Posted on: July 15, 2011 8:05 pm

Manuel fine with Bochy's All-Star moves

NEW YORK -- Tim Lincecum, who was on the All-Star team but didn't pitch, starts for the Giants Friday night.

Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, both asked to pitch two innings in the All-Star Game, won't pitch for the Phillies this weekend.

And yes, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was the guy managing the National League All-Stars. But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel isn't complaining.

"They didn't get overused," Manuel said Friday. "[Bochy] earned the right to manage the team, and he can manage it any way he wants to."

Halladay, the NL starter, threw 19 pitches in his two innings. Lee followed him and threw 25 pitches in 1 2/3 innings.

Two things to note here:

First, Manuel managed the last two NL All-Star teams, and last year he used both Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson for two innings. He knows that managing the All-Star team can be a thankless job.

Second, while it's true that neither Halladay nor Lee will pitch this weekend against the Mets, that's only partially All-Star related. Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee is a strong proponent of giving his starters extra rest during the season, and planned to push Halladay's next start into next week regardless of whether he pitched in the All-Star Game or not. Manuel said Lee might have started Sunday if he hadn't appeared in the All-Star Game, but that he may have been pushed into next week, too.

As it is, the real losers are the Cubs, who will see both Halladay and Lee in the series that begins Monday at Wrigley Field.

Posted on: July 11, 2011 8:25 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 8:58 pm

Does option hinder K-Rod trade? Maybe not

PHOENIX -- For weeks, the conventional wisdom on Francisco Rodriguez has been that if the Mets trade him, it would be to a team that needs a setup man rather than one that needs a closer.

The thinking was that with K-Rod already 62 percent of the way toward guaranteeing his $17.5 million vesting option for 2012 (he needs 55 games finished, and he has 34 at the All-Star break), no team would want to take a chance on letting him get there.

But here's something to think about, something that might change that conventional wisdom significantly:

K-Rod just changed agents, from Paul Kinzer to Scott Boras. Boras is likely to be less worried about the vesting option and more concerned about positioning Rodriguez as the best closer on this winter's free-agent market (and, in fact, Boras reminded reporters Monday that K-Rod is a closer and should remain one). The best way to position Rodriguez as a closer is to have him close games all year -- and if he does it in a pennant race, so much the better).

But what about that $17.5 million?

Well, it doesn't need to be $17.5 million. K-Rod could potentially (and would consider, according to sources) bargain away that vesting option, perhaps for an increase in the $3.5 million buyout that is already part of his contract.

That way, the Mets could get prospects they need back in a trade (and avoid paying the $17.5 million themselves), the acquiring team would get a quality closer (and not run the risk of spending $17.5 million next year themselves). And K-Rod would get an improved buyout, a chance to better position himself in the free-agent market, and the opportunity to hit the market at 29 years old, rather than at 30.


Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters last week that it's "very unlikely" that he'll trade Jose Reyes, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

I'm starting to believe him (especially with Reyes currently on the disabled list), but I'm still not fully convinced. And here's one significant thing to remember when considering whether Reyes will be traded:

When Reyes closed the door on in-season contract negotiations with the Mets, he didn't completely rule out an in-season deal with a team that would trade for him. In fact, sources say, Reyes would be willing to consider such a proposal.

Why would he listen to another team and not the Mets, when he has said that he loves playing in New York and would like to stay with the Mets? Two possible reasons: One, Reyes knows that the Mets are in no financial position now to make him an offer that he would consider accepting, and he doesn't want them to make an offer that would solely help them public relations-wise. Second, were he to talk with another team, it would only be during a brief window once a trade was agreed to, so it wouldn't be nearly as much of a distraction.


Of all the Mets, All-Star Carlos Beltran remains the most likely to be traded, in part because his contract doesn't permit the Mets to offer him salary arbitration at the end of the season. Thus, the Mets would not get any draft-pick compensation when Beltran signs with another team.

The Giants are one team known to be interested in Beltran.

Posted on: June 15, 2011 8:07 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2011 11:54 pm

Giants eyeing Rangers catchers

With Buster Posey out for the year, the Giants are still looking everywhere for catching.

The latest place they're looking: Texas, where the Rangers may be willing to move a catcher once Mike Napoli returns from the disabled list.

Yorvit Torrealba is the Rangers' starter behind the plate, and Napoli was his backup. With Napoli out, the Rangers have called up Taylor Teagarden, who has big-league experience and was hitting .326 with nine home runs in 24 games at Triple-A Round Rock. Teagarden is only a .216 hitter in 107 career games in the big leagues, but remember, there's very little catching available and the Giants need help.

With Posey out, the Giants have gone with an Eli Whiteside/Chris Stewart tandem behind the plate. In 19 games without Posey, Giants catchers have hit .180 with no home runs and just two RBI.

Napoli, who has a strained left oblique, went on the DL Sunday. The Rangers hope he'll be able to return in the minimum 15 days.

The Giants seem determined to find catching help somewhere. Besides the big leagues, they've sent scouts to watch any Triple-A team with a possible answer behind the plate.

Posted on: June 13, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 8:10 pm

Holliday ranks top in big week for returns

Sunday night, after the Giants activated Pablo Sandoval from the disabled list, I asked on Twitter which of the five big-name players coming off the DL this week would have the biggest impact on the pennant race.

One problem: I missed two of them.

There aren't five big-name players that could come off the DL this week. There are seven.

Seven players who have combined for 17 All-Star appearances, six batting titles, one MVP and two runners-up, four Gold Gloves and 15 Silver Sluggers.

And I didn't even include Jason Heyward, who began a rehabilitation assignment with the Braves' Triple-A Gwinnett team, and could be activated as soon as Wednesday.

Anyway, I'll ask the question again: Which one will have the biggest impact on the pennant race?

And I'll try to answer it:

1. Matt Holliday, Cardinals, left quadriceps, last played May 31, could return Thursday. When Holliday missed seven early-season games with appendicitis, the Cardinals scored just 18 runs and went 2-5. He's missed the last 11 games, and they've scored 49 runs and gone 5-6. They're a first-place team that scores plenty of runs when he plays, a sub-.500 team that struggles to score when he doesn't. Fortunately for the Cardinals, it looks reasonably certain that this Holliday absence won't last much longer.

2. Travis Hafner, Indians, right oblique, last played May 17, could return late this week. Even with Hafner, the Indians may not be good enough to hold on in the American League Central race. But it's clear that without him, they've got no chance. The numbers are skewed a little by the strong pitching Cleveland has faced since Hafner went out, but it's still stunning to see that they were shut out just once with him in the lineup -- and six times in the 24 games he has missed. The Indians were hitting .271 as a team when Hafner got hurt. They've hit .224 as a team (with a .289 on-base percentage and a .346 slugging percentage) without him. The Indians will go as far as their talented young hitters can take them, but those young hitters are hurting without Hafner's presence in the lineup. Hafner is due to begin a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday at Double-A Akron. The Indians have told him they'd like him to stay there three or four days.

3. Joe Mauer, Twins, bilateral leg weakness, last played April 12, could return Thursday. If the Twins weren't already nine games out, Mauer would top this list. If they were still 20 games under .500, as they were a couple weeks back, he'd be farther down the list. The Twins aren't nearly the same team without Mauer, but his impact on the pennant race is limited by how bad they've been without him -- and by the continuing uncertainty about how effective he'll be when he returns.

4. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins, back inflammation, last played May 29, expected to return Tuesday. The Marlins, finishing up a brutal offensive homestand that cost hitting coach John Mallee his job, obviously need a boost. Ramirez, a one-time National League batting champ, could obviously provide it. But will he? Ramirez hit just .210 in 48 games before going on the DL. Even with that, the Marlins were just two games behind the Phillies when Ramirez last played. They're seven games out now, and he'll be back for the start of a four-game series in Philadelphia.
5. Magglio Ordonez, Tigers, right ankle weakness, last played May 10, returning Monday night. If he hits .172, as he did before the Tigers put him on the DL, he's the least important guy on this list. If he's a .300 hitter, as he has been for most of his career (including last year), he's as important as anyone, and might be enough to make the Tigers clear favorites in the AL Central.

6. Pablo Sandoval, Giants, fractured hamate bone, last played April 29, will return Tuesday. The way the Giants struggle to score runs, some will make the case that the Panda is as important as anyone. I dropped him down only because the Giants went 25-16 in his absence. Yes, Buster Posey is out of the lineup now, but the Giants are above .500 since he's been out, too.

7. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, abdominal surgery, last played April 9, expected to return Tuesday. The Nationals without Zimmerman might be the worst offensive team in the game. The Nationals with Zimmerman could hope to escape last place by passing the Mets. It's hard to say Zimmerman will impact the pennant race, except by making the Nationals a significantly tougher opponent.

Posted on: June 6, 2011 9:32 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 9:42 pm

Selig: No 'significant changes' on plays at plate

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- In the two weeks since Buster Posey was hurt, Giants manager Bruce Bochy and others have made strong calls for rules changes on plays at the plate.

Monday night, commissioner Bud Selig said he doesn't expect the rules to be changed.

"We're glad to talk, glad to revisit," Selig said between picks of baseball's draft. "But I don't see any significant changes."

Selig said he has spoken about the play many times with Joe Torre, his new executive vice president. He said he understands the concerns the Giants have, and he praised the Giants for the statement they issued in response to general manager Brian Sabean's inflammatory comments last week.

"I appreciate the concern," Selig said. "I'm saddened by Buster Posey [getting hurt], or by anyone else."

Selig, who has pushed a (sometimes ignored) unofficial slotting system for draft-pick bonuses, said again Monday that he wants a hard-slotting system in the new Basic Agreement being negotiated this summer.

Asked if he's confident that baseball can get the players' union to agree to a hard-slotting system, the commissioner responded: "I'm confident that we need it."

Selig also called again for a worldwide draft.

Selig played down last week's Los Angeles Times report that nine teams are out of compliance with MLB's debt-service rules, saying it was not a concern because most of those teams were close to being in compliance.

For more draft coverage from CBSSports.com, click here
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 3, 2011 7:04 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 8:07 pm

Braves to McCann: Go ahead, block the plate

NEW YORK -- Like the Giants, the Braves have a catcher who bats cleanup. Like the Giants, the Braves have had trouble scoring runs and need that catcher in the lineup regularly.

But even with what happened to Buster Posey, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he would want Brian McCann to block the plate to cut off a run.

"You can't worry," Gonzalez said Friday. "People have gotten hurt coming down the steps. I don't think you can tell an athlete, a competitor, 'Don't block the plate.'

"I want him to give us an opportunity to win the game, and if that's by blocking the plate, it's by blocking the plate. I couldn't bring myself to say that to Brian -- don't block the plate."

Gonzalez, the former Marlins manager, also defended Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins, saying he thought Cousins did nothing wrong in the play on which Posey was hurt.

"I've looked over the film," Gonzalez said. "I thought it was a clean play."

Posted on: June 3, 2011 2:10 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 9:11 pm

Sabean is emotional, but this is time for reason

OK, we get it. The Giants are upset that they lost their young catcher and cleanup hitter.

No one who likes baseball should be happy that Buster Posey got hurt.

And yet the discussion about what to do about plays at the plate is one that is absolutely worth having. Some people say that we wouldn't be talking about it if this were Eli Whiteside instead of Buster Posey, but that's irrelevant, because this is something we should be talking about.

But it's time to talk about it calmly. It's time to get over the emotion of the moment.

That's what Joe Torre needed to remind Giants general manager Brian Sabean, after Sabean's radio tirade Thursday. And that, according to sources, is exactly what Torre was expected to tell Sabean, when they spoke Friday.

After Sabean spoke with Torre, in Torre's new role as baseball's executive vice president, the Giants issued a statement saying that their general manager had spoken out of frustration, and also that Sabean was trying to reach Cousins to speak with him.

The frustration is understandable. And Sabean is an emotional guy. Baseball could use more colorful GMs like him.

But baseball doesn't need GMs issuing veiled threats to players on other teams.

"If I never hear from [Scott] Cousins again, or he doesn't play another day in the big leagues, I think we'll all be happy," Sabean said Thursday on KNBR, the Giants' flagship radio station.

He also said that the Giants will have a "long memory."

Meanwhile, according to Jim Bowden on Twitter, Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison said Friday that Sabean's comments were "ignorant and inappropriate," and "immature and unprofessional," in an appearance on MLB Network Radio.

But it's not just Sabean. Earlier this week, while covering the Giants' series in St. Louis, New York Times writer Tyler Kepner suggested on Twitter that "spending two days around the Giants, I get the strong sense that I would not want to be Scott Cousins the next time those teams play."

Again, we get it. The Giants are upset. But focusing on how angry they are does them -- and us -- no good.

What we do need, over the next few months, is a reasoned discussion of the best way to protect catchers.

A few things to keep in mind:

-- Plays at the plate are totally different from plays at other bases. Tony La Russa compared it to plays at first base, but those are almost always force plays and plays at the plate (especially those involving collisions) almost never are. Others have compared it to plays at second base, but the second baseman or shortstop never stands in between the baserunner and the base.

-- If you want to totally eliminate collisions, you'd also need to totally bar catchers from blocking the plate (or even standing in the baseline in front of the plate). There seems little sentiment for that drastic a change.

-- Yes, Cousins could have avoided the collision. But even with many of the rules changes proposed, there's a real chance he wouldn't have been called out, because Posey was close enough for the plate for the runner to assume that the catcher would be in the way.

-- One reason Posey was hurt was that he put himself in the worst possible position -- on his knees.

-- Teaching catchers to make swipe tags and avoid collisions isn't really a solution, because that's exactly what the Giants taught Posey.

-- The real danger of blocking the plate may not be a horrific ankle injury like Posey's. As we learn more about concussions, you wonder if catchers blocking the plate in the traditional way (and falling backwards and potentially hitting their heads) are in even greater long-term danger.

-- The Giants have run into plenty of catchers themselves, most notably when J.T. Snow did it while making the last out of the 2003 Division Series against the Marlins. Of course, in that case, catcher Pudge Rodriguez had the ball, held onto it, and wasn't hurt.

It's a hugely complex issue. It's a discussion well worth having.

And, as much as possible, it's time to take all the heated emotions out of that discussion.

Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:05 am
Edited on: May 27, 2011 11:09 am

3 to Watch: The King defends his crown edition

It's been a quiet start to the season for Felix Hernandez. Even the talk that he'll be traded seems to have died down, either because of the Mariners' continued strong denials, his own declarations of how happy he is in Seattle or the team's decent start to the season.

Meanwhile, as of now Hernandez isn't even in the top 10 in the American League ERA race. He leads the league in strikeouts and he's third in innings pitched, but if the Cy Young vote were held today, he'd barely receive a vote.

And none of that means he won't repeat his title.

Through 11 starts, Hernandez actually has better numbers than he did at this point last year. He's 5-4 with a 3.01 ERA, as compared to 2-4 with a 3.50 ERA through his first 11 starts of 2010.

Last year, the Mariners were held to one run or none in three of his first four losses. This year, they've been held to no runs, one run and two runs in three of his first four losses.

And that means this Saturday's start against the Yankees is King Felix's biggest of the year so far.

The strongest voices against Hernandez in last year's Cy debate weren't the ones complaining about his so-so 13-12 record. Rather, they were the ones complaining that he didn't pitch in important games, and pitched in the weak-hitting American League West.

The strongest counter-argument was Hernandez's record against the Yankees. He won all three of his starts against New York, allowing just one run on 16 hits in 26 innings.

As Felix defenders have said all along, the bigger the stage, the better he pitched.

The stage isn't huge this weekend, but the Yankees are the highest-scoring team in the American League. The Mariners are playing so well (and the division is so weak) that they're just 1 1/2 games out of first place.

It's a late-night Saturday start, but it's still the Yankees, and it still would be a great place for Hernandez to launch his reelection campaign.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Every day, it seems, I talk to another baseball person who mentions how unimpressive the Indians were in spring training, and how shocking it is that they still have the best record in baseball. But they do, and they even survived Grady Sizemore's latest trip to the disabled list, with Sizemore expected to return this weekend. Still, the doubters are going to doubt, and wonder if this is the week the Indians' collapse begins. Coming off two straight home losses to the Red Sox, they now get Tampa Bay's two best starters, beginning with David Price in Indians at Rays, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field. Josh Tomlin, who is 6-1 and has held opponents to a .182 batting average, starts for the Indians.

2. Even with Buster Posey, the Giants have scored the fewest runs in the National League. Even with Buster Posey, the Giants' margin of error has been slim, their first-place record built largely on a 14-5 record in one-run games. Now the Giants don't have Posey, and they go on the road to face a Brewers team that is finally healthy and has won six straight and 13 of 16. The good news for the Giants: They open the series with Tim Lincecum on the mound, in Giants at Brewers, Friday night (8:10 ET) at Miller Park. The bad news: The Brewers starter is Shawn Marcum, who has won his last six decisions.

3. Hernandez hasn't even been the most-talked-about starter in his own rotation, which he shares with 22-year-old Michael Pineda. Pineda looks great, and his start against the Yankees on Friday is worth watching, too. But Felix is still the King, and that puts Yankees at Mariners, Saturday night (10:10 ET) at Safeco Field on this list.

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