward replacing Roy Halladay -- as much as anyone can, I suppose.

Freddy Sanchez, Giants (pictured) -- Freddy celebrated a one-year extension by delivering a 3-for-4 night, adding a walk while scoring two runs and banging home 3 RBI. Sanchez delivered a double and home run -- things you don't commonly see Sanchez do in a single game -- as the Giants routed the Dodgers 10-0.

3 DOWN

John Lackey, Red Sox -- Not exactly the way you want to start the second year of a much-maligned five-year contract. Lackey, after struggling last season in his first year (despite a nice run to finish the year), really came through with a clunker in going just 3 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and a staggering nine runs, walking two and whiffing three. The big hit of the night was an Adrian Beltre grand slam after intentionally walking Josh Hamilton. Just not a good night.

Michael Bourn, Astros -- Bourn had the most pitiful batting line on the night, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Not exactly what you want from your leadoff man. Bourn is a wizard with the glove and can outsteal anyone in the majors provided he's on base, which will be something to track.

Francisco Liriano, Twins -- Maybe Minnesota was smart after all to table talks on a long-term extension. Liriano didn't look good at all in spring training and that carried into the season with four runs coughed up in 4 1/3 innings, struggling to locate the ball with five walks and three whiffs, throwing 90 pitches. Not the way to endear yourself to your employers or other teams on the prowl such as the Yankees.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:51 am
 

Top 20 things to expect from 2011 season

Jeter

By Evan Brunell

The 2011 season is slated to start Thursday, and with it comes no shortage of storylines to watch. Last year brought the advent of Stephen Strasburg, yet another Cliff Lee trade, and of course, the Giants being crowned champions. What's on deck?

1. East Coast hype

An all-too easy criticism of mainstream media or any sports journalist is the dreaded "East Coast bias" label. However, this season, most of the intriguing teams and races will come from both the AL and NL East.

In the senior circuit, the Phillies have a vaunted rotation, but injuries to Domonic Brown and Chase Utley have left the door ajar for the Braves to sneak in. Many seem to be overlooking Atlanta, but the club won 91 games and will add Dan Uggla to the lineup while improving production out of left field. The Marlins, meanwhile, have a strong rotation and enough offensive potential loaded in their young players that they can't be discounted. Add in the mess that is the Mets along with some nice storylines in Washington (Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth to name three), and there's plenty of topics to go around.

Likewise, in the league with the DH, the Red Sox were the darlings of the offseason after importing Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, while adding Bobby Jenks to the bullpen, and appear to be the team to beat, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman has admitted. But you can't count out New York, and Cashman has a quality club ready to push for the division. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, underwent quite a remake but can't be counted out, as this is a club that could crack 90 wins with only a smidgen of luck. The Jays are fresh off a surprising year and have Jose Bautista to draw national interest, while the Orioles are hopeful the middling veterans imported will push the team toward the .500 barrier.

That's not to say that other teams don't have compelling storylines, but the concentration of quality and ease of finding compelling storylines for each team means that the East Coast will dominate the news.

2. Breaking records

It will be a banner year for three players set to hit significant milestones, and there are plenty of other players nearing milestones that, while not Hall of Fame caliber, will put emphasis on the productive careers they have had.

Rounding the Bases

Perhaps the most revered milestone for a hitter to reach, 3,000 hits will come into play for Derek Jeter, who is just 74 hits away. He will probably reach the mark in late May or early June, depending on if he's the .270 batting average Jeter of 2010 or the .314-average Jeter of his career.

Jeter isn't the only Yankee poised for a milestone, however. Mariano Rivera is closing in on 600 saves, as he currently has 559. Given that the major-league record for saves is 601 by Trevor Hoffman, Rivera could also make it to the top of the mountain. That said, Mo will need a good year to reach 600 saves as he has not cracked the 40-save barrier in four out of the past five years.

Ivan Rodriguez is also close to 3,000 hits, needing 183. However, given he has not reached that mark since 1999, you can bet I-Rod will need until at least 2012 to reach the milestone. Heck, depending on how much he plays and produces, he may need until 2013, even though that is quite unlikely.

Jim Thome is 11 home runs away from becoming the eighth member of the 600-club. Paul Konerko needs 35 homers to reach 400, while Adam Dunn (354) and David Ortiz (349) would need big seasons to hit the 400 mark.

Closing in on 2,000 hits are Carlos Lee (1,967), Orlando Cabrera (1,948), Scott Rolen (1,944), Jason Giambi (1,914), Albert Pujols (1,900), Adrian Beltre (1,889), Luis Castillo (1,889), Konerko (1,861), Michael Young (1,848), Derrek Lee (1,843), Juan Pierre (1,842), Andruw Jones (1,840) and Placido Polanco (1,836).

3. A new labor agreement

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement is due to expire after the season, but both baseball and the players union are already beginning work on coming to an accord. In a year where the NFL has locked out its players and the NBA appears headed down that path, it's important for baseball to work together with players and come to an agreement in short order.

Fortunately, after years of rancor, both sides have a harmonious working relationship and it should not be difficult to come to an arrangement even with sensitive topics such as revenue sharing and draft slotting among what will be discussed. The last agreement was finalized and announced on Oct. 25, 2006, so any announcement may not come until the conclusion of the playoffs.

However, recent word comes from the Boston Globe that any hint of a work stoppage would be a shocker, even with delicate issues such as revamping the revenue-sharing agreement. Also on deck is adding wild cards, an international draft and draft slotting.

4. Giants doing just fine

There are a lot of people wondering if the Giants can possibly repeat their World Series run of last year, doing so with a suboptimal offense and squeaking into the playoffs by the skin of their nose.

However, the offense should be much improved with Buster Posey behind the dish for a full year, Aaron Rowand squarely on the bench and Miguel Tejada replacing Edgar Renteria. While Tejada may have his issues, especially on defense, he should be able to improve on what Renteria gave the Giants last season. In addition, prospect Brandon Belt should be in the majors by June at the latest and will add another dimension to the club.

The rotation is one of concern, even if it's ridiculously deep given how young everyone is sans Barry Zito and the load they shouldered last year to win a ring. Fortunately, the Giants are cognizant of this and plan to give starters a lighter load to start the year. Plus, even if one or two starting pitchers fall flat on their face, there's still plenty of quality starters. One concern is the depth behind the front five, which is extremely thin.

5. Yankees trade for starting pitcher

There's simply no way the Yankees don't strike for a starting pitcher this season, but it may not be Francisco Liriano. The lefty is the hot name in trade circles and while Liriano still stands a good chance of being dealt, it probably won't be until after the year.

But the Yankees need help now. They had enough trouble filling the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation, so imagine what the depth behind them is like once injuries strike -- and they will. Fortunately for the Yankees, they have a solid farm system and a top prospect in Jesus Montero they can dangle for the right pitcher.

Even if the right pitcher doesn't come along to whisk Montero away, there will be no shortage of candidates as the year goes on for the Yankees to grab. What bears watching is who they grab. While acquiring a No. 4 starter would certainly deepen the rotation, it's more important for New York to get a frontline pitcher. Does anyone feel confident with A.J. Burnett following CC Sabathia in the playoffs? Didn't think so, and it would be presumptuous to project Phil Hughes' emergence into that pitcher even if the talent is there.

6. Strasburg recovering from Tommy John surgery

StrasburgStrasburg underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow on September 9, and recovery from such surgeries these days tends to take 9-12 months. Edinson Volquez returned to the majors 11 months after such a surgery. While the Nationals may play it cautious, Strasburg is right on schedule, and given his tremendous work ethic and young age, should have no problem meeting the conservative 12-month estimate.

That means Strasmas could be back just in time to close the season out, where he'll certainly dominate headlines once more. Strasburg would certainly need minor-league rehab starts first, but his timeline should assure him of the ability to get into games before the minor-league regular season ends in early September. Given the club will have expanded to 40 players at that point and will likely be out of the division race, it won't be difficult to get Strasburg back on the roster and in a major-league game.

Could the Nationals play it conservative and hold him back until 2012? Sure, it all depends how Strasburg progresses. But even if they hold him back, Strasburg certainly would play Winterball to get his footing under him. Most pitchers returning from T.J. surgery tend to struggle with command upon return, and the only way to address that is to get on a mound and pitch.

7. Bonds, Rocket dominate headlines

BondsThe trial of Barry Bonds has already started, but is still ongoing. It should be wrapped up before long, but that doesn't mean that Bonds will exit the headlines -- whatever the ruling on Bonds' perjury trial, it will have long-lasting ramifications on the game.

If Bonds is found guilty, many ink will be spilled on how this cements Bonds' exclusion from the Hall of Fame, plus articles on how Bonds is finally getting his comeuppance.

In addition, Roger Clemens will be put on high alert, given the Rocket will be undergoing his own perjury trial in the summer. If Bonds is found innocent, there will be a hot debate once more on whether to vote Bonds into the Hall. You will find those writers who believe that, despite the acquittal of Bonds, he knowingly abused steroids. There will be those who concede that while Bonds likely knew exactly what was going on, the law has deemed him innocent, and thus should be elected. And of course, a broad spectrum of opinions therein.

The Clemens trial, meanwhile, will dominate headlines even more than Bonds given the salacious details that have leaked out about Clemens' career, plus the off-putting way in how Clemens has fought the rumors he used steroids.

Much like the Bonds trial, the verdict will spark debate amid wide-ranging opinions. If both are convicted, there will be those who consider the steroid mess closed thanks to triumphing over perhaps the best hitter and pitcher of the steroid era. If both are innocent, it may open the door for those to wonder openly if they are not truly innocent, that the problem may lie with the system itself if it allows Bonds and Clemens to walk free.

Either way, the Bonds and Clemens trial will spark plenty of discussion that will last for years as they attempt to get into the Hall of Fame.

8. Questioning if Mets stay solvent

WilponsThe Mets are hoping to close a deal to bring in a new investor by the close of July. While it is not yet known what percentage of the team these investors will hold, it is expected to be in the 20-25 percent range, although the Wilpons are focused on acquiring a certain price over selling a certain percentage.

Why? 

They need the money. The Mets have debt to pay off, a $1 billion lawsuit staring them in the face (thanks, Irving Picard) and a ticking clock in which to stay solvent. If the Mets aren't able to bring in a new investor by that time, they will likely need a loan from MLB. At that point commissioner Bud Selig would likely have free rein to do what he wants with the Mets, including telling the Wilpons to sell the entire club.

That's incredibly unlikely, especially since the Wilpons (Jeff pictured on the left, Fred right) and Selig have a long, good relationship, but it bears mentioning.

Most investors are requesting majority control of the Mets -- which won't happen, unless the Wilpons' hands are forced -- or right of first refusal if the Wilpons eventually have to cough up the team. This should be an acceptable compromise to the Wilpons, who need to worry about money more than they do any possible future owner of the club.

9. New wave of prospects arriving

At the beginning of March, CBS Sports revealed its top 100 prospects, and along with the list came information on which prospects could make an impact this season.

Topping the list was No. 3 prospect Domonic Brown, who was expected to start in right field for the Phillies and attempt to replace Werth. Unfortunately, the team is now left scrambling after Brown fractured the hamate bone in his hand. He shouldn't be out terribly long, but may struggle with his power stroke upon returning. Philly may have to wait until 2012 to extract real value from the kid.

Meanwhile. No. 6's Jeremy Hellickson will open the season as a member of Tampa Bay's rotation and could easily replace the statistics Matt Garza tossed up. He's that good, that ready for the major leagues and has to be considered the front-runner for the AL Rookie of the Year award.

A fellow pitcher in Kyle Drabek (No. 16) appears on the verge of cracking Toronto's rotation after a successful late-season stint with the Blue Jays. Across the border in Ohio, Aroldis Chapman (No. 9) is readying for a full year in the bullpen and could wrest the closer's job away from Francisco Cordero by year's end.

The prospects keep on coming, as the Braves boast three in No. 19's Freddie Freeman, No. 29 Mike Minor and No. 85 Craig Kimbrel. Freeman should provide a steady presence at first base even if he lacks high-end ceiling. Minor figures to open the year in Triple-A, but should make an appearance before long and have a nice career in the middle of the rotation. Kimbrel is considered by many to be the Braves closer of the future.

There are plenty of other projected starters who will infuse baseball with youth, such as No. 33's Chris Sale, who will relieve for the White Sox; No. 66's Matt Dominguez who is on pace to play third for Florida -- ditto the same for No. 96's Brent Morel for the White Sox; No. 71's J.P. Arencibia is readying for a season as Toronto's backstop; No. 86's Danny Espinosa rocketing through two years of the minors to open the year as the starting second baseman for Washington; and No. 95 Jake McGee's apparent future as Tampa Bay's closer. You also can't discount No. 18 Brandon Belt, who could easily take home the NL Rookie of the Year honors provided he logs enough time for the Giants. Starting pitchers Zach Britton (No. 14, Orioles), Simon Castro (No. 52, Padres) and Kyle Gibson (No. 37, Twins) are on the verge of the bigs as well.

10. Philly thankful Blanton stayed

When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee, the consensus was that Philadelphia would trade Joe Blanton. After all, who needs a No. 5 starter due $17 miliion over the next two years when you have Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels?

Philly couldn't find a fit, however, and will now head into the season with Blanton on the roster. This is a good thing. Just because Blanton is the No. 5 starter doesn't mean he doesn't hold value, and being able to trot Blanton out against the back of the rotation for other teams will give Philadelphia an edge -- one it needs after losing Brown and Chase Utley.

Will Blanton stay with the team for the remainder of the year? Who can say, but even trading Blanton in July for pieces Philly knows it needs for a World Series run -- and to teams who will be increasingly desperate for pitchers once injuries and attrition hit -- is far more valuable than any deal of Blanton in January would have accomplished.

11. Firings

There's no question some managers and GMs will be shown the door in 2011. But who?

Skippers on the hot seat are covered here, so let's take a look at some GMs that could get the axe.

CollettiNed Colletti, Dodgers: Granted, Colletti has been hamstrung by the financial woes of owner Frank McCourt, but Colletti hasn't exactly done a good job with what he's been given. He appears to have learned from his mistakes in signing disasters like Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones and giving away Carlos Santana, but he also hasn't improved the team significantly. This team is simply muddling along, and Colletti looks like the classic "change for change's sake" for McCourt to try to improve morale. Of course, nothing will improve morale more than McCourt taking a hike.

Jim Hendry, Cubs: Hendry has been an up-and-down GM with the Cubs. While he made a bold gamble in trading for Garza and the Cubs may be a mild sleeper, if the team missteps yet again it's difficult to fathom the Ricketts family holding still. Hendry is a holdover from the previous ownership regime and is signed through 2012, but that wouldn't give the ownership pause in firing him. If the Cubs slip, Hendry is highly likely to be given his walking papers, especially since he stuck his neck out by hiring Mike Quade.

Tony Reagins, Angels: Reagins has done nothing but take steps back since taking over for Bill Stoneman, all the more curious given Stoneman was promoted and oversees Reagins. But the moves Reagins has made, such as (obviously) Vernon Wells are head scratching. Similar moves for Scott Kazmir and insisting on playing Jeff Mathis have followed. Manager Mike Scioscia loves Mathis, but it's up to Reagins to tell Scioscia no and take Mathis away if need be. Unfortunately, this team looks lined up to disappoint again and hover around .500. Will that fly for a second consecutive year in L.A.? Doubt it, and Scioscia won't be the first candidate on the chopping block.

Ed Wade, Astros: It's possible Wade could be on the chopping block in his third season with Houston. The Astros are widely expected to slide back and simply aren't successful at the major- or minor-league level when it comes tom talent. That may speak more to the owner than GM, but the owner doesn't get fired. Also, McLane is thought to be interested in selling the team and is reportedly close to selling to Jim Crane, who previously attempted to buy Houston and lost out on the Rangers last season. Should that happen, new ownership would absolutely want to bring in its own leader.

Jack Zduriencik, Mariners: Jack Z's leash is likely long enough to give him at least one more year, but in Year 3, the Mariners simply don't seem to have improved from his tenure. Yes, they surprised many in 2009, and part of it was probably flukish, but Zduriencik took a historically anemic lineup from 2010 and added ... Jack Cust. If he can get a strong season from Justin Smoak and impressive debuts from Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda, he should be safe.

12. Surprise teams

It happens every year. There's always that one team that takes a big step forward and contends for the postseason. Last year was especially notable in this regard, with the Reds, Padres, Giants and Blue Jays all performing better than expected. The one team to keep an eye on for 2011 is Colorado.

The Rockies finished with 83 wins last year, which is a surprise given the talent. Everyone knows the name Ubaldo Jimenez, Troy Tulowitzki (pictured) and Carlos Gonzalez, but the rest of the team aren't scrubs either. Colorado has been in the national consciousness the last few years given its Rocktober run in 2007 and another postseason appearance in 2009, but it hasn't been able to sustain that excellence.

TulowitzkiThat could be changing now that Gonzalez has fully matured into a middle-of-the-order hitter and have built out a rotation that should keep Colorado in the game. The Rockies are counting a bit on production from Ian Stewart at third and Chris Iannetta at catcher, but when you look at this team, it's a playoff-caliber club that should challenge the Giants in the NL West.

Unlike Colorado, however, there will also be those teams that crash and burn despite expectations. San Diego is widely expected to slide back, but expectations have also been adjusted due to trading Adrian Gonzalez. The one team that may not be able to live up to its billing is the Brewers.

Like Colorado, the star players are obvious -- Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder are the star names, but Ryan Braun and Shaun Marcum are no lightweights, either. The one area of concern in Milwaukee is the utter lack of depth which will end up a real problem if and when injuries strike. Look at what's happened to the rotation -- without Greinke to start the season, the club is going to have to trot out what will effectively be slop in the No. 5 spot. There's similar stories on offense with little help ready to step in and a complete punting of shortstop defense and center field offense.

The Brewers should finish .500, but they are a popular pick to win the World Series and it's difficult to envision them even making the playoffs unless everything goes right. The odds of that happening are as slim as Greinke accepting a trade back to the Royals.

13. Suffering in K.C ... plus optimism

"The day is darkest before dawn," or so goes the saying. That's certainly true in Kansas City, which will throw out a team capable of losing 100 games. But boasting the game's best farm system in a very long time is just the salve to ease the pain Royals fans will enjoy  watching Luke Hochevar function as the team's "ace."

The Royals have pared payroll, knowing it's pointless to try to pretend they can contend, plus the necessity to keep certain positions open for prospects that are nearing the majors. While Alcides Escobar will start the season in the majors, that won't be enough to excite the masses until the first wave of prospects hit, with Mike Moustakas likely to join the club in June or July.

Fans are going to have to sit through Jeff Francoeur flailing at pitches, Alex Gordon trying desperately to reverse his "bust" label and Jason Kendall struggling to take corporeal form ... but the picture only gets rosier, starting with 2012 where it's possible three of the most heralded prospects could break the year with the club, then an additional three hitting the majors at some point over the summer.

While watching the Royals, at least in the outset, will be an exercise in futility, by September, they may become the hot team to watch for the baseball fanatic.

14. Pirates finish last -- or will they?

The Pirates are poised to register their 19th consecutive losing season, but there is some optimism in Pittsburgh. The first wave of position player prospects have hit, and the club can point to Andrew McCutchen in center field, Jose Tabata in left, Neil Walker at second and Pedro Alvarez at third as reasons to be optimistic with the offense. There are some other intriguing pieces down on the farm offensively that could make an impact such as catcher Tony Sanchez, and with a strong year, outfielder Starling Marte could be knocking on the door.

The club is also building solid pitching depth, with Rudy Owens and Bryan Morris perhaps making their big-league debuts this season, although the cream of the crop in Jameson Taillon (the No. 2 overall pick behind Harper in last season's draft) and Stetson Allie are further away. While the team waits for Taillon and Allie, however, it could pluck Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 pick in June. Cole has been called by some as the "next Stephen Strasburg." Lofty expectations to be sure, but if Cole is picked and advances quickly, the Pirates could start doing some damage in several years.

In 2011, finishing under .500 is a virtual certainty. But will the Bucs finish in last place? It's possible they could pull out a fourth-place finish. It all depends how well the rotation performs and Alvarez, Tabata and Walker all adjust to a full year in the majors. The Astros may just have enough solid major-league talent to grab a fourth-place finish, but that's in doubt. Hey, any type of progress will be welcome in Pittsburgh.

15. Wild (card) about the postseason?

There seems to be overwhelming momentum toward expanding the playoffs with another wild card likely being added to the fray to battle the other wild-card winner in a best-of-3 series. That means that for the first time since 1995, the postseason would take on an entirely different complexion.

In 2010, the Yankees would have taken on the Chicago White Sox, while the Braves would have had to stave off the San Diego Padres, who lost the division by one game to the Giants.

The year prior, the Red Sox would battle the Rangers, giving the national audience a hint of what was to come in Texas while the NL would have pitted Colorado against the division-rival Giants. Assuming two wild cards can't come out of the same division, the Marlins would have drawn the honor.

Sounds like fun, right? Except that there would be no Game 163s anymore, so knock out the epic Tigers/Twins battle for the division in 2009. Likewise, the Rockies and Padres would never have played Game 163 in 2007.

Should the second wild card be added to the game, an NFL-style tiebreaker will most likely be used to determine outcomes when two teams tie for the wild card or division. On one hand, that's a bit disappointing, because Game 163s are tremendous fun. But on the other hand, that fun would simply be extended to the new wild-card playoff format and happen every year instead of having to wait for the occasional Game 163 scenario to roll around.

Either way, it would be a shocker if there wasn't a new playoff system in place for 2012.

And here's five more things that could happen this season ... 

Ramirez1. In the first game between the Red Sox and Rays, Manny Ramirez forgets he's on the Tampa Bay squad and runs on the field with the Red Sox to begin the game. He asks Crawford what he's doing in left field and why they are wearing opposite uniforms. Crawford tries to explain the situation, but ManRam simply shrugs and heads into the Green Monster.

2. Ozzie Guillen surprisingly releases a book about Jenks (remember when he said he could "write a book on the kid" in the offseason?), full of salacious details about Jenks' time in Chicago, including the revelation that Jenks ate a middle reliever during one game. In his first game against the White Sox in 2011, an enraged Jenks throws at the head of the first two batters, hitting them before Guillen comes out on the field to complain. Jenks then beans Guillen and the two brawl on the field, which leads to a multi-million dollar match between the two in UFC in which Jenks, who hired Mike Tyson as trainer, attempts to bite Guillen's ear off.

3. During one particularly heated Cincinnati-St. Louis matchup, the benches clear, and Johnny Gomes comes face to face with Adam Wainwright. Without a word exchanged, Gomes promptly delivers a crane kick to Waino. "First learn stand, then learn fly," Dusty Baker sagely observes.

4. Joe Maddon, who is already known for using uncommon words, takes things to a whole new level. Witness this quote: "David Price can unequivocally bung. How dexterous is the swain? He's as recherché as Sandy Koufax in his diurnal course." Good luck deciphering that.

5. Pujols announces the team he has chosen to sign with during the last homestand of the season -- against the Cubs on Sept. 25. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded, down three runs with a full count and the division title in the balance for the Cardinals, Pujols watches strike three right down the middle. As the crowd groans, Pujols rips open his jersey, revealing a Cubs home jersey underneath and dropkicks Tony La Russa as the announcers scream "NOOOOOOO!" And fade to black.

OK, so these five things won't happen, but one can dream. The rest you can expect.

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