Tag:Chicago Cubs
Posted on: July 30, 2010 1:57 pm

Dodgers, Cubs talk Lilly-Theriot -- or just Lilly

Seven games behind San Diego in the NL West and at a clear crossroads in their season, the Dodgers continue to pound the phones searching for starting pitching and are looking at all options.

The latest on Friday involved discussions with the Cubs on a couple of different fronts: One involving a package that would send left-hander Ted Lilly and infielder Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers, the other a deal that would only involve Lilly, according to CBSSports.com sources.

The Dodgers are not overly enamored with Lilly in that, at 34, he is not the same pitcher he was a few years ago. But, the trade market is what it is and, with Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Dan Haren off the board, contenders looking for starting pitching are left to sort through the Lillys, Jake Westbrooks and Jeremy Guthries.

Any deal sending Lilly, or Lilly and Theriot, to the Dodgers would have to include the Cubs shipping cash as well. One other factor that makes Lilly less attractive is that he's owed about $4 million for the rest of the summer. And given the Dodgers' precarious financial situation -- the divorce trial between owners Frank and Jamie McCourt is expected to kick off in August -- they cannot take on much salary.

A Lilly-Theriot package certainly would be more attractive to the Dodgers at this point in that Theriot, who has a .285 batting average and .321 on-base percentage, would give them more options. Bench depth has become an issue for the Dodgers, who acquired outfielder Scott Podsednik on Wednesday to help get them through Manny Ramirez's third disabled list stint of the season.

The Dodgers -- or, more likely if a deal is consummated, the Cubs -- would owe Theriot a pro-rated portion of his $2.6 million 2010 salary.

While Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti -- among the more creative GMs -- is determined to find a way to add a starting pitcher, he did note earlier this week that he would not jump at something undesirable in July because there are always ways to add help in August as well.

"We'd like to get it done by Aug. 1," he said Wednesday. "But sometimes other people come available."

Remember, the Dodgers last August alone acquired starting pitchers Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland, pinch-hitter Jim Thome and infielder Ronne Belliard. And two years ago, they added starting pitcher Greg Maddux in August.

Posted on: July 29, 2010 5:08 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2010 7:01 pm

Toronto's Downs hot property & other trade notes

Toronto was the focal point of last year's trade deadline, then-Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi was the point man and ace Roy Halladay was the bait.

A year later, Cliff Lee, Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt having been traded and Saturday's 4 p.m. EDT non-waivers trade deadline bearing down?

Toronto again is a focal point, first-year GM Alex Anthopoulos is the point man and reliever Scott Downs is getting as much action as anybody on the market.

Now Downs might not pack as much marquee punch as Halladay, but this year's trade market isn't exactly heavyweight, either.

And given the overwhelming bullpen needs of the majority of contenders this summer. ...

"He might be the best guy out there," the general manager of one club with interest in Downs says. "He's owed just a little more than $1 million, he's left-handed, he can close, he can set up. ..."

Among other clubs, the Blue Jays have fielded inquiries about Downs from the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Mets, Dodgers, Rockies, Giants, Reds and Phillies over the past several days.

Clubs also are watching Jays relievers Kevin Gregg and Jason Frasor.

-- The Nationals are holding out hope of signing slugger Adam Dunn to a contract extension between now and Saturday's trade deadline, which is why talks remain slow between them and other clubs like the White Sox, Yankees and Giants. If contract talks don't progress, trade talks are expected to.

-- The Dodgers, who obtained outfielder Scott Podsednik from Kansas City on Wednesday, still want to acquire a starting pitcher and worked hard to try and pry Roy Oswalt from Houston until the Phillies finally finished the deal. The Dodgers were given indications that Oswalt would have waived his no-trade clause to go there.

-- The Dodgers have scouted the Cubs' Ted Lilly but are lukewarm on him, particularly given that they'd get only about 10 starts for the roughly $4 million he's still owed. They also have had a scout sitting on Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm, who was blasted by the Rockies in Coors Field on Thursday (five earned runs, seven hits, 4 2/3 innings). The Pirates have not indicated yet whether they intend to move Maholm.

-- GM Ned Colletti thinks the chances of the Dodgers acquiring pitching help might be better in August given the slim pickings right now. Plus, Dodgers under Colletti have made several of their key moves in August. Last year, they added pitchers Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland, infielder Ronnie Belliard and pinch-hitter Jim Thome in August. Two years ago, they added Greg Maddux in August.

-- The Twins and Mets also continue to engage the Cubs regarding Lilly.

-- The sinking Rockies want to move starter Aaron Cook, according to one source, but there has not been much interest.

-- Philadelphia scouted Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa as a fallback in case Roy Oswalt did not work out.

-- The Angels, who are just about DOA right now, had been working toward a deal for the Cubs' Derrek Lee for several weeks before Lee nixed it. Angels outfielder Torii Hunter had dinner with Lee in Chicago on June 18 after that afternoon's game that doubled as a recruiting session. Lee must be one of the few people in baseball who can't be charmed by Hunter.

-- Multiple clubs have asked Milwaukee about veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds, but Edmonds has told the Brewers he does not want to go anywhere. He particularly would make sense for San Francisco, which is looking for an outfielder who can improve the offense.

-- This shoulder stiffness that sent Washington's Stephen Strasburg to the disabled list on Thursday is something completely new. His college coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, said at Petco Park on Wednesday night that Strasburg never had a shoulder or arm problem in three seasons at San Diego State. Not even something minor. "None. Zero. Nothing," Gwynn said.

Posted on: July 28, 2010 10:01 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2010 11:10 pm

Dodgers acquire Podsednik, eye pitching help

The Dodgers made a trade Wednesday, but it wasn't one to strengthen their rotation and solve their dilemma of who's going to start Saturday against San Francisco.

Instead, they struck for an outfielder, acquiring veteran Scott Podsednik from Kansas City for a couple of minor-league prospects while continuing their search for a starting pitcher.

As for whether the Dodgers will be able to add a starter by Saturday's trade deadline -- they've inquired about Houston's Roy Oswalt and the Cubs' Ted Lilly, among others -- general manager Ned Colletti said it's still too early to know.

"Tough to tell," Colletti said early Wednesday evening. "You take it as it comes. This deal [Podsednik] came about. You don't have to put it in order. You get them done when you can."

Looking to beef up their versatility and add depth with Manny Ramirez disabled with a strained calf, the Dodgers sent two minor leaguers -- Triple-A catcher Lucas May and Double-A right-hander Elisaul Pimentel -- to the Royals for Podsedik. No money exchanged hands -- the Dodgers will pay the roughly $600,000 owed to Podsednik for the remainder of the year. His contract includes a $2 million club option for 2011 or a $100,000 buyout.

It's not a blockbuster deal, but with Ramirez on the DL for a third time this season and with the Dodgers running third in the NL West, the acquisition of Podsednik at least gives manager Joe Torre another option. Especially with another outfielder, Reed Johnson, also on the disabled list with a back injury and not expected to return for at least three or four more weeks.

"He brings a lot of different things to the club," Colletti said. "He's a good hitter -- his average is over .300 -- he drives in a lot of runs for hitting in a high spot in the order, he has speed, he can add a lot of different dimensions to the club.

"That he played on a World Series winner in Chicago a few years ago is also a plus."

In 94 games for Kansas City this season, Podsednik hit .310 and stole 30 bases. He also posted a .352 on-base percentage.

The Dodgers hope Podsednik arrives in San Diego in time for Thursday's 3:35 p.m. PDT start. He'll bring a 15-game hitting streak with him.

Meantime, the Dodgers right now are going with "to be determined" as the starter opposite San Francisco's Barry Zito on Saturday. Likely, it will be right-hander John Ely, who was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on July.

Unless, of course, Colletti pulls a rabbit out of his cap for the Dodgers on the trade market.

Posted on: June 29, 2010 1:19 am

Prior to work out at USC for clubs Wednesday

Mark Prior hasn't pitched in the majors since 2006, but the former Cubs right-hander isn't yet ready to cash it in: His shoulder rehabilitation has reached a point where he's working out Wednesday at the University of Southern California in a showcase for major-league scouts.

Prior, a USC grad, hasn't appeared in a big league game since Aug. 10, 2006, when he went three innings and was the losing pitcher for the Cubs in Milwaukee.

Since then, he tried a couple of comebacks with the Cubs and then, most recently, he tried to return with his hometown San Diego Padres. That ended last Aug. 1 when the Padres released him.

Prior, 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA over five seasons (106 starts) with the Cubs, has undergone two shoulder surgeries since 2007. He was the second overall pick in the 2001 draft after Minnesota picked catcher Joe Mauer first overall, a choice that was fiercely debated for several years.

When Prior, along with Kerry Wood, helped pitch the Cubs to within one game of the 2003 World Series, many people thought the Twins had blown it.

Instead, Prior, whose later shoulder problems most people believe stemmed from a collision with then-Atlanta infielder Marcus Giles during a game in 2003, became a cautionary tale of a much-hyped draft prospect that failed to live up to expectations. He signed with the Cubs for $10.5 million out of USC, a record that stood until Stephen Strasburg surpassed it last August with his $15.1 million deal with Washington.

Several major-league clubs, including contenders, are expected to send scouts to watch Prior work out Wednesday in hope of perhaps gaining a pitcher that will help relieve pressure to trade for a starter in July.

Posted on: June 27, 2010 12:12 am

Reeling Burnett stranded without Eiland

LOS ANGELES -- The Yankees skipped Phil Hughes' start this time around in deference to his innings-pitched count, but it was A.J. Burnett who again pitched like the guy who really needs to be skipped.

Turning in his fifth consecutive clunker in Saturday's 9-4 loss to the Dodgers, Burnett again was wild, looked lost and was working on mysteries without any clues.

Burnett now has lost five consecutive starts for the first time since 2005, when he was still pitching for Florida.

How difficult is that to do for the Yankees?

Very, it would seem. The Yankees rank second in the American League in runs scored.

"I'm pretty upset," Burnett said in response to a question about how calm he seems in the midst of his worst slump in years. "I'm pretty upset. But the guys in this clubhouse, they don't let you act that way.

"I've had a handful of guys talking to me."

Burnett, 33, has been high-maintenance throughout his career. Last season, Jose Molina evolved into his personal catcher. Molina no longer is around. And his current slide, coincidence or not, started about the same time pitching coach Dave Eiland took a leave of absence for personal reasons.

In the interim, bullpen coach -- and former pitcher -- Mike Harkey is acting as pitching coach.

"Everybody misses Dave here," Burnett said. "But I pitched 10 years without Dave also.

"We're not putting things on nobody but No. 34."

Which, of course, is Burnett's number.

"You look at everything and say, yeah, it could be," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Eiland's absence. "But A.J. knows what he has to do. He understands what he has to do.

"It's hard to pinpoint why. But he has to correct it and he has to work through it."

Over his past five starts, Burnett now has allowed 29 earned runs and nine homers. His ERA during that span is 11.35. On Saturday, 12 of 20 Dodgers Burnett faced reached base.

"Let's not forget that this game is not easy," Girardi said. "I've said all along that he's going to get out of this, and he will."

Last time out, Monday in Arizona, Burnett became the first Yankee to surrender three first-inning homers in a game since Ron Guidry in 1987.

Saturday in Los Angeles, the Dodgers scorched Burnett for two runs and three hits in the first, immediately vaulting them back into the game after the Yanks had scored three in the top of the first. But it was the third inning, when Burnett surrendered four walks (one intentional) and a couple of hits, that really cost him.

Burnett, who walked six (one intentionally) and has walked 17 hitters over his past 23 innings, said he had an "unbelievable" warm-up pre-game and that "the results were terrible but I felt a little better, believe it or not."

Burnett went through a rough time last August with the Yankees, going 0-4 with a 6.03 ERA in six starts, before pulling it together again in September (3-1, 3.83).

Difference now is, Eiland isn't around (and neither is Molina).

Still, Girardi said his inclination is to not skip Burnett's next start, scheduled for Friday at home against Toronto.

"We're 10 minutes after the game, but my thought is not to skip him," Girardi said. "It's a gut feeling of mine. His stuff is there. His command isn't. My gut is to run him out there."

Likes: Dodgers manager Joe Torre on Derek Jeter whiffing three times on his 36th birthday Saturday: "Well, it was my present to him." ... Jerry Reinsdorf for owner of the year. The White Sox, who won their 11th consecutive game on Saturday, have not lost since Reinsdorf scolded GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen. ... Nice run by Texas, too. ... Fernando Valenzuela never fails to elicit a loud roar in Dodger Stadium when they show him on the big scoreboard. ... Steve Martin's "leaked" tour demands for his banjo tour with the Steep Canyon Rangers. Great stuff. ... Pompilio's Italian restaurant in Newport, Ky. Good neighborhood place. Had lunch there a week or so ago. Added bonus: The Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman characters in Rain Man had a meal here in the movie (the scene where Hoffman's character insists on counting the toothpicks the drop off of the counter). ... Mojo, the new disc from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Don't love it, but like it quite a bit.

Dislikes: Carlos Zambrano signs a $91.5 million contract a few years ago and behaves like this. And the Cubs should not be happy that he went out to dinner with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen later Friday night. After that embarrassing public meltdown, he should have stayed in and looked in the mirror.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well poor Tom Jefferson
"He loved the little maid out back
"Midnight creepin’ out to the servant’s shack
"Kept a secret under the bed
"Wrapped in a burlap sack"

-- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jefferson Jericho Blues


Posted on: June 19, 2010 3:43 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2010 4:14 pm

Cubs hope Ramirez returns Wednesday

CHICAGO -- As the slumping Cubs continue waiting for the hot midseason run that gets them back into contention in the NL Central -- a run that's looking less and less realistic, especially after two sloppy losses to the Angels, the latest 12-0 on Saturday -- there is some movement this weekend.

Injured third baseman Aramis Ramirez (thumb) is scheduled to play for Class A Peoria Saturday and Sunday and, if all goes well, assistant general manager Randy Bush said he should be activated when eligible to return from the disabled list on Wednesday.

Ramirez has been out since June 8 with a sprained left thumb that has been aggravated each time he's tried to swing the bat. His swing is violent, and the pressure the bat handle puts on his hands has made the thumb even more uncomfortable.

Though he's taken batting practice most of this week, the Cubs will not know for sure whether he's ready until he tests it in games. As he headed to Peoria, they remained optimistic.

With next week's trip to Seattle and then across town to play the White Sox, manager Lou Piniella has six designated-hitter opportunities and indicated he may use Ramirez in that slot beginning on Wednesday.

"We have an opportunity to DH him, play him at third or a combination of both," Piniella was saying the other day. "The other guys have been playing, the weather's getting hot. We need to rest them, too."

Jeff Baker and Chad Tracy have been playing third in Ramirez's absence. Baker has been called on most and had been doing fine until committing two crucial errors in the seventh inning Friday led to a 7-6 loss.

"If he's fine, we'll get him back on the [active] list and, hopefully, he's nice and productive for us," Piniella said.

Which would be a nice change, not to mention entirely crucial if the Cubs are going to make a move: In 47 games this season, Ramirez is batting just .168 with five homers and 22 RBI.

Likes: Watched Steven Strasburg's third start while having dinner at the bar at Chicago's Gino's East on Friday night. The kid is a phenomenon, not just because of the 32 strikeouts over his first three starts, but also because of the reactions he elicits. He was pitching against the White Sox, so that was an added element in Chicago, of course. But there were people on both sides of me who knew a lot about him, and they were marveling. Watching them was nearly as much fun as watching Strasburg. ... Happy to report, by the way, that Gino's East hasn't lost a step. Delicious deep-dish sausage and mushroom pizza Friday night, just before another thunderstorm hit Chicago. ... Michigan Ave. in the summer. One thing that makes it terrific is so many families strolling up and down the avenue. Easy to tell people are on vacation, a weekend trip or whatever, and so many people are happy. ... Graeter's Black Raspberry Chip in Cincinnati. Now that's ice cream. ... Have seen about four tremendous thunderstorms during this week's swing through the Midwest. ... Seeing former Minnesota Twin Scott Stahoviak, who now is teaching grade school and coaching high school baseball in northwest suburbs of Chicago. Stahoviak, who played under Cubs general manager Jim Hendry at Creighton (Hendry was coaching back then), was visiting Wrigley Field on Saturday.

Dislikes: Can we be done with interleague play yet?

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Got what I got the hard way
"And I’ll make it better
"Each and every day
"So honey don’t you fret
"Cos you ain’t seen nothing yet

-- Sam and Dave, Soul Man

Posted on: May 21, 2010 11:08 pm
Edited on: May 22, 2010 12:34 am

Astros' Oswalt wants to blast off -- elsewhere

Each man has his own breaking point, and Astros ace Roy Oswalt has reached his.

Saddled with the worst run support in the National League, a frustrated Oswalt essentially told the Astros to take his no-trade clause and shove it.

So much for the Craig Biggio-Jeff Bagwell Be An Astro For Life program.

In theory, at least.

There are two important things to understand here:

1. Just because Oswalt has requested a trade doesn't mean he'll get one.

2. Whatever happens, owner Drayton McLane, working on running his own organization into the ground, likely will screw it up.

How can I be so sure about that last point?

The Astros, in the process of going toes up in 2006 following their surprise World Series appearance in '05, were close to trading Oswalt to Baltimore at the '06 July deadline in a deal that would have brought them what they really needed at the time: A bat.

Specifically, Miguel Tejada's bat.

This was back when Tejada was still playing 162 games a season, slugging 25 homers and knocking in 100 or more runs.

But McLane, with a personal affinity for Oswalt, frustrated the Orioles by pulling Oswalt off the table. The Astros wound up finishing second in the NL Central that summer (82-80) and have not finished higher than third in the division since.

That's just one example of McLane's mostly tone-deaf stewardship of the Astros, a run that's led to the bottoming-out of the club in 2010. I mean, really. Cecil Cooper as manager? Practically within minutes of Commissioner Bud Selig publicly suggesting it?

They've got the worst record in the NL. And their offense going into the weekend ranked last in, among other things, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, home runs, doubles and total bases.

Against that backdrop, it's easy to see why Oswalt, 32, is throwing up his hands.

Problem is, in no small part because McLane allowed his emotions sway decisions, the Astros waited too long to deal Oswalt.

To get that big package of prospects in return that McLane no doubt will require now, the Astros should have dealt him well before he turned 32 ... or before they signed him to the monstrous five-year, $73 million deal they awarded him.

Which McLane bestowed upon him roughly a month after Oswalt's feelings were bruised at the '06 deadline when word leaked that the Astros had included him in trade discussions.

Fact is, even though Oswalt has started the season with nine consecutive quality starts (he's 2-6 with a 2.66 ERA), he's no longer a $15 million pitcher (his 2010 salary). And next year, he's not going to be a $16 million pitcher.

All told, if a team takes on Oswalt, they'll be responsible for roughly $25 million through 2011 (including a $2 million buyout clause for 2012). Unless you've got deep pockets (hello, Mets), that's far too much dinero for many clubs that can really use starting pitching now.

Texas? Forget it. Creditors are nipping at the franchise's heels.

The Dodgers? Forget it. The McCourts are preparing to tee it up in Divorce Court later this summer.

The Cubs? Memo to Drayton: Kid shortstop Starlin Castro isn't going anywhere.

Oswalt is not going to win that World Series ring in Houston, but at least he has that bulldozer McLane gave him as a reward for that memorable '05 postseason run.

Oh, and one other thing: Houston, by the way, did end up acquiring Tejada a little more than a year later, in December, 2007.

Which means they acquired him too late ... and now they face trying to trade Oswalt at the wrong time as well.

It's a game of timing, friends. And the Astros' is miserable.

Posted on: April 22, 2010 11:59 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2010 6:06 pm

Short Hops: Bullpens reaching critical mass

Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:

 Where legendary manager/raconteur Casey Stengel once groused, "Can't anybody here play this game?", Dave Trembley (Baltimore), A.J. Hinch (Arizona), Trey Hillman (Kansas City), Ron Washington (Texas), Lou Piniella (Cubs) and Fredi Gonzalez (Florida) are among the skippers anguishing through today's modern translation: "Can't anybody here pitch in the late innings?"

Nearly three weeks in, and bullpens in each of those places range from blown up to still-smoldering. While the issues and problems are disparate, there are a couple of things in play here.

One, as Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher suggests, some relievers are still attempting to settle into the regular season's erratic workload after pitching regularly scheduled stints throughout spring training.

Two, the spectacular number of blown saves in Baltimore (two conversions in six opportunities), Texas (two in five) and Kansas City (four in nine) add grist to the argument against rigidly locking your closer into the ninth innings. Sometimes, the eighth inning is the game-changer. Sometimes it's the seventh.

"The way the bullpen sets up today, you've got a closer for the seventh inning, a closer for the eighth inning and a closer for the ninth inning," Butcher says.

So, given the nature of specialty bullpens, in an era when there are no Goose Gossage-style closers who can get seven or eight outs, maybe what's needed is less managing-by-the-book and more imagination. Maybe if the Royals, for example, summoned Joakim Soria sooner rather than later, they wouldn't have suffered four of their first five losses in games in which they led in the seventh inning.

In Texas, Frank Francisco has been removed as closer in favor of Neftali Feliz. In Baltimore, Mike Gonzalez, who blew save opportunities on both opening day and in the Orioles' home opener, went to the disabled list with a shoulder strain (and in his place, Jim Johnson has blown two of three save opportunities).

The 2-14 Orioles have lost five games in which they've led in the eighth inning or later. Texas has lost four such games. Kansas City starters already have been cost five wins because of blown saves (including two each for Zack Greinke and Brian Bannister), while Arizona, Milwaukee, Florida and Cubs' starters have lost four victories to blown saves.

The Diamondbacks suffered back-to-back walk-off losses on April 15 (Blaine Boyer, at Los Angeles) and April 16 (Juan Rodriguez, at San Diego). Then, Arizona's pen was hammered for five ninth-inning St. Louis runs Wednesday in what at the time was a tied game.

The Cubs' plight caused Lou Piniella to move erstwhile ace Carlos Zambrano from the rotation to eighth-inning set-up man for closer Carlos Marmol in an absolutely stunning move of desperation. Through Tuesday, the Cubs had surrendered 16 eighth-inning runs, a major-league high. They also had allowed 32 runs in the seventh and eighth innings combined, also the most in the majors.

"A vast majority of these games are decided in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings," Piniella explained -- as opposed to, say, the first-through-sixth innings, when Zambrano (and Greinke and Dan Haren and Kevin Millwood) usually is on the mound.

This continues, some brave manager -- Washington with Feliz? Gonzalez with Leo Nunez? -- is going to call on his closer to protect a one-run lead in the eighth instead of the ninth, out of self-defense if nothing else. And maybe that will be the start of a new -- and welcome -- trend.
 Biggest culprits in blowing up opposing bullpens? Detroit this season has caused a whopping seven blown saves, while the Dodgers have caused six. Though, as manager Jim Leyland noted Thursday in Anaheim, it would make life far easier for the Tigers if they'd start scoring on starting pitchers.

 Regarding the scorched-earth pen in Texas, the Rangers already have lost five games they've led in the seventh inning or later this year. Last year, they lost only six of those games over their 162-game schedule.

 Baltimore hitters with runners in scoring position: A big-league worst .155 (17-for-110). And .103 (6-for-58) with RISP and two out.

 Chad Billingsley has a 7.07 ERA lodged in his throat after surrendering seven runs and seven hits to Cincinnati on Tuesday, Dodgers manager Joe Torre says it looks like the pitcher has confidence issues and Billingsley says his confidence is fine. Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Billingsley had command issues, Billingsley said he didn't. And in other news, the Dodgers say the earth is round and Billingsley says it's flat. This all had better get worked out, pronto.

 The suddenly reeling Giants, who went from 7-2 to getting swept by the Padres, face contenders St. Louis, Philadelphia and Colorado in a homestand beginning Friday and are perfectly set up for the Cards: Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain are lined up to start.

 The Twins, according to sources, had what they viewed as a workable deal to acquire Padres closer Heath Bell after Joe Nathan was hurt this spring but veered away because they were nervous over character issues. Bell's outspoken manner at times can grate on teammates.

 When is this guy going to get some work? Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton has converted his only save opportunity this season, and though he's only appeared in six of 15 games, one scout who has watched him this year and in spring training raves about him. "Mariano Rivera still sets the bar, but Jonathan Broxton right now is every bit as good," the scout says. "I saw him this spring and I've seen him this year, and je just comes in pumping strikes at 96 miles an hour."

 Glad to see baseball came to grips with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon's hoodie. Now let's move on to the maple bat issue before somebody gets decapitated.

 Sure wish Milton Bradley would quit giving everybody so much material. Now the Chicago landlord who sued Bradley for $44,000 in unpaid rent over the winter alleges that Bradley also caused $13,900 in damage to the condo with wine, food, juice and coffee stains as well as paint stains.

 One thing I neglected to mention last week while reviewing the Twins' superb new Target Field: The excellent touches extend all the way to the crew responsible for the in-game music, especially the inspired choices of playing clips of The Hold Steady's Stay Positive during key moments for the Twins in the late innings and Bruce Springsteen's Long Walk Home after losses.

 Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker may have a crack pinch-running candidate in-house and not even know it: Congratulations to Reds media relations guru Rob Butcher, who sets the bar in his day job, for not only completing the Boston Marathon on Monday but for doing so in 3:24:59. That's 7:49 per mile!

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