Category:MLB
Posted on: February 19, 2012 6:05 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 6:12 pm
 

Hensley hopes to make different SF history

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Hang around long enough, you never know where the wind will blow you next. And so it is for right-hander Clay Hensley, who is in camp attempting to win a job in the San Francisco bullpen.

The six-year veteran already has a place in Giants lore: He was the pitcher who served up Barry Bonds' record-tying 755th home run on Aug. 4, 2007.

"It's not something I want to be defined by," Hensley said Sunday morning. "I wasn't the first guy to give up a homer to him, and I wasn't the last guy.

"It's not that big a deal to me."

Maybe not, but Hensley's name will remain permanently stamped on the baseball trivia pages. Bonds' 755th, which tied home run king Hank Aaron, came in Petco Park of a game won by the Padres, 3-2. Bonds rifled a Hensley pitch over the left-field fence to tie Aaron, then hit record-setting No. 756 four nights later in San Francisco against the Nationals' Mike Bacsik.

Hensley, who went 6-7 with a 5.19 ERA in 37 games (nine starts) for the Marlins last year, signed a one-year, $750,000 deal with the Giants over the winter. He does not arrive as an unknown: The Giants drafted him in 2002 out of Lamar (Tex.) University, and Bruce Bochy was the Padres manager in two of Hensley's four seasons pitching in San Diego.

"Am I going to go around signing pictures of 755?" Hensley said good-naturedly Sunday. "Probably not. But I did get a nice bat out of it."

Yes, Bonds sent over a bat -- but not the bat.

Sunblock Day? A little on the cool side at 63 degrees (darn right that's cool, we have high expectations here), but mostly sunny and bright.

Likes: At a benefit in late January, Giants third base coach Tim Flannery and friends raised $60,000 for the Bryan Stow Fund. And attention Deadheads: Check out this cool video of Bob Weir and Flannery doing the Grateful Dead classic Friend of the Devil at the show. "Bob let me sing," Flannery said, beaming. ... Tim Lincecum, a ghostly shade of white, describing why he's happy to get out of Seattle and land in Arizona. "I need the sun. I mean, look at me." ... Totally charmed by Hugo, the Martin Scorsese 3-D flick. And I'm not much for 3-D. ... Go-to place for lunch during spring camp: Subway. It's quick, reasonably healthy and light enough that I can usually get in a late-afternoon run without paying for my lunch sins.

Dislikes: Bronx cheers to the Giants, who have told the nice lady named Kay, who sits outside of their spring clubhouse and checks media credentials, that she cannot read or knit while manning her post. Something about needing to be professional. It's spring training, for crying out loud. Besides, I was looking forward to learning what she was knitting this year.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"She must feel it's awkward
Oh, I said it's Arizona"

-- Arizona, Kings of Leon
Posted on: February 19, 2012 3:44 pm
 

Giants' Wilson hopes to be ready by March

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brian Wilson, the 24/7 personality who helped the Giants win the World Series and became a cult hero in the process, said Sunday that he hopes to be game-ready by the second week of Cactus League games.

The proclamation was notable for a couple of reasons. One, Wilson appeared in only six games after last Aug. 1 while battling a strained elbow. And two, he clammed up about the time his elbow went south, and he hadn't spoken publically in about seven months.

"I wasn't frustrated," Wilson said in a brief interview before San Francisco's first workout for pitchers and catchers. "It was nothing I could have controlled. I was never frustrated."

Wilson said he hopes to pitch in the second week of spring games, which would be the week of March 11. After leading the NL with 48 saves during the Giants' dream season of 2010, Wilson managed 36 last summer before succumbing to the elbow, just one more thing gone wrong in a season of bad news for the Giants.

Still, Wilson tried to pitch through the pain. After making four appearances between Aug. 5 and 15, he was shut down for a month, his next appearance coming on Sept. 18. But it was evident then that things weren't right, and he wound up pitching just one more game, Sept. 21, before being shelved.

"It's what I do," Wilson said of trying to push through the injury. "I don't ask for days off. I don't complain. I don't ask for a time out until I can take a breather."

Wilson said he feels good now and is hoping that he's given the elbow enough time to heal.
Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:47 pm
 

Burnett needs to be more steely in Steel City

The Pirates, spurned by free agents Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt this winter, need pitching. The Yankees, bastion for tabloid headlines run amok, need less chaos and fewer knuckleheads.

Call the deal sending A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh a win-win for both clubs.

Talks for this trade have been so interminable that they've made Best Picture Oscar nominee Tree of Life seem rapid-fire. But the deal finally is moving from the on-deck circle to completion: Colleague Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates have agreed to pay $13 million of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's deal, and that two low-level minor-leaguers will move from Pittsburgh to New York: right-hander Diego Moreno, 25, and outfielder Exicardo Cayones, 20.

Only losers in this trade are the New York tabloids ("After Yankees ace flops, here comes joker" read one classic headline as Burnett followed CC Sabathia in the playoffs against the Tigers last October).

It wasn't official, but Burnett's departure papers from the Yanks' rotation were punched on that dramatic Friday evening last month when general manager Brian Cashman deftly moved to acquire Michael Pineda from Seattle and sign free agent Hiroki Kuroda. The moves were stellar and stealth, immediately adding depth and talent that has been lacking from Joe Girardi's rotation for at least the past couple of years.

That wasn't supposed to be the case with Burnett, who donated his arm to the Bronx cause (and, apparently, his brain to science) when he signed the six-year $82.5 million deal before the 2009 season. For that, the Yankees got 34 victories from him over three seasons, and a clutch (and pivotal) Game 2 win in the 2009 World Series against Philadelphia.

But more often than not, it was the Land of 1,000 Headaches with A.J. as the Yankees spend inordinate amounts of time over the past two seasons trying to fix him like a broken-down sports car on the side of the road. Who knows how many man-hours pitching coach Larry Rothschild invested in him alone last season? And just think how much quality time Rothschild now will have available for Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and others.

And for his part there's a good chance that, away from the New York spotlight and howling masses, Burnett can put some of the pieces back together again and help the Pirates. For one thing, he won't be freaking out about whether yet another potent AL East lineup will bash his brains in every fifth day. Facing St. Louis without Albert Pujols, Milwaukee without Prince Fielder and the Astros without anybody in the NL Central might be just what the shrink, er, doctor ordered.

Look, Burnett is a nice guy, a well-meaning guy and a hard-worker. But there historically has been a disconnect between his million-dollar arm and his brain. He was great at times, but always inconsistent, in Florida. He was at his best in Toronto when he was trying to emulate Roy Halladay and Doc's incredible work habits. He's a classic second-fiddle guy, needing to play Robin to someone else's Batman, even he's had the arm of Superman.

Pittsburgh, which has now suffered losing seasons dating back to Pie Traynor (or something like that), happily showed some signs of bounceback last year, especially early. At the All-Star break, the Bucs were in the thick of the NL Central race. But a pitching staff that owned a 3.17 ERA on July 25 fell apart thereafter. Not enough stamina or talent to last. No staying power.

Manager Clint Hurdle has some pieces in James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton. GM Neal Huntington acquired Erik Bedard over the winter, which is worth a shot. Problem for the Pirates is, in their current state, their most folks' 10th or 11th choice on the free agent market. Jackson signed with the Nationals. Oswalt remains unsigned, scouring high and low for another landing spot.

Which is why focusing on a trade, and Burnett specifically, maybe isn't the first choice for the contenders out there but is the perfect move right now for Huntington. As maddeningly inconsistent as he's been, Burnett did throw 190 1/3 innings for the Yanks last summer, 186 2/3 before that and 207 innings in 2009.

Pittsburgh can use that. And Burnett can use a low-key place -- at least, a place lower key than Yankee Stadium -- as he reaches out to recapture lost glory for a team doing the same.

Here's hoping he does. Pittsburgh can really use it. And, from Burnett, the Yankees no longer need it.
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:42 pm
 

Farewell to 'The Kid' at 57

We've known this was coming now for nearly a year. But when the end finally arrived for Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter on a day when the baseball world was readying for the start of another spring training, it still seemed unreal.

The Kid? Gone?

He was only 57, with the smile and heart of a much younger man. His death Thursday came just two weeks after his last public appearance, a poignant visit with a Palm Beach Atlantic University baseball team he helped coach before their season opener near his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

In grave shape with a body ravaged by a malignant brain tumor, it was touching -- and certainly not a surprise -- that Carter would haul himself out to the baseball field one final time. Nobody loved the game and the people who play it more than Carter.

It must have been a lump-in-the-throat scene in person, because just looking at the photos made the eyes well up with tears. The man provided so many memories in both New York, where he starred for the Mets' last World Series champion team in 1986, and in Montreal, where he helped author some of that city's finest baseball moments before the Expos sadly left town.

Gary Carter was an 11-time All-Star, earned three Gold Gloves and, most famously, keyed the Mets' three-run rally in the bottom of the 10th inning as they came back to beat Boston in Game 6 of the '86 World Series.

And while he created so many great memories, what's maybe most satisfying as we remember him today is how much he always enjoyed the ride while he was on it.
Posted on: January 20, 2012 5:10 pm
 

Pena, Scott smart moves for Tampa Bay Rays

Carlos Pena to Tampa Bay is cute in a homecoming sort of way, sure. But could it be more than that? You bet.

Ever so quietly -- as usual -- the Rays are working smart and putting together another team down there by the water that will give the Yankees, Red Sox and everyone else fits this summer.

Maybe Pena, at 33, struggles to stay above the Mendoza Line anymore. But he did whack 28 homers for the Cubs last summer while collecting 80 RBI, which was exactly ... 28 more homers and 79 more RBI than the Rays got from Manny Ramirez in 2011.

Nobody, surely starting with the Rays, is expecting Pena to replicate his 2009 All-Star season (39 homers, 100 RBIs).

But Pena trumps Manny by about 1,000 miles both on the field and in the clubhouse. Together, Pena and Luke Scott, whom the Rays added as a DH bat earlier this month, should be a much more productive first base/DH combination than last year's Casey Kotchman/Johnny Damon tag team.

In fact, the Rays last summer ranked dead last among major-league first basemen in 2011 in both runs scored and RBI. Overall, Tampa Bay's 707 runs scored ranked eighth in the AL.

In Pena and Scott, they should get more production. And with a killer rotation in James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and rookie Matt Moore or Jeff Niemann -- the Rays' 3.58 ERA in 2011 was second in the AL only to the Angels' -- there is no reason why it shouldn't carry Joe Maddon's club deep into September once again.
Posted on: January 18, 2012 5:35 pm
 

Yu Darvish, Texas Ranger

That the Rangers got the Yu Darvish deal done is no surprise.

Neither is it a surprise that the talks pretty much extended all the way to Tuesday's 5 p.m. EDT deadline.

Now ... will it be a surprise if Darvish immediately becomes the Rangers' ace?

Hmmm. ...

The airspace from Japan to the major leagues has been turbulent for pitchers, but so many scouts say Darvish is no Daisuke Matsuzaka or Hideki Irabu (or Kei Igawa). Across the board, that's a good thing for Texas.

Most importantly, the Rangers themselves are betting that there will be no surprises, that Darvish is ace material. They got exactly what they wanted in essentially exchanging Darvish for C.J. Wilson, and they got exactly what they wanted in getting it done with a six-year deal instead of a five. (Thus keeping him out of the free agent market for an extra year).

Texas' total commitment is $111 million, given the $60 million plus the $51 million posting price, and who knows, maybe there even will be money left over for Prince Fielder. The Rangers steadfastly have downplayed that possibility, but they do have the money and the potential for a monster winter remains.

A good day overall for the Rangers, who have watched AL West rival Los Angeles sign Albert Pujols and Wilson this winter while waiting patiently to put their own plans in motion.

But despite his credentials in Japan, Darvish still comes to Texas as less of a proven commodity than, say, Cliff Lee when the Rangers acquired him at midseason in 2010. Darvish must prove that he can adjust to a longer schedule, pitching every five days, a different culture, a different baseball, the Texas heat and living away from his family. Among other things.

Wilson helped pitch the Rangers to consecutive World Series in 2010 and 2011. He worked 223 1/3 innings last year and 204 innings two summers ago. He made 77 starts over those two seasons and won 31 decisions. He was not nails in the postseason, however, and he had run his course.

There was absolutely no way the Rangers were going to re-sign him, certainly not at anything remotely close to the $77.5 million he got over five years from the Angels.

They did not like the prospect of their return on that investment, and they have not liked how the past two seasons have turned out despite the World Series appearances.

"We've had some success the last two years, but we haven't been able to close it out," general manager Jon Daniels said last month on the night it was revealed that the Rangers won the right to negotiate exclusively with Darvish. "That's our goal. Put the best possible club out there and win a championship."

That goal only gets harder, never easier, as players age and opponents adjust. The Angels have stolen all the headlines this winter and there is no question -- on paper -- they are better post-Pujols.

Baseball men who have watched Darvish pitch, both in Japan and on video, swear that he is by far the best pitcher to come out of Japan. Best stuff, strongest, most developed, most confident.

They Rangers right now have $111 million saying that's right.

As for the rest, well, across the AL West, the Angels are feeling pretty, pretty good about themselves right now. But with Darvish -- and with Fielder still free -- it would be a colossal mistake to curb your enthusiasm where the Rangers are concerned.

Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:40 pm
 

Savvy Yankees hit home run with Pineda, Kuroda

Their winter hibernation just ended. And just like that, the New York Yankees made themselves into AL East favorites.

Adding Michael Pineda from Seattle has all the earmarks of acquiring a young CC Sabathia or, ahem, Felix Hernandez -- the ace the Mariners wouldn't trade.

Adding Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year, $10 million deal adds the kind of rotation depth they could only dream of last summer -- and, presumably, a right-hander with more staying power than Bartolo Colon had.

"Wow," one scout said Friday night. "They've been laying in the weeds. They hadn't done anything."

Yes. Hadn't.

Though the Yankees gave up a consensus future star in young slugger-to-be Jesus Montero, exactly the kind of young bat the Mariners need and a great move for them, Pineda and Kuroda join CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and maybe even Freddy Garcia in giving the Yankees the talent, depth and clout their rotation needs to take them deep into October.

Just a few days after meeting with the representatives for free agent Edwin Jackson, the Yankees became the talk of the industry on what had been a slow Friday night with their stealth move for Pineda, who, at 22, already is within sight of becoming an ace.

"He's got that kind of stuff," a scout who spent part of last summer focusing on AL West clubs said Friday night. "If you wanted to be conservative, he's a No. 2. He's got velocity, he came up with a slider that got better and better last year and he throws strikes. When he gives up a home run or a hard-hit ball, it does not chase him out of the strike zone.

"He's got that rare combination of stuff and control. He's young, he's not afraid, he's big, he's still growing and he's got makeup. He's a prize.

"And the Yankees will have, what, five years of control over him? He's the kind of guy you build around. Holy cow."

The Mariners were worried about rushing him too quickly last summer when they installed him into their rotation coming out of spring training. He pretty much immediately showed them, no sweat.

By season's end, over 28 starts, he struck out 173 hitters while walking just 55 over 171 innings. His average fastball was clocked at 94.7 m.p.h., according to FanGraphs.

What's notable about that? The fastballs of only three other AL starters checked in higher: Texas' Alexi Ogando, Detroit's Justin Verlander and Tampa Bay's David Price.

Kuroda? He turns 37 next month. But he gave the Dodgers 202 innings in 2011, going 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA. He's a competitor with fierce pride.

"Solid No. 3," the scout said. "He throws strikes, he's got good stuff, a crisp fastball that's deceptive and he throws harder than people think. He's at 90 to 94 with sink down in the zone, a crisp breaking ball and a good split.

"He's got out pitches. I'd love to have Kuroda."

Now the Yankees do. And Pineda. And Sabathia and Nova and Hughes and Burnett. ...

And as they search for a hitter, for now, they've still got 6-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and lefty Manny Banuelos, who opened many eyes last spring.

"Hanging onto Betances and Banuelos [and with Pineda on board], they've got three young-gun studs who should pitch for them for a long time," the scout said. "And Nova's not that old and Hughes isn't that old.

"They've got the makings of a young, under-control staff."

Yeah, sure, why not? On a night on which the Yankees proved they're not sleeping through the winter, why not add to their opponents' misery just a little bit more?
Posted on: January 12, 2012 8:30 pm
 

Owners play Lucy to Moorad's Charlie Brown

Easy to see why John Moores' anger flashed quickly at the owners' meetings on Thursday. He wants his money and he wants out of baseball.

But the riveting question now after fellow owners pushed the pause button on the impending transfer of the Padres from Moores to Jeff Moorad is, will it happen?

Or will Moorad be left standing in the on deck circle?

Commissioner Bud Selig cited "economic concerns" as the reason for the delay. Meanwhile, ownership sources with multiple clubs hesitated to predict where this thing will go next.

"Usually, when you get to this point, it's teed up," one person said. "The fact that it did not get voted on shows significant financial questions."

Translation: When a person is allowed to begin running a club, as Moorad was the Padres beginning in the spring of 2009, approval by other owners usually is just a formality.

The fact that there were enough "red flags" to leave the owners' executive committee asking for more answers, however, at best slows the process and keeps the Padres' finances flat and, at worst, could torpedo the entire sale. That would leave Moores, who had intended to divest the 51 percent he still owns in the club once the money owed by Moorad was deposited in December, back at the starting point.

Few want that, and though Moorad has made several enemies among owners from his days as an agent, those with knowledge of this snag say reasons are purely financial, not personal.

Selig promised Moores and Moorad that the process will move "expeditiously." The next quarterly owners' meeting is in May, though one person suggested Thursday that Selig could convene a vote via conference call in 60 or 90 days if the financial questions are answered.

Moores, who will receive about $530 million total for the Padres, a club he purchased in 1995, was angry enough at the delay that he refused to vote in favor of the two-year extension Selig received, which went 29-1 in the commissioner's favor.
 
 
 
 
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