Tag:Derrek Lee
Posted on: March 29, 2011 9:05 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Who will play their final game in 2011?

Chipper Jones

By C. Trent Rosecrans

As we look forward to the 2011 season, we look at some of the players that might be entering their final season in big-league baseball. Few of these players are likely thinking about retirement now -- and some may not be thinking about calling it a career when the season ends.

Players can choose retirement and others will find retirement chooses them. Here's a look at some of the bigger names that could be entering their final season.

Carlos Beltran
Age: 34 on April 24
2010 stats: .255/.341/.427, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 3 SB
2011 role: Since playing 161 games in 2008, Beltran played 145 combined the last two seasons. 
Contract status: Final year of a seven-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. Beltran still wants to play and still thinks he can. He's the type who will play until he's physically unable to continue. That's probably not as far away as he thinks, and he may not get to make his own decision to retire. Injuries have slowed him the last couple of years and it's tough to see him returning to his former heights. 

Lance BerkmanLance Berkman
Age: 35
2010 stats: .248/.368/.413, 14 HR, 58 RBI
2011 role: Not only will Berkman be a regular, but he's going to be the Cardinals' regular right fielder. He hasn't played a full season in the outfield since 2004. He played 49 games in the outfield in 2005, 44 in '06 and 31 in '07, but none in the past three seasons. He was limited to 17 games this spring and hit .189/.204/.264 with one homer.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Iffy. He's one of those guys who will get another chance no matter how 2011 goes, but would his pride keep him from being just another guy or could he welcome a reduced role somewhere?

Mark Buehrle
Age: 32
2010 stats: 13-13, 4.28 ERA, 99 K, 210 1/3 IP
2011 role: For the ninth consecutive year, Buehrle will start for the White Sox on opening day. He's expected to anchor the rotation and help lead Chicago into the playoffs.
Contract status: Final year of a four-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: 50/50. Buehrle seems to have plenty left in the tank, but has talked openly -- and often -- about retiring after this season. He's also mentioned wanting to be closer to home and may compromise by signing with the Cardinals.

Johnny Damon
Age: 37
2010 stats: .271/.355/.401, 8 HR, 51 RBI, 11 SB
2011 role: He'll be the team's everyday left fielder, replacing Carl Crawford. That'll be a definite step down offensively and defensively, but he could  still help the Rays score some runs.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. Damon has 2,571 hits and would likely need two more years past this season to get to 3,000. The desire is there, but will anyone take him? His chances hinge on how he performs this season.

Vladimir Guerrero
Age: 36
2010 stats: .300/.345/.496, 29 HR, 115 RBI
2011 role: Guerrero will be the Orioles' everyday designated hitter.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. Guerrero certainly looked old and his bat looked slow last fall, but he was a big reason the Rangers were in the playoffs. His spring numbers have done nothing to dismiss the notion that he can still compete. He hit .365/.358/.635 with five homers for his new team. Guerrero was the one aging designated hitter that received a contract close to his last one.  

Derrek Lee
Age: 35
2010 stats: .260/.347/.428, 19 HR, 80 RBI
2011 role: He's expected to be the Orioles' first baseman, but injury concerns may throw a wrench in those plans.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: 50/50. Lee didn't play in an exhibition game until March 19 because of his wrist. Then he fouled a ball off his foot in his first game back, which limited his play. He managed to get in just eight games this spring. If healthy, Lee can still play. But if he's not, he may just decide it's not worth it and return home to California to be with his family. 

Chipper Jones
Age: 39 on April 24
2010 stats: .265/.381/.426, 10 HR, 46 RBI
2011 role: Braves' everyday third baseman. He had a great spring, hitting .407/.453/.746 with four home runs in 20 games, a good sign for his comeback from knee surgery.
Contract status: Signed through the 2012 season, with a club option for 2013.
Probability he hangs 'em up: High. Jones talked about retiring last season, but came back when he couldn't finish under his own terms. 

Hideki MatsuiHideki Matsui
Age: 36
2010 stats: .274/.361/.459, 21 HR, 84 RBI
2011 role: A's everyday DH. The A's will be happy if Matsui can replicate his 2010 numbers with the Angels, but he's hitting in a worse park with fewer offensive weapons around him. Matsui had a rough spring -- .125/.246/.179 with one homer through Monday -- and if that continues through the season, it could by sayonara.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal. Probability he hangs 'em up: Good. Matsui's been playing professionally since 1993 when he debuted at age 19 with the Yomiuri Giants. Matsui is now limited to DH and the market wasn't too hot for him this offseason, so a down year could mean there may be nowhere to go but home.

Roy Oswalt
Age: 33
2010 stats: 13-13, 2.76 ERA, 193 K, 211 2/3 IP
2011 role: Oswalt will take the ball every fifth day in what could be the best rotation since the advent of the five-man rotation -- or at least since the Braves of the early-to-mid 90s. Oswalt seemed energized by his trade out of Houston to Philadelphia before last year's deadline, going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in the regular season with the Phillies. He also pitched well in two starts and a relief appearance in the NLDS against the Giants.
Contract status: Final year of a five-year deal, but the Phillies have a $16 million option with a $2 million buyout.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. Oswalt's talked about retirement, but he's still very much a good pitcher and seems to have several good years ahead of him and a lot of money to be made.

Manny Ramirez
Age: 39 on May 30
2010 stats: .298/.409/.460, 9 HR, 42 RBI
2011 role: Ramirez will be the team's everyday DH. Ramirez and Damon are being counted on to help make up for the loss of Crawford and Carlos Pena
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: 50/50. Ramirez seems like he'll keep taking his show on the road until nobody wants him anymore. The fact that he's getting just $2 million this season tells you he wasn't wanted by many. His act has worn thin, but if he bounces back and hits like he can, someone will want him.

Mariano Rivera
Age: 41
2010 stats: 3-3, 1.80 ERA, 33 saves
2011 role: Rivera is expected to still be the best reliever in baseball history.
Contract status: First year of a two-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. He's 41, and that seems old. But tell that to any of the batters who face him. If he had signed a one-year deal this offseason, I could see him retiring after this season, but the two-year deal makes sense for both him and the team. He's 41 saves shy of 600 and 43 from overtaking Trevor Hoffman as the all-time leader.

Jim ThomeJim Thome
Age: 40
2010 stats: .283/.412/.627, 25 HR, 59 RBI
2011 role: A platoon/reserve DH for the Twins with Jason Kubel. Thome had the same type of role at the beginning of 2010 and became more of a regular after Justin Morneau's concussion. Thome is still dangerous against right-handed pitchers, but struggles against lefties.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Good. By the end of the season, Thome will be 41 and will likely hit all the milestones -- he has 589 homers -- he can before the end of his career.

Chase Utley
Age: 32
2010 stats: .275/.387/.445, 16 HR, 65 RBI
2011 role: Ideally he'd be playing second base every day for the Phillies, but who knows when he'll be ready?
Contract status: Signed through 2013.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. But injuries haven't been kind to Utley. He doesn't want to retire anytime soon, but it may not end up being his decision.

Omar Vizquel
Age: 44 on April 24
2010 stats: .276/.341/.331, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 11 SB
2011 role: He will once again be a utility infielder for the White Sox. He received more playing time than expected last season due to others' injuries, playing in 108 games for Chicago.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: High. Although, with another year he has an outside shot at 3,000 hits. He enters 2011 with 2,799 hits, but it has taken him three seasons to get his last 201 hits. It seems difficult to believe he could play until he's 46 and keep that level of production. However, if he did get to the magic 3,000, it would cement his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Tim WakefieldTim Wakefield
Age: 44
2010 stats: 4-10, 5.34 ERA, 84 K, 140 IP
2011 role: Long reliever/emergency starter. It's the same role Wakefield was asked to play last season when he bristled at being taken out of the rotation. A knuckleballer is a tough pitcher to manage out of the 'pen, there's too much uncertainty in the pitch to use him as a late-inning reliever, but he doesn't fit into the rotation anymore and the team can still use him.
Contract status: Final year of a two-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: High. Wakefield will be 45 at the end of the season and his role as a reliever isn't well-suited for the knuckleballer.

Kerry Wood
Age: 33
2010 stats: 3-4, 3.13 ERA, 8 saves
2011 role: Wood will be the main set-up man to closer Carlos Marmol. He thrived as a set-up man with the Yankees last season. 
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: 50/50. Wood still has plenty in the tank, especially if he doesn't have to be a closer anymore. He's seemed to embrace the elder statesman role with the Cubs and could still be an effective reliever for several years. He's considered retirement in the past and has already been told he has a job with the Cubs whenever he does hang them up.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Posted on: March 29, 2011 9:05 pm
This entry has been removed by the administrator.

Post Deleted by Administrator

This message has been removed by the administrator.

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.

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

Posted on: March 19, 2011 8:21 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/19: Say goodbye to Oliver



By Matt Snyder


3 DOWN

Oliver Perez, Mets. The much-maligned lefty has been a huge talking point all spring for Mets fans and scribes alike. Will the Mets simply cut their losses and eat the remainder of his contract -- which is one year and $12 million? They are already eating $6 million after dismissing Luis Castillo. Saturday, Perez probably put the nail in his own proverbial coffin. He entered the game in the seventh inning and coughed up back-to-back jacks after inheriting two runners. Reports have the Mets cutting ties with him as early as Sunday.

Cole Hamels, Phillies. For the second-straight outing, Hamels was torched. He allowed seven hits, five earned runs and three walks in 3 2/3 innings. He did strike out five.

Jason Marquis, Nationals. Not to be outdone by his fellow NL East bretheren, Marquis served up nine hits, six earned runs and three walks in 3 2/3 innings to the Mets. Despite Perez's best efforts to let the Nats back in the game, Marquis still took the loss -- as if that really matters in the spring.

3 UP

Derrek Lee, Orioles. He took a walk and scored a run in two plate appearances. His other was a strikeout, but the main thing was the veteran first baseman played for the first time this spring and reported afterward he was pain-free.

Trevor Cahill, A's. He had struggled thus far in the spring, but not Saturday. Cahill worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing only four hits and one earned run. He struck out three.

Travis Wood, Reds. At the same time Johnny Cueto was leaving a game injured, Wood was making a strong case to make the Reds' rotation even if Cueto is completely healthy. He was straight dominant through four shutout innings, and finished with four hits, one earned run and four strikeouts in five innings. He did seem to tire a bit in the fifth, but we're still a few starts away from the regular season. He'll get there.

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

 

More MLB coverage
Posted on: March 8, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 5:43 pm
 

D-Lee to see hand specialist

Derrek LeeBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Derrek Lee still hasn't played for the Orioles and will see a specialist today in Sarasota, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said on Tuesday.

Showalter added that Lee playing in a Grapefruit League game "is not imminent" because of his right wrist injury.

Lee hit off a tee on Tuesday and has taken live batting practice this spring, but still hasn't played in a game.

"It's nothing to the [thumb] surgery side, that feels great," Showalter said (via the Baltimore Sun). "I don't want to say tendonitis until they diagnose it. He's going to see a specialist in Sarasota just to make sure we know what we are dealing with."

Showalter said he's not concerned.

"We're OK," he said. "I really like the fact the actual surgery and all that feels real good. This is something a little different."

UPDATE: Lee will undergo an MRI tomorrow, but team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens tells the club he believes the tendinitis is just from the resumption of baseball activities after thumb surgery. (Baltimore Sun)

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

More MLB coverage
Posted on: March 8, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 11:09 am
 

Pepper: Paging Dr. Zambrano

Carlos Silva

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Either it's crazy or it makes perfect sense. And, in an upset, I'm going with the latter. 

After his second rough outing of the spring, Cubs starter Carlos Silva went to Carlos Zambrano for help.

Silva allowed 10 hits and eight runs in 2 1/3 innings on Monday, and his first instinct was to turn to his countryman.

"Right after I finished pitching, I texted Zambrano, and I was telling him, 'Man, I don't know what's going on,'" Silva told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. "What he told me in the text was, 'You just need to forget everything, go out there and pitch and do your thing. You know how to pitch, you did it before, so why can't you do it again.' It's true."

Silva was still frustrated, but he held back and punches this time, so there's progress.

It may seem crazy to go to Zambrano, but there are few people out there more uniquely suited to help Silva than his fellow Carlos. Both are from Venezuela, both have had trouble living up to high expectations and big contracts and both have had incidents with teammates in the dugout. But Zambrano has, at least in the last couple of months, shown signs of bouncing back. He's undergone anger management and worked hard just to get back into the Cub uniform. Sometimes when you're struggling, you just need to hear from someone who has been there. If anyone can find the right words for the talented Silva, it just may be Zambrano. And for now, it doesn't seem like it could hurt.

REMEMBERING CHRISTINA: The White Sox and Diamondbacks played an exhibition in Tucson on Monday to raise money on behalf of shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green.

Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan was there and passes on the moving story.

HAIRY BIRDS: Facial hair fans, it's time to celebrate -- the Orioles are relaxing their ban on the most manly of expressions, in response to Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero desires to wear goatees.

Luke Scott and Nick Markakis are taking advantage of the new rules, as well. (Baltimore Sun)

CONFUSING CONCUSSIONS: Sometimes there's a story that just grabs me and I read everything that comes along about it. For the last couple of years for me, that's been concussions in sports.

The New York Times looks at how no two concussions are alike, using the examples of Justin Morneau and Josh Beckett.

While Beckett bounced back from his concussion last week, Morneau still isn't back.

NAME GAME: Looking for some puny fantasy baseball names? The Orange County Register has you covered, if just for its several Shin-Soo Choo puns. I'm one of those people that have the same name every year since I've been playing -- Royal Disappointment. And I've yet to not live up to my name.

LONEY RETURNS: James Loney was back on the field Monday after missing two days with a swollen left knee. He didn't play in the Dodgers' game, but could return to the lineup by Wednesday, manager Don Mattingly said. (MLB.com)

UTLEY TO OF? Phillies senior adviser Dallas Green thinks it might be wise to move Chase Utley from second base to help save his knees. The Philadelphia Daily News' Paul Hagan disagrees.

GOOD IMPRESSION: If you haven't heard of the Braves' Julio Teheran yet, you will. The top pitching prospect in baseball made his first appearance in a Grapefruit League game yesterday and hit 96 in a scoreless inning of work. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

HOT TICKET: The Marlins have sold out the Diamond Club section of their new ballpark for next season. Now, that's just 379 seats, but they're high-priced seats, so it doesn't exactly hurt.

The team says the highest-priced seats are selling well. (MLB.com)

NO BUENO: The blog itsabouthtemoney.net takes up the case to former Cardinals minor league shortstop Lainer Bueno who was suspended for the first 50 games of this season for testing positive for clenbuterol.

The blog notes it's possible Bueno tested positive for the drug because it is used in livestock and its possible that he ate meat in Venezuela that contained clenbuterol.

HALL OF FAME DEBATE: Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is once again on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot. He's been on the ballot since 2007.

An All-American wide receiver at Michigan State, he led the Big Ten in receiving in league play and led the team to a co-championship in 1978. Gibson only played one season of baseball at Michigan State and was drafted in the first round of the baseball draft and seventh round of the NFL draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.

SPEAKING OF TWO-SPORT STARS: Former Hazelton (Penn.) High quarterback Joe Maddon invited Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris and two assistants to be his guests at the Rays' camp today.

Maddon said he'd like a chance to run the Bucs' scout team in practice. (St. Petersburg Times)

NG TO MLB: Dodgers vice president Kim Ng is reportedly leaving the team to join the home office of Major League Baseball under new vice president Joe Torre. (Los Angeles Times)

DEMOCRATIC CONCESSIONS: CNBC.com's Darren Rovell is asking readers to vote on the next great ballpark food and dessert -- and the winner from each category will be served at historic Grayson Stadium in Savannah, Ga., home of the Mets' Class A South Atlantic League affiliate, the Savannah Sand Gnats.

STATS TO GO: Baseball-Reference.com has beefed up its mobile site for use on your smart phone, so when you're not at home and you just have to know what George Brett's career slugging percentage is (.487), you know have hope.

SEVEN-MAN ROTATION: The Softbank Hawks of Japan's Pacific League are considering a seven-man rotation for this season. (YakyuBaka.com)


For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
More MLB coverage
Posted on: March 7, 2011 9:24 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Pepper: Raise a glass


By C. Trent Rosecrans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
More MLB coverage
Posted on: February 10, 2011 4:46 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2011 5:00 pm
 

Orioles avoid arbitration with Scott

Luke Scott The Orioles have agreed to a one-year deal with, avoiding arbitration, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets.

Scott will make $6.4 million, above the midpoint of his requested $6.85 million and the Orioles' offered $5.7 million.

Scott served mainly as the Orioles' designated hitter last season and was named the team's Most Valuable Player, hitting .284/.368/.535 with 27 home runs and 72 RBI.

The Orioles not only signed Vladimir Guerrero to serve as their primary designated hitter, but also signed Derrek Lee, meaning first base isn't an option for Scott, either.

Scott will likely end up in left field, but that blocks the way for either Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold. Or, Scott could be on the trading block for any team looking for a left-handed bat.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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