Posted on: July 22, 2008 5:13 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2008 5:38 pm

Could Pena pitch? It sure looked like it

One scout who watched Kansas City shortstop Tony Pena Jr. pitch the ninth inning Monday night against Detroit joked about trying to trade for him as a reliever.

At least I think the guy was joking.

Seriously, though, you have to wonder whether Pena should be pitching rather than playing shortstop. There's a shortstop shortage in baseball, but there's not much demand for guys who hit .152 with no power.

There is demand for guys who can throw the ball over the plate with some velocity, especially when they can also throw 75 mph breaking balls over the plate.

"He was throwing 91, with sink," the scout who watched Pena said. "I guarantee you someone is thinking about (a position change)."

Pena told the Kansas City Star that he pitched as an amateur, and that some teams that scouted him wanted to sign him as a pitcher.

"I liked playing short more," he said.

If it means staying in the big leagues, maybe he'll change his mind.


On the one hand, it's no shock to see the Astros trade for Randy Wolf, because owner Drayton McLane has been demanding that his team approach the July 31 deadline as buyers rather than as sellers. On the other hand, are you kidding?

The Astros are 12 games out of first place, and as one National League scout said today, they'll have a hard time finishing ahead of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, let alone the Cubs or Brewers.

But McLane refuses to give up. At last week's baseball dinner at the White House, McLane apparently told President Bush that the Astros will win the National League Central.


Speaking of the Brewers, they seem serious in their pursuit of Oakland closer Huston Street. Milwaukee scout Dick Groch followed Oakland from New York to Tampa Bay.

"If they get a closer, that would put them ahead of the Cubs, in my opinion," said one scout familiar with both teams.

But that same scout expressed concerns about Street's velocity, which has been down this year.


The Dodgers are still looking all over for a shortstop, but they don't seem nearly as concerned about replacing injured closer Takashi Saito. Jonathan Broxton has always been seen as Saito's eventual successor, and the Dodgers were very impressed with Broxton's first two outings in Saito's absence.

One good sign: Broxton, who never threw above 97 mph, threw his first two pitches at 99 and 101 the other day in Arizona.


Condolences to the family of longtime Chicago baseball writer Jerome Holtzman, who was definitely one of the legends of our business.


Posted on: July 6, 2008 2:05 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2008 3:35 pm

C.C. could go today, maybe to Brewers

The Indians were telling teams today that it's "highly improbable" that C.C. Sabathia will make his next scheduled start for them. While Sabathia is still listed as the Indians' starting pitcher for their Tuesday night game in Detroit, it appears almost certain that he'll be traded before then.

The destination could well be Milwaukee. The Dodgers had been involved as recently as Sunday morning, but as of Sunday afternoon a baseball source familiar with the talks said that the Dodgers are out of it. While there was talk in the baseball world that the Phillies could make a late push, it seems likely that their offer will fall short.

The Brewers' offer is centered around Matt LaPorta, a 23-year-old outfielder who was Milwaukee's first-round draft pick a year ago. LaPorta has 20 home runs and 66 RBIs in 84 games at Double-A Huntsville. The Brewers reportedly told the Indians that they could have only two of their top five prospects, and that they couldn't have both LaPorta and Huntsville shortstop Alcides Escobar.

The Dodgers had been interested in Sabathia, but they have instead focused their efforts on a shortstop to replace the injured Rafael Furcal.

Even after they trade Sabathia, the Indians won't be done dealing. The Tribe plans to shop other players this month, with struggling reliever Rafael Betancourt's name mentioned.


There are more teams in search of shortstops than there are available shortstops, which is why the Dodgers asked the Astros about Miguel Tejada (who Houston isn't interested in trading).

"There's a dearth of shortstops," one baseball official said.

The Dodgers, Blue Jays and Orioles have been the teams most active in looking. The Jays have been offering starter A.J. Burnett, and a source said they had talked to the Brewers about Burnett, hoping to get either Escobar or J.J. Hardy.


Posted on: July 6, 2008 1:50 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2008 3:53 pm

Phils could trade Myers

At first glance, the Phillies' decision to sign Brad Lidge to a three-year, $37.5 million contract extension wouldn't seem to have any effect on Brett Myers, now that Myers is a starting pitcher (and a struggling starter who was recently sent to the minor leagues, at that).

But two sources familiar with the situation said today that Myers would much prefer to be a closer, something that's no longer even a long-term possibility in Philadelphia. The sources also said that the Phillies are open to trading Myers, who would still seem to have value despite his struggles this season.

While there has been talk in baseball that the Phillies have floated Myers name in their talks with Cleveland regarding C.C. Sabathia, an official familiar with those talks said Myers hadn't been offered because the Indians are interested in younger, cheaper players.

Myers became the Phillies closer when Tom Gordon was hurt last year, and he converted 21 of 24 save opportunities. The Phillies moved him back to the rotation after trading for Lidge, and he became their opening day starter. Myers began the year 3-9 with a 5.84 ERA and a National League-leading 24 home runs allowed, and he agreed to a temporary assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

It's possible that Myers could benefit from a move back to the bullpen, because as a starter his velocity has been down.

For now, Myers is still starting in Triple-A, trying to get himself straightened out. He's scheduled to make his second start for the Iron Pigs Monday night.

Myers makes $8.5 million this year, and he's signed for $12 million for 2009.

Posted on: June 13, 2008 9:21 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2008 9:23 pm

Russell Martin: 'I still miss the infield'

Everyone in baseball talks about the game's catching shortage. Teams are always looking for players who might be converted to catcher. So why would the Dodgers think about moving Russell Martin to another spot?

The answer is they're not -- not yet. But Dodger people will tell you that it's entirely possible that Martin could become their second baseman or third baseman in two or three years, particularly if catching prospect Lucas May (now at Double-A Jacksonville) develops into a big-league player.

Martin is so good behind the plate that he won the National League's gold glove in 2007 (and the silver slugger, too). But he was a third baseman in junior college, and when he was growing up in Montreal, he was a shortstop.

"You've got to realize, I idolized Ozzie Smith," Martin said. "If I saw something he did, I'd go out the next day and try to do it myself. I had to learn to love to catch. I enjoy everything about it now, but I still miss the infield."

Martin has started four games at third base this year, as Joe Torre has tried to get his bat in the lineup on days when he doesn't catch. Torre said he thinks Martin is quick enough (and hits enough) to play in the middle of the infield.

Martin says he'll do whatever the organization asks. But when I asked him what he'd say if they suggested a permanent move to the infield, his eyes lit up.

"I'd change in a heartbeat," he said. "I'd jump at it, for sure."


The Indians have known for a while that Victor Martinez was playing with a bad elbow, which is why they weren't alarmed by his complete loss of power (no home runs in 198 at-bats). But when Martinez joined Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona on Cleveland's disabled list this week, it almost ensured that C.C. Sabathia will be traded next month.

Indians officials would love to see a bidding war for Sabathia between the Yankees and Red Sox, but one other team they're keeping their eye on is Philadelphia.


With their sweep of the White Sox this week, the Tigers aren't in sell mode yet. But if they ever get there, it'll be interesting to see what happens with Kenny Rogers.

Rogers has a 1.24 ERA in his last four starts, and he would be one of the most marketable Tigers. He's also on record as saying he wants to end his career as a Tiger, a sentiment he repeated today.

"I don't want to pitch anywhere but here," Rogers said.

Rogers has partial no-trade protection in his contract, but as a 43-year-old who strongly considered retirement last fall, he has the ultimate no-trade clause: he could tell teams he would retire rather than accept a deal.

"I don't envision it being a possibility, because I expect we're going to be in this (race) for the long haul," Rogers said.


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