Tag:Stephen Strasburg
Posted on: June 30, 2011 10:16 am
Edited on: June 30, 2011 11:00 am
 

Pepper: Don't buy me peanuts or Cracker Jack

By C. Trent Rosecrans

BASEBALL TODAY: Matt Snyder joins Lauren Shehadi to talk sweeps week in Major League Baseball, as the Phillies, Yankees and Mets go for sweeps in interleague series today.

BASEBALL FOR EVERYONE: A friend of mine has spent a good 15 years of his professional career around his great love, baseball. He's hoped to share that love with his son, named for his favorite player, Nolan Ryan. The two watch games on TV, but haven't been able to experience the game live.

Nolan hasn't been able to sit in the stands and wish for a foul ball to come his way or walk out of the concourse and see the field, hear the crowd roar as Ichiro Suzuki rounds second on his way to third or hear the pop of a Felix Hernandez fastball.

You see, two years ago, like any other toddler, Nolan ate some peanut butter. Soon, he could't breathe and broke out into hives. His parents loaded him into the car and rushed to the hospital. At one point, his mother decide they couldn't wait any longer and called 911 and they pulled over to the side as an ambulance rushed to their aid, closing the I-5. The paramedics were able to get it under control and doctors told them Nolan wouldn't have lasted much longer.

Nolan was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy. Since then, they've noticed symptoms in their son if there is even peanut dust in the air. Safeco Field or any stadium was like walking into a poison trap for Nolan. 

Well, that won't have to be the case -- as the Mariners are one of the teams hosting peanut-free games this season, an increasing trend according to this Reuters article. Peanut allergies have doubled over the last decade, and nobody is sure why.

Five times a season, the Tigers offer peanut-free suites at discount prices, the next is Sunday against the Giants and all 70 seats are sold, the Detroit News reports. That's a good sign and hopefully encourages more of this.

PHILLIES GOOD: OK, this is hardly breaking news, but the Phillies' rotation is really, really good -- and that's even without Roy Oswalt.

David Hale of the News-Journal does the math for us, the current five starters in the rotation -- Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick -- are a combined 12-3 with a 1.33 ERA in June with hitters managing just a .194 batting average against. WIth Halladay, Lee and Worley starting this month, the Phillies have gone 13-0.

BLAME BUD: While Bud Selig is 100 percent right to want Frank McCourt out as the Dodgers' owner, Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan writes that it's Selig's fault McCourt is in this position to begin with. Instead of finding the best owner for the team in 2004, Selig went with someone who would be on his side.

EXTENSION FOR HARDY: Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is on several team's trade wishlist, but he may not be going anywhere. The Orioles have reached out to Hardy's agent to talk about an extension. Hardy is a free agent after the season. [Baltimore Sun]

NO FIRE SALE: After the Cubs released Doug Davis, general manager Jim Hendry met with the media and assured them there would be no "fire sale." While nobody wants the bloated contracts of Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Zambrano, Hendry insinuated he wouldn't trade the likes of Carlos Marmol or Ryan Dempster. [Daily Herald]

NO FIRE SALE… YET: The Dodgers haven't started "substantive" trade talks yet, but could begin doing so after the break, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets.

ZIMMERMAN'S CHANGES: Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has struggled after rebuilding his throwing mechanics during a season, including allowing the game-winning run with a throwing error on Wednesday. But Zimmerman is convinced he's doing the right thing and it'll pay off in the end. [Washington Post]

WOOD CLOSER: The Cubs could get reliever Kerry Wood back in time for this weekend's series with the White Sox, CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney tweets.

ROENICKE, GREINKE MEET: Brewers manager Ron Roenicke met with right-hander Zack Greinke to "clear the air" after Roenicke felt some of his postgame comments were misinterpreted by the media after Greinke's two-inning start against the Yankees. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

BUCHHOLZ OUT PAST BREAK: After throwing a bullpen Tuesday, Boston right-hander Clay Buchholz said he won't make his next start and could be out until after the All-Star break. Buchholz is dealing with a muscle strain in his back. [Boston Herald]

STRASBURG'S MECHANICS: Stephen Strasburg is back throwing off a mound, but his mechanics look the same, some observers say. Does he need a change? Sports Illustrated's Will Carroll says he doesn't know (and if Will doesn't know, I certainly don't), but it would be wise for the Nationals to look into some biomechanics analysis to make sure his mechanics weren't the reason for his arm injury.

SWISH BEING SWISH: Nick Swisher said his recent turnaround on the field has allowed him to be himself in the clubhouse. [Wall Street Journal]

ECKSTEIN NOT RETIRED: Former Angels (among other teams) shortstop David Eckstein says he's not retired, he's just choosing not to play. There are teams that would be interested in the game's leader of grit, but isn't sure if he wants to return. He sounds like he just needs to be wined and dined in the right way and he'd return. [Los Angeles Times]

NAME GAME: Just as Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle was responsible for Pete Rose's nickname, "Charlie Hustle," another Hall of Famer hung the moniker "Donnie Baseball" on Don Mattingly. Mattingly said Kirby Puckett gets credit for the nickname. [MLB.com]

NAME CHANGE: Remember the old XFL and Rod "He Hate Me" Smart? The CPBL -- the Chinese Professional Baseball League of Taiwan -- is apparently trying some sort of similar name-changing gimmick with its foreign players. One of those is former Royal Dan Reichert who is now Robert 38. [FanGraphs.com]

DODGERS DREAM TEAM: Steve Garvey has put together what he calls a "Dream Team" to buy the Dodgers, including another former Dodger, Orel Hershiser. [SportsRadioInterviews.com]

DIFFERENT DERBY: The Midwest League featured a different type of home run derby, which featured a hitting contest with more than 50 targets and prizes, including a dunk tank. Really, though, the biggest improvement over the big-league version is the absence of Chris Berman. [Benjamin Hill]

BUTCH'S TIRADE: Former big-leaguer Butch Hobson is now a manager in an Independent League, but his tirade from the other night is certainly worthy of the majors. Check him out has he does a combination of Lloyd McClendon and Terrell Owens. [h/t ItsAlwaysSunnyInDetroit.com]

MASCOT FAIL: Is that a sock or are you just happy to see me? Check out this independent league mascot in Amarillo, Texas. Yep. That's not good. [h/t Big League Stew]

BRING A PACKED LUNCH: I've always wanted to go see a game on one of the Wrigley Field rooftops, and I'd still like to -- I'm just not sure I would eat anything they have. Several rooftop businesses failed their health inspections recently. [Chicago Tribune]

CONGRATS CHONE: FanGraphs.com looks at the worst players in baseball based on 2010 and 2011 -- with Mariners infielder Chone Figgins edging Brewers shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt for the title.

CIVIL WAR-STYLE GAME: If you're in Savannah, Ga., this weekend, you have plenty of entertainment and dining options, but how about checking out some baseball at a Civil War fort? Fort Pulaski will host a game Sunday featuring rules from 1860. [Connect Savannah]

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Posted on: June 27, 2011 8:50 pm
 

Strasburg 'lets go' in bullpen session

By Evan Brunell

StrasburgStephen Strasburg threw 20 fastballs in a bullpen session on Monday, the first time Washington let Strasburg "let it go," he said according to MASNSports.com.

"Today was the first day they allowed me to let it go, and that's the hard thing about Tommy John rehab," Strasburg said. "You can feel great, but you don't really know what's going on inside there. You have to listen to the people that have gone through this before. I'm following it to a T. I'm not going to do anything stupid that's going to jeopardize the rest of my career."

Strasburg topped out around 80 mph by the estimation of the reporter in attendance, who also noted that the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft had the same "audible hiss" that his fastball usually has, although he was lacking in command. That's a common occurence for players recovering from Tommy John surgery, and will continue to be for a while.

While Strasburg has to watch from the sidelines as the Nationals continue their surprising run of a .500 record and would love to be part of it, he admits that he's grown up both physically and mentally while being sidelined. That's helped him cope with the daily grind of being separated from the team and taking things one step at a time.

"I've learned how to be more of a professional," Strasburg said. "You hear all these things about how hard Roy Halladay works -- going to the field early, using his program and having it be so structured, he knows what he has to do every single day. I hope one day people look at me like that. I want to be that guy that is known for being the hardest worker -- not necessarily the best player, but the hardest worker. ... I've put a lot more emphasis on it. Just physically, I've matured a lot. I think I still have a ways to go."

The pitching phenom also opined on Davey Johnson, Washington's new manager. While Strasburg may never get the chance to play for Johnson, the hire received a strong endorsement from Strasburg:
I just remember how he treated me like one of the other guys, where I really didn't feel like one of the other guys. I was the only college kid on that [Olympic] team, and I think he really made a point to make me feel comfortable out there. That was a big jump for me. I'd never started before, and I threw 97 innings in college, and I was right around 55 for the summer. I went out to pitch against Cuba in the last game, and I threw a ton of pitches. I think we were winning 3-2 and he takes me out in the fourth. I just remember him saying, 'You've got a long career ahead of you, and there's no reason to risk it out here.' That was the game to get to the gold medal game. Even in that sense, when he had no ties to me, he was really looking out for my best interests. I thank him for that, and I'm really looking forward to playing for him.
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Category: MLB
Posted on: June 7, 2011 9:28 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 9:31 pm
 

Strasburg throwing three bullpens per week

By Matt Snyder

Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg is steadily working his way back from Tommy John surgery. He's only throwing fastballs, but has worked up to 30 to 40 pitch bullpen sessions three times a week.

"The idea is to put great stress on the new ligament," Strasburg said (MASN.com). "It'll pick up a little bit every week. I'm not really sure what's going to be in store for me next month, or the month after that. We're just taking it one day at a time, one week at a time."

Strasburg hasn't pitched since August 21 of last season. He had surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament -- now known as Tommy John surgery -- in his right elbow September 3. Considering the timing of the surgery, how long normal rehabilitation takes and the likelihood the Nationals will be out of the race in September, seeing him in the 2011 season isn't likely.

Two years ago, Strasburg was taken as the first overall pick in the draft by the Nationals.

One year ago Wednesday, Strasburg took the hill for his major-league debut and did not disappoint. In fact, he dazzled for seven innings, striking out 14 while only allowing four hits and two runs.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: May 18, 2011 7:57 pm
 

Strasburg 'close' to throwing off a mound

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Stephen StrasburgOn the same day Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said phenom Bryce Harper will not see the majors this year, another  top pick is getting closer to returning to the big leagues, although the timing suggests it will not be this season.

Stephen Starsburg -- remember him? -- is "close" to throwing off the mound, Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty told reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, on Wednesday.

"Everything is going along fine," McCatty said. "I know he's close to throwing off the mound. I'm sure he's getting close to it. I know there were some discussions about it. It will be shortly. Everything has been going fine."

McCatty noted Strasburg is feeling "great" but "bored" with his rehab, which is pretty normal for the long road back from Tommy John surgery.

Last season Jordan Zimmermann threw off the mound seven months and three days after his surgery and made it back to the majors in about a year. Strasburg's surgery was eight months and eight days ago.

"When he's ready, he's ready," McCatty said. "If it's 12 months like Zimmermann or a little longer or a littler shorter, we just can't sit here and say, 'Bang, here's the milestone, now the clock is ticking.' It doesn't work that way. He's feeling fine. He's getting close. Everything is going well. You got to take your time. You can't rush it. And he says he feels great."

The Nationals will likely allow Strasburg to take it easy -- there's no reason to rush him at this point. But even when he does come back, it takes time for a player to really come back to being the pitcher they were before. However, once that happens, the team will have one of the best pitchers in the game back and that certainly can't hurt. 

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Posted on: May 11, 2011 10:35 pm
 

Strasburg nearing milestone in pitching off mound

By Evan Brunell

StrasburgStephen Strasburg could be pitching in a Nationals game in September if his recovery from Tommy John surgery goes as planned.

So far, so good. Strasburg is nearing the chance to throw off a mound, which is a major step forward in recovery. He is finishing up a long-toss program he began at the very end of January and hasn't experienced any significant setbacks.

"Everything is going along fine," Nats pitching coach Steve McCatty told the Washington Post. "I know he’s close to throwing off the mound. I’m sure he’s getting close to it. I know there were some discussions about it. It will be shortly. Everything has been going fine."

Strasburg hasn't seen his recovery zip along as fast as Jordan Zimmermann, who was throwing off a mound just over seven days following surgery. Strasburg is at a touch over eight.

“When he’s ready, he’s ready,” McCatty said. “If it’s 12 months like Zimmermann or a little longer or a little shorter, we just can’t sit here and say, ‘Bang, here’s the milestone, now the clock is ticking.’ It doesn’t work that way. He’s feeling fine. He’s getting close. Everything is going well. You got to take your time. You can’t rush it. And he says he feels great.”

Given Strasburg's delay, it's unlikely he returns to Washington before the season closes, although that possibility remains intact. To compare Strasburg to Zimmermann again, Zimmermann needed 157 days between throwing off the mound and his first start back with Washington. A similar timetable for Strasburg would be the final week of September, so that's cutting it awfully close.

"There’s no reason to try and push it. Would it be nice if he got a couple innings this year? Sure," McCatty added. "Will he? Can’t say for sure. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not going to get optimistic about it until, ‘Okay, now he’s throwing. He’s starting his rehab [starts].’ When we get to that point, then I’ll say okay. But we’re not there yet.”

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Posted on: April 14, 2011 10:34 am
 

Pepper: McGwire only one to dodge steroid fallout

McGwire

By Evan Brunell

DODGING THE BULLET: The steroid era continues to haunt baseball, as Barry Bonds' obstruction of justice charge is far from the end of the saga.

While Bonds is the posterboy for the whole mess, the former face of baseball has somehow survived a Congressional inquiry, years of self-imposed exile, a much-awaited admission and apology and returned to the game as a coach.

No one could have guessed this when Mark McGwire was stumbling over ways to avoid the past in front of Congress, but he's the only star to avoid any lasting damage, unless one counts his failed bids to make the Hall of Fame. It does really seem as if his lawyers gave him the right information all the way back in 2003 as he avoided lying to Congress and then hid away until it benefited him to come clean to avoid prosecution and get back into the game.

Look, there's no defending McGwire, both for his actions juicing up and for waiting until it behooved him best to admit using steroids, but in his second season as Cardinals hitting coach, there is no paparazzi stalking him and no controversy. At this point, McGwire is just another coach with a long history in the game. That's an impressive feat to pull off. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

BASEBALL TODAY: Can Cliff Lee get back on track tonight? Will Phil Hughes lower his ERA? Matt Snyder joins Lauren Shehadi to answer those questions and more.

STRASBURG BEHIND: Stephen Strasburg has yet to throw off a mound in his return from Tommy John surgery. That places him behind Jordan Zimmermann's own schedule last season, but the Nationals have cautioned everyone rehabs at their own pace and there is no rush. Strasburg has a shot to pitch in September for Washington, but given he has yet to step on a mound, that shot has suddenly become a long one. (Washington Post)

MANNY WHO? The Rays have already found a solution for replacing Manny Ramirez's bobblehead night on May 29. In his place, the club will give away a cape dedicated to Sam Fuld, who was a one-man wrecking crew in the abbreviated two-game series against the Red Sox. Click the link to check out the cape, which is pretty cool. (Tampa Tribune)

GOING CRAZY: Well, that didn't take long. Skipper Terry Collins reportedly went "ballistic" after Wednesday's stinker. A player said Collins didn't single anyone out, but made it clear he wasn't happy with how New York was responding to its recent slide, having lost six of seven. (New York Post)

PANIC ALERT: At the outset of the 2011 season, one keeps hearing how it's too early to draw any conclusions from the play of teams or players. But for one certain writer, it's never too early as he encourages you to go right ahead and panic. Something about how it's healthy and fun to panic. Me? I'd prefer to stay even-keeled, thanks. (Sports Illustrated)

SHORTSTOP PAINS: The Brewers are incredibly thin at shortstop, both at the major-league and minor-league level. Luiz Cruz left the organization to sign with the Rangers despite Milwaukee telling him he would be the first option up to the majors if needed. Then, Triple-A third baseman/shortstop Zelous Wheeler got injured, leaving journeyman Anderson Machado as the first line of defense at short. And if your first line of defense is Machado, you've got serious problems. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

TILLMAN BOMBED: Chris Tillman was smacked around by the Yankees on Wednesday, and manager Buck Showalter made it clear after the game that it was unacceptable. "You just can’t let them get away from you and keep the team in the game," he said, also declining to confirm Tillman would make his next start Monday. (Baltimore Sun)

UBALDO RETURNING: Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez had a strong rehab outing Wednesday and should make his return to the majors on Monday. (MLB.com)

BACK TO THE ROTATION? Jeff Samardzija has shuttled back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in his fledgling career and may be settling into a niche as a reliever. However, when the team needs a fifth starter again next week, manager Mike Quade says he'll be forced to consider Samardzija along with a host of other options. (Chicago Sun-Times)

MEETING THE PRESIDENT: A select number of Houston Astros coaches and players had lunch with former president George H.W. Bush, an invitation that occurs once a year. "I was a little star-struck when I saw him," third baseman Chris Johnson said. "You see athletes all the time. That’s totally different. It’s totally on another level." (Houston Chronicle)

HAPPY 70, CHARLIE HUSTLE: Pete Rose turns 70 on Thursday, an unthinkable thought to those who grew up idolozing Rose and the Big Red Machine. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

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Posted on: April 7, 2011 11:42 am
Edited on: April 7, 2011 11:43 am
 

Dibble says Strasburg's dad got him canned

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Rob DibbleStephen Strasburg has as good an arm as the big leagues have ever seen, but he also has a Little League dad, former MASN color analyst Rob Dibble said.

Granted, Dibble said something stupid last year when he said Strasburg to "suck it up" before it became known that the Nationals' right-hander would need Tommy John surgery and was subsequently ousted from the Nationals' broadcast booth -- but he's not backing down from those comments (that he previously backed down from), but more on that later.

Dibble said recently on a video interview with FoxSports.com that it was an e-mail from Strasburg's dad that got him kicked out of the MASN booth.

"It was basically Strasburg's father [who] e-mailed the owner and basically was offended by what I said," Dibble said in the interview (and transcribed by the D.C. Sports Bog). "Now remember, I said that on my own radio show on another network, and his father e-mailed the owner and the owner wanted me out of there. So that's the bottom line."

Dibble said he wasn't exactly fired -- that he's still being paid by MASN. He added that even though he said last year his comments were "inappropriate and disrespectful," he's backtracked on that, standing by his original comments -- not his backtrack.

"It had nothing to do with the game he got hurt in Philly. He had a sold-out game against the Braves, and the people I worked with at MSN were excellent, we followed his workout regimen -- which was fantastic," Dibble said. "His warm-up was fantastic. He didn't do any of that the day that he basically walked away from the Braves start, which was sold-out. And all the money that the Nationals were making per start on Strasburg was well over seven figures. So to me, you know what kid? You've got to suck it up."

Dibble still has a show for XM/Sirius, but don't expect Strasburg (or his dad) to appear on that show anytime soon.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:51 am
 

Top 20 things to expect from 2011 season

Jeter

By Evan Brunell

The 2011 season is slated to start Thursday, and with it comes no shortage of storylines to watch. Last year brought the advent of Stephen Strasburg, yet another Cliff Lee trade, and of course, the Giants being crowned champions. What's on deck?

1. East Coast hype

An all-too easy criticism of mainstream media or any sports journalist is the dreaded "East Coast bias" label. However, this season, most of the intriguing teams and races will come from both the AL and NL East.

In the senior circuit, the Phillies have a vaunted rotation, but injuries to Domonic Brown and Chase Utley have left the door ajar for the Braves to sneak in. Many seem to be overlooking Atlanta, but the club won 91 games and will add Dan Uggla to the lineup while improving production out of left field. The Marlins, meanwhile, have a strong rotation and enough offensive potential loaded in their young players that they can't be discounted. Add in the mess that is the Mets along with some nice storylines in Washington (Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth to name three), and there's plenty of topics to go around.

Likewise, in the league with the DH, the Red Sox were the darlings of the offseason after importing Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, while adding Bobby Jenks to the bullpen, and appear to be the team to beat, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman has admitted. But you can't count out New York, and Cashman has a quality club ready to push for the division. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, underwent quite a remake but can't be counted out, as this is a club that could crack 90 wins with only a smidgen of luck. The Jays are fresh off a surprising year and have Jose Bautista to draw national interest, while the Orioles are hopeful the middling veterans imported will push the team toward the .500 barrier.

That's not to say that other teams don't have compelling storylines, but the concentration of quality and ease of finding compelling storylines for each team means that the East Coast will dominate the news.

2. Breaking records

It will be a banner year for three players set to hit significant milestones, and there are plenty of other players nearing milestones that, while not Hall of Fame caliber, will put emphasis on the productive careers they have had.

Rounding the Bases

Perhaps the most revered milestone for a hitter to reach, 3,000 hits will come into play for Derek Jeter, who is just 74 hits away. He will probably reach the mark in late May or early June, depending on if he's the .270 batting average Jeter of 2010 or the .314-average Jeter of his career.

Jeter isn't the only Yankee poised for a milestone, however. Mariano Rivera is closing in on 600 saves, as he currently has 559. Given that the major-league record for saves is 601 by Trevor Hoffman, Rivera could also make it to the top of the mountain. That said, Mo will need a good year to reach 600 saves as he has not cracked the 40-save barrier in four out of the past five years.

Ivan Rodriguez is also close to 3,000 hits, needing 183. However, given he has not reached that mark since 1999, you can bet I-Rod will need until at least 2012 to reach the milestone. Heck, depending on how much he plays and produces, he may need until 2013, even though that is quite unlikely.

Jim Thome is 11 home runs away from becoming the eighth member of the 600-club. Paul Konerko needs 35 homers to reach 400, while Adam Dunn (354) and David Ortiz (349) would need big seasons to hit the 400 mark.

Closing in on 2,000 hits are Carlos Lee (1,967), Orlando Cabrera (1,948), Scott Rolen (1,944), Jason Giambi (1,914), Albert Pujols (1,900), Adrian Beltre (1,889), Luis Castillo (1,889), Konerko (1,861), Michael Young (1,848), Derrek Lee (1,843), Juan Pierre (1,842), Andruw Jones (1,840) and Placido Polanco (1,836).

3. A new labor agreement

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement is due to expire after the season, but both baseball and the players union are already beginning work on coming to an accord. In a year where the NFL has locked out its players and the NBA appears headed down that path, it's important for baseball to work together with players and come to an agreement in short order.

Fortunately, after years of rancor, both sides have a harmonious working relationship and it should not be difficult to come to an arrangement even with sensitive topics such as revenue sharing and draft slotting among what will be discussed. The last agreement was finalized and announced on Oct. 25, 2006, so any announcement may not come until the conclusion of the playoffs.

However, recent word comes from the Boston Globe that any hint of a work stoppage would be a shocker, even with delicate issues such as revamping the revenue-sharing agreement. Also on deck is adding wild cards, an international draft and draft slotting.

4. Giants doing just fine

There are a lot of people wondering if the Giants can possibly repeat their World Series run of last year, doing so with a suboptimal offense and squeaking into the playoffs by the skin of their nose.

However, the offense should be much improved with Buster Posey behind the dish for a full year, Aaron Rowand squarely on the bench and Miguel Tejada replacing Edgar Renteria. While Tejada may have his issues, especially on defense, he should be able to improve on what Renteria gave the Giants last season. In addition, prospect Brandon Belt should be in the majors by June at the latest and will add another dimension to the club.

The rotation is one of concern, even if it's ridiculously deep given how young everyone is sans Barry Zito and the load they shouldered last year to win a ring. Fortunately, the Giants are cognizant of this and plan to give starters a lighter load to start the year. Plus, even if one or two starting pitchers fall flat on their face, there's still plenty of quality starters. One concern is the depth behind the front five, which is extremely thin.

5. Yankees trade for starting pitcher

There's simply no way the Yankees don't strike for a starting pitcher this season, but it may not be Francisco Liriano. The lefty is the hot name in trade circles and while Liriano still stands a good chance of being dealt, it probably won't be until after the year.

But the Yankees need help now. They had enough trouble filling the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation, so imagine what the depth behind them is like once injuries strike -- and they will. Fortunately for the Yankees, they have a solid farm system and a top prospect in Jesus Montero they can dangle for the right pitcher.

Even if the right pitcher doesn't come along to whisk Montero away, there will be no shortage of candidates as the year goes on for the Yankees to grab. What bears watching is who they grab. While acquiring a No. 4 starter would certainly deepen the rotation, it's more important for New York to get a frontline pitcher. Does anyone feel confident with A.J. Burnett following CC Sabathia in the playoffs? Didn't think so, and it would be presumptuous to project Phil Hughes' emergence into that pitcher even if the talent is there.

6. Strasburg recovering from Tommy John surgery

StrasburgStrasburg underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow on September 9, and recovery from such surgeries these days tends to take 9-12 months. Edinson Volquez returned to the majors 11 months after such a surgery. While the Nationals may play it cautious, Strasburg is right on schedule, and given his tremendous work ethic and young age, should have no problem meeting the conservative 12-month estimate.

That means Strasmas could be back just in time to close the season out, where he'll certainly dominate headlines once more. Strasburg would certainly need minor-league rehab starts first, but his timeline should assure him of the ability to get into games before the minor-league regular season ends in early September. Given the club will have expanded to 40 players at that point and will likely be out of the division race, it won't be difficult to get Strasburg back on the roster and in a major-league game.

Could the Nationals play it conservative and hold him back until 2012? Sure, it all depends how Strasburg progresses. But even if they hold him back, Strasburg certainly would play Winterball to get his footing under him. Most pitchers returning from T.J. surgery tend to struggle with command upon return, and the only way to address that is to get on a mound and pitch.

7. Bonds, Rocket dominate headlines

BondsThe trial of Barry Bonds has already started, but is still ongoing. It should be wrapped up before long, but that doesn't mean that Bonds will exit the headlines -- whatever the ruling on Bonds' perjury trial, it will have long-lasting ramifications on the game.

If Bonds is found guilty, many ink will be spilled on how this cements Bonds' exclusion from the Hall of Fame, plus articles on how Bonds is finally getting his comeuppance.

In addition, Roger Clemens will be put on high alert, given the Rocket will be undergoing his own perjury trial in the summer. If Bonds is found innocent, there will be a hot debate once more on whether to vote Bonds into the Hall. You will find those writers who believe that, despite the acquittal of Bonds, he knowingly abused steroids. There will be those who concede that while Bonds likely knew exactly what was going on, the law has deemed him innocent, and thus should be elected. And of course, a broad spectrum of opinions therein.

The Clemens trial, meanwhile, will dominate headlines even more than Bonds given the salacious details that have leaked out about Clemens' career, plus the off-putting way in how Clemens has fought the rumors he used steroids.

Much like the Bonds trial, the verdict will spark debate amid wide-ranging opinions. If both are convicted, there will be those who consider the steroid mess closed thanks to triumphing over perhaps the best hitter and pitcher of the steroid era. If both are innocent, it may open the door for those to wonder openly if they are not truly innocent, that the problem may lie with the system itself if it allows Bonds and Clemens to walk free.

Either way, the Bonds and Clemens trial will spark plenty of discussion that will last for years as they attempt to get into the Hall of Fame.

8. Questioning if Mets stay solvent

WilponsThe Mets are hoping to close a deal to bring in a new investor by the close of July. While it is not yet known what percentage of the team these investors will hold, it is expected to be in the 20-25 percent range, although the Wilpons are focused on acquiring a certain price over selling a certain percentage.

Why? 

They need the money. The Mets have debt to pay off, a $1 billion lawsuit staring them in the face (thanks, Irving Picard) and a ticking clock in which to stay solvent. If the Mets aren't able to bring in a new investor by that time, they will likely need a loan from MLB. At that point commissioner Bud Selig would likely have free rein to do what he wants with the Mets, including telling the Wilpons to sell the entire club.

That's incredibly unlikely, especially since the Wilpons (Jeff pictured on the left, Fred right) and Selig have a long, good relationship, but it bears mentioning.

Most investors are requesting majority control of the Mets -- which won't happen, unless the Wilpons' hands are forced -- or right of first refusal if the Wilpons eventually have to cough up the team. This should be an acceptable compromise to the Wilpons, who need to worry about money more than they do any possible future owner of the club.

9. New wave of prospects arriving

At the beginning of March, CBS Sports revealed its top 100 prospects, and along with the list came information on which prospects could make an impact this season.

Topping the list was No. 3 prospect Domonic Brown, who was expected to start in right field for the Phillies and attempt to replace Werth. Unfortunately, the team is now left scrambling after Brown fractured the hamate bone in his hand. He shouldn't be out terribly long, but may struggle with his power stroke upon returning. Philly may have to wait until 2012 to extract real value from the kid.

Meanwhile. No. 6's Jeremy Hellickson will open the season as a member of Tampa Bay's rotation and could easily replace the statistics Matt Garza tossed up. He's that good, that ready for the major leagues and has to be considered the front-runner for the AL Rookie of the Year award.

A fellow pitcher in Kyle Drabek (No. 16) appears on the verge of cracking Toronto's rotation after a successful late-season stint with the Blue Jays. Across the border in Ohio, Aroldis Chapman (No. 9) is readying for a full year in the bullpen and could wrest the closer's job away from Francisco Cordero by year's end.

The prospects keep on coming, as the Braves boast three in No. 19's Freddie Freeman, No. 29 Mike Minor and No. 85 Craig Kimbrel. Freeman should provide a steady presence at first base even if he lacks high-end ceiling. Minor figures to open the year in Triple-A, but should make an appearance before long and have a nice career in the middle of the rotation. Kimbrel is considered by many to be the Braves closer of the future.

There are plenty of other projected starters who will infuse baseball with youth, such as No. 33's Chris Sale, who will relieve for the White Sox; No. 66's Matt Dominguez who is on pace to play third for Florida -- ditto the same for No. 96's Brent Morel for the White Sox; No. 71's J.P. Arencibia is readying for a season as Toronto's backstop; No. 86's Danny Espinosa rocketing through two years of the minors to open the year as the starting second baseman for Washington; and No. 95 Jake McGee's apparent future as Tampa Bay's closer. You also can't discount No. 18 Brandon Belt, who could easily take home the NL Rookie of the Year honors provided he logs enough time for the Giants. Starting pitchers Zach Britton (No. 14, Orioles), Simon Castro (No. 52, Padres) and Kyle Gibson (No. 37, Twins) are on the verge of the bigs as well.

10. Philly thankful Blanton stayed

When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee, the consensus was that Philadelphia would trade Joe Blanton. After all, who needs a No. 5 starter due $17 miliion over the next two years when you have Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels?

Philly couldn't find a fit, however, and will now head into the season with Blanton on the roster. This is a good thing. Just because Blanton is the No. 5 starter doesn't mean he doesn't hold value, and being able to trot Blanton out against the back of the rotation for other teams will give Philadelphia an edge -- one it needs after losing Brown and Chase Utley.

Will Blanton stay with the team for the remainder of the year? Who can say, but even trading Blanton in July for pieces Philly knows it needs for a World Series run -- and to teams who will be increasingly desperate for pitchers once injuries and attrition hit -- is far more valuable than any deal of Blanton in January would have accomplished.

11. Firings

There's no question some managers and GMs will be shown the door in 2011. But who?

Skippers on the hot seat are covered here, so let's take a look at some GMs that could get the axe.

CollettiNed Colletti, Dodgers: Granted, Colletti has been hamstrung by the financial woes of owner Frank McCourt, but Colletti hasn't exactly done a good job with what he's been given. He appears to have learned from his mistakes in signing disasters like Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones and giving away Carlos Santana, but he also hasn't improved the team significantly. This team is simply muddling along, and Colletti looks like the classic "change for change's sake" for McCourt to try to improve morale. Of course, nothing will improve morale more than McCourt taking a hike.

Jim Hendry, Cubs: Hendry has been an up-and-down GM with the Cubs. While he made a bold gamble in trading for Garza and the Cubs may be a mild sleeper, if the team missteps yet again it's difficult to fathom the Ricketts family holding still. Hendry is a holdover from the previous ownership regime and is signed through 2012, but that wouldn't give the ownership pause in firing him. If the Cubs slip, Hendry is highly likely to be given his walking papers, especially since he stuck his neck out by hiring Mike Quade.

Tony Reagins, Angels: Reagins has done nothing but take steps back since taking over for Bill Stoneman, all the more curious given Stoneman was promoted and oversees Reagins. But the moves Reagins has made, such as (obviously) Vernon Wells are head scratching. Similar moves for Scott Kazmir and insisting on playing Jeff Mathis have followed. Manager Mike Scioscia loves Mathis, but it's up to Reagins to tell Scioscia no and take Mathis away if need be. Unfortunately, this team looks lined up to disappoint again and hover around .500. Will that fly for a second consecutive year in L.A.? Doubt it, and Scioscia won't be the first candidate on the chopping block.

Ed Wade, Astros: It's possible Wade could be on the chopping block in his third season with Houston. The Astros are widely expected to slide back and simply aren't successful at the major- or minor-league level when it comes tom talent. That may speak more to the owner than GM, but the owner doesn't get fired. Also, McLane is thought to be interested in selling the team and is reportedly close to selling to Jim Crane, who previously attempted to buy Houston and lost out on the Rangers last season. Should that happen, new ownership would absolutely want to bring in its own leader.

Jack Zduriencik, Mariners: Jack Z's leash is likely long enough to give him at least one more year, but in Year 3, the Mariners simply don't seem to have improved from his tenure. Yes, they surprised many in 2009, and part of it was probably flukish, but Zduriencik took a historically anemic lineup from 2010 and added ... Jack Cust. If he can get a strong season from Justin Smoak and impressive debuts from Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda, he should be safe.

12. Surprise teams

It happens every year. There's always that one team that takes a big step forward and contends for the postseason. Last year was especially notable in this regard, with the Reds, Padres, Giants and Blue Jays all performing better than expected. The one team to keep an eye on for 2011 is Colorado.

The Rockies finished with 83 wins last year, which is a surprise given the talent. Everyone knows the name Ubaldo Jimenez, Troy Tulowitzki (pictured) and Carlos Gonzalez, but the rest of the team aren't scrubs either. Colorado has been in the national consciousness the last few years given its Rocktober run in 2007 and another postseason appearance in 2009, but it hasn't been able to sustain that excellence.

TulowitzkiThat could be changing now that Gonzalez has fully matured into a middle-of-the-order hitter and have built out a rotation that should keep Colorado in the game. The Rockies are counting a bit on production from Ian Stewart at third and Chris Iannetta at catcher, but when you look at this team, it's a playoff-caliber club that should challenge the Giants in the NL West.

Unlike Colorado, however, there will also be those teams that crash and burn despite expectations. San Diego is widely expected to slide back, but expectations have also been adjusted due to trading Adrian Gonzalez. The one team that may not be able to live up to its billing is the Brewers.

Like Colorado, the star players are obvious -- Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder are the star names, but Ryan Braun and Shaun Marcum are no lightweights, either. The one area of concern in Milwaukee is the utter lack of depth which will end up a real problem if and when injuries strike. Look at what's happened to the rotation -- without Greinke to start the season, the club is going to have to trot out what will effectively be slop in the No. 5 spot. There's similar stories on offense with little help ready to step in and a complete punting of shortstop defense and center field offense.

The Brewers should finish .500, but they are a popular pick to win the World Series and it's difficult to envision them even making the playoffs unless everything goes right. The odds of that happening are as slim as Greinke accepting a trade back to the Royals.

13. Suffering in K.C ... plus optimism

"The day is darkest before dawn," or so goes the saying. That's certainly true in Kansas City, which will throw out a team capable of losing 100 games. But boasting the game's best farm system in a very long time is just the salve to ease the pain Royals fans will enjoy  watching Luke Hochevar function as the team's "ace."

The Royals have pared payroll, knowing it's pointless to try to pretend they can contend, plus the necessity to keep certain positions open for prospects that are nearing the majors. While Alcides Escobar will start the season in the majors, that won't be enough to excite the masses until the first wave of prospects hit, with Mike Moustakas likely to join the club in June or July.

Fans are going to have to sit through Jeff Francoeur flailing at pitches, Alex Gordon trying desperately to reverse his "bust" label and Jason Kendall struggling to take corporeal form ... but the picture only gets rosier, starting with 2012 where it's possible three of the most heralded prospects could break the year with the club, then an additional three hitting the majors at some point over the summer.

While watching the Royals, at least in the outset, will be an exercise in futility, by September, they may become the hot team to watch for the baseball fanatic.

14. Pirates finish last -- or will they?

The Pirates are poised to register their 19th consecutive losing season, but there is some optimism in Pittsburgh. The first wave of position player prospects have hit, and the club can point to Andrew McCutchen in center field, Jose Tabata in left, Neil Walker at second and Pedro Alvarez at third as reasons to be optimistic with the offense. There are some other intriguing pieces down on the farm offensively that could make an impact such as catcher Tony Sanchez, and with a strong year, outfielder Starling Marte could be knocking on the door.

The club is also building solid pitching depth, with Rudy Owens and Bryan Morris perhaps making their big-league debuts this season, although the cream of the crop in Jameson Taillon (the No. 2 overall pick behind Harper in last season's draft) and Stetson Allie are further away. While the team waits for Taillon and Allie, however, it could pluck Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 pick in June. Cole has been called by some as the "next Stephen Strasburg." Lofty expectations to be sure, but if Cole is picked and advances quickly, the Pirates could start doing some damage in several years.

In 2011, finishing under .500 is a virtual certainty. But will the Bucs finish in last place? It's possible they could pull out a fourth-place finish. It all depends how well the rotation performs and Alvarez, Tabata and Walker all adjust to a full year in the majors. The Astros may just have enough solid major-league talent to grab a fourth-place finish, but that's in doubt. Hey, any type of progress will be welcome in Pittsburgh.

15. Wild (card) about the postseason?

There seems to be overwhelming momentum toward expanding the playoffs with another wild card likely being added to the fray to battle the other wild-card winner in a best-of-3 series. That means that for the first time since 1995, the postseason would take on an entirely different complexion.

In 2010, the Yankees would have taken on the Chicago White Sox, while the Braves would have had to stave off the San Diego Padres, who lost the division by one game to the Giants.

The year prior, the Red Sox would battle the Rangers, giving the national audience a hint of what was to come in Texas while the NL would have pitted Colorado against the division-rival Giants. Assuming two wild cards can't come out of the same division, the Marlins would have drawn the honor.

Sounds like fun, right? Except that there would be no Game 163s anymore, so knock out the epic Tigers/Twins battle for the division in 2009. Likewise, the Rockies and Padres would never have played Game 163 in 2007.

Should the second wild card be added to the game, an NFL-style tiebreaker will most likely be used to determine outcomes when two teams tie for the wild card or division. On one hand, that's a bit disappointing, because Game 163s are tremendous fun. But on the other hand, that fun would simply be extended to the new wild-card playoff format and happen every year instead of having to wait for the occasional Game 163 scenario to roll around.

Either way, it would be a shocker if there wasn't a new playoff system in place for 2012.

And here's five more things that could happen this season ... 

Ramirez1. In the first game between the Red Sox and Rays, Manny Ramirez forgets he's on the Tampa Bay squad and runs on the field with the Red Sox to begin the game. He asks Crawford what he's doing in left field and why they are wearing opposite uniforms. Crawford tries to explain the situation, but ManRam simply shrugs and heads into the Green Monster.

2. Ozzie Guillen surprisingly releases a book about Jenks (remember when he said he could "write a book on the kid" in the offseason?), full of salacious details about Jenks' time in Chicago, including the revelation that Jenks ate a middle reliever during one game. In his first game against the White Sox in 2011, an enraged Jenks throws at the head of the first two batters, hitting them before Guillen comes out on the field to complain. Jenks then beans Guillen and the two brawl on the field, which leads to a multi-million dollar match between the two in UFC in which Jenks, who hired Mike Tyson as trainer, attempts to bite Guillen's ear off.

3. During one particularly heated Cincinnati-St. Louis matchup, the benches clear, and Johnny Gomes comes face to face with Adam Wainwright. Without a word exchanged, Gomes promptly delivers a crane kick to Waino. "First learn stand, then learn fly," Dusty Baker sagely observes.

4. Joe Maddon, who is already known for using uncommon words, takes things to a whole new level. Witness this quote: "David Price can unequivocally bung. How dexterous is the swain? He's as recherché as Sandy Koufax in his diurnal course." Good luck deciphering that.

5. Pujols announces the team he has chosen to sign with during the last homestand of the season -- against the Cubs on Sept. 25. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded, down three runs with a full count and the division title in the balance for the Cardinals, Pujols watches strike three right down the middle. As the crowd groans, Pujols rips open his jersey, revealing a Cubs home jersey underneath and dropkicks Tony La Russa as the announcers scream "NOOOOOOO!" And fade to black.

OK, so these five things won't happen, but one can dream. The rest you can expect.

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