Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:12 pm

Marcum will miss first spring start

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Brewers said Monday that they're shutting down Shaun Marcum for 2-3 days, because of right shoulder soreness. They said he'll miss his first scheduled spring training start, but they also said they're not overly concerned.

Should they be?

Perhaps not, because when Marcum dealt with the same issue last spring, he was still ready to start the season on time. He still made 33 starts, still topped 200 innings.

And, manager Ron Roenicke said, "We don't think it's as bad as last year."

Roenicke said that the way it's mapped out, if Marcum comes through the next few days without trouble, he could actually be ahead of the schedule he had last spring.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 4, 2012 1:30 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 2:00 pm

Amaro: Phillies weren't best team in 2008

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Were the Phillies the best team in baseball the last two years, despite not winning the World Series?

Perhaps, but what about in 2008, when they did win it?

"The team in 2008 that won the World Series was not the best team in baseball," a National League general manager said this week.

Not just any NL general manager, either. It was Phillies GM Ruben Amaro.

"Things fell right, and we were fortunate that Tampa Bay beat Boston. Frankly, I didn't like the matchup of the Phillies and Boston."

The 2008 Phillies won 92 games, fifth in the majors behind the Angels, Rays, Cubs and Red Sox.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 3, 2012 2:06 pm

With free agency approaching, Hamels is popular

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The fans in Phillies red cheered Cole Hamels Saturday.

And . . .

"The Yankee fans were really nice to me, for some odd reason," Hamels said after his two-inning spring debut. "Maybe they were having fun in the Tiki Bar."

Or maybe they were aware that Hamels is eligible for free agency next winter.

If the Yankees stick to their talk about getting their payroll under $189 million, a big Hamels contract wouldn't fit. Besides, as colleague Jon Heyman wrote a couple of weeks back, the smart money says that Hamels eventually signs a new deal to stay with the Phillies.

Until he signs, though, fans in other cities can dream. They can tell him how much they want him, too.

"Fans prepare," Hamels said. "They know when things are coming up. When I was playing with Cliff [Lee] in 2009, I saw it all the time."

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 2, 2012 4:52 pm

Expanded playoffs, and what might have been

The other day, Terry Francona was saying that if the new double-wild-card playoff system had been in effect last year, he'd still be managing the Red Sox.

That may well be true. Not only that, but if the new system had been in effect the last two years, Francona's Red Sox would be on a five-year streak of making the playoffs, and would have missed out on October just once in his eight seasons in charge.

A few other what-might-have-beens:

-- The team that would have benefited the most if baseball had gone to two wild cards instead of one in 1995: The Giants. They would have made it to the play-in game in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2009, which means they would have been in the postseason nine of the last 15 years, rather than just five.

-- The play-in game would have featured two teams from the same division a little less than a third of the time, but it would have given us an all-AL East matchup three times in the last four years. It would have been Yankees-Red Sox in both 2008 and 2010. Had that happened, would anyone have been claiming that the rivalry needed rejuvenating?

-- The second wild card wouldn't have saved the collapsing 2007 Mets, but the 2008 team would have had at least one more game.

-- The Phillies' string of consecutive postseason appearances would now be at seven years, rather than five. The Phillies would have been in the play-in game in both 2005 (against the Astros) and 2006 (against the Dodgers).

-- The Blue Jays, who haven't been to the postseason since their back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993, would have made it in 1998. And the Expos, who didn't make it to the postseason after 1981, would have been there in 1996. But even expanded playoffs wouldn't have helped the Pirates (still no playoff appearances since 1992) or the Royals (none since 1985).

Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:23 pm

Less money, set-up role, but Cordero is happy

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Francisco Cordero is second to Mariano Rivera among active players on the all-time saves list.

A distant second, but still, he is second.

Over the last five years, Cordero has saved more games (194) than any closer in baseball.

And at the end of a crazy winter on the closer market, Cordero found himself with the Blue Jays -- as a setup man -- making $4.5 million on a one-year deal.

All of which, he insisted Friday, was fine with him.

"I'm still pitching, still getting people out," said Cordero. "Why would I be mad?

"Maybe if I was a new guy, I'd be upset. I was a little bit disappointed, but I'm happy with my new team. I still have a contract. I still have a place to pitch."

Cordero is 36 years old, and coming off a contract with the Reds that paid him $46 million for four years. The Reds signed Ryan Madson for $8.5 million to replace him.

"Early in the winter, [the Reds] offered me $12 million for two years," Cordero said. "We thought maybe they would come up a little, make it a little better. But then they came back with one year for $5 million."

Cordero signed with the Blue Jays for even less than that, but he said he has no regrets.

"To sign back there [with the Reds] and not be happy, that wouldn't have been the right thing," he said. "I loved Cincinnati, the people there, and the way the fans treated me, but it was time to move on."

He already seems to fit in well in the Blue Jays clubhouse, where he spends a lot of time talking and laughing with Jose Bautista and others. Cordero said he has also meshed well with Santos, who is in just his second full year as a closer.

"He's been my throwing partner," Cordero said. "I hope I can help him."

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:06 pm

Others retire, but Vizquel goes on and on

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada retired. Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez are sitting home, waiting for major-league contracts that may never come.

Omar Vizquel is here, in Blue Jays camp, fighting for a job with no guarantees.

He's 44 years old, about to turn 45 next month. He doesn't need this.

Or maybe he does.

"I'm here because I love to play," Vizquel said Thursday morning. "I just love the game."

He's well aware that other players aren't willing to do what he's doing, especially star players. Vizquel was a star, too, an 11-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop (two shy of Ozzie Smith's record of 13).

The irony now is that Vizquel needs to prove himself at shortstop to make the Blue Jays roster. Club officials clearly want him on the team, and see him as a possible mentor to starting shortstop Yunel Escobar, but manager John Farrell said that Vizquel needs to show he still has the arm strength to make the throw from deep in the hole.

"I know what I have to do," he said. "I have to have a solid spring training."

Vizquel understands that he's being asked to prove himself again, but he figures it's worth it for one more shot.

What he doesn't understand is why so many others don't think another year is worth taking a chance.

"You sacrifice a little of your pride," he said. "But I don't know why [others] don't try. If you really feel the energy, why not do it?

"It's weird to see all these guys retire, and I'm still on the field."

He says this year will be it. No, actually he says that this year "probably" will be it.

"I've been saying that the last three years," he admitted.

He already knows what he wants to do next. He turned down a chance to manage in Venezuela over the winter, but he says that managing is in his future.

And not just in Venezuela.

Vizquel would manage there, but eventually he's hoping to manage in the big leagues.

First, though, he's hoping to win a job from a manager he batted against two decades ago. For the record, Vizquel was 4-for-14 against Farrell, with all four hits coming in 1989.

"Yes, I remember," Vizquel said. "Is it funny to play for him now? It's funny to play for anyone. I played for Ozzie [Guillen]. I played for Eric Wedge, and he's younger than me."

Farrell points out that Vizquel helped Elvis Andrus with the Rangers, and Alexei Ramirez with the White Sox. He also points out something that's clear to see, which is that Vizquel is still in great shape.

"He's gained two pounds his entire career," Farrell said. "His body looks just like it did when he was 25."

He's not 25. He's almost 45.

And hoping he's not done yet.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 1, 2012 4:35 pm

Sizemore surgery is more bad news for Indians

The Indians know that the Tigers are the heavy favorites in the American League Central. The whole division knows that.

They also know that favorites don't always win, that things go wrong, key guys get hurt.

The problem for the Indians now is that the first key guys who got hurt were theirs.

What was first diagnosed as a lower back strain for Grady Sizemore is now something worse, with the news that Sizemore had lower back surgery Thursday morning and is facing 8-12 weeks of recovery. Already ruled out for opening day, now Sizemore could miss the first month of the season, or more.

Indians closer Chris Perez is also out, with an oblique strain.

But the Sizemore news is worse, even if it does feel predictable.

This will be the fourth straight year that Sizemore has missed considerable time (after four years in which he missed just seven games total). He has played just 104 games the last two seasons combined.

It's easy to forget that he's still just 29 years old, easy to forget that he was a three-time All-Star, easy to forget that his general manager once called him "one of the greatest players of our generation."

"I definitely can get back to playing the way I always played," Sizemore told me last spring.

Is that still true, now that he has added back surgery to knee surgery and to a sports hernia and an elbow injury?

The Indians were willing to take a chance on him this year, bringing him back on a one-year deal that guarantees him $5 million and includes another $4 million in bonuses based on plate appearances.

He won't make all of that bonus money now, but the bigger problem for the Indians is that they won't have him in their lineup.

To win, the Indians need a lot of things to go right, and they need the Tigers to have things go wrong.

They don't need this.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:39 pm

Victorino likes new playoffs, wants even more

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- In a way, baseball's new expanded playoffs are set up to benefit a team like the Phillies, who have won their division five straight years but twice were beaten by a wild-card team in the first round.

But if the playoffs are changing, as it's now expected that they are, Shane Victorino wants more.

"Why not make all three series seven games?" Victorino said Wednesday. "That's what I'd like."

Victorino's Phillies lost a best-of-5 first-round series to the wild-card Cardinals last October, after leading the major leagues in the regular season with 102 wins. The Phillies lost to the wild-card Rockies in the first round in 2007.

One big benefit from the new system is that it will reward division winners, and particularly the team with the best record in each league. It will make it harder, although certainly not impossible, for a wild-card team to advance to the World Series.

That should make the regular season more meaningful.

It also guarantees baseball a pair of knockout games to begin the postseason.

"I think it's great for baseball to have that extra game," Victorino said.

The team that survives the one-game wild-card playoff will face the team with the league's best record, after already burning through its best available pitching and also having to travel.

Of course, the Phillies had a chance to set up their pitching going into the first round last year, and the Cardinals, who didn't clinch the wild card until the final moments of the season, did not. And the Phillies still lost.

Would they have lost if the series had been best-of-7?

There's no way to know that, and we do know that a best-of-7 first round isn't happening right now. A second wild card team is happening, and it's extremely likely that it happens this year.

Category: MLB
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