Posted on: April 22, 2011 9:56 pm

From a 13-hitter to (almost) a no-hitter

Only one pitcher in the big leagues has allowed 13 hits in a game this year.

And only one pitcher in baseball has taken a no-hitter into the ninth inning this year.

Anibal Sanchez. And Anibal Sanchez.

And maybe that figures.

Sanchez, after all, is the guy who threw a no-hitter as a Marlins rookie in 2006. He's also the guy who has just two complete games -- and just 25 wins -- in four-plus seasons since then.

He's a guy who can allow 13 hits to the last-place Astros, then come back two starts later and take a no-hitter to the ninth against the first-place Rockies.

Dexter Fowler finally poked a slow ground ball through the right side, for what Colorado's only hit in a 4-1 Florida win. Sanchez fell three outs short of becoming the first pitcher to get a no-hitter but not a shutout since Darryl Kile did it for the Astros against the Mets in 1993.

And he did it two starts after allowing two hits to the opposing pitcher, Houston's J.A. Happ.

"That's a day when nothing good happened," Sanchez told reporters that night in Houston. "The balls just found holes."

It seems they did, although five of those 13 hits went for extra bases.

In any case, two starts later, plenty good happened for Sanchez. Only one of the balls the Rockies hit found a hole.

It wasn't a no-hitter, but it was impressive.

It was Anibal Sanchez.

He wasn't the pitcher you thought might throw a no-hitter this weekend, not with Josh Johnson and Ubaldo Jimenez facing off Sunday in Miami, not with Roy Halladay facing the weak-hitting Padres Sunday in San Diego.

He didn't throw a no-hitter. But he did come close.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 30, 2011 5:02 pm

3 to watch: The opening day matters edition

On opening day, I want to be everywhere.

On opening day, I want to see every team, every game. Even if the Pirates are playing the Astros (which, thankfully, they're not this week).

Opening day is like no other day. But opening day is still only one game, and opening weekend is still only one weekend, and that means I'm still limited to just 3 to watch.

Just remember, as players, managers and columnists are sure to tell you, that opening day only counts for one win, or one loss.

But also remember that last year's two World Series teams, the Giants and the Rangers, both won on opening day. American League MVP Josh Hamilton was 0-for-3, but Joey Votto began his MVP season by going 3-for-5 with a home run.

Felix Hernandez began his Cy Young season in what would prove to be typical fashion, leaving in the seventh inning with a 3-1 lead that the bullpen didn't hold, and thus ending up with a no-decision. Roy Halladay won, of course, going seven innings and allowing one run.

And even if opening day only counts for one win, remember that had the Giants won just two fewer games last year, they not only don't win the World Series, they don't even make the playoffs. Had they lost on opening day instead of won, they'd have finished in a three-way tie with the Padres and Braves for the NL West and wild card.

With that in mind, here's the first 3 to watch of the year:

1. As I wrote in spring training , I think the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright-less rotation will work out better than anyone expected. I even picked the Cardinals to win the National League Central , although not with total conviction. I'll feel a lot better about that column and also that pick if Chris Carpenter looks like an ace in Padres at Cardinals, Thursday afternoon (4:15 ET) at Busch Stadium . One scout who spends every March in Jupiter said Carpenter looked old this spring, and that he "didn't stand out, the way he usually does." If he doesn't stand out against a Adrian Gonzalez-less Padres lineup, I may want to revise my picks by Thursday night.

2. Question: Which $20 million a year pitcher has never won on opening day? That would be Cliff Lee, who has the excuse of having started just one opening day game in his nine big-league seasons (2009 with the Indians, when he lost 9-1 at Texas). Lee won't start opening day this year, either (Halladay rightly gets the honor), but that only makes Astros at Phillies, Saturday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park one of the most anticipated Game 2s ever. But with the Friday forecast for Philadelphia (50 percent chance of rain), Halladay could end up bumping Lee from Saturday to Sunday.

3. The best matchup of the weekend at Yankee Stadium is on opening day, with Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia both beginning the season as Cy Young candidates. But the most telling matchup could be Tigers at Yankees, Sunday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium . The Tigers start Max Scherzer, who they're counting on to be a true No. 2 starter behind Verlander. The Yankees start Phil Hughes, who they need to be a steady starter behind Sabathia, since A.J. Burnett is undependable, Ivan Nova is young and Freddy Garcia is still an unknown. Scherzer was terrible in his final spring start (allowing 11 earned runs to the Orioles). Hughes' velocity was down significantly this spring. Should be fascinating, and it could be important, because there's a chance these two teams could be fighting for a wild-card spot in late September.

Posted on: March 30, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2011 4:05 pm

The All-DL opening day All-Stars

It's a team that might contend for a title, if it could only get on the field.

Then again, that's exactly the problem.

Think of the players that will (or likely will) begin the season on the disabled list. It's quite a group, lacking a little (for now) on the left side of the infield and behind the plate, but overflowing with top-level starting pitching and back-of-the-bullpen depth.

Not all the opening day rosters are official yet. Some teams are waiting until closer to Thursday's 11 a.m. deadline for final decisions, which only means that the All-DL-Stars could have an even better lineup by the time the first pitch is thrown.

Jason Bay, for example, should be your All-DL-Star left fielder by then. The Mets are expected to put him on the disabled list, but they haven't said so publicly yet. So I left him off, in part because this team is strong enough without him.

For now, we'll only go with guys we're pretty sure of.

So here goes:

1B -- Kendrys Morales, Angels

2B -- Chase Utley, Phillies

SS -- Clint Barmes, Astros

3B -- Nick Punto, Cardinals

LF -- Cody Ross, Giants (Bay could take his spot)

CF -- Grady Sizemore, Indians (with Franklin Gutierrez also available)

RF -- Corey Hart, Brewers

C -- Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers

Rotation -- Adam Wainwright, Cardinals; Zack Greinke, Brewers; Johan Santana, Mets; Mat Latos, Padres; Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays (with Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and others in reserve)

Closer -- Brian Wilson, Giants (with the Phillies' Brad Lidge and the A's Andrew Bailey setting him up)

You'd take that team, wouldn't you?

You'd be guaranteed to lose on opening day, because not one of them could play, but you'd take that team.

Posted on: August 8, 2010 6:11 pm

3 to watch: The Minor phenom edition

This spring, when all the talk in Braves camp was about Jason Heyward, Bobby Cox was already talking about Mike Minor.

"He could come fast," Cox said, knowing the Minor had only pitched in low Class A.

But Bobby, you're retiring this year. You won't see him.

"I'll come and watch him," Cox said, with a big smile.

Minor has come faster than even Cox expected, so fast that when he makes his big-league debut on Monday night, Cox will indeed come and watch him -- as his first big-league manager.

The Braves need Minor now, because Kris Medlen is on the disabled list, and possibly on the way to Tommy John elbow surgery. The Braves called on Minor, because the 22-year-old left-hander was 4-1 with a 1.89 in six starts in Triple-A, after starting the season in Double-A.

And in a week that also includes the returns of Stephen Strasburg and Carlos Zambrano, first-place showdowns in the National League Central and American League Central and Cliff Lee against the Yankees, Minor heads off this edition of 3 to watch:

1. Minor was the Braves' first-round draft pick in 2009, out of Vanderbilt, where he was a teammate of Tampa Bay's David Price. He was picked six spots behind Strasburg, and one spot ahead of Mike Leake, who starts Monday night for the Reds against the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Minor will be making his debut, in Braves at Astros, Monday night (8:05 ET) at Minute Maid Park . One more Minor fact: He'll be the first left-hander to start a game for the Braves this year.

2. It's tempting to leave a Strasburg start out of 3 to watch for the first time ever, with so many other good games this week. But let's be honest. Strasburg hasn't started a game since he felt tightness warming up for a scheduled July 27 start against the Braves. All eyes will be on him when he takes the mound (assuming he does) for Marlins at Nationals, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Nationals Park . The time to leave him out of 3 to watch could be coming soon, but it's not here yet.

3. Seeing Lee pitch against the Yankees, which he'll do in Yankees at Rangers, Wednesday night (8:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark , will have us looking back and looking ahead. Back at Lee's two wins over the Yankees during last year's World Series, and at the Yankees' attempted trade for Lee on July 9. Ahead at the possibility that Lee stands in the Yankees' way this October, and to a potential bidding war over Lee between the Yankees and Rangers (and no doubt others) this winter.
Posted on: August 1, 2010 9:23 pm

3 to watch: The Instant rewards? edition

Cliff Lee lost his first start for the Rangers. Dan Haren not only lost his Angels debut, but he was knocked out of the box by a line drive.

Roy Oswalt lost his first Phillies start.

Yeah, it's great to trade for a starting pitcher, isn't it?

You make the deal with hopes that it will go the way it did for Lee last year, when he won his first five starts for the Phillies, then took them all the way to the World Series. You remember that CC Sabathia went 11-2 down the stretch with the 2008 Brewers, and changed the story of a franchise by taking them to the playoffs.

You remember Doyle Alexander (9-0) with the 1987 Tigers. You don't remember Jarrod Washburn (1-3) with the 2009 Tigers.

A starting pitcher traded at midseason doesn't get that many chances to affect the pennant race. Lee made just 12 regular-season starts for the Phillies last year; even Sabathia, who was dealt before the All-Star break and famously pitched on three days' rest down the stretch in September, started only 17 regular-season games for the Brewers.

The best deals make a difference, but with so few starts, each one is precious.

Oswalt makes his second Phils start this Wednesday in Florida. Haren makes his third Angels start Wednesday in Baltimore. Lee, who lost to the Angels in Anaheim on Sunday, will face the A's this weekend in Oakland.

Meanwhile, three other teams show off new starters this week, as you'll see in 3 to watch:

1. The Cardinals no doubt would have rather had Oswalt, but the guy they got was Jake Westbrook, who has come back well from Tommy John surgery. Westbrook's first start will come in Astros at Cardinals, Monday night (8:15 ET) at Busch Stadium . Westbrook is a career American Leaguer. He was 6-7 with a 3.56 ERA in 27 interleague games against National League teams. His opponent Monday is Brett Myers, the guy a lot of teams would have liked to have traded for; the Astros instead signed him to a contract extension.

2. The Dodgers were seven games out of first place at the deadline, and 4 1/2 games behind in the wild-card race. But the Dodgers obviously still believe they can win, as they picked up four players in the last week, including starter Ted Lilly, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. Lilly gets a tough assignment in his debut with his new team, facing Mat Latos in Padres at Dodgers, Tuesday night (10:10 ET) at Dodger Stadium .

3. Edwin Jackson keeps moving from team to team, impressing everyone with his stuff and his makeup, but never making enough of an impact that anyone decides he's indispensible. Will that change with the White Sox, his fifth team in an eight-year career? We'll find out, beginning with White Sox at Tigers, Wednesday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park . One interesting note: Jackson lost his final two starts for the Tigers, both against the White Sox last September. One reason he did, according to a source, is that he was tipping his pitches then and the White Sox had picked it up. Jackson is an interesting deadline pickup, anyway, because his career ERA after the All-Star break is 5.09, more than half a run worse than his pre-break ERA of 4.47.
Posted on: July 31, 2010 3:08 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2010 3:11 pm

Astros work on Myers extension

Some teams looking for pitching had hoped to trade for Brett Myers this week.

The Astros would apparently prefer to keep him through next year. According to sources, Houston has been working on a contract extension with Myers, possibly firming up what is now a mutual option for 2011.

Myers is making $5.1 million this year. The mutal option for 2011 is for $8 million.

Myers, who signed with the Astros last winter, is 8-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 21 starts.

"Myers is the best guy out there," said one scout whose team has been desperate to add pitching. "He has pitched better than all of them, including [Roy] Oswalt."

Posted on: July 29, 2010 5:06 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2010 1:47 pm

Astros talking about Berkman, too

Astros owner Drayton McLane was never willing to trade away stars and concede a season.

Now he may be willing to move two in two days.

After trading Roy Oswalt to the Phillies, the Astros have been talking to teams about first baseman Lance Berkman, CBSSports.com has learned. It's not clear yet which teams would be interested in Berkman, who is 34 years old, has complete no-trade protection, and is having a subpar season (.245, 13 home runs, 49 RBIs).

The Yankees, who have been looking for a hitter with Nick Johnson on the disabled list, could be one possibility.

Because of Berkman's contract, which pays him $14.5 million this year with a $2 million buyout of a 2011 option, it's almost certain that he would pass through waivers unclaimed and would thus be tradeable in August.
Posted on: July 29, 2010 10:02 am
Edited on: July 29, 2010 10:07 am

If Oswalt was telling truth, then Philly's OK

In public, Roy Oswalt said geography didn't matter. In public, Roy Oswalt said that what mattered most was a chance to win.

Now, if the reports are true, Roy Oswalt can leave a team 17 games under .500 and head to one that has been to the World Series two years in a row, is set up for a strong stretch run and is built to win for a few years to come.

In other words, if Roy Oswalt wasn't lying then, what reason could he give for saying no now?

Money? A 2012 option, which amounts to more money? Yes, it's true that players negotiate no-trade clauses for a reason, and that they're entitled to use them to control their future. But if Oswalt turns down a trade to the Phillies, he's telling us that everything he said over the last two months simply wasn't true.

"Location doesn't matter," Oswalt said as he stood in front of his Yankee Stadium locker on June 11. "It's only for a year and a half."

All that mattered, he said then, was getting a chance to win.

Back then, an Oswalt trade seemed anywhere from problematic to unlikely, because of complications that partly involved the pitcher but centered more on Astros owner Drayton McLane.

McLane has killed Oswalt deals before, notably in 2007 when his baseball staff had worked out a three-way deal that would have sent Oswalt to the Mets, Lastings Milledge to the Orioles and Miguel Tejada to Houston.

Now, a source familiar with the talks said this morning, McLane has been negotiating directly with Phillies president David Montgomery. And while the source insisted there were still loose ends to be tied up, it's clear that McLane has done more than just sign off on the idea of dealing Oswalt to the Phillies.

It's possible that McLane never would have dealt Oswalt to the in-state Rangers, or to the arch-rival Cardinals. It's likely that Oswalt, a Mississippi native, much prefers the idea of pitching for the Cardinals, the Braves or possibly the Rangers.

But that's not really the issue here. That's not the issue now.

The question that matters most is this one: Was Roy Oswalt telling the truth or not?

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