Tag:NL East
Posted on: February 19, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: February 19, 2012 12:37 pm
 

Mike Cameron retires from baseball

By Matt Snyder

Exactly two months after signing a minor-league deal with the Washington Nationals, Mike Cameron has decided to call it a career, according to the club.

Cameron appeared to be a possibility as a center-field platoon partner with either Roger Bernadina or Rick Ankiel -- both of whom are left-handed -- but now the Nats are without a righty option. Of course, if Bryce Harper makes the team out of spring, the plan is to play Jayson Werth in center every day.

Cameron, 39, closes with a good career resume. In 17 seasons, he hit .249/.338/.444 with 278 home runs, 968 RBI, 1,064 runs and 297 stolen bases. He won three Gold Gloves, made one All-Star Game and received MVP votes two times. He has a shot at getting on the Hall of Fame ballot (Bill Mueller and Tony Womack were on this year's, for example), but no shot of getting in.

He never spent more than four years with the same ballclub, playing for eight different franchises: The Mariners, White Sox, Mets, Red Sox, Padres, Brewers, Reds and Marlins. Amazingly, as you can see, he played in every single division.

He was also involved in two pretty big transactions as part of trades in exchange for both Ken Griffey Jr. and Paul Konerko.

The highlight of Cameron's career had to be on May 2, 2002, when he hit four home runs in one game -- becoming the 13th player in big-league history to accomplish the feat.

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Posted on: February 18, 2012 1:33 pm
 

Spring Training: A time for optimism



By Matt Snyder


Come Monday, just two days from now, every single team will have pitchers and catchers in big-league camp. Ten clubs -- Orioles, Twins, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, Angels, Cubs, Reds, A's and Giants -- have their pitchers and catchers report Sunday.

Soak it in, fans. The far-too-long wait is over. No more do we have to yearn for the season while chasing Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes or Prince Fielder rumors. Instead, the actual season is closer than the horizon.

When spring training opens for baseball teams, it's the fan version of New Year's Day. Feel free to make baseball fan versions of resolutions, and don't you dare let anyone tell you it's not possible. After all, what would opposing fans have said to a Diamondbacks fan last year at this time if he dared to have the audacity to predict an NL West title?

It's the time for optimism, no matter which team you love. So let's fan the flames. Here's an optimistic -- overly optimistic in some cases -- one-liner on every team that fans of said team can eat up with a spoon. And don't forget to bookmark our spring training landing page while we're at it.

This is the year for the (insert team) because ...

Diamondbacks: Last year was just the beginning. This is a young nucleus just beginning to come into its own. The sky is the limit. 

Braves: Jason Heyward will come into form, giving a gigantic offensive boost and the Kimbrel-Venters duo in the bullpen won't wear down this time around. And the starting pitching depth and talent is insane.

Cubs: There's new management, a new attitude, a new culture and the locker room is finally freed from the Carlos Zambrano albatross.

Orioles: They have pitching depth and catcher Matt Wieters is poised for a huge breakout season to spur the sneaky-talented offense.

White Sox: Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy will all have huge bounce-back seasons while Matt Thornton finally settles in as closer.

Red Sox: Last September was a fluke, but also a wakeup call. And Daniel Bard proves a solid starting pitcher, as opposed to the man he's replacing (John Lackey).

Reds: No Pujols, no Prince, no Braun (for 50 games)? No problem in the Central for the Reds, who have a pair of aces -- Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto -- with a solid, young offense and good defense.

Tigers: Prince. Cabrera. Verlander. Enough said.

Indians: Ubaldo Jimenez returns to ace form, just as Grady Sizemore plays like he did five years ago. Shin-Soo Choo gets back to his old ways while the youngsters (Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, etc.) come into their own.

Marlins: They had the best offseason of any NL club, so why not the best regular season?

Rockies: Michael Cuddyer and Marco Scutaro moving to Coors Field will be huge, just as the continued growth of Dexter Fowler will be. And Ramon Hernandez working with that young pitching staff -- bolstered by the great Ubaldo trade, which landed Alex White and Drew Pomeranz -- is even better.

Astros: It's the last year in the National League, so they have a going away present -- courtesy of their new owner and GM. And they're keeping the name Astros!

Royals: No need to wait until 2013. The young lineup (Alex Gordon, Johnny Giavotella, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain, etc.) is ready to take over the AL Central while starter Jonathan Sanchez thrives with his change of scenery.

Twins: Injury-free this season and they're home-free. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau party like it's 2009.

Angels: Albert Pujols makes the offense as dangerous as any, and who wants to face that playoff rotation (Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana) in October?

Mets: Ike Davis and Johan Santana return healthy while the likes of Jason Bay and David Wright thrive with the new dimensions of Citi Field.

Dodgers: There are plenty of supporting pieces (Dee Gordon, Andre Ethier, James Loney, Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang, etc.) to superstars Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and a studly 1-2 punch at the back-end of the bullpen in Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra.

Yankees: Enough talk. Time for No. 28.

Brewers: Ryan Braun's appeal will be upheld and the club won't miss a beat without Prince Fielder chasing the dollars, as Aramis Ramirez and Mat Gamel step up.

Phillies: One fluky playoff series doesn't change the fact that the Phillies were the best team last season. This year they don't fall short.

Athletics: Billy Beane's makeover pays off early, as the likes of Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and Jarrod Parker thrive while Yoenis Cespedes does his Bo Jackson impression all summer, jumpstarting the formerly stagnant offense.

Pirates: The division is much weaker and the Pirates are ready to strike, with A.J. Burnett's change of scenery and Erik Bedard's health. The young offense is as exciting as ever, too, with Jose Tabata and Alex Presley setting up for Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker.

Padres: Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso bring punch to a once-punchless offense while the pitching staff enjoys the fruits of Petco Park.

Cardinals: Albert who? The Cardinals are bigger than one man. The offense will be just fine with Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday in the middle while the pitching staff gets back Adam Wainwright (ever heard of him?).

Giants: Buster Posey is back, Brandon Belt is ready and the outfield has a new Melky Cabrera/Angel Pagan combo -- all of which boost the offense. And you know the pitching is fine. Two titles in three years?

Rays: Compare last year's roster to this year's. The latter is much better already, so they won't need a miracle comeback in September.

Mariners: They finally have some offense, with young Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero leading the way.

Blue Jays: The bullpen is fixed -- you know, the one that allowed 25 blown saves last year on an 81-81 team.

Rangers: Third time is the charm. Yuuuuuuuuu!

Nationals: You think anyone wants to face Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez in a three-game series? Plus, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are due huge bounce-backs and we're about to see the debut of Bryce Harper.

So run with these and expand upon them, fans of every team. If someone tells you otherwise, who cares? Again, no one other than D-Backs fans -- and maybe not even them -- saw Arizona coming last year. Every season has examples like that. As far as baseball fans are concerned, it's the first day of spring. Anything is possible, so bring the optimism.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 9:41 pm
 

Empire State Building honors Gary Carter

By C. Trent Rosecrans

If you're in New York Friday night, take a gander at the Empire State Building. If you're not in New York, check it out here:

Empire State Building

The building's lights are shining orange and blue in honor of Hall of Famer Gary Carter, a former Met who died on Thursday at the age of 57.

A fantastic tribute and one befitting Carter.

The photo is from Tom Kaminski of WCBS 880 in New York (via @Mets)

Hat-tip: Big League Stew

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 5:48 pm
 

Mets' Santana encouraged by mound session

Johan Santana

By C. Trent Rosecrans


OK, we've been down this road before, but still, at this point any good news in the Johan Santana comeback trail should be considered great news.

On Friday, Santana, the Mets' $137.5-million left-hander, threw off the mound for the first time since last season. He threw 25 pitches, throwing fastballs, changeups and curveballs.

"I finally had a chance to get on the mound and throw to a catcher … and I felt really good," Santana told reporters on Friday (via MLB.com). "The approach that we had from the beginning was to do everything like I always do to get ready for the season. For me, it's about time to get on the mound and start throwing. And I was able to throw all of my pitchers, and it felt good after that."

Santana is scheduled to throw again on Tuesday.

The Mets' official line is that Santana will be ready for opening day. The rest of the world is a little more skeptical. Santana was supposed to be able to return from his Sept. 2010 shoulder surgery by last season's All-Star break, but suffered multiple setbacks. He made two minor-league rehab stints.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:49 pm
 

Kimbrel, Venters to dial it down this spring



By Matt Snyder


We all know the narrative by now. The Atlanta Braves blew a double-digit lead in the NL wild-card race to the eventual World Series champion Cardinals. Chief among the reasons for the September swoon were a lack of offense and the once-untouchable back-end of the bullpen duo Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters running out of gas. This spring, they'll look to avoid such a disaster.

Kimbrel was just 3-of-6 in save chances with a 7.36 ERA and six walks in his last eight outings (7 1/3 innings). Before that stretch, Kimbrel was one of the most dominant closers in baseball, closing 43 saves in 48 chances with a 1.55 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings. All told, Kimbrel appeared in 79 games. The only pitcher who appeared in more was his setup man, Venters, who appeared in 85.

Venters had a 5.65 ERA and 1.81 WHIP in his last 15 outings. Before that, he had a 1.10 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.

So it's pretty evident if the Venters-Kimbrel duo was able to remain as deadly in September as they were April through August, the Braves would have found a way to hold off the Cardinals. It's easy to point to the regular season workload -- and that was a major issue -- but David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out the two youngsters also dialed it up in the spring.
At 2011 spring training, no major league reliever had more appearances (13) or strikeouts (15) than Kimbrel. As for Venters, the lefty with the 95-mph sinkers appeared in midseason form from the outset of camp, then reeled off whopping 51 appearances (in 92 team games) before the All-Star break.
This time around, they are slowing things down considerably in the spring, with hopes of going strong into October.

“I definitely slowed it down, started throwing a little later,” Venters said of his offseason throwing program (AJC.com). “Last year I came into camp guns blazing, ready to go 100 percent. This year I’m going to use spring training as more of a tool for trying to get ready for the season, as opposed to … really two years ago I was trying to make the team, and last year there was a new manager and it was my second year in the big leagues.”

Kimbrel is in a very similar situation.

“Yeah, I definitely started to throw a little later, because I understand there’s no reason for me to have myself ready to go right now,” Kimbrel said (AJC.com). “As long as I’m good to go with two weeks left before the season starts, that’s good enough. You don’t have to be 100 percent ready to go at the very start of spring training."

This is a good start. The next step is the Braves' offense providing bigger leads in victories and manager Fredi Gonzalez realizing he doesn't have to use both of them every single time they have a three-run lead. Just because the rulebook says it's a save doesn't mean you must have your best two pitchers out there. After all, it's not that hard for a major-league pitcher to get three outs before allowing three runs.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:44 am
 

Hanley Ramirez: '3B with Marlins forever baby'

By Matt Snyder

Thankfully, we're getting very close to putting this Hanley Ramirez-moving-to-third drama to bed. Earlier this week, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said Ramirez wasn't "100 percent" OK with the move, which is being made to accomodate Jose Reyes at shortstop. Guillen did say he felt Ramirez would be fine by opening day and that he thought any star wouldn't immediately be happy with changing positions.

It would appear Guillen was correct, as Ramirez now sounds completely on board with a move, seemingly in reaction to an opinion piece from a newspaper.

Responding to a column from a Dominican newspaper ("Hoy") where the writer said Ramirez's friendship with Reyes will inevitably be damaged -- in addition to claiming the Marlins signed Reyes to give them an excuse to rid themselves of an "immature" Ramirez -- Ramirez took to Twitter.

”Folks, via this medium I want to let everyone know that what came out in the newspaper Hoy about me, the team and Guillen is a lie,” Ramirez tweeted (in spanish, but translated by SunSentinel.com).

More: “And now what are you going to talk about if the whole world knows I’m going to play third base with the Marlins.” (in spanish, but translated by SunSentinel.com)

More: “Trying to soil my image with lies. Third base with the Marlins forever baby.” (in spanish, but translated by SunSentinel.com)

Finally, Ramirez tweeted a picture of himself sitting next to Reyes with both men smiling. I'm kind of surprised they weren't hugging.

It's good that Ramirez is embracing his move to third base, as well he should. It's the professional thing to do, and frankly, it will benefit him defensively. But in regards to him being angry people are talking about it, he needs to realize his manager is the one who fanned the flames earlier this week.

But now we know: Hanley Ramirez is happy and ready to play. So we can all move on.

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Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:03 pm
 

Arbitration season ends, owners win 5-2

Garrett Jones

By C. Trent Rosecrans


The Pirates wrapped up arbitration season on Thursday, beating Garrett Jones and settling with Casey McGehee on a one-year deal before heading to the arbitration room.

Jones was the seventh and final player to head to his arbitration hearing this winter, with owners taking a decisive 5-2 victory in 2012. Last season only three cases went to arbitration, with the players winning two (both against the Marlins -- the arbitrators must have felt sorry for them having to wear those new uniforms).

In a nutshell, the way arbitration works is that the player and team swap demands and after both sides make their cases, three arbitrators pick one number or the other -- in Jones' case, the arbitrators picked the team's offer of $2.25 million instead of Jones' demand of $2.5 million. Or, at any point before the door closes on the hearing room, the two sides can compromise. That's what the Pirates did with McGehee, settling at $2.5375 million, more or less between his request of $2.75 million and the team's offer of $2.35 million.

Because the hearings are so late in the offseason, most teams budget for the worst-case scenario with their arbitration-eligible players and the final result really on effects the guy signing the check and the guy cashing the check.

But hey, what's the fun of having winners and losers if you don't have a scoreboard. So here's looking back at this year's arbitration cases.

Team victories
The Brewers ($2 million) beat Jose Veras ($2.35 million)
The Nationals ($5 million) beat John Lannan ($5.7 million)
The Orioles ($800,000) beat Brad Bergesen ($1.2 million)
The Rays ($2.75 million) beat Jeff Niemann ($3.2 million)
The Pirates ($2.25 million) beat Jones ($2.5 million).

Marlins lossesPlayer victories
Emilio Bonifacio ($2.2 million) beat the Marlins ($1.95 million)
Anibal Sanchez ($8 million) beat the Marlins ($6.9 million)

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Posted on: February 15, 2012 5:16 pm
 

Blue Jays work out Cuban OF Jorge Soler

Alex AnthopoulosBy C. Trent Rosecrans

There had been a general consensus that 19-year-old Cuban Jorge Soler was going to sign with the Cubs -- and even one that suggested he had a deal in place -- but that may not be a done deal just yet. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reports Soler worked out for Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and members of the team's front office at the tema's complex in the Dominican Republic.

FREE AGENT TRACKER

And it's not just the Blue Jays that are interested in Soler, as Sanchez adds the Orioles will visit with Soler on Sunday. CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports the Marlins are interested in Soler, while other reports say the Yankees, White Sox and Phillies may also be in the mix.

Unlike recent export Yoenis Cespedes, Soler has yet to establish residency in the Dominican Republic, but has applied. After establishing residency, Soler will need to be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and be cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assts Control before he can sign a contract. Cespedes was declared a resident of the Dominican Republic on Jan. 24 and 19 days later he was cleared by the OFAC and signed a four-year, $36 million deal with Oakland.

Soler reportedly has above-average power and projects as either a corner outfielder or first baseman. A right-handed thrower and hitter, Soler is 6-foor-3, 205 pounds and there are some reports that have him running above-average times, others have him an average runner at best. In the end, he's 19 and has plenty of growing to do. Unlike Cespedes, whoever signs Soler won't expect him to contribute to the major league team anytime soon, but in the end, he could be even better than the 26-year-old Cespedes.

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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