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Tag:Scott Feldman
Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:07 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:21 am
 

Eye on Photos: Rangers win ALCS over Tigers



By Matt Snyder


The Texas Rangers have taken down the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, four games to two. They have now advanced to the World Series for the second straight season after having never gone before. Let's take a look at the series that was, in pictures.

Click on any photo below to enlarge.

Beautiful pre-game festivities for Game 1 in Texas. (Getty Images)
Tigers ace Justin Verlander discusses things with home plate umpire Tim Welke after allowing a Nelson Cruz home run. (Getty Images)
Game 1 had a few rain delays, which affected the work of both starting pitchers -- Verlander and C.J. Wilson. (Getty Images)
Neftali Feliz records the final out of Game 1. (Getty Images)
Game 2 was called well before the scheduled time due to expected inclement weather. Instead, it was sunny and the grounds crew even watered the field. (Getty Images)
Scott Feldman's effort out of the Texas bullpen in Game 2 was paramount to the Rangers victory. (Getty Images)
Wait, Nelson Cruz hit a home run? Really? (Getty Images)
Priceless shot of the Rangers' dugout immediately after the crack of the bat on Nelson Cruz's Game 2 walk-off grand slam. (Getty Images)
Cruz celebrates the big blow of the series as he approaches home plate. (Getty Images)
Doug Fister made sure this series wouldn't be a sweep with a huge effort in Game 3 for Detroit. (Getty Images)
Game 3 was rough for Adrian Beltre, as he just couldn't quit fouling the ball off himself. (Getty Images)
Close play, except the ball was jarred loose. (Getty Images)
Jose Valverde's subdued reaction -- for him -- to closing down Game 3. (Getty Images)
Yes, weather was a major player in this series. (Getty Images)
Believe it or not, this was a successful double-play turn by Ian Kinsler. (Getty Images)
Miguel Cabrera was thrown out by a country mile at home, and the ensuing collision with Mike Napoli was one of the more awkward ones we'll ever see. (Getty Images)
The biggest hit in Game 4? Why, a Nelson Cruz home run, of course. (Getty Images)
Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre share a laugh after Cabrera's grounder hit third base and jumped over Beltre's head for a go-ahead RBI double in Game 5. (Getty Images)
After Cabrera's double, Victor Martinez tripled as Cruz couldn't come up with a diving catch. (Getty Images)
And then Delmon Young put the game out of reach with a two-run homer. Wanna find the ball? Look at the red ad in the scoreboard, specifically the letter "f." (Getty Images)
Cabrera's solo homer drew first blood for the Tigers in Game 6. (Getty Images)
But the Rangers would go on to put nine runs on the board in the third inning alone to break the game wide open. (Getty Images)
Max Scherzer had two good innings in Game 6 before falling apart in the third. (Getty Images)
Josh Hamilton sacrifices his body in order to make a spectacular catch, ending the top of the fifth inning of Game 7. (Getty Images)
And then the first play of the bottom of the fifth showed the difference in the two ballclubs Saturday night. (Getty Images)
Really? Again? That's six home runs and 13 RBI in the series for Cruz. (Getty Images)


ALCS Coverage
Up next for the Rangers: Either the Cardinals or Brewers in the World Series. Due to the American League's All-Star Game loss, the Rangers won't have home-field advantage, despite having a better regular-season record than St. Louis and being tied with Milwaukee. Of course, Rangers' ace C.J. Wilson was the losing pitcher in that All-Star Game by virtue of allowing a three-run home run to Milwaukee's Prince Fielder.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:47 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:12 pm
 

Cruz heroics send Texas to ALCS Game 2 win



By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers won Game 2, 7-3. The series is now in the Rangers' favor, 2-0.

Hero: With the first pitch of the ninth inning, Adrian Beltre bombed a double that came close to being a walkoff. Following a Mike Napoli intentional walk, Nelson Cruz was plunked to load the bases with zero out.  One would imagine that left plenty of chances for the Rangers to walkoff, but the bottom two hitters in the lineup couldn't come through. A David Murphy flyout followed by a 3-2-3 double play by Mitch Moreland left Texas scoreless. A similar opportunity awaited in the 11th with the bases loaded and no out, but this time, Nelson Cruz made sure the Rangers scored, ripping a grand slam.

It was Cruz's second homer of the game and third extra-base hit of the game, the sixth straight ALCS game he has recorded at least one extra-base hit and the eighth straight he's collected a hit. "First two pitches, I was too aggressive," Cruz said after the game. "I hit the ball, foul ball, foul ball. So after that, I told myself, ' just slow down and try to hit a fly ball to the outfield.'"

The grand slam was all that much more impressive given the scary hit-by-pitch he suffered in the bottom of the ninth inning, collapsing to the ground in pain as the throats of each Rangers fan clenched. "He was scared," manager Ron Washington admitted. "It was black and blue ... but after the doctor checked him and told him he was fine, then Nelson got up."

Cruz's walkoff was not only the first in franchise postseaosn history, but the first walk-off grand slam in the postseason. However, Cruz brushed that accomplishment aside.

"It's special, you know. When you get a chance to get a W, that's the most important thing."

Goat:
Don Kelly was just 4-for-21 against left-handers and was pinch-hitting in a big spot in place of Delmon Young in the ninth inning. Manager Ron Washington of Texas was apparently so intimidated, he yanked Alexi Ogando, who was spinning a beaut in relief, per usual, for lefty Mike Gonzalez. The move backfired, as Kelly ripped a double that should have scored Ramon Santiago from first, but Santiago has no type of wheels. Still, it was a clutch hit but the Tigers couldn't make it pay off after a Miguel Cabrera intentional walk led to a Victor Martinez pop-out to short in shallow left-center.

Turning point: Max Scherzer had settled into a groove and kept the Rangers in check after pitching in and out of trouble to start the game. With his night nearing an end, manager Jim Leyland tried to squeeze one more inning out of the righty. However, Nelson Cruz had other things in mind leading off the seventh, crushing a fastball into left field for his second homer of the postseason, the first coming in Game 1. Cruz also added a double earlier in the game, extending his ALCS hitting streak to eight and ALCS extra-base hit streak to five. He leads all Rangers in postseason homers with eight. The solo blast tied the ballgame at 3-3 and made it anyone's game.

It was over when ...  The Rangers got the 11th inning started with a Michael Young single, and from there it was all over for the Tigers.

Next: Game 3 is in Detroit at 8:05 p.m. ET. Colby Lewis will go for Texas while Detroit counters with Doug Fister.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Posted on: October 10, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 5:59 pm
 

Inconsistent Holland can't last three innings

Holland

By Evan Brunell


The story around Derek Holland has been the same for quite some time now: Worlds of potential, but too much inconsistency holding him back. On Monday, Holland became the first starter in franchise postseason history to walk at least four batters in less than three innings.

It looked as if Holland might have turned a corner with a strong second half, then bouncing back after a poor first against the Rays in Game 2 to turn in a quality outing. But the wheels completely came off in ALCS Game 2, when Holland was knocked out of the game after just 2 2/3 innings, having walked four and giving up three runs on a three-run bomb by Ryan Raburn to give Detroit a 3-2 lead.

Holland threw 76 pitches, just 45 for strikes. Sixty-one of his pitches were fastballs, good enough for an eye-popping 80 percent after relying on the heater just 66.1 percent of the time in the postseason. Much of his pitches were left up in the zone, and while he was able to dance in and out of trouble for two innings, he finally got burned when Raburn took him deep into the left-field stands. Interestingly, Holland threw five breaking pitches to Victor Martinez out of 15, which may indicate a game-plan of sorts, although Martinez hit off-speed pitches just as well as fastballs in season.

After today's peformance, Texas has to think long and hard about turning back to Holland for a potential Game 6, which could mean the difference between glory or a second straight year of disappointment. Depending on how Scott Feldman fares in relief of Holland -- and at the time of this writing, he's notched four straight outs -- Feldman could be the man to throw a potential Game 6.

Follow the game live on CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 2:30 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Webb's (lack of) velocity a serious issue

By Matt Snyder

In this morning's Pepper , I passed along that Rangers' starting pitcher Brandon Webb threw two perfect innings in extended spring training. At the time, that was all the information that was at my disposal. After reading the report filed by Jason Grey of ESPN.com, there's definite reason to believe Webb isn't anywhere near being ready to return.

The reason is that his fastball is dangerously slow. Meaning, it's a high-school level velocity. He threw 12 fastballs, and Grey had Webb clocked at 84 one time. That was his fastest pitch. Everything else sat between 78-82 mph. Yes, he was throwing a fastball only 78 miles per hour.

For what it's worth, Webb still feels like he's going to get close to where he was before all his arm issues.

"[Pitching coordinator Keith Comstock] feels like there's more clicks in there, and I do too. I feel like there's definitely some more in there. I'm not too far off. 84 is a little low. When I was good I was probably 86-89, topping at 90 or so. If I can get back to 86-88 I think I'll be all right," Webb told Grey. (ESPN Insider )

Webb also told Grey he was "letting it go" and not holding back on his fastballs. So that's definitely a problem.

In terms of getting back to the bigs, the team Webb plays for is as much a problem as his velocity. The Rangers have gotten solid starting pitching, with a 3.56 ERA that ranks them third in starting ERA in the AL. With Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson firmly entrenched in the rotation, Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison going lights out, Derek Holland having a decent start and the impending returns of Tommy Hunter and Scott Feldman, there isn't exactly a pressing need for starting pitching. And with the Rangers figuring to be in the thick of the AL West race all season, there's no reason to rush anyone -- and the club certainly won't be throwing anyone out there who can't break 85 with a fastball.

At this point, I'd be shocked to see Webb on the Rangers before August and wouldn't even be surprised if he fails to make it the entire season. It's sad how quickly an arm injury has derailed his once-stellar career, but it appears to be the sobering reality -- no matter how optimistic Webb continues to remain.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: April 26, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 4:36 pm
 

Pepper: Contentious homecoming



By Matt Snyder


Lance Berkman played in parts of 12 seasons for the Houston Astros. When he joined, he was the new member of the "Killer B's," along with Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. He was a five-time All-Star and finished in the top five of MVP voting four times. The Astros' career leaderboard is peppered with Berkman's name. He's first in OBP, second in slugging, fourth in batting average and second in OPS. Only Biggio, Bagwell and Jose Cruz played more games for the club. He ranks third in runs, fifth in hits, third in doubles, second in home runs and third in RBI.

Or, put more succinctly: Lance Berkman is one of the greatest Houston Astros of all time.

But things aren't exactly peachy now. Berkman was having the worst season of his career in 2010 -- still a 122 OPS-plus, by the way -- before being dealt to the Yankees. Now, Berkman is playing for Houston rival St. Louis.

As a Cardinal, he's back to his old mashing ways. He's Big Puma again, hitting .377 with a 1.173 OPS, six home runs, 15 RBI and 19 runs through 19 games. He leads the NL with a .725 slugging percentage.

The big start drew the ire of a Houston-area sportscaster, who suggested Berkman didn't work hard his "last few years" for the Astros and now he was back in shape. (Eye on Baseball )

Tuesday night, the Cardinals visit the Astros at Minute Maid Park for the start of a three-game series. Needless to say, Berkman isn't exactly looking forward to it.

"I'm not crazy about going back in there. I felt like I've kind of turned the page and part of me just wants to be done with it. But I know I'm going to have to go back in there and face a lot of questions."

"I guess it's inevitable. When I signed here, I knew we were going to go in there three times, so I'm ready to go and to get all the hoopla, if there is going to be any, out of the way." (stltoday.com )

For whatever it's worth, Berkman did note he's in better shape, though he pointed out it was because his knees are finally healthy again.

It's certainly going to be interesting to see what kind of reception he receives and how he plays.

BASEBALL TODAY: Will Andre Ethier extend his hitting streak tonight? Will Roy Oswalt and Aaron Harang remain unbeaten? C. Trent Rosecrans joins Lauren Shehadi to answer those questions and more.

FEAST OR FAMINE GUYS: When you think of guys who either hit home runs or strikeout -- the Rob Deer All-Stars, if you will -- the names Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn are among those who come to mind. Carlos Pena, too, though he has been only famine thus far in 2011. Who are the ultimate feast or famine guys in the young season this time around? Beyond the Box Score took a look at the guys who are striking out or collecting extra base hits at the highest percentage. At the top? Jorge Posada, Kevin Youkilis and then ... Reynolds.

Rangers ROTATION UPDATE: The Texas Rangers have gotten pretty good starting pitching this season, other than from Colby Lewis -- who certainly isn't going to be removed from the rotation. Thus, they're pretty close to having an embarrassment of riches. Brandon Webb threw two hitless innings at an extended spring training game Monday. Scott Feldman is slated to throw three innings in extended spring training Thursday, while Tommy Hunter is going to throw in an extended spring game Saturday. Collectively, the Rangers' starters have a 3.56 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 103 strikeouts to 43 walks. The one expected to lose his rotation spot when someone comes back from injury is Alexi Ogando -- the guy who is 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA and astounding 0.79 WHIP. So are the Rangers going to remove him? Or Matt Harrison (3-1, 1.88, 0.94)? Or Derek Holland, C.J. Wilson or Lewis? It's quite a log-jam, once Webb, Hunter and Feldman return, particularly if Harrison and Ogando continue to throw the ball well. (Star-Telegram )

VOTE OF CONFIDENCE FOR OZZIE: On the heels of a 1-10 stretch, the White Sox got a close win Monday night in Yankee Stadium. It had to partially lift a big weight off their collective chests. Still, Guillen had recently put a target squarely on his own back, by saying if anyone should get canned, it should be himself. It was a noble move by Guillen, playing shield for his hitting and pitching coaches. Regardless, general manager Kenny Williams has now said it wasn't necessary. "The coaching staff is not throwing the baseball and not hitting the baseball," Williams said. "They’re doing what they’ve always done." (Chicago Sun-Times )

Mariners FUTILITY: The always-solid Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times discusses how bad the Mariners' offense is, and why it's going to get even worse. In fact, he argues there's a legitimate shot they'll score even fewer than last season's record-low 513 runs.

JAPANESE CONNECTION: Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki go back a long way. In fact, they first met in high school when Matsui committed a breach in bathing etiquette -- and Ichiro questioned him about it a decade later. Yes, seriously. There's a lot more in there about the relationship between the two, and it's definitely worth a read. (ESPN's West Coast Bias )

LA RUSSA IN OAKLAND: No, not Tony. His daughter, Bianca, has made the Raiders' cheerleading squad for the upcoming NFL season. (Shutdown Corner )

MANNY IN HIGH SCHOOL: Manny Ramirez hit .650 with 14 home runs in 22 games his senior year in high school. Oh, and check out this description of him in high school: "He was the shy, happy-go-lucky boy with the perfect swing who everyone knew was going to the major leagues. The boy who loved to hit more than anything else. The boy who worked harder than anyone else. The baby-faced boy who never drank anything stronger than the nonalcoholic Puerto Rican eggnog from the corner bodega he chugged to bulk up." The writer begs the question, which is the real Manny? An interesting quandry. (New York Times )

HEAT MAPS: NESN is using heat maps for Red Sox's broadcasts. I like the general idea, but there are a million possible variations. What would be best? Personally I'd want OPS by pitch location. (Baseball Analytics )

ATTENDANCE WOES: We're going to hear about this all season if things don't significantly pick up during the summer when the weather gets better. Yahoo! columnist Jeff Passan writes about how bad it looks for several teams and the league as a whole. A lot of numbers look really bad, but it's important to note the drop across the entire league through April 24 was only 1.77 percent. You could easily use the economy and some pretty awful weather to account for that. I'll stick with that for now. Let's revisit the topic in late July. Now, if you're down more than 20 percent (like the Rays and Mariners are), that's a problem. A big one.

A VISITOR'S TOUR OF WRIGLEY: page/COL">Rockies%3A+Blog%29" target="_blank">Troy Renck of the Denver Post took video to give fans a tour of the visitor's dugout at the historic Wrigley Field. Obviously I'd much rather experience things of this nature in person, but for now this'll do.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:50 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 8:40 pm
 

Feliz to close; rotation fallout in Texas

By Evan Brunell

FelizOn Wednesday, the Rangers will throw Neftali Feliz into a spring training game expecting three innings out of the hurler. However, Feliz won't be putting in his work at the start of the game as is common for those who aspire to make the starting rotation. Instead, Feliz will be covering the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Why is that?

"I don't think I have to tell you why we're doing that," manager Ron Washington told MLB.com.

And so comes to a close -- well, almost -- on the experiment to make Feliz (pictured) a starter. While nothing is official, all signs are pointing to the AL Rookie of the Year continuing in the role that saw him nail down 40 saves in Texas' run to the AL pennant last season. While Feliz was open to returning to the rotation, he made clear to team president Nolan Ryan and the media that he was simply more comfortable remaining as closer simply due to his familiarity with the role. While Feliz came up through the minors as a starter, his success at the major league level has been out of the bullpen and he has certainly delivered. But Feliz will continue to pitch multiple innings in spring training to work on his slider and changeup in an attempt to diversify beyond simply a wicked fastball.

"We're going to keep him stretched out so he can use all his pitches," Washington said.

Meanwhile, the absence of Feliz means there are now seven candidates for three spots in the rotation, and that's not even counting the injured Scott Feldman and Brandon Webb. Feldman had surgery in the offseason to repair a microfracture in his right knee but is not expected to be ready to pitch at the major league level until well into May, if not longer. Webb, meanwhile, has a rotation spot waiting for him but the Rangers feel the former Cy Young Award winner won't be ready for Opening Day.

"He's progressing," Washington said. "That's a good step forward. We went from long toss to bullpen to throwing live BP. Depending on how that goes, we'll set a plan from there."

Even if Webb isn't ready when time to line up along the foul lines and be introduced to the crowds, he shouldn't be that far behind, which only puts added pressure on the other candidates to step up their game.

Of the remaining candidates, top prospect Tanner Scheppers (ranked No 77. on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects) profiles as a reliever long-term and is currently battling back stiffness, while Feliz's compatriot in the bullpen, Alexi Ogando, is gamely trying to win a rotation spot but is likely to return to his setup role. Dave Bush, the former Brewer, is in camp hoping for a rotation spot along with prospect Michael Kirkman, a lefty who had 14 relief appearances for Texas last season and could reprise that role in 2011.

Related

Tommy Hunter appears to be the one candidate with the best shot at a gig as he posted a 3.73 ERA (4.70 xFIP) in 128 innings over 22 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen. Hunter also posted similar statistics in his 19-start stint with the Rangers in 2009. 

The other favorites are Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. Holland is a former top prospect who has not yet locked down a permanent spot in the rotation but could be the club's best pitcher by year's end. The 24-year-old had a 4.08 ERA (4.40 xFIP) in 10 starts and four relief appearances for the Rangers and also appeared on the postseason roster along with Hunter. The lefty will start Wednesday in Feliz's place.

Harrison, meanwhile, has impressed early in camp. However, his peripherals don't come close to what Holland can put up and the club used him almost exclusively in relief last season with six starts and 31 bullpen appearances.

One has to imagine that Hunter and Holland will occupy the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the rotation, respectively, with Bush and Harrison battling for the final spot that will eventually be turned over to Webb. There is also thought to be a long-relief spot available which could go to the loser of the rotation sweepstakes.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 

Posted on: January 28, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Berkman bashes Rangers as 'average' team

BerkmanLance Berkman took to the airwaves Thursday, speaking on 1560 AM in Houston to explain why he chose the Cardinals over the Rangers when inking a contract. The 35-year-old opted for a one-year, $8 million pact with St. Louis to play right field as opposed to DHing and playing some outfield and first base for the Rangers.

So, why the Cardinals over the defending American League champions?

"I felt like if they didn't re-sign Cliff Lee that they were going to be an average team and I feel that's probably what's going to end up happening," Berkman said Thursday via ESPN.com. Berkman faced the Rangers in the ALCS as a member of the Yankees after coming over from the Houston Astros, where he had the best years of his career. "It's all about your pitching. I feel like last year was one of those special years where you kind of catch lightning in a bottle and they got hot and they had some guys that I felt like were pitching better than their talent level and consequently they had a great year."

Is Berkman just jealous that the Yankees fell to the Rangers?

 

Texas finished 2010 fifth overall in runs scored with 567 and followed that up with 636 runs allowed (not including unearned runs), good for 10th in all of baseball. That's pretty impressive for a squad known more for hitting than pitching. While Cliff Lee fronted the rotation, the other contributors were C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis, also getting starts from Tommy Hunter, Scott Feldman and Derek Holland among others.

Wilson had a successful conversion to the rotation after spending four years as a full-time reliever. He finished with a 3.35 ERA in 204 innings pitched and while he did pitch over his head according to his 4.20 xFIP, he also showed he's for real and can be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Wilson was backed up by Colby Lewis, a failed MLB starter who went to Japan, discovered how to pitch and returned to his old stomping grounds of Texas to post a 3.72 ERA in 201 innings -- and he looks for real.

It's behind the two pitchers where Texas may scrap. Scott Feldman did go 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA for Texas in 2009, but followed that up with a 5.48 ERA stinker in 22 starts and seven relief appearances. The jury is out on just what Feldman can provide, while Hunter threw together a 3.73 ERA in 22 starts. It's difficult to imagine Hunter as anything more than a No. 4 starter with a 4.50 ERA. But the saving grace could come from Derek Holland, just 24 and who contributed a 4.08 ERA in 10 starts and four relief appearances.

It's definitely a rotation with a lot of questions, but the Rangers have to feel confident going into the season that their offense, supplemented by new third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli can carry the load until the Rangers see how the rotation shakes out.

That doesn't mean to say Berkman is a Rangers hater. He cited that the opportunity to stay in his home state of Texas, playing in a park conducive to offense and knowing Nolan Ryan and bench coach Jake Moore as what drew him to Texas as an option -- until he looked closer.

Meanwhile, Wilson fired back on ESPN 103.3 FM in Dallas Friday.

"I think it's funny," Wilson said. "He was contemplating retirement, so I'm not going to take anything too seriously. I'm not going to get offended by anything he says. If that's a representative idea of what people around the league think, that's better for us because they're going to do the same thing and they're going to not take us seriously. If we end up stomping through the playoffs again, everyone will be like, 'Wow, what a bummer.' "

Wilson also addressed comments Berkman made about Adrian Beltre, whom Texas signed to a five-year, $80 million deal that has an option for another $16 million that should be easily exercised.

 

"They were itching to spend some money," Berkman said of acquiring Beltre. "I probably could have gotten the best deal out of them, especially in light of what they gave Adrian Beltre, which I think is pretty much of a reach for him."

Wilson begs to differ -- as he should, as Beltre should steal away some hits and turn them into outs.

 

 "Adrian Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in baseball, and he's a pretty good hitter as well," Wilson said. "I don't know if anyone knows he hit .340 last year, which is definitely better than .220. I'm pretty stoked about having him on my team."

For the record, Beltre hit .321 in what was one of the best seasons of his career, and Berkman hit .248. While Beltre was likely playing over his head, his defense is invaluable and should do well in the home park of the Rangers. Meanwhile, Berkman is struggling to avoid retirement.

"We have a lot of pride on our team," Wilson added. "We're very proud of what we've turned our team into. It's about the players and what we've done on the field. We've gotten better. Now the organization is somewhere and we have direction.

"If someone is going to slam us, that's going to be something. ... You hold little grudges like that. I hope the fans understand and when Lance comes to play at some point in Texas, I hope our fans boo."

The booing will have to wait, as the Cardinals are not slated to visit Texas in 2011.

 

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: January 17, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Who can win the AL West?

CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler took a look at the Athletics and whether the club can be contenders in the AL West after importing Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes to bolster the bullpen.

The answer? Oakland is close to contention, but isn't quite there.

A bullpen that ranks as one of the five best entering spring training will pair with a young, dynamic rotation and improved offense with the additions of David DeJesus and Josh Willingham -- even if the offense may still fall short of being taken seriously. Oakland is beginning to emerge as a popular sleeper pick and should be in the thick of the race, but how do the other teams in the division stack up?

Seattle Mariners

BradleyThe Mariners have been quiet this offseason with minimal money to spare. The only significant acquisition the club made was importing Miguel Olivo to catch, although Jack Cust was also added to the team and should get some at-bats at DH.

The Mariners will be banking on bounceback years from Milton Bradley (pictured) and Chone Figgins as well as Erik Bedard staying healthy for a full season out of the rotation. Seattle is in a retooling process with Justin Smoak at first and rookie Dustin Ackley eventually taking over second base. The only chance they have of being relevant in the division late in the year is playing a spoiler role.

Los Angeles Angels

DownsThe Angels' offseason has been nothing short of awful, whiffing on every premier free agent after owner Arte Moreno declared they would be heavy players. Carl Crawford landed in Boston while the club dragged its feet on Adrian Beltre and saw him wind up in Texas. Now, the Angels have a roster eerily similar to the one that finished 80-82.

Oh, excuse me -- they signed lefties Scott Downs (pictured) and Hisanori Takahashi to pitch out of the bullpen. That's not nearly enough to change this team's prognosis as a .500 team. Kendry Morales returning to first base will do a lot, but this is a team on paper that will need a whole lot of luck to hang with Texas and Oakland.

Texas Rangers

BeltreThe reigning AL champions may have lost Cliff Lee, but they made up for it by adding Adrian Beltre to man third. In one fell swoop, they significantly upgraded the infield defense (which the pitchers will certainly appreciate) and ensured their offense wouldn't take a hit with Vladimir Guerrero's foray into free agency. No, Cliff Lee is no longer a Ranger and the rotation looks a bit suspect, but they are still a cut above any other team.

What Texas needs to happen in the rotation is for C.J. Wilson to prove he wasn't a fluke in a successful conversion from reliever, for Tommy Hunter to emerge as an innings-eating stalwart in the middle of the rotation and for Colby Lewis to continue his successful return from Japan. The Rangers need Scott Feldman to bounce back from a 7-11, 5.48 ERA year and return to his 17-8, 4.08 mark from 2009 and for Brandon Webb to finally brush off the injuries that have plagued him the past two seasons in order to round out the rotation.

The Rangers should be able to win the division, but Oakland could push them especially if the Rangers' rotation falls apart. It's difficult to envision the Angels as a factor -- too much has to go right -- and the Mariners aren't close to contending.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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