Tag:Kevin Millwood
Posted on: April 18, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:02 am
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Pepper: Sizemore to continue leading off

Sizemore

By Evan Brunell

UP TOP: Grady Sizemore will remain at the top of the order and lead off for the Indians now that he's finally back from injury. To hear manager Manny Acta tell it, it was never a consideration to stick Sizemore into the middle of the order.

"We talked to him about it in spring training. He's leading off, because we have Carlos Santana in the lineup," Acta said. "If he had to hit second, third or fourth, he's not the kind of guy who's going to pout. He's a coach's dream. He'll do whatever you want him to do."

Sizemore's return is much welcome for a surging 11-4 Indians club who now have a potential elite bat back in the lineup, although he won't play all 148 remaining games. The Indians plan to be cautious with Sizemore and will rest him fairly regularly in the early going which will open up the leadoff spot for new left-fielder Michael Brantley.

Although Sizemore has had a pair of 100-RBI seasons (and runs scored), Santana's presence allows Acta to lead Sizemore off and increase the chances the club can get something going at the top of the order instead of batting Sizemore and Santana back-to-back  in the 3-4 spots. One other consideration could have Sizemore batting second and Brantley leading off, but it appears as if Acta is completely committed to leading Sizemore off. It's certainly a better idea than knocking Sizemore or Santana down to cleanup, but long-term, the team may benefit batting Sizemore second. Until Brantley proves himself with a modicum of long-term success, however, Sizemore is the man leading off. (Akron Beacon Journal)

BASEBALL TODAY: Can the Rockies keep up their hot start all season long? Will the Dodgers be a player in the National League West? Troy Renck of the Denver Post joins Lauren Shehadi with the latest.

FINALLY, SUCCESS: It's been a good start to the year for Alex Gordon, who is already considered a bust this early into his career. But as he says, regular playing time at one position is the whole reason why he's hitting .365/.394/.540 in 66 plate appearances, leading the AL with 14 runs scored. It's still very early, but it's great to see Gordon get off to a hot start and revitalize his career. (Kansas City Star)

BLUE OX: The Twins have made some of the most creative commercials the last few years and the newest installment is no exception. Jim Thome dons his cap to Paul Bunyan by doing a skit with a blue ox and sporting a double-breasted flannel shirt with his name and number on the back. The best part of the commercial, though, is Michael Cuddyer's spit take. (Big League Stew)

NO, REALLY, I LIKE IT: New BoSox outfielder Carl Crawford is keeping a season diary and in it, speaks to his early struggles and the fact that he actually likes to lead off, contrary to reports.

"It's actually fun to bat leadoff," he says. "I get to do everything I like to do on a baseball field. I get to be exciting and run and set the table. There's nothing wrong with batting leadoff at all. People that say I hate batting leadoff don't know me that well." (ESPN Boston)

BARD'S THE MAN: Skipper Terry Francona has made no secret of the fact that Daniel Bard is his go-to guy in the bullpen and loves being able to deploy him at any time instead of having to use strict guidelines as he has to do for the closer's spot. All the more reason why closers in this day and age are overrated. Bard entered Sunday's game against Toronto at a pivotal point in the seventh inning with two men on and calmly engineered a double play and strikeout. (Providence Journal)

SETBACK: Bryan Stow, the Giants fan severely beat by two scumbags who happen to root for the Dodgers, was placed back into a medically-induced coma as he suffered seizures when doctors tried to draw him out. There's still no timetable for recovery or knowledge how much brain damage, if any, Stow suffered. (FOX Sports)

COLON'S BACK: When we last saw Bartolo Colon, he appeared to have pitched (and eaten) his way out of baseball in 2009. Except now the newly pinstriped reliever will return to the rotation and start Wednesday. (MLB.com)

DOMINATION: Colon will have to keep an eye on Kevin Millwood, another veteran pitcher the Yankees picked up on a lark. Despite poor reviews of his preseason work, Millwood flat out dominated Double-A hitters on Sunday, tossing a one-hitter in a seven-inning complete game. Millwood can opt out of his deal on May 1 if he's not called up to the majors. If his outing is any indication, he won't have any trouble finding a job. (MiLB.com)

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: In the second game of the doubleheader Sunday, Jayson Werth sat out his first game as a National due to "aches and pains." With 14 games under his belt, Werth will return to the lineup on Tuesday. With the move, Rick Ankiel is now the only player to have started every game for Washington. (Washington Post)

WRIGHT IS RIGHT: It's tough to imagine Jamey Wright still pitching effectively as he personifies the average journeyman bouncing around from team to team to fill in. Yet, the 36-year-old has actually cobbled together a nice string of seasons as reliever and impressed in his two-inning stint for the M's Sunday. Wright appears to be Seattle's most trusted reliever outside of closer. (Seattle Times)

TAX-FREE: When an Astros fan won 315 coupons to net a free cup of coffee and/or a doughnut or a dozen doughnut holes, he had no idea that he would be issued a Form 1099 that would strip him of $237 worth in tax refunds. The Astros refused to pay the difference, but Shipley's Do'Nuts agreed to make up the balance. The Astros also got back into the fan's good graces by giving him four tickets to opening day as well as a Jeff Bagwell signed baseball. (Houston Chronicle)

STREAK SNAPPED: In what is believed to be the longest streak in college baseball but unverifiable, Kansas State's Nick Martini went 0 for 5 on Sunday to snap his streak of 93 straight games reaching base. He registered a hit in 76 of these games. (Washington Post)

LEFTY MOVES: The Blue Jays are trading left-handed pitcher David Purcey to Oakland for reliever Danny Farquhar. Farquhar is an ex-Blue Jay, having been shipped west in the Rajai Davis deal during the winter. (FOX Sports) Meanwhile, the Red Sox optioned lefty Felix Doubront to the minors and welcomed back Hideki Okajima, who will take another crack at this whole relieving business.

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Posted on: March 26, 2011 11:37 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:33 pm
 

Pepper: Japanese players coping

Daisuke Matsuzaka

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Sometimes the nature of our 24/7 news cycle makes us forget -- or at least move on from -- even the biggest of news stories get lost in the next big story.

Even though Japan is still dealing with the destruction of the earthquake and tsunami -- and will be for years -- we're not hearing as much about Japan right now. It's only natural. But that doesn't mean that everything's OK there.

Yankees pitcher Kei Igawa went to Japan last weekend and was deeply moved by what he saw.

"It was pretty disastrous," Igawa told the New York Daily News through an interpreter. "The roads were a mess, and when I was home, the water wasn't running. It was pretty hard for me."

Igawa's parents and family are OK, but keep in mind his hometown of Oarai well south of the epicenter and 100 miles from the damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima. He said his house didn't suffer flooding, but did suffer damage from the earthquake.

The Yankees allowed him to return home, where he spent five days and returned earlier this week.

"Compared to the rest of the country -- especially up north, where it was much worse, I feel really fortunate," Igawa said. "I wanted to stay home a little longer, because my family and friends are going through  hard time. But I also had to resume baseball, because that's my job."

Igawa will start the season in Triple-A. He's in the final year of his five-year, $20 million contract.

Many other Japanese players are trying to come to terms with what's going on at home, as well.

"Fortunately, I am a survivor, but it hurts, of course," the Angels Hisanori Takahashi told the Los Angeles Times through an interpreter. "It has definitely been difficult to focus on baseball.

"Seeing all the [TV] footage, you get a little numb, but it's a real thing. I have to keep my eye on the tragedy, but I also have to play baseball here."

Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka said he's still too emotional about the situation to discuss it publicly, but he showed how he felt by giving $1 million to the Red Sox Foundation, which is giving all that money to the Japanese Red Cross Society to help fund relief efforts. The Red Sox said Hideki Okajima, Junichi Tazawa and Itsuki Shoda have also made personal donations through the Red Sox Foundation.

Matsuzaka joins fellow stars Ichiro Suzuki (100 million yen, roughly $1.2 million) and Hideki Matsui (50 million yen, roughly $620,000) in making large donations to the Red Cross for relief efforts in Japan.

BATISTA FINED -- Reliever Miguel Batista was the only Cardinal fined for last week's scuffle between the Cardinals and the Nationals. Batista hit Washington's Ian Desmond to start the fracas. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

BUCK FALLOUT -- We've already had Buck Showalter backpedaling about his comments to Men's Health about his comments on Derek Jeter and the Red Sox. Derek Jeter, not surprisingly, wouldn't comment on Showalter's comment. However, a look at the stats say Showalter's wrong -- Jeter actually doesn't get the calls on the inside corder. [ESPN]

TULO'S FINAL FOUR -- Finally, a Final Four that matters. You can now vote for one of four songs Troy Tulowitzki will use for his at-bat music. Well, to me they're all crap, but I'm not the target audience. Tulowitzki had "Party in the USA" last year, so the selections this year are just as bad -- "Firework" by Katy Perry, "Baby" by Justin Bieber, "We R Who We R" by Ke$ha and "Yeah 3X" by Chris Brown. Vote here. [Denver Post]

THE LEGEND BEGINS -- I'm reading Jane Leavy's The Last Boy  about Mickey Mantle right now, so I knew about the legend of Mickey Mantle's home run at USC in 1961. Well, the Los Angeles Times remembers it too. A really cool story on the birth of the legend of the Mick.

MILLWOOD GOOD? -- Is Kevin Millwood really that bad? Looking at some of the recent pitchers to have 16 losses and an 82 ERA+ like Millwood did last season shows some pretty decent pitchers have done that before. [Baseball-Reference.com blog]

HE'S NOT FAT, HE'S BLOATED -- Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal explains he was bloated from medication, not fat when spring training started. Furcal ate contaminated meat in his native Dominican Republic in January and the drugs he took made him bloated. He looked big when he checked in, but he was just 193 pounds, about the same he usually checked in at. He's now at 188, just about where he likes to play. [Los Angeles Times]

D-BACKS BULLPEN ISN'T BORING -- Diamondbacks bullpen catcher Jeff Motuzas has discovered bored, rich relievers will pay people to amuse them. So, Motuzas takes on dares to pick up extra bucks. Among the things he's done -- snorted wasabi, eater regurgitated yogurt, left hot balm on his shaved armpits for an entire game and gotten shot in the earlobe with a BB gun. Livan Hernandez once paid him $3,000 to drink a gallon of milk in 12 minutes. The two also had a deal that Hernandez could punch him in the junk for $50 a pop -- with a $300 bonus after every 10th punch. [Wall Street Journal]

BUT IS HE WRONG? -- An anonymous "MLB star" had several things to say to  ESPN the Magazine about the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, including "why isn't Cabrera paying a guy $100 a night to drive him around? Plenty of guys do that. That he didn't is a slap in his teammates' faces." [MLive.com]

ROCK THE KAZMIR -- Mike Scioscia didn't sound too optimistic about Scott Kazmir when he announced the lefty had made the team's rotation. If Kazmir struggles continue into the regular season, Matt Palmer may be an option. [Los Angeles Times]

TOGETHER WE'RE GIANT -- Our buddy Will Brinson loves the Giants commercials. I found them amusing, but still not as good as the Mariners commercials. I like the Cardinals ones better, too.

RIGGLEMAN DOESN'T CARE ABOUT YOUR STATS -- You've seen some good commercials, now listen to a bad one. The Washington Nationals, MASN and Jim Riggleman are attacking stats in their newest campaign. Apparently a bunt or a "well-placed single" are "smart" -- and the walk is recognized as a good thing. But yeah, a pretty silly campaign.

THE NATURAL ON THE HILL -- Robert Redford will throw out the first pitch at the Cubs' opener on April 1 against the Pirates. [Chicago Tribune]

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Posted on: March 25, 2011 5:29 pm
 

Yankees roundup: Garcia, Molina, more

By Matt Snyder

Some short Yankees notes as we watch spring wind down (Hat-tip to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com for some info):

- There hasn't been a final decision yet on the fifth rotation spot, but it's very likely that both Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon make the team. The best bet is Garcia lands the starting job with Colon going to the bullpen as a long reliever.

- With Francisco Cervelli injured and Jesus Montero having a dreadful defensive spring, Gustavo Molina (pictured right) is the odds-on favorite to win the backup catcher job out of camp. Remember, Jorge Posada is slated as the designated hitter going into the season and Russell Martin is now the starter behind the dish. Montero and Austin Romine will be sent to the minors to begin the season.

- Kevin Millwood will initially head to Triple-A, but he's out on May 1 if not on the big-league roster. He's basically insurance against Ivan Nova (the No. 4 starter) or Garcia not working out. And, of course, there could be injuries.

- It's still a possibility that Curtis Granderson will open the season on the disabled list, but no certainty. If he does, expect newly-acquired Chris Dickerson to be in the center-field mix. The Yankees could shift Brett Gardner to center and use Andruw Jones in left, or plug Dickerson into center.

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Posted on: March 25, 2011 8:44 am
Edited on: March 25, 2011 2:07 pm
 

Yankees add Millwood

By C. Trent Rosecrans

UPDATE (2:03 p.m. EST): The Yankees' signing of Kevin Millwood is official, and now the contract details are out.

Millwood signed a minor-league contract which will turn into a one-year, $1.5 million contract if he's added to the team's 40-man roster. He can earn up to $3.5 million more in incentives. He'll earn $500,000 more with for five, 10, 15, 20 and 25 starts. He'll earn another $1 million if he reaches 30 starts.

If Millwood is not added to the major-league roster by May 1, he can opt out of his contract.


Kevin MillwoodThe Yankees have adding veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood, Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweets.

According to a previous Heyman tweet, Millwood would sign an "incentive-laden minor-league deal."

The Yankees brought in Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to compete for their fifth starter's spot, but Millwood adds insurance in case either of those don't work out. It's unlikely Millwood would be with the Yankees to start the season, instead reporting to minor league camp and getting his own type of private spring training in the team's system.

Colon, 37, has had a better spring than the 34-year-old Garcia. Colon has a 2.40 ERA with 17 strikeouts and a walk in 15 innings this spring. Garcia has a 5.93 ERA, striking out 12 and walking two in 13 2/3 innings.

While Colon has had the better spring, he also comes with more question marks. He hasn't pitched in the big leagues since July of 2009 and he's also… how to put this delicately… not in the type of shape that gives a manager confidence in his ability to make 30 starts.

Garcia made 28 starts for the White Sox last season, but had just 23 starts from 2007-09.

Garcia told the Newark Star-Ledger that he'd be fine with working in long relief if that's what the Yankees want.

With Millwood, who was 4-16 with a  5.10 ERA with the Orioles last season, the Yankees have a  proven backup plan if needed. If the contract is indeed a minor-league deal filled with incentives, it would appear to be an inexpensive contingency plan for New York, and one that makes a lot of sense. High-risk, low-cost chances are always worth a shot, especially for the Yankees.

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Posted on: March 4, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 9:00 pm
 

3 up, 3 down: Jon Daniels' best, worst moves

DanielsBy Evan Brunell

The Rangers have handed GM Jon Daniels a four-year extension, rewarding the 33-year-old for steering the club to its first-ever AL pennant in 2010. For all of Daniels' talents, however, he's made quite a few missteps along the way. Here's a look back at Daniels' three best and worst moves as Rangers GM...

3 UP

1. The Teix Heist

The reason the Rangers made the World Series is thanks to the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves. Consummated at the trade deadline of 2007, this deal represented the first time Daniels was trading away a major piece of a team and he needed to hit a home run.

He did. By dealing Teix and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay, Daniels hauled in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones. The fact Salty stalled in Texas is concerning, but many viewed the backstop at the time as one of the elite young catchers in the game. Andrus would go on to blossom as Texas' starting shortstop while Feliz won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with 40 saves last season and is currently shifting to the rotation. Harrison is a young lefty who is battling for a rotation spot himself, while Jones is the one non-entity.

This deal will continue to pay dividends over time, as Andrus and Feliz will be in town for years to come while Harrison is valuable depth. Saltalamacchia's career is not yet over as he is slated to start in Boston, and the jury is out on Daniels' return for Salty in three minor leaguers.

2. Game Over

Daniels made another significant trade the day of the 2007 trade deadline when he dealt "Game Over" Eric Gagne and cash to the Red Sox for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and Engel Beltre.

Gagne was impressive in his first season as an ex-Dodger and after missing the bulk of the 2006 season. He wasn't the lockdown closer of old, but looked as if he could be a quality part of the bullpen. Except as Red Sox fans know, he completely imploded and while he walked away with a World Series trade, he will forever be known as Gag-me in Boston. (For some reason, there are over 11,000 views of a video I took recording Gagne's Red Sox debut.) His saving grace in Boston was as a Type-B free agent, and the Red Sox would later trade the player they drafted with the compensatory pick to Cleveland as part of the Victor Martinez deal.

Meanwhile, David Murphy is one of the more valuable fourth outfielders in the game and would be a starter for many other teams. Beltre has his makeup questions but is developing nicely as Texas' center fielder of the future. Gabbard flamed out, but at the time was a possible back-of-the-rotation starter.

3. Draft Bonanza

A major reason why Daniels has stayed viable as GM of the Rangers is his drafting history. Of course, major credit goes to the people working under him that are in charge of the draft, but Daniels deserves credit for putting these people in those roles as well as having a hand in the drafting and development of these players.

His first draft pick, Kasey Kiker, has yet to develop significantly but is just 22 and does hold some promise. However, his following two have had major league time already: power-hitting Chris Davis who has unfortunately failed time and time again to lock down a starting spot in Texas and Danny Herrera, who is a member of the Reds bullpen currently and was used to get Josh Hamilton. Michael Main was used to get Bengie Molina, while Blake Beavan and Justin Smoak were packaged for Cliff Lee

Tommy Hunter was a viable member of the rotation last season and could have a nice career as a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, while Julio Borbon is prepared to start in center field. Tanner Scheppers ranked No. 77 on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects and  may have ranked higher if he was clearly going to be a starter. The club also came away with an impressive haul in the 2010 draft.

Honorable Mention: One would expect the deal bringing in Josh Hamilton to be one of Daniels' better deals, but it's hard to justify that as one of his best deals simply by virtue of giving up Edinson Volquez. There's no denying Hamilton's talent -- after all, he won the AL MVP award -- but Volquez has turned out pretty well for himself. There's a similar case to be made for the trade that imported Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz from Milwaukee in exchange for Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero and Juan Cordero, so the honorable mention goes to signing Colby Lewis to a two-year deal prior to the 2010 season. Lewis was an utter failure stateside before heading to Japan and discovering his talent. Daniels didn't hesitate to bring in Lewis, and all he did was become the Rangers' best right-handed starter in the team's run to the AL pennant.

3 DOWN

1. The Young and Heartless

In March of 2007, Daniels signed shortstop Michael Young to a five-year, $80 million extension, a contract that was strange at the time and now has snowballed. Two seasons later, Daniels bumped Young to third base in a contentious move to free up short for Elvis Andrus. Young's bat has continued to be solid, but he remained a defensive liability at third and in a much-publicized spat, is now headed to DH and first base after demanding a trade. However, thanks to Young's contract, it will be difficult to move him.

Daniels certainly shouldn't have signed Young to this deal, but that's not why this ranks as one of his three worst moves as GM. While there's a lot of "he-said, he-said" going on by both sides, the fact remains that Young is not very keen on speaking to Daniels and feels "misled." Whether or not you believe Daniels or Young (or think the true answer is somewhere in-between), Daniels should have done a far better job managing the crisis as this has become a nightmare, both in terms of Young's trade value and in public relations. Heck, it even made a three-year-old kid very upset.

2. A-Gone

It's hard to fault Jon Daniels for trading away Adrian Gonzalez as he needed pitching and had Mark Teixeira at first. But goodness, couldn't he have done better? In his second significant trade of his GM career -- the first was also pretty bad -- Daniels shipped away someone who would become one of the best first-basemen in the game in short order in Gonzalez to the Padres along with Chris Young, who fashioned a nice run for himself in the rotation for San Diego. Terrmel Sledge was a throw-in to get Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and Billy Killian in return.

Eaton was a disaster, making just 13 starts and moving onto the Phillies where he was even worse, while Otsuka became the Rangers' closer but fell to injury in 2007 at age 35 and has not returned to the majors since. Killian is now in independent baseball.

Hey, every GM has trades they regret. It's part of life. But this is one regrettable trade that makes one really cringe looking back on it.

3. A-Rod to Soriano to Nothing

OK, so Daniels wasn't responsible for the initial trade of Alex Rodriguez, but he certainly was responsible for turning Rodriguez's return in Alfonso Soriano into something. Unfortunately, his first major trade was a flop when he shipped Soriano to the Washington Nationals for Brad Wilkerson, Armando Galarraga and Terrmel Sledge. Sledge would be shipped in another terrible deal a month later in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, while Wilkerson couldn't arrest the decline he began in his final season for the Nats in '06. He did not top 350 at-bats in the two seasons he was a Ranger.

While Galarraga was and still is nothing to write home about, he chewed up almost 500 innings for the Tigers after the Rangers essentially gave him away, predominantly as a starter the last three seasons -- and of course, as the architect of the 28-out perfect game. He is now a Diamondback and expected to serve in the back of the rotation. These types of pitchers are far from sexy and you can't blame Daniels for tossing Galarraga in the deal, but it only serves to make this deal look even worse given he got absolutely nothing of value for Soriano, which in turn meant the team got nothing for A-Rod.

In Daniels' defense, he was handicapped by Soriano entering the final year of his deal, but Daniels should have looked for prospects in any deal, not an outfielder on the decline, a pitcher he would give away a couple years later and a bit piece that would go on to become part of Daniels' worst trade to date.

Dishonorable Mention: Not to pile on Daniels, who has turned into a very fine GM, but just like he has plenty of candidates for honorable mention, he has candidates for this category as well. Signing Kevin Millwood to a five-year, $60 million deal was head-scratching at the time and he stumbled badly on December 23, 2006 when he dealt away John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner to the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy and David Paisano. Danks and McCarthy were two highly-regarded prospects at the time, but Danks is the one that blossomed, while Masset would go on to bust out himself as an important part of the Reds bullpen.

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Posted on: February 26, 2011 12:52 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2011 1:06 pm
 

Pepper: No Millwood for Cards?

Posted by Matt Snyder

Kevin Millwood
WAINWRIGHTED: Let's face it, things are kind of (read: really) slow during the early weeks of spring training. We've got beat writers tweeting play-by-play of intersquad scrimmages, people making fun of people overreacting to Tim Lincecum's outing (though, at this point, I'm not sure anyone takes these early outings seriously) and one of the biggest news stories is a free agent for next season.

So when a star starting pitcher goes down injured, the aftermath is sure to linger. To the point that Kevin Millwood is a wanted man.

And rightfully so.

The Cards appear to be dead-set on Kyle McClellan entering the rotation. Manager Tony La Russa looks at him as a "real weapon" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch ) and notes he's paid his dues. Which he kind of has, but the flipside is that, in the process, McClellan has become one of the better set up options in the majors. He posted a sparkling 2.27 ERA last season in 68 appearances. Removing him from the bullpen in favor of the rotation leaves a gaping hole in the late innings.

That is why plugging in a veteran like Millwood -- who Dave Duncan could surely make work -- seems like a logical move. Post-Dispatch writer Bernie Miklasz makes a really good case for Millwood. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch )

In other Cardinals' rotation news, it appears Chris Carpenter -- the remaining ace of the former pair of bullets -- could be traded and wouldn't necessarily block a deal. Obviously the Yankees would be in on it, but a nugget from this post is that the Yanks have "told their scouts to bear down on several teams they think could have starters available" before the trade deadline, including the Cards, Braves, A's, Angels and White Sox. (NY Post )

SETTLE DOWN, HE'S FINE: Another effect of the early preseason is the reactions to injuries. Brian Roberts has missed several workouts with neck stiffness. Since there's nothing else going on, it's big news for Orioles camp -- I mean, really, how much could you be following the Felix Pie vs. Nolan Reimold battle for a roster spot? -- but Roberts is actually OK. In fact, he said if it was the regular season he'd be playing. (MLB.com )

THE ON-BASE MACHINE: MLBTradeRumors.com reports that Nick Johnson is working out and expecting a call anyday now, because several teams are "monitoring" the oft-injured 32 year old. He has a career OBP of over .400, so he could help someone's lineup.

FEELIN' CHIPPER: Chipper Jones has been having issues with his surgically repaired knee this spring. He even needed fluid drained after inflammation as recently as Thursday, but Friday was a good day. In fact, he may play in a Grapefruit League game Sunday. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution )

TO-MORROW: Brandon Morrow is as talented as almost any pitcher in the league. We've seen evidence on the diamond, like when he shutout the Rays August 8 with 17 strikeouts and only allowed one hit. Or his 12 strikeouts in six innings against the Yankees. This season, he's looking to achieve "new heights." If he does, watch out, AL East. (Toronto Star )

NOT SATISFIED: With an OPS-plus of 130, Nick Swisher had arguably the best season of his career last season. His .288 batting average and .511 slugging percentage were both career highs for the 30-year-old veteran. Still, it wasn't enough for Swish. He wants more. (NY Daily News )

CHICKS DIG THE LONG BALL: Mike Stanton is strong. We know that. He hit 22 home runs last season in 359 at-bats. In 324 minor-league games, he hit 89 bombs. The potential is there for an elite power hitter. And Friday, he put on a "show" in batting practice. (Palm Beach Post )

CHICKS DIG DEFENSE? Designated hitter Jack Cust is most certainly not known for his fielding prowess, having played only 16 games in the field in 2010. But he flashed the leather this week in practice, to the point that teammates were impressed. (MLB.com )

DURBIN SIGNS: As expected, Chad Durbin has signed with the Indians. The Tribe's rotation is far from set, so one would figure he's going to be prominently in the mix. The righty hasn't started a game since 2007 for the Tigers. (Jerry Crasnick via Twitter )

BEATING WITH THE BRAIN: Are the Cubs smarter in 2011? They think so. (Chicago Sun Times )

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Posted on: February 24, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: February 24, 2011 7:27 pm
 

Pepper: Dominoes falling after Wainwright injury



THE WAINWRIGHT EFFECT:
In what had previously been a rather quiet week in baseball, we learned Wednesday that star Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright might be forced to undergo what would be season-ending surgery (Update: He will have the surgery ). So, of course, the news sent shockwaves through the baseball world -- and I don't mean those sent by an alleged celebratory song that turned out to be, well, nothing .

First of all, his contact situation becomes murky. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes , Wainwright had a two-year option for $21 million for the 2012 and 2013 seasons that vested due to his top-five finish in Cy Young voting last season. If he ends a season on the disabled list due to an  arm or shoulder injury, however, the Cardinals may void the deal. If he does have to go through the surgery and rehab, Wainwright will be a 30-year-old battling back from Tommy John surgery at this time next. And keep in mind the Cardinals will be desperately finding ways to keep Albert Pujols come next offseason. Simply put: this injury could cost Wainwright a lot of money -- or at the very least cloud his future with the Cardinals.

Next up, my colleague C. Trent Rosecrans did an excellent roundup of possible Cardinals options to replace Wainwright, but one guy who may end up eventually being an option is Mark Buehrle of the White Sox. The veteran left-hander is in the final year of his four-year contract and could go on the block by the time the trade deadline comes around. Of course, many things would have to happen between now and then and it's a long way away from the time when any talk could be taken seriously, but Buehrle seemed to indicate (to MLB.com) he would waive his no-trade clause in the right situation -- though he'd rather stay in Chicago.

And finally, in the likely-washed-up category, Kevin Millwood is working out like he's expecting a job this season. "I am just kind of keeping going, staying in shape and getting my arm ready to go when something does happen," Millwood told the Baltimore Sun .

JUST HOLD THE GAMBLING: Mike Schmidt wants Jimmy Rollins to be more like ... Pete Rose. While Rollins might be part of a winning team, he's still underachieving, according to the Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman. "I just think Pete understood more what his role was. Jimmy kind of gets to being Jimmy. Jimmy needs to be more Pete Rose-like in his approach to the game, and more accountable for getting on base and understanding that offensively, he's about running and getting on base and getting hits and leading the lead in hitting," Schmidt told reporters. (Philadelphia Daily News )

BUT WHAT'S A ZONE RATING? Despite nearly every defensive metric available -- save for that good, old-fashioned eye test -- telling them otherwise, the Brewers seem to like the defensive prowess of Yuniesky Betancourt.

"I think appearances sometimes [work against him], how a guy plays," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel .

"He's more of a 'smooth' type of fielder, the manager went on. "He doesn't have the speed like you had with [former Brewers shortstop Alcides] Escobar and we had with [Angels shortstop Erick] Aybar. You don't see that flash where he's flying to the ball. He's moving OK; he's just a smooth runner. He's not as fast as those two I mentioned but he has good hands and a good arm. I think he makes the steady play. I don't consider him a defensive liability."

According to Fangraphs.com, including qualified players only, Betancourt rated as the third-worst shortstop in baseball last season defensively -- ahead of only Hanley Ramirez and Jason Bartlett. Maligned defenders like Derek Jeter and Starlin Castro rate out better. But hey, at least he has good hands -- always an important feature among guys who don't get to many grounders.

MOVE OVER RAUCH: The Blue Jays hurler stands at 6-foot-11 and is the tallest player in major league history, but that record appears to be toppling soon in favor of a 7-foot-1 pitcher for the Angels. Loek Van Mil appears a menacing presence on the hill, and that's before you factor in his ability to hit 99 on the radar gun. The 26 year old notes he wants to make the bigs on merit, not as a side show. (Yahoo! )

ALLOW MYSELF TO INTRODUCE ... MYSELF: Miguel Tejada will be portrayed by Royce Clayton in the upcoming movie, Moneyball . Clayton noted he worked hard to try and replicate Tejada's swing, but we won't see him using a Dominican accent. "I gave it a whirl, but [the producers] told me to lose it after a while," Clayton said. Considering the career .679 OPS (to Tejada's .801), there will be more than one difference. But, hey, at least we won't be forced to believe Freddie Prinze, Jr. is a major league prospect . (San Francisco Chronicle )

COLORADO CHALLENGE:
After a nine-game regression by a young, but really talented, team in 2010, Rockies manager Jim Tracy opened camp by challenging his team to get better. He used numbers. Like 833 (the number of days the team collectively spent on the DL last year) and 30 (the number of games the Rockies lost by one run). Seeing things like that makes you realize just how dangerous the still-young Rockies can be in 2011. The West race very much seems to be a two-teamer at this point. (MLB.com )

BYE BYE Rays? A St. Petersburg Times columnist discusses how either relocation or contraction never seems to stray far from the Tampa Bay Rays. He opines that by 2017, when debt payments to Tropicana Field are concluded, the Rays could be in trouble. On one hand, it's disappointing to hear talk like this for any team. On the other, it's even more disappointing that a team as exciting as the Rays -- who have won the AL East twice and American League once in the past three seasons -- can't draw any better. In 2010, the Rays drew 22,758 fans per home game, which is only 52 percent of the stadium's capacity. This was the worst among playoff teams. (ESPN.com )

A LASTING PLAN: After years of failing to live up to rather large hype, Lastings Milledge now has a "pretty good plan" on how to get his career on track as he joins the White Sox in camp. He's had his girlfriend cut off his long hair and is refocused. He won't reveal the ins and outs of his plan, but says the first step is making the team. Milledge was a first-round draft pick for the Mets out of high school in 2003 and arrived as a 21 year old in 2006, but he's only hit .269/.328/.394 in parts of five seasons for three different teams. Still, at age 25 he's far from cooked. Maybe he puts things together this time around. His talent is certainly still bouncing around in there somewhere. (Chicago Sun Times )

-- Matt Snyder

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Posted on: February 23, 2011 4:30 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 12:47 pm
 

Who replaces Wainwright?

Dave Duncan

While there's not exactly a great time to lose a pitcher that's been in the top three of the Cy Young voting each of the last two years, February may be one of the better times to get that kind of bad news.

Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan (above) and John Mozeliak at least have time to assess their options.

First off, it puts more pressure on Kyle Lohse, who goes from the highest-paid No. 5 in the league to the highest-paid No. 4 ($11.875 million both this season and next).

For now, La Russa said (from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), "We're not going to look outside the organization. The answer is here."

So what's the answer? Here's a multiple choice.

Kyle McClellan1. Kyle McClellan -- One of the Cardinals best options out of the bullpen the last couple of years, McClellan came up as a starter and was even in the race to make the rotation last season before being beat out by Jaime Garcia. He has the arsenal to start -- including a slider he's shelved the last two years in the bullpen -- and is likely the favorite.

2. Lance Lynn -- A big right-hander (6-foot-6, 250), Lynn was 13-10 with a  4.77 ERA at Triple-A Memphis last season. He struck out 141 batters in 164 innings last season. He pitches in the mid-90s and also has a decent curveball and changeup. Having spent more than a year at Triple-A, he's likely to debut sometime this season, regardless of what happens out of the gate.

Ian Snell3. Ian Snell -- The Cardinals signed the former Pirate to a minor-league contract this offseason, hoping he'd be Duncan's next reclamation project. Snell was a 14-game winner for the Pirates in 2006 (with a 4.74 ERA), but has gone 23-39 with a 4.74 ERA since. Last season he started eight games for the Pirates and appeared in four more, going 0-5 with a 6.41 ERA.

4. P.J. Walters -- Walters started three games for the Cardinals last season, going 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA. Walters gave up nearly a hit an inning, but also managed to miss bats, striking out 11 in 16 innings as a starter. He was less successful as a reliever, but showed promise as a starter. He went seven innings on Sept. 29 against the Pirates, allowing just three hits and no runs.

5. Adam Ottavino -- Like Walters, Ottavino started three games for the Cardinals in 2010. He went 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA in his two starts, allowing 12 runs in 14 1/3 innings, while walking eight. He was taken off the team's 40-man roster this offseason. He was 5-3 with a 3.97 ERA in nine starts at Memphis last season.

Shelby Miller6. Shelby Miller -- Miller breaking camp probably isn't going to happen -- and shouldn't. Miller is the team's top -- and some say only -- prospect. Miller has a bright future, but his only experience so far is 26 games in the low-A Midwest League. Last season he went 7-5 with a 3.62 ERA for Quad Cities. He has a good fastball and curveball, but has yet to show command of his changeup. Miller will be in St. Louis soon, just not this soon.

Sure, they say they're looking in-house first, but they may not like what they see and decide to go outside. It wouldn't be the first time La Russa said something and then did the opposite. There are a few available options:

Kevin Millwood1. Kevin Millwood -- The veteran has been holding out for a big-league contract, perhaps anticipating such an opportunity as this. Still, Millwood may not get that big-league contract from the Cardinals. He was 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA for the Orioles last season.

2.  Joe Blanton -- The Phillies have said they're holding on to their fifth starter, but the Cardinals could be tempted. The problem is St. Louis' system isn't very deep and may lack the prospects to land Blanton, unless Philadelphia is looking to give him away.

3. Yankees castoffs -- The Yankees have certainly searched the scrap heap to replace Andy Pettitte, signing Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. If either -- or both -- of those veterans are jettisoned before the end of spring training, the Cardinals could bring either in to work with Duncan.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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