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

Pepper: Contentious homecoming



By Matt Snyder


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on: April 26, 2011 1:44 am
 

3 up, 3 down: Kennedy outshines Lee

Ian Kennedy

By C. Trent Rosecrans

3UP

Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks -- Nobody -- or at least this nobody -- expected Kennedy to do much against Cliff Lee and the Phillies, but what did he do? He threw a three-hit shutout against the Phillies. Kennedy struck out 10 and didn't walk a batter. And it wasn't even his best night this week. Early Sunday morning Kennedy and his wife welcomed the birth of their first child. Heck of a couple of days for Kennedy.

Philip Humber, White Sox -- The Chicago starter was superb on Monday. The White Sox had lost 10 of 11 entering Monday's game in the Bronx and the right-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Alex Rodriguez's single. Humber was able to get out of the jam and left the game after that inning, stranding two runners while protecting a one-run lead. The 2004 first-round pick by the Mets is now 2-2 with a  3.20 ERA this season.

Brandon Wood, Pirates -- The former Angels prospect doubled in his Pittsburgh debut, driving in the eventual winning run in a 4-2 victory over the Nationals. Wood drove in two with the fourth-inning double.

Starlin Castro3DOWN

Starlin Castro, Cubs --  Talk about a bad night for the Cubs talented young shortstop, not only was he hitless in five at-bats, he had three errors in the Cubs' loss to the Rockies. All three of his errors came in the three-run Rockies second, with all three runs unearned.

Jamey Carroll, Dodgers -- With a 4-3 lead, two on and two out in the ninth, Jonathan Broxton got an easy ground ball from Florida's Scott Cousins to seemingly nail down the Dodger victory, except Carroll booted the ball, allowing the tying run to score. Omar Infante followed with a liner misplayed by Jerry Sands to score the winning run.

Colby Lewis, Rangers -- The Texas right-hander gave up back-to-back homers to Toronto's Corey Patterson and Jose Bautista, then walked a batter and gave up another homer, to Juan Rivera, in a six-run fifth inning. In 22 innings this season, Lewis has allowed eight home runs. He dropped to 1-3 with a 6.55 ERA.

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Posted on: April 20, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Desmond awaiting call on first child

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Ian DesmondI wonder if Chelsea Desmond's wife has the number to the dugout phone in St. Louis? Because her call will determine how much her husband plays against the Cardinals in today's doubleheader and possibly tomorrow.

As soon as Desmond gets the call, he's going on paternity leave.

Luckily for the Nationals, Chelsea hadn't called by the third inning of the first game on Wednesday, when the team's shortstop had a two-RBI single as part of the six-run inning off of St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook.

Major League Baseball has added a 1-3 paternity list this season and Desmond is looking to take advantage of it when needed.

"It's going to be dependent on when he gets that phone call that says, 'You've got to get home," Nats manager Jim Riggleman told reporters, including Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. "It could be today, it could be a few days from now. … Depending on when he goes, who we're going to be playing against and what kind of pitching we'll face, we'll bring the necessary player up."

The Nationals have another day game on Thursday before going to Pittsburgh for three games. The team is off on Monday before starting a homestead.

Texas pitcher Colby Lewis was the first player to use the new personal leave in MLB last week when he joined his wife after the birth of their daughter last Wednesday. Lewis returned to pitch last night against the Angels and gave up four runs in five innings of a 15-4 Rangers loss.

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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: March 1, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Messin' with Texas' starting rotation

Posted by Matt Snyder

The Texas Rangers won the American League pennant last season, yet on March 1, they have just two official members of their starting pitching staff. C.J. Wilson -- who one year ago was trying to convince his bosses he could start -- is the opening day starter. Colby Lewis -- who one year ago was returning to stateside from Japan -- is the number two.

Funny thing is, the Rangers could actually end up having a pretty solid rotation. There is a void at the top, sure. Wilson and Lewis seem more like middle-of-the-rotation guys at this point, which is why the team was ready to pay quite a bit to retain the services of Cliff Lee.

Obviously the team would be better off at present with Lee, but there's potential left on this staff.

Let's make an at least mildly realistic argument everything is going to come together, just to see how things could shake out -- meaning we aren't going to say Brandon Webb immediately returns to Cy Young form, but we will assume a lot of "ifs" pan out positively.

Wilson had a rough September, but you could argue he was just tiring. It was his first season in the bigs as a starting pitcher. He exceeded 200 innings after never having thrown more than 73 2/3 in a major league season. The last time he topped 100 innings in a professional season was 2005 (48 in the majors, 58 1/3 in the minors). Before September, he was 14-5 with a 2.88 ERA. Control was an issue all season and his 4.1 BB/9 was exactly the same as his career mark. However, getting his command in order is his top priority this spring. There's no pressure to make the rotation and, already being the opening day starter, he need not worry about anything else.

Lewis was a bit inconsistent, but finished real strong. He closed 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA in his last five starts. He carried that over into the playoffs by going 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts. This included dominating the Yankees twice. If he carries this over into 2011, he'll be a very capable second starter.

In the two, the Rangers have a pair of 200-inning guys with postseason experience, though neither is old.

Next, you have Webb. He hasn't thrown a major league pitch in almost two calendar years, but he was the best pitcher in the national league from 2006-2008, winning a Cy Young and finishing second the other two years. He has been building up arm strength without a setback so far this spring. He finally got on the mound and threw some pitches recently. It does appear he'll be an in-season addition to the rotation (via FOX Sports), rather than an opening day member, but that's OK. The Rangers are being realistic with him. By the end of the year, who's to say he can't be back to a quality major-league starter, even if he'll never be an ace again.

Now, a sleeper: Michael Kirkman. The 24-year-old left-hander sparkled in his stint for the Rangers last season, to the tune of a 1.65 ERA in 14 major-league appearances out of the bullpen. He accrued some postseason experience, too, though he was slightly touched up in one of his three outings. As a starter in triple-A last season, Kirkman was 13-3 with a 3.09 ERA -- which, in the Pacific Coast League, is quite the feat. He struck out 130 hitters in 131 innings and won the PCL pitcher of the year award. Pitching coach Mike Maddux sang Kirkman's praises on XM Radio Monday morning and Rangers brass seem to be favoring him for a spot at this point (Star-Telegram ).

Then the Rangers have Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter.

Harrison's fallen off in recent years without consistent starts, but he was once a solid prospect and is still only 25. With this group it's doubtful there will be room for him, but you never know.

Holland, 24, is a former top-35 prospect. He battled injury issues last season, but is healthy now. He was lights-out in triple-A last season, going 6-2 with a 1.87 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He looked good in the ALCS against the Yankees (0 ER in 5 2/3 innings). Further development this season could see Holland as a breakout starter.

Hunter has an ERA-plus of 115 over the past two seasons, which include 41 starts. He went 13-4 last season. He's only 24.

One of these guys could end up being the fifth-best starter for the Rangers come August, with the other two left out in the cold -- and we haven't even mentioned Neftali Feliz. Few pitchers in the league have a better arm than the 22-year-old fireballer. He was an All-Star and won Rookie of the Year last season as a closer, but the Rangers see him as a starter in the future. Is the future, here, April of 2011? It's possible. He's in the fight to make the rotation as of Tuesday.

What if the Rangers plug him in as a five? And then Wilson, Lewis, Webb, Kirkman and Feliz all pitch to their ceiling in 2011? Even if Feliz remains at closer -- which seems likely here -- either Holland or Hunter can easily be seen as a fine fifth rotation member.

So is the rotation of the Rangers really an issue? Did they really need to try and match the Phillies or Yankees for Cliff Lee?

Time will tell, but it's certainly not a lost cause in Texas. Not by any stretch. The uncertainty with the rotation could actually end up being an embarrassment of riches.

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Posted on: February 22, 2011 5:16 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 5:26 pm
 

C.J. Wilson to start opening day for Rangers

WilsonRangers manager Ron Washington has indicated C.J. Wilson will likely serve as his opening day starter, saying the left-hander will get the ball that day, "barring anything unforeseen," the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports. 

Considering the Rangers -- the defending American League champions -- have solidified only the top two spots in the rotation, Washington's decision was basically a coin flip. He only had to choose between Wilson and Colby Lewis.

Wilson, 30, was converted from closer to starter last season and adapted quite well. He worked 204 innings (his previous MLB-high was 73 2/3) in 33 starts. He went 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. As usual with Wilson, walks were an issue, as he gave out 93 free passes.

Lewis, 31, returned to the U.S. last season after a stint in Japan. He went 12-13 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 201 innings, striking out 196 hitters.

There are a whopping 10 pitchers competing for the final three rotation spots.

The player of intrigue in the mix is Neftali Feliz. The Rangers are stretching him out in spring training like a starter and will make a decision later on if he'll remain the team's closer or join the rotation. The 22-year-old phenom, who rocks the radar gun to the tune of triple digits on occasion, was the AL Rookie of the Year last season after saving 40 games in 43 chances. The Rangers still seem to view Feliz's place on the team long-term as a starting pitcher, but that doesn't mean they'll make the conversion this season. It's a balancing act between his development and what is best for the 2011 Rangers.

Still, even if that move is made now, it appears the Rangers wouldn't slot him any higher than third. Wilson gets to toe the rubber on opening day and it seems inevitable Lewis will get the nod next.

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

Berkman bashes Rangers as 'average' team

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: October 30, 2010 11:21 pm
 

Hunter to start Game 4

Tommy Hunter Tommy Hunter will start Game 4 of the World Series for the Rangers as scheduled, manager Ron Washington said after Saturday's 4-2 victory over the Giants. And even if they'd lost, Washington said Hunter would still have been his man on Sunday.

"Well, as far as I was concerned, Tommy Hunter always had the start tomorrow," Washington said in the postgame news conference. "He will start tomorrow."

Not that Washington was left with much of a choice. While many wanted Cliff Lee to start Game 4 on short rest, that would leave Hunter to pitch Game 5. C.J. Wilson would be tough to go to on short rest with his blisters, and with the Rangers not facing elimination, they may as well put Hunter out there sooner rather than later.

The good news for the Rangers is that their bullpen is rested, as Colby Lewis went 7 2/3 innings on Saturday and Texas needed just seven pitches from Darren O'Day and 13 from Neftali Feliz to finish out Game 3. Hunter was 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA during the season, but hasn't pitched longer than four innings in either of his two postseason starts. He allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings in Game 4 of the ALCS, when the Rangers used four relievers to beat the Yankees.

Lewis looks like a good choice for Game 7 if needed, and with a Game 5 start, Lee could be used in relief in a final game if it comes down to that.

While the Rangers feel good about Lewis, Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti told reporters he's concerned about Jonathan Sanchez's lack of velocity and the coaching staff would have to discuss who would start a Game 7 if needed. Based on Saturday, if this series goes the distance, the Rangers are the early favorites. However, there's a long way to go until a possible deciding game on Thursday.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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