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Category:MLB
Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:19 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 5:24 pm
 

Rollins didn't leave, but sure thought about it

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jimmy Rollins has never played for any team but the Phillies. With a new three-year contract that will take him through to when he's 36, and a vesting option that could take him to age 37, there's a real chance now that Rollins will never play for any team but the Phillies.

But he sure did think about it.

Rollins said Wednesday that he was intrigued enough by the idea of playing at home in California that he even considered signing a one-year contract that would have allowed him to become a free agent again next winter.

The idea would have been that the Giants, who could use Rollins but had no money to chase him this winter, could be in a better position next year, when they won't be paying Aaron Rowand and will be entering the final year of Barry Zito's contract.

The Giants still need to pay Tim Lincecum and need money to keep Matt Cain as well, so there's no guarantee they would have chased Rollins next winter, either. Rollins, who grew up in Oakland, said he only knows that the Giants "had some players asking around" about him earlier last season.

In the end, Rollins opted for security, and opted to stay with the Phillies. Truth be told, it would have been hard for him to leave the only organization he has known, even if the California option had been open to him.

"This is where I've been since I was 17 years old," Rollins said. "If you go somewhere else, for a while, you would feel like a traitor."

Rollins did have strong interest from the Brewers, but he didn't want to leave Philadelphia to go to Milwaukee. Had there been interest from the Giants or another team in California, the decision would no doubt have been tougher.




Category: MLB
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:12 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 11:17 am
 

Howard treated for infection

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies won't say Ryan Howard had a "setback."

They will say that they're not sure when he'll be able to resume workouts.

However they phrase it, it can't be great news that Howard's surgically repaired Achilles tendon became infected.

Howard, who ruptured his Achilles tendon on the Phillies' final play of the 2011 playoffs, had a procedure done Monday to clean out the wound. Howard was then placed on antibiotics. The procedure was significant enough that Phillies athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said, "It'll be like a new wound."

The good news, Sheridan said, is that once doctors went in and looked, they found that the repaired Achilles tendon is "intact and not compromised."

Howard had been able to take batting practice and some other limited drills. He's not yet far enough in his rehabilitation for the Phillies to set a timeframe for his return, one of the reasons they can avoid talking about setbacks.

"I don't prefer to use that word," Sheridan said.

So will this keep him out of baseball activity for days, or weeks?

"I truly don't know," Sheridan said.

Howard, who went to Baltimore to see the doctor who operated on him, is expected back in Phillies camp this afternoon.
Category: MLB
Posted on: February 28, 2012 1:58 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 2:01 pm
 

Strasburg's 2012 limits are to be determined

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals question for this spring is whether Bryce Harper will make the opening day roster.

The question for later this year will be about the team's other huge young star.

How many innings will they let Stephen Strasburg throw, and would they really shut him down in September if they're in a pennant race (as they expect to be)?

The answers, according to general manager Mike Rizzo: don't know yet, and absolutely yes.

Rizzo said Tuesday that while people have assumed that Strasburg will be limited to 160 innings -- that's what they allowed Jordan Zimmermann to throw in a similar situation last year -- the actual number won't be determined until later in the season.

"[Manager Davey Johnson] has absolutely no limits on how many innings or how many pitches [Strasburg can throw]," Rizzo said. "Davey's going to use his expertise."

That said, Rizzo guaranteed that Strasburg won't pitch a full season in 2012. He said it's unrealistic to expect that, since he pitched just 44 1/3 innings between the major leagues and minor leagues last year, when he was coming back from Tommy John surgery.

"We don't want to overpitch him," Rizzo said. "He will be shut down during the season at some point."

Exactly what that point is, Rizzo said, will be determined by what they see from Strasburg. Last year, Zimmermann's final start was on Aug. 28.

Of course, last year the Nationals were 22 1/2 games out of first place by that point. This year, they expect to be much closer to the top.

Strasburg seems to be a little more relaxed this spring, although he is still ultra-quiet and reserved. He was scheduled to spend part of Tuesday filming a commercial that will air this summer in the Washington area.
Posted on: February 27, 2012 2:34 pm
 

The one-team player (and the nine-team player)

VIERA, Fla. -- Edwin Jackson is one year older than Ryan Zimmerman.

Jackson is on his seventh major-league team, eighth if you include the few minutes he was officially a Blue Jay between stops with the White Sox and Cardinals last summer. Zimmerman is still with his first.

Jackson has a one-year contract with the Nationals, so he could well be headed for a ninth team next year. Zimmerman just signed a contract that basically commits him to the Nationals for the rest of his career.

Zimmerman chose to stay with the same team. Jackson didn't exactly have a choice. He was traded for the first time when he was just 22 years old, then traded five more times before he became a free agent last fall.

So if you're one of those people bemoaning the player movement in the modern game, just remember that there are still quite a few players who want to play an entire career with one team.

And just remember that it's often not the player's choice when it doesn't happen.

"People don't realize that it's got to be a two-way street," Zimmerman said Monday.

Zimmerman said he has spent time talking to Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki, two other players who are headed to long one-team careers. They're not alone; it's obvious by now that Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera won't be playing for anyone but the Yankees, just as Jorge Posada retired last month as a one-team player.

Zimmerman is just 27, but he should end up doing the same. His new contract binds him to the Nationals through 2019, with an option for 2020, and with no-trade protection that he demanded as part of the deal.

He was determined to stay.

"I'm so comfortable here," Zimmerman said. "I think that helps you play better."

Jackson, who chose a one-year deal with the Nationals over three-year offers elsewhere, said he's just as comfortable moving around.

"I've been moving my whole life," said Jackson, whose father was in the military. "I was born on the move. It's almost like it was predestined."

As his manager would tell him, it's not always a bad thing. Davey Johnson chose to sign with the Orioles in the days before there was a draft, but the Orioles traded him to the Braves after eight years. He later played with the Phillies and Cubs, and he has managed five different teams.

"I know exactly where [Zimmerman] is coming from," Johnson said. "A big part of me would be envious. But I also like change, and I like challenges.

"I'm glad that he's glad."


Posted on: February 26, 2012 4:58 pm
 

New Astros owner Crane off to a good start

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It takes time to judge a new owner, but the Jim Crane era with the Astros seems to be off to a good start.

I'm not talking about on the field. Crane's first Astros team figures to be every bit as terrible as Drayton McLane's last, and that team lost 106 games.

But Crane is doing things you want an owner to do, and suggesting that he won't do things you want owners not to do.

He showed up Sunday for the Astros' first full-squad workout, spoke to the team about turning the Astros back into a winner and turning the organization into a family. He shook hands with players. He posed for pictures with fans. He thanked the media for caring enough to cover the team.

He was pleasant, but he wasn't overbearing.

"We'll stay out of the way," he said. "And we'll help any way we can. . . . I'll fade more into the sunset as the season starts."

The suggestion from Crane and his people is that he's also prepared to spend money when it can make a difference. The Astros have a new television deal that will see their rights fee double starting next season, and new team president George Postolos talks about how Houston is the country's fourth-largest city, and about how the Astros' revenues (and thus spending) should eventually reflect that.

For now, the Astros are concentrating heavily on scouting and development, both here and internationally, and that's as it should be. One of the failures of the late McLane years was that an insistence on never going "above-slot" in the draft kept the farm system from producing. The new collective bargaining agreement limits draft spending, but as Astros people remind you, they'll be allowed to spend the most money of anyone, simply because they'll be drafting first.

Crane seems to understand that it will take a while, quite a change from McLane, who always wanted to irrationally declare that his team would be in the playoffs.

And Crane seems to understand that since the team is unlikely to win this year or next, he needs to do other things to show fans that he cares.

To make season ticket holders feel appreciated, Crane and his people are trying to meet with them. To make all the fans feel better, the Astros lowered some prices, and made a commitment to have $5 beer on sale at every concession stand.

They talk about things like changing the uniforms, and Crane reminded people Sunday that because the Astros are changing leagues at the end of this season, they're the only team in baseball that will host each of the other teams over the next two years.

Just as important, the Astros are open about what their plan is.

"We're not going to try to create wins in the short term at the expense of being able to compete in the mid- to long-term," new general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Crane seemed so prepared for this. He and his people have been trying for five years to buy a baseball team.

They tried for the Astros once before, and they tried for the Rangers, Cubs and Padres, as well. Crane even looked into becoming an investor in the Cardinals, although he wouldn't have had control, there.

The team he really wanted, though, was the Astros, which is why he called Sunday "a special day."

"It was really a life goal," said Bill Morgan, the principal investor in Crane's group.

The life goal includes winning, and we can't really judge Crane's ownership until he's had a chance to show if he can do it.

For now, all you can say is that he seems to be off to a good start.


Posted on: February 25, 2012 12:55 pm
 

Hanson expects to be ready

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tommy Hanson understands now that concussions are serious, but he's feeling fortunate that his wssn't worse.


The Braves pitcher said Saturday that he believs he is now "back to normal," five days after he suffered a mild concussion in an automobile accident. Hanson won't throw again until Monday or Tuesday, buthesaid he doesn't expect any problem being ready for opening day.


"It'll only be a week off," Hanson said. "And I was throwing 50-pitch bullpens before I came down here."


Hanson was hurt in a one-car accident when he blew a tire on the way to the Braves' first official workout of the spring. He said that when doctors gave him tests, they found his reaction time had slowed, showing that he had suffered a conussion.


At that point, Hanson said he beganto understand how concussions have become a significant issue in sports.


"I didn't realize concussions are as serious as they are until I got one," he said.


Now he seems to be recovering well.


"I'm not worried about it," he said. "I feel like I'm back to normal."           
Category: MLB
Posted on: February 24, 2012 5:53 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 5:54 pm
 

Is baseball's drug program still credible?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If Ryan Braun has work to do rebuilding his image, so does Major League Baseball.

If you don't believe that, then listen to what Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said Friday when I asked him if he worries about the integrity of baseball's drug program.

"I do now," Jones said.

That's a problem.

If the fallout of the Braun case is that players don't trust the drug program to be fair, then the program itself loses all the credibility it needs.

Baseball and the players union obviously understand that, and it was no surprise that both the commissioner's office and the union issued statements late Friday afternoon defending the program.

"Our program is not 'fatally flawed,'" MLB said in its statement, countering a charge that Braun made in his press conference earlier Friday in Arizona.

"Our Joint Drug Program stands as strong, as accurate and as reliable as any in sport, both before and after the Braun decision," the union said.

The union couldn't resist taking a shot at management, saying that the arbitrator's decision in Braun's favor was "deserving of respect by both bargaining parties."

But the bigger issue here isn't who liked the decision or who didn't. The bigger issue isn't whether the decision hinged on a "technicality."

It's whether players still trust the system.

Braun is a part of it, because of the respect players around the game have for him. Support for him seemed to be near-universal in the Braves clubhouse on Friday, and the belief seemed to be that at least in this case, the system had holes.

"It's fishy," catcher Brian McCann said. "The guy who [collected the sample] doesn't need to be doing it anymore. It's terrible.

"It should never ever, ever happen."

Jones and other Braves players suggested that they would have been more comfortable if the urine sample had been held by someone who didn't know which player it came from, eliminating any chance that a collector with a grudge against one player could try to take action.

But most of all, they expressed strong support for Braun.

"I believe Ryan, because I know him," Jones said. "I believe him. He's not a guy you look at and say he's on something. I sincerely believe he didn't take anything."

But Jones also understands the uphill battle that Braun now faces to save his reputation.

"Yes, there's always going to be doubt, and that's what's unfair," he said. "Once your name is associated [with steroids], you might as well wear a scarlet letter."

The problem for baseball is that its drug program is now associated with the Ryan Braun case.

And even if this really is "the highest quality drug testing program of any professional sports organization in the world," as MLB claimed in its Friday statement, it's a program that is now very much on the stand, and very much on the defensive.

MLB defended the sample collector, calling him "extremely experienced" and saying he "acted in a professional and appropriate manner."

The players aren't convinced, and that's a problem that baseball needs to address.

No drug program is of any use if it lacks credibility. Right now, the credibility of this program is at stake.

Posted on: February 24, 2012 9:09 am
 

Prince on Braun: 'It's great news'

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Prince Fielder's reaction to the Ryan Braun decision?

"It's great," Fielder said Friday morning at the Tigers' spring training camp. "It's great news."

Fielder and Braun were teammates for the last five years with the Brewers, but they're not close friends. Still, Fielder retains strong feelings for the Brewers, saying Thursday that he would like to see them go to the World Series, "and then lose to us."

Fielder said he hadn't spoken to Braun this winter, and hadn't closely followed the case.

"I have a life, too," he said. "I was trying to get a job there, for a while."

As to the question of whether Thursday's ruling should be enough to clear Braun's name, Fielder offered no real opinion.

"I don't know," he said. "Obviously, it says he's not guilty. He says he was innocent, so that's what it was."

Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
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