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Tag:Starlin Castro
Posted on: July 8, 2011 5:03 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Offense rules in NL Central

By C. Trent Rosecrans
2011 All-Star Game

SEE THE OTHER DIVISION ALL-STARS: AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL West

The National League Central has the most teams, some of the game's brightest stars and perhaps its best story in the Pittsburgh Pirates. How deep is the talent in the NL Central? The last two men to win the National League MVP are first basemen in the division and neither makes this NL Central All-Star team. The pitching isn't too deep, at least in terms of starters, but this lineup can absolutely mash the ball.

Ramon HernandezC Ramon Hernandez, Reds: This one is a surprise, as Yadier Molina -- perhaps the game's best defensive catcher -- is an All-Star and a deserving one at that. But the nod here goes to the guy Reds manager Dusty Baker calls "Clutch Man Monie." On opening day, his three-run homer gave the Reds a walk-off victory and he's been producing at the plate since, including a ninth-inning homer yesterday against Brewers closer John Axford and the delivered the game's winning hit in the 13th inning Wednesday night in St. Louis. Hernandez's overall line -- .316/.374/.526 -- makes up for the difference between his defense and Molina's. Molina is hitting a respectable .279/.329/.408, but Clutch Man Monie has been money, especially for a player who is still essentially splitting time with Ryan Hanigan.

Prince Fielder1B Joey Votto, Reds: Votto was the National League MVP in 2010, but Prince Fielder's been the league's MVP for the first half of this season. Fielder is hitting .302/.418/.588 with 22 home runs and 71 RBI, tied for the most in the league. Votto's been good as well, but Fielder's power numbers put him over the top. So why is Votto listed here instead of Fielder? Because as I filled out the lineup card, I looked and had Votto as DH and Fielder at first. Anyone who has seen those two with gloves on their hand know you'd rather have Votto (especially with Starlin Castro also in the infield) playing the field. So Fielder wins the spot, but Votto gets the nod, if that makes sense.

Lineup
No. Name Team Pos
1 Andrew McCutchen PIT CF
2 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B
3 Joey Votto CIN 1B
4 Prince Fielder MIL DH
5 Lance Berkman STL RF
6 Ryan Braun MIL LF
7 Aramis Ramirez CHI 3B
8 Ramon Hernandez CIN C
9 Starlin Castro CHI SS

Rickie Weeks2B Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Another Brewer nips a Red. While Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips is far and away a better defensive player, Weeks is having an incredible offensive season so far. Weeks is hitting .275/.345/.476 with 15 home runs. Phillips has 10 more RBI, but that's not all that surprising considering Weeks is used as a leadoff man. 

Aramis Ramirez3B Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: It's easy for Ramirez to get lost among the Cubs' mounting losses, but the 33-year-old is having a solid season, which may be his last with the Cubs. The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for 2012, with a $2 million buyout. The Ricketts family may want to find a cheaper option, but Ramirez has produced this year, hitting .298/.346/.495 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. He's also playing a decent third base, much better than his reputation would suggest. 

Starlin CastroSS Starlin Castro, Cubs: Sure, he's a mess defensively, but the kid can absolutely rake. Castro is hitting .305/.334/.428 with two home runs and 38 RBI, while stealing 10 bags as well. The 21-year-old is the player the Cubs will build around in the future, and for good cause. He also doesn't have a lot of competition in this division. The Pirates' Ronny Cedeno has been good defensively, but lacking offensively. The Cardinals' Ryan Theriot is hitting well, but was a below-average defensive second baseman and now he's playing short and then there's Yuniesky Betancourt, who has been terrible offensively and defensively.

LF Ryan Braun, Brewers: Talk about a stacked offensive division -- in left field you've got Matt Holliday and Braun. Braun, though gets the nod. He's been healthy (of course, Holliday's problems may make his numbers more impressive) and produced, hitting .320/.402/559 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI. He's also stolen 19 bases to boot.

Andrew McCutchenCF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: If Bruce Bochy doesn't want him, I'll sure as heck take him as my starter in center. A Gold Glove-caliber fielder, plus a .291/.389/.491 slash line and 12 homers and 15 stolen bases. McCutchen should be in the MVP discussion with the season he's had. If it weren't for McCutchen, Michael Bourn would be the pick. Bourn's hitting .288/.350/.399 with 35 stolen bases. Between those two and Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs, you could put together a heck of a relay team.

Lance BerkmanRF Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Sure he's a first baseman playing in the outfield, but who cares because he's made up for his atrocious defense with an offensive rebirth. The Cardinals gambled on Berkman this offseason and have been rewarded to the tune of .287/.399/.598 with a league-leading 23 home runs and 62 RBIs. The division also has Jay Bruce, Corey Hart and Hunter Pence, so it has right fielders to spare (not to mention Jon Jay, who played right field while Berkman was playing first for Albert Pujols.)

Prince FielderDH Prince Fielder, Brewers: This is a bit of a cheat, since I initially picked Fielder at first base. The decision here was between Votto and Holliday, and in a toss-up, I went with the reigning MVP, although either has a good case. Votto's hitting .319/.434/.497 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI, while Holliday is hitting .320/.417/.570 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI. Votto's seen fewer pitches to drive than he did a year ago, but is still producing. And once I was filling out the lineup card, I went with Votto at first base and Fielder as the DH.

Johnny CuetoSP Johnny Cueto, Reds: This division doesn't have a Cy Young candidate in the bunch, but does have several good young pitchers, including the 25-year-old Cueto, who started the season on the disabled list but is 5-3 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts this season. The Cardinals' Jaime Garcia is 8-4 with a 3.23 ERA and one of the best young left-handers in the game and Chicago's Matt Garza has been a victim of pitching for the Cubs, going 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and an xFIP of 2.86.

Sean MarshallRP Sean Marshall, Cubs: The Cubs' left-hander is 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA, striking out 43 in 41 1/3 innings, while walking just nine. His xFIP is 2.27 and he's induced ground balls on 60.4 percent of the balls put in play, a good characteristic for a middle reliever, who will often come into the game with runners on base. Apologies to the Reds' Bill Bray and the Cardinals' Jason Motte.

Joel HanrahanCL Joel Hanrahan, Pirates: Hanrahan leads the division in saves with 25 and hasn't blown a single save this season.  Of the eight runners he's inherited this year, none of scored. He has 33 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings and eight walks. He's allowed just six earned runs (good for a 1.37 ERA). The division has several good starters, including the Reds' Francisco Cordero (17 saves, 1.69 ERA), the Brewers' John Axford (23 saves, 2.90 ERA) and the Cardinals' Fernando Salas (15 saves, 2.41 ERA).

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

Posted on: July 3, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: July 3, 2011 3:39 pm
 

National League pitchers and reserves

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Albert Pujols may be back before the All-Star Game, the Cardinals said on Saturday, but he won't be on the All-Star team. Here's the rest of the National League team:

National League

Pitchers

Jonny Venters, Braves (players' pick)

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (players' pick)

Cole Hamels, Phillies (players' pick)

Jair Jurrjens, Braves (players' pick)

Joel Hanrahan, Pirates (players' pick)

Heath Bell, Padres (manager's pick)

Matt Cain, Giants (manager's pick)

Roy Halladay, Phillies (players' pick)

Tim Lincecum, Giants (manager's pick)

Brian Wilson, Giants (players' pick)

Ryan Vogelsong, Giants (manager's pick)

Cliff Lee, Phillies (player's pick)

Tyler Clippard, Nationals (manager's pick)

Reserves

OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks (manager's pick)

3B Chipper Jones, Braves (players' pick)

SS Starlin Castro, Cubs (manager's pick)

2B Brandon Phillips, Reds (players' pick)

OF Jay Bruce, Reds (players' pick)

1B Joey Votto, Reds (players' pick)

SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (players' pick)

1B Gaby Sanchez, Marlins (manager's pick)

OF Hunter Pence, Astros (players' pick)

OF Carlos Beltran, Mets (manager's pick)

OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals (players' pick)

C Yadier Molina, Cardinals (players' pick)

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

Posted on: June 25, 2011 2:05 am
Edited on: June 25, 2011 5:31 pm
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Shields notches third straight CG

Shields

By Evan Brunell


3 UpJames Shields, Rays -- At this point, I'm wondering if the Denzel Washington movie, Unstoppable, about a speeding train, applies to James Shields. The righty notched his third straight complete game, punching out nine batters and dropping his ERA to an eye-popping 2.29, alliowing just three hits and a home run. Shields now has six complete games on the season. "I definitely didn't think it was going to be this many," Shields told the Associated Press. "I thought I was going to get three or four or something like that [on the season]. It's unbelievable. This is not how I expected to start, but it's exactly how I want to start. So I'm going to try to keep it going."

Starlin Castro, Cubs -- The 21-year-old is on fire, hitting .348 in June and registering nine multi-hit games in his last 11. And pray tell, what are you doing with your life? Anyways, Castro's overall line is now .327/.356/.446 and he batted out of the two-hole Friday. The Cubs' present is pretty dim and another rebuilding effort is underway, but as long as Castro's at short for Chicago, the future is bright.

Erick Aybar, Angels -- Here's a name you don't usually see often. Aybar, the Angels' shortstop, went 3-for-5 against the Dodgers, scoring two runs and driving in two to account for half of the Angels' runs in an 8-3 victory. His two ribbies came on a two-run blast off of Rubby De La Rosa. Aybar's line is now .287/.323/.418, and that's why you usually don't see his name. He's not a superstar, but the 27-year-old is a solid player.



3 DownJayson Werth, Nationals -- Werth had a putrid game in a 14-inning loss to the White Sox, striking out four times in seven trips to the plate, notching just one hit. Werth was returned to the leadoff spot after ex-manager Jim Riggleman moved him to the No. 2 spot recently. That puts Werth's line at .234/.340/.409. How much money is he owed again?

Zach Duke, Diamondbacks -- Neither Duke nor Phil Coke pitched particularly well, but Duke gets the prize here. It's not a good prize, obviously. He gave up six earned runs in four innings, allowing seven hits, three walks and punched three out. His ERA is now 5.73. Duke is still Duke, no matter what uniform he wears.

Jairo Asencio, Braves -- Asencio isn't exactly a vital cog in the Braves bullpen as the 28-year-old has just 10 1/3 innings for the Braves this season and 12 1/3 career innings. Still, that doesn't excuse a 2/3-inning performance in which he coughed up six runs (three earned) on four hits and two walks while striking out just one.

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

Posted on: June 22, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: June 22, 2011 11:34 am
 

Pepper: No rule change needed at 1B

By C. Trent Rosecrans

BASEBALL TODAY: There may not be a more interesting division in baseball than the American League Central. While the surprising Indians lead the Tigers by a game, the White Sox and Twins linger. Can the Twins, now just 6 1/2 games out, continue to get themselves in contention? Will Jake Peavy be able to stay in the White Sox's rotation? NESN.com's Tony Lee joins our own Lauren Shehadi to discuss.

RULE CHANGE NEEDED?: And just yesterday, I was going to make a sarcastic joke that I was surprised I hadn't heard Giants fans complain about safety at first base after the Albert Pujols injury.

For weeks after Buster Posey's injury we heard long discussions about changing the rules for plays at the plate and how the catcher had to be protected. Scott Cousins was vilified and scapegoated. Well, Wilson Betemit was taken off the hook when Cardinals manager Tony La Russa put all the blame on the shoulders of rookie Pete Kozma, even though in both cases the injured player deserves much of the blame for being in a  poor position (and I'm not saying either deserved to be hurt, just that they put themselves in a bad spot and got hurt -- it happens).

Anyway, the New York Times is the first (and only that I've seen) to start up the change-the-rules-at-first-base bandwagon. My response? In a word: no.

LUDWICK ON THE MOVE?: Ryan Ludwick was moved last July from one contender to another -- from St. Louis to San Diego (in a three-team trade that brought Jake Westbrook to St. Louis); he could be on the move again.

The Phillies, Marlins and Reds have all reportedly asked about Ludwick's availability. Ludwick is hitting .255/.322/.393 with a team-high nine home runs this season, but is hitting .279/.324/.419 away from Petco Park.

The Padres could also move some of their relievers, with the Phillies and Cardinals having already checked in on the availability of Chad Qualls and Heath Bell.[FoxSports.com]

SHIPPING HANLEY?: Are the Marlins better off without Hanley Ramirez? Ramirez is in the third year of a six-year, $70 million contract that pays him $46.5 million over the next three years and does not include a no-trade clause. [Palm Beach Post]

MADDON APOLOGIZES: Joe Maddon didn't intentionally pull the wool over the eyes of umpires Monday by not having Sam Fuld face a batter after warming up in the eighth inning, it's just that Bob Davidson was behind the plate, and he didn't know the rule any better than Maddon did. Maddon apologized to the umpires and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. [Tampa Tribune]

FAUSTO FLOUNDERING: One Ohio team has already demoted its opening-day starter to the minors, and the other team may soon be sending its opening-day starter to the bullpen if he doesn't get it together. Cleveland's Fausto Carmona is 4-9 with a 6.17 ERA in 16 starts this season and is 1-6 with a 9.73 ERA over his last seven starts. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

ESCOBAR IMPROVING: Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar has seen his batting average rise nearly 50 points in the last two weeks, and his glove was already playing at a high level. Is the one big-league player the Royals got from the Zack Greinke trade beginning to show why the Royals thought he could be part of their next wave of talent? [Kansas City Star]

HEADED HOME?: The Hanshin Tigers are scouting Hideki Matsui and Kosuke Fukudome if either Japanese player decides to return to Japan after the season. Fukudome would be a better fit for the Tigers, who play in Japan's Central League. Like in MLB, NPB has one league with the DH (the Pacific League) and one without (the Central League). [YakyuBaka.com]

GREEN LIGHT: The Rangers' Craig Gentry is pretty fast. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

RESPECT: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sometimes goes out of his way to tweak the Cubs and Cubs fans, but not when he's talking about the other Chicago team's shortstop, Starlin Castro. Guillen calls Castro "amazing." Guillen gave some encouraging words to Castro after Monday's game, and that meant a lot to the young Cub. [Chicago Sun-Times]

TURNING 20: Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez celebrated the 20th anniversary of his big-league debut Monday. The 39-year-old Rodriguez has 13 Gold Gloves and an MVP since he came up as a 19-year-old with the Rangers. [MLB.com]

NICE PICK: With the Yankees in town, the Cincinnati Enquirer caught up with former Reds first-round pick Chad Mottola, who was taken with the pick before the Yankees took Derek Jeter. Mo Egger of ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati breaks down why Mottola wouldn't have played for the Reds even if they picked him. Hint, his name is Barry Larkin.

ARMS SALE: Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times looks at what the Mariners could get for Jason Vargas or Doug Fister, two guys who are having pretty decent years.

COMPELLING CAMPANA: A great story in The Tennessean about Cubs outfielder Tony Campana. As a kid in Franklin, Tenn., Campana battled Hodgkin's disease and couldn't play baseball, but was still in the dugout with his teammates, cheering them on. His coaches at the time didn't think he'd survive, much less be in the big leagues.

WORTHY CAUSE: There's a petition online to have Vin Scully call one more World Series. Scully hasn't called a World Series on TV since 1988 and is still one of the best. [Yahoo!'s Big League Stew]

CUTTER CUT: The Jays have told recently demoted Kyle Drabek to shelve his cutter for now. The team wanted him concentrating more on his fastball, but he kept going back to the cutter more than the team liked. The Jays hope he gains confidence in his fastball and lessens his reliance on the cutter. [National Post]

NO CHANGE IN POSTING: The posting system for Japanese players coming to the United States won't change, NPB Tracker passes along (since I can't read the original Sanspo report).

GOLDEN GROOMING: You may have missed the Golden Groomer Award, a monthly award given to the baseball player with the best facial hair. The last winner was Reds minor league catcher Corky Miller. [OMGReds.com]

LOGO FUN: Check out this really cool graphic of all the team's cap insignias since 1950 (including batting practice). Hat tip to the fine folks at the UniWatchBlog, which had a cool thing worth reading about spotting baseball fields from the sky.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: June 21, 2011 1:28 am
Edited on: June 21, 2011 1:31 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Hudson pitches, hits way to victory

Hudson

By Evan Brunell

3 UpTim Hudson, Braves -- Tim Hudson was brilliant Monday in his second-best outing of the season, blanking the Blue Jays for eight innings and allowing just three baserunners on two hits and a walk. He punched out eight. Two of those baserunners came in the ninth inning, but closer Craig Kimbrel whiffed the heart of the Jays' order to finish the game off. But Hudson wasn't done. He also provided the margin of victory, taking Ricky Romero deep in the seventh inning for a two-run home run, which was the final score of the game. "It's hard to say there's anything better," Hudson told the Associated Press. "Obviously, you [nearly] throw a shutout and hit a homer, you win the game. It was fun, man, It was a lot of fun."

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers -- Kershaw did what Hudson couldn't, slamming the door for nine innings against the Tigers, punching out 11 and walking just one, allowing two hits. Kershaw tossed 112 pitches, 73 for strikes in utterly baffling the Tigers, who appeared to have no idea what to do. The strong lefty is one of the few pitchers in the game classified as a True Ace. Kershaw now boasts of a 3.01 ERA on the season in 107 2/3 innings, but can be even better. His ERAs in the two seasons previous were 2.91 and 2.79. Oh, and Kershaw also stroked a two-run single in the eighth.

Starlin Castro, Cubs -- The Cubs finally got on the board in the third inning after the White Sox staked a 3-0 lead on a two-run single by Starlin Castro, plating Geovany Soto and Kosuke Fukudome. Castro came up in the sixth and ripped a 392-footer to left field to tie the game at three-all. Carlos Pena would follow later in the sixth with a three-run shot. That's a 2-for-4 night for Castro with a run scored, a home run and three RBI. He also swiped base, his ninth of the season. It's becoming increasingly obvious that the 21-year-old is going to be a superstar.


3 DownPadres bullpen -- Wade LeBlanc lasted just three innings, giving up three runs. But Cory Luebke, going into the seventh, had tossed three shutout innings to keep things honest in a game that had just been tied up in the top of the sixth inning. But in the bottom seventh, Luebke, Ernesto Frieri and Evan Scribner all imploded in a meltdown of the best bullpen in baseball. Luebke started the inning by walking Jacoby Ellsbury and seeing him erased at second base on a fielder's choice. Adrian Gonzalez tormented his former team by doubling in Dustin Pedroia, and that was it for Luebke. But Frieri would come in to get just one out, allow no hits and give up four runs. He did so by immediately inducing Kevin Youkilis into a flyout, then intentionally walking David Ortiz. J.D. Drew then walked to the load the bases, and then promptly hit two straight batters. Evan Scribner came in to continue the hilarity, giving up a pinch-hit, 2-run RBI single by Josh Reddick, with another single by Ellsbury loading the bases again. A walk, two-run single and bases-clearing double finished up the 10-run inning for the Red Sox, who were retired when Pat Neshek got Big Papi swinging.

Charlie Morton, Pirates -- That's the sound of regression. Morton is backsliding, giving up six earned runs in his third straight poor start to spike his ERA to 3.77, still a quality mark and more in line with what Morton has done this season. Imitating Roy Halladay's windup has allowed Morton to induce a ton of groundballs but at the expense of striking anyone out, and not being stingy enough with walks. Morton is still a far better pitcher than he was, especially the debacle he resembled last season, but this loss dropped him to 7-4 and the Pirates to two games under .500.

Jeff Mathis, Angels -- And the worst hitting performance goes to Jeff Mathis, who punched out three times in four hitless at-bats against the Marlins. Jered Weaver and Anibal Sanchez had a great duel, with the Angels winning the battle of the bullpens for a 2-1 final. Jack McKeon's triumphant return, replete with smoking a cigar on the bench, had a rain delay precede the loss. Mathis, meanwhile, sinks to .191/.229/.282 on the year. When does his failings at the plate outweigh his defense, skipper Mike Scioscia?

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

Posted on: June 7, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 5:00 pm
 

Agents says Ramirez wants to stay in Chicago

Aramis Ramirez

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Aramis Ramirez is still a Cub and he wants to keep it that way.

Ramirez's agent, Paul Kinzer, told the Chicago Tribune that his client doesn't want to be traded and is unlikely to OK a trade if the team asked. Ramirez has a full no-trade clause and is also a 10-and-5 player, meaning he must OK any trade because of his 10 years of Major League service time, inclujding the last five with the same team.

"He doesn't event want to take a trade. He took less years and less money to stay in Chicago [in 2006], so that is definitely his first option," Kinzer told the paper.

Ramirez makes $14.6 million this season and the Cubs have a club option for 2012 worth $15 million, one they'll no doubt decline and pay a $2 million buyout.

Ramirez is hitting a solid .288 with a .343 on-base percentage, but his slugging is down to just .394 with two homers in 216 plate appearances. Ramirez has a career slugging percentage of .495, but it has dipped each of the last seven seasons since he slugged a career-best .578 in 2004. Since then his slugging has decreased, sometimes gradually (.568 in 2005) and sometimes drastically, from .516 in in 2009 to .452 last season.

As I was watching the Cubs-Reds for a bit last night, they flashed some of Ramirez's career stats -- in his 14th season -- and ninth in Chicago, Ramirez has accumulated 291 home runs and 1,050 RBIs, all the while hitting .282/.340/.495. Even playing for the Cubs, I'm not so sure Ramirez has ever gotten his due for just how good of a player he's been over the years. He has earned just two All-Star nods.

Perhaps he has been overlooked among National League third basemen because he played in the time of Chipper Jones and Scott Rolen, as well as during the rise of David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman

Ramirez will turn 33 later this month and his power seems to be diminishing. Also, he has been at best an average defender. There's no way he makes $15 million next season and it appears his career is on its downside. Desppite that, there are teams that could use him for even his current skills. That said, it's unlikely to be the Cubs, unless he likes the team so much he'll take a huge paycut to stay in Wrigley.

By the way, Kinzer is also the agent for Geovany Soto, Starlin Castro and John Grabow. Kinzer told the Tribune he doesn't expect the Cubs to jettison Soto or Castro (duh), but it's possible Grabow could be on the market when the trade market begins to heat up. 

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

Posted on: May 12, 2011 10:20 am
 

Pepper: Peavy's encouraging return, young guns



By Matt Snyder


BASEBALL TODAY: See the video above for my takes on Justin Masterson, Zach Britton, Daniel Hudson, the Angels without Kendrys Morales and Jake Peavy's encouraging first start of 2011.

OVERTHINK MUCH? Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner had a theory as to why Derek Jeter was struggling earlier in the season. It's that Jeter was pressing due to feeling the pressure of the upcoming 3,000-hit milestone. "I'm not concerned about Derek," Steinbrenner told the New York Post. "Milestones can be difficult. They can be a big weight on a guy." Oh, yeah, and then this: "He's obviously broken through that and is hitting well now." As if right on cue, Jeter went out and had an 0-6 day Wednesday night. So is he feeling the pressure again? Let's all take a deep breath and realize guys are going to have ups and downs over the course of 162 games. You too, Hal.

FIRST OF MANY: Royals prospect-turned-first baseman Eric Hosmer went yard in Yankee Stadium Wednesday night for the first home run of his very young career. To top things off, he came through with the go-ahead RBI on a sacrifice fly in extra innings. He's sure to see some hills and valleys throughout his rookie season, but thus far he's been really solid. Cling to that .250 batting average if you must, as Hosmer's sporting a .409 on-base percentage and a .909 OPS, which is outstanding.

BACK ON TRACK: Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro started the season absolutely on fire, but then drastically cooled. In fact, he recently had a 12-game stretch where he hit .137 with an abysmal .311 OPS. The Cubs' rivals came to town, Mike Quade dropped Castro in the order and things seem to be back where Starlin likes them. In the past two games, he's 6-8 with a triple, four RBI, three runs and a walk.

MORE HUG-GATE: Wednesday in Pepper we discussed the completely meaningless yet somehow blown out of proportion hug between Albert Pujols and Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Hendry laughed about the talk that fateful embrace sparked. Pujols offered up his thoughts on the situation Wednesday afternoon. "I figured that would happen, that they would play with it," Pujols said. "At the end, it's not what you do on the field. It's what kind of person you are off the field. That's the kind of relationship you want to build with somebody you respect. He's on the other side. I'm on our side. I just think it's kind of ridiculous. Three writers came and talked to me about that and the contract. "Are you serious? C'mon." (StLtoday.com) Meanwhile, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times says Cubs fans should forget about Pujols for two reasons: 1. He's not signing with the Cubs; 2. They'll be better off in the long-haul for it.

TORRE SETTLING IN: Joe Torre is ready to attend the first owner's meetings in his new role of executive vice president of baseball operations. The first meeting's agenda doesn't appear to have any impact in terms of on-field play, but there is one interesting nugget in this article: Torre's reason to retire from managing was that he couldn't take losing anymore. "It wasn't balanced out by the winning anymore. I hated it," Torre said. "I was more ready not to do what I've been doing for years. When the Commissioner made this job offer to me, I asked him a few times if he thought I could do it. It was the insecurity of not knowing what the job entailed, even though it's baseball-related. But it has been fun and very energizing for me." Good for him. Honestly, he's 70, who needs that kind of day-in, day-out stress at that age anyway? (MLB.com)

I MIGHT BE A SADIST, BUT ... : Grant Brisbee over at SB Nation asked how much money it would take to step into the batter's box and face Aroldis Chapman right now -- keeping in mind that he can hit 105 on the radar gun and has walked nine of the last 14 batters he's faced. The stipulation is that you could wear a helmet but no "Barry Bonds armor." Honestly, I'd give it a go for free just to see what it looked like from there. My biggest issue isn't so much the fear of getting drilled, but the fact that he's left-handed (I'm a lefty and they always had me mentally whipped when I played). Then again, I haven't been hit with a pitch in probably 11 years and never took one more than 90 mph. Maybe I'll take some cash for the fictional at-bat afterall.

CREDIT WHERE DUE: Tigers manager Jim Leyland was going to give slugging first baseman Miguel Cabrera the day off Wednesday to give him a few days off (the Tigers have an off-day Thursday) before a weekend series to rest his sore back. Instead, Cabrera waved him off and insisted on playing. (MLB.com) Keep this in mind whenever you hear people complaining about how the guys only play for the money and don't really care about the results. Sitting down would have had no effect on Cabrera's earnings. Since the complainers like to use real-world examples, compare this to having your boss tell you to take the day off and you insisting on staying at work (yeah, sure you would). Oh, and he had a two-RBI double in the fifth to give the Tigers the lead. They would win 9-7.

IN THE CINCY AREA AND LIKE SMOKED MEATS? The Reds have put in a new restaurant called Mr. Red's Smokehouse, and it will open Friday for the first game of the Reds' series against the Cardinals. On the menu, you'll find smoked ribs, turkey legs, pulled pork and chicken wings -- in addition to rotating specialty items. This weekend's item is "smoked Cardinal" (it's actually quail). Click here for a video tour of the new smokehouse.

HAIL DELAY: Via Big League Stew, here's a video of the hailstorm that caused an hour-plus delay to Tuesday night's Twins-Tigers game in Minnesota. Yes, that is golf-ball sized hail and a good amount of it.



IF YOU CARE ABOUT DYKSTRA: I'm pretty well over him at this point, and have been for years. If you are interested in what's become of Lenny Dykstra's life, according to this interview, by all means click through and read it. Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com got an exclusive interview with Dykstra's limo driver.

HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN: Roger McDowell's suspension is almost over, as he'll rejoin the Braves Friday and resume his duties as their pitching coach. (MLB.com) I'd encourage fans across America to heckle him and test if those sensitivity classes paid off.

CANADIAN DOLLARS: An interesting discussion here, in that -- as long as the Canadian dollar is valued higher than the American dollar -- players for the Blue Jays are actually earning more money than their contracts dictate, assuming they cash checks in Canada. It's the exact opposite of how it used to be, when players used to get traded to either the Expos or Blue Jays and take a hit. (Slam Sports)

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Posted on: May 12, 2011 2:27 am
 

3 up, 3 down: Batters rake pitchers over coals

Dunn

By Evan Brunell


upAdam Dunn, White Sox
 --
Eventually, Adam Dunn's going to come through, and it's going to be glorious for bleacher creatures at US Cellular Field. He began the process of snapping out of his funk with a 4-for-5 night, scoring three runs by banging a solo homer and walking. His overall numbers still aren't pretty, but once he explodes, people will suddenly see why the White Sox coveted him. His batting average vaulted from .184 to .213 in the process. Dunn's ChiSox won on the Angels' Kevin Jepsen throwing a wild pitch on an intentional ball, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Paul Konerko then made a fantastic game-ending play to end the game -- here's the video.

Starlin Castro, Cubs
-- Castro, who had never hit below one of the first three spots in the order before a recent demotion to the No. 7 spot in the lineup to snap a 2-for-25 slump, did so in fine fashion by rapping four hits, while scoring three and knocking an additional three in on the backing of a triple. It won't be much longer before Castro's back atop the order. It's hard to imagine Castro is only 21, but he's a beast at the plate and pretty soon, he'll start adding some home runs to his game. For now, the Cubs will enjoy his .324 batting average. All in all, it was a banner day for batters as all three entrants in 3 up handle sticks while the 3 down nominees are pitchers. (It must be said that Hiroki Kuroda had a brilliant performance, shutting down the Pirates in eight innings.)

Jason Bartlett, Padres -- This game is right out of 2009 as Bartlet rapped four hits in six trips to the plate, tacking on two steals, two runs scored and two RBI as the Padres pasted the Brewers 13-6. Cameron Maybin also went 4 for 6, and also scored two runs and RBI apiece. Bartlett's stolen base totals are now up to seven, an encouraging sign after only swiping 11 last season. The game only pushes him to .257/.317/.288 on the year, so the last-place Padres really need this to be the start of a hot streak.

downGio Gonzalez, Athletics -- Man, Gonzalez must feel like one lucky dude. A rain delay and later cancellation wiped out the stats from Wednesday's game against the Rangers. That means the lefty, who blew up in spectacular fashion in the third inning, sees his ERA return to 2.68 from 3.88 after coughing up seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings with six hits, one whiff and a lousy five strikeouts. Also scrubbed from the record is Mitch Moreland's first career grand slam for Texas. "One apology I want to make is to Mitch. Sorry, buddy. I'll definitely sign you over a check or something, whatever you want," Gonzalez told the Associated Press. "I got away with one and I admit it."

Ryan Franklin, Cardinals -- Are we seeing a career go up in smoke before our very eyes? Even the most die-hard Cubs fan couldn't have imagined Franklin bloating his ERA to an unfathomable 9.49 after coughing up four runs in three innings, giving up seven hits, although he did whiff two and walk none. Still, hitters are on the nose against Franklin, who has turned from division-winning closer to outright liability. He's already become a forgotten man in the bullpen; how much further behind is a release?

Matt Capps, Twins -- Yeah, it wasn't really a banner day for pitchers, was it? Capps grabs the final spot ahead of Randy Wolf by blowing a game in spectacular fashion. He was responsible for giving up all four runs that Detroit scored in the two final innings to roar back for its fifth consecutive victory. Only three got charged to Capps as he inherited a runner, but yeah, 1 1/3 innings of three runs is no good. He's still got a pretty firm grip on the closer's spot and just has to chalk it up to a bad day at the office.

Dishonorable mention
: John Lackey's terrible start and need to be removed from Boston's rotation is covered here.

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