Posted on: July 18, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 7:04 pm

M's may talk pitching (but not that pitcher)

In 12 days, the Mariners went from 2 1/2 games out to 11 1/2 games out. Not easy to do, especially when three of those days were the All-Star break.

In 12 days, the Mariners went from possible buyers to possible sellers. The Mariners have suggested to teams in the last several days that they would be willing to discuss trading some of their starting pitching in exchange for some much-needed hitting.

But not that pitcher. And not that one, either.

The names that have been floated, according to sources, are Jason Vargas and Doug Fister -- and not Felix Hernandez or Michael Pineda.

It's not certain how anxious the Mariners are to make a deal. One source described it more as "throwing bait out there, to see what interest there is." One issue is how much the Mariners value second-half wins that would make their final record look respectable, even if catching the first-place Rangers has already become a huge longshot.

In a market where multiple teams are searching for starting pitching, there could be significant interest. Fister is 3-11, but has a 3.18 ERA and good secondary numbers. Vargas has a 3.68 ERA and is tied for the league lead with three shutouts.

As to what the Mariners would be looking for in return, that's fairly obvious. In their current nine-game losing streak, the M's have scored just 11 runs.

The Tigers, Reds and Indians are all among the teams searching for rotation help. The Indians have continued to prioritize starting pitching, even as their shaky offense suffered another blow when Grady Sizemore went on the disabled list Monday.

Posted on: July 18, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: July 18, 2011 2:14 pm

Indians put Sizemore back on DL

Grady Sizemore is back on the disabled list.

Sizemore, who missed most of the last two seasons with various injuries, is now out with a right knee contusion. It's his third DL trip this year alone, and the second time he's been out with a right knee problem. Sizemore missed all of last year after surgery on his left knee.

The Indians have been one of baseball's biggest surprises, and they finished the weekend percentage points ahead of the Tigers, atop the American League Central.

Sizemore is hitting just .237, and he hit only .214 in 43 games since his last trip to the DL.

The Indians used Sizemore's roster spot to activate David Huff, who is starting the first game of Monday's day-night doubleheader in Minnesota.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 13, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 2:42 pm

3 to Watch: The Bud Selig edition

No matter what you think of Bud Selig as a commissioner, there's never been any doubt about Bud Selig as a fan.

He loves baseball. He loves watching baseball.

He switches from game to game on television every night when he's home. And when Selig met with the Baseball Writers Association of America this week, he said that his favorite games this summer have involved the Pirates and the Indians.

"I go first to the Pittsburgh game, and then Cleveland," Selig said. "I'm enjoying those two situations very much."

It's easy to see why. Not only are the Pirates and Indians great stories, but Selig sees them both as great examples of how his financial (revenue-sharing) plan is working.

He's right. They're great stories.

As to whether they're proof that the system works, that's a lot more complicated. Selig would also argue that the Rays have proved the system works, because they've finished first two of the last three years in baseball's toughest (and most expensive) division.

Rays executives would dispute that. They say there's no way they can compete long-term against the financial resources of the Yankees and Red Sox, and they beg regularly for a realignment plan that would get them out of the American League East (not going to happen).

Indians people wonder whether they can sustain long-term success. Even with Cleveland's success on the field this year (the Indians spent much of the first half in first place), attendance at Progressive Field has been mostly disappointing.

The Indians could win again, but they could also eventually find themselves back where they were in 2008-09, where they felt forced to trade Cy Young winners in back-to-back years, because they couldn't afford to keep them.

The Rays, despite another competitive team, had the second lowest average attendance in baseball (19,115, ahead of only the Marlins) in the first half. The Indians, at 21,106, ranked 26th among the 30 teams. The Pirates, at 23,577, were 21st.

Does the system really work?

Ask again in a few years.

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Indians fell out of first place on Sunday, and they'll begin the second half with two starters (Fausto Carmona and Mitch Talbot on the disabled list). But they also begin the second half with four games against a Baltimore team that might have been the worst in baseball at the end of the first half. And they start with the outstanding Justin Masterson on the mound, in Indians at Orioles, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Camden Yards. Jeremy Guthrie, who will no doubt be the subject of trade talks later this month, starts for the Orioles.

2. Selig is a traditionalist in many ways, but he's also a businessman. So when someone asked Tuesday whether he sees a chance of more scheduled doubleheaders, he quickly said no. He's right, there's no way most teams would give up a home date (and a potential big gate), for doubleheaders that most fans wouldn't attend, anyway. The A's are different, because they have trouble selling tickets. So they did schedule a doubleheader, in Angels at A's, Saturday (4:05 ET) at the Coliseum. American League All-Star starter Jered Weaver is scheduled to start one of the games for the Angels.

3. Did the Pirates play the Astros every day during the first half, and is that why they had a decent record? It's not true. The Astros and Pirates played only nine times in the first half (with the Pirates winning seven), which means they play nine times in the second half, too. Three of those come this weekend, including Pirates at Astros, Sunday (2:05 ET) at Minute Maid Park, with All-Star Kevin Correia on the mound.

Posted on: July 13, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 2:39 pm

Indians put Talbot on DL

The Indians ended the first half with one starting pitcher on the disabled list. They'll begin the second half with two starters on the DL.

Mitch Talbot has a lower back strain, the team announced Wednesday. Jeanmar Gomez, who made three big-league starts earlier this season (going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA) will be summoned from the minor leagues to take Talbot's rotation spot on Sunday in Baltimore.

Talbot is 2-6 with 6.33 ERA, and he has been even worse (0-5, 7.43) in seven starts since May 1. He and Fausto Carmona (also on the DL) were the weakest starters in a rotation topped by Josh Tomlin, Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco.

The Indians called up utility man Ezequiel Carrera to take Talbot's roster spot until Sunday. Gomez, who has been pitching at Triple-A Columbus, will make a start Wednesday night for Class A Mahoning Valley, since Columbus is off that night.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 6, 2011 8:39 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 8:53 pm

Like Jeter, Indians' Cabrera just wants to play

CLEVELAND -- While Derek Jeter was lobbying Joe Girardi, Asdrubal Cabrera was lobbying Manny Acta.

Jeter was texting, telling Girardi he wanted to play Wednesday. Cabrera was texting, telling Acta he wanted to play Wednesday.

It turns out the American League's two All-Star shortstops are more alike than you would think.

One guy is nearing the end of a great career, about to reach 3,000 hits. The other guy is still early in a very promising career -- and just passed 500 hits at age 25.

But even at 37, Jeter strongly resists any attempt Girardi makes to give him a day off. And even at 25, Cabrera already does the same.

Jeter didn't want a day off, even though he's just off the disabled list, out three weeks with a calf strain. Cabrera didn't want a day off, even though he sprained his ankle a night earlier.

Jeter has averaged 152 games a year in his 15 full seasons in the big leagues, and he only played fewer than 148 games once -- when he dislocated his shoulder in 2003.

Cabrera told Acta this spring that he wanted to play 162 games this year, and sure enough, he hasn't missed one yet.

"He never wants out of the lineup -- never," Acta said.

Indians people say that Cabrera is starting to show some signs of fatigue. Acta said he plans to give Cabrera a day off during this weekend's series against the Blue Jays.

But just as Girardi does with Jeter, Acta will "negotiate" that day off with his shortstop, and eventually insist that Cabrera rest.

Acta had to do just that Tuesday night, when Cabrera suffered a mild ankle sprain while making a play on defense. Cabrera stayed in the game, but an inning later, with the Yankees far ahead, Acta made the right move and pulled him.

"He didn't want to come out," Acta said. "For us as managers, you want to have 25 like that."

Cabrera earned his spot on the All-Star team with the way he has hit (.292, 49 RBI in the first 84 games) and the way he has defended.

He has earned his manager's respect just as much with his desire to play. Just as Derek Jeter has done for all these years.


Cabrera is one of 13 major-league players who had played in every game through Tuesday and one of just two shortstops (Alcides Escobar of the Royals is the other).

The other 11:

Adrian Beltre, Rangers
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Austin Jackson, Tigers
Prince Fielder, Brewers
Dan Uggla, Braves
Chris Young, Diamondbacks
Matt Kemp, Dodgers
Danny Espinosa, Nationals
Omar Infante, Marlins
Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
*Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

*Gonzalez was not in the Red Sox lineup Wednesday

Posted on: July 6, 2011 6:36 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 6:46 pm

Playing Jeter is right move for Yankees

CLEVELAND -- Yes, it would be best if Derek Jeter gets his 3,000th hit at Yankee Stadium.

Isn't that obvious?

But yes, it was absolutely the right decision for the Yankees to play Jeter on Wednesday night at Progressive Field, even at the risk that he gets 3,000 in George Steinbrenner's beaten-down hometown, rather than in the gaudy stadium Steinbrenner built in the Bronx.

Isn't that obvious, too?

Whether you buy into it or not -- and for the most part, I do -- the image Jeter has carefully cultivated through 16-plus years in the big leagues is of a player who values winning over all individual achievements, a player who values consistency and wants to play in every game he can.

Chances are, Jeter doesn't get four hits Wednesday (he had two four-hit games in his first 64 games this season). If he gets one or two hits, he makes it significantly more likely that 3,000 comes in the Yankees' four-game homestand against the Rays, which begins Thursday night.

And that would be perfect.

"It would be a wonderful moment for him and our fans," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

It would be a great moment for baseball. Whether you like Jeter or not, whether you cheer for the Yankees or not, you have to appreciate what he has meant, and what it means for him to become the first Yankee ever with 3,000 hits -- and the just the second player to get to 3,000 while still playing shortstop (Honus Wagner was the first).

And if somehow it happened Wednesday in Cleveland, it would still be a great moment. Then, on Thursday at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees could recognize Jeter before the game, and the fans could give him the ovation he deserves.

Jeter talked his way into the lineup Wednesday, telling Girardi in a conversation late Wednesday night and then in text messages that he wanted to play, and that the strained calf that cost him three weeks on the disabled list was not an issue.

Girardi said originally that he believed Jeter would need a day off this week, not to time the 3,000th hit but to keep him healthy. The manager made the decision Wednesday morning that Jeter would play Wednesday night, and would keep playing every day until the 3,000th hit.

"We want to get this over," Girardi said. "We want to give him every opportunity to do it before the All-Star break."

It's the right decision, so much so that the only thing that surprises me is that Girardi had to "sleep on it."

Even without the 3,000 issue, playing Jeter Wednesday would have been the right move.

Jeter has struggled all year, and last year, too. It's possible that his skills are in such decline that he can't be anything close to the player he once was.

But we've also seen great players rebound. We've seen, as one veteran scout put it, the lightbulb flicker a few times, then come back fully bright.

If that's going to happen with Jeter, it's going to happen because he gets in a groove at the plate. And while one well-struck ball doesn't mean he's headed for that groove, he did have that double into the left-center field gap Tuesday.

If that's a sign that he is headed for some kind of groove, a day off now would make no sense.

Playing Jeter was the right decision, the only decision.

Isn't that obvious?

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 5, 2011 10:09 pm

Overlooked as always, Tomlin's a 10-game winner

CLEVELAND -- As of Tuesday afternoon, five American League pitchers had reached double-digits in wins.

Four were one-time first-round draft picks, another a touted second-round pick. They're all big names: CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver and Jon Lester.

The fifth guy? Josh Tomlin of the Indians.

Not a first-round pick (19th round, actually). Not a big name (seriously, had you heard of him before this year, or even this year?).

He's 10-4, with a 3.78 ERA. He just set a modern major-league record, becoming the first pitcher since at least 1919 to begin a career with 29 consecutive starts of five innings or more. Monday night, he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Yankees.

Pretty wild stuff for a guy who was available (and not taken) in the Rule 5 draft not long ago, a guy who was never invited to the Indians' big-league camp before this year, or even to their winter development program for top prospects. Not bad, for a guy who says he never threw a no-hitter in college, in high school, or even in junior high.

"I don't know if I ever took one past the third inning [before Monday]," Tomlin said Tuesday afternoon.

His average fastball this year, according to Fangraphs, is just 87.6 mph -- well below average for a big-league starter. But his command is far, far above average; Tomlin has already made eight starts where he went at least five innings and didn't walk a batter, the most in baseball (Roy Halladay and Dan Haren are tied for second, with six).

"I'm kind of stunned if he walks one," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "If he walks more, I want to blame the umpire."

The guy all the scouts overlooked for so long is finally getting noticed.

"All the hard throwers ought to have to watch one of his starts," one scout said Tuesday.

"He's an ideal guy in the American League," another scout said. "Those hitters love to hit the fastball. He can get ahead with breaking balls. When he's locating, guys make quick outs."

That same scout bet friends this spring that Tomlin would win more games this season than either Fausto Carmona and Carlos Carrasco. So far, he's right.

"He knows where every pitch is going," Indians pitching coach Tim Belcher said. "He's fearless, too."

He's not Verlander (although Tomlin says he did throw a 94 mph fastball once, when he was a reliever in Class A Kinston, in 2008). He's not Weaver, he's not Sabathia and he's not Lester.

But he is one of the big reasons the Indians are in first place, and he is one of the best stories in baseball right now.


It's hard to know how big a deal it is that Tomlin has made 29 straight starts of more than five innings. It's impressive that he's the first in recorded history to do it at the start of a career, but it's not like it's anywhere close to the overall record (Curt Schilling went at least five innings in 147 straight starts between 2001-06).

One interesting sidenote on it, though. Belcher, whose career path was nothing like Tomlin's (a hard thrower, he was the top overall draft pick in June 1983, and again the following January), began his own big-league career with 12 straight starts of at least five innings.

He might have gotten to 13 and beyond, but in the third inning of that 13th game, Belcher was pitching for the Dodgers against the Mets. Sid Fernandez had thrown at Steve Sax, so in the third inning, Belcher drilled Kevin Elster in the back, and was ejected from the game.

Posted on: July 5, 2011 9:38 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 11:04 pm

All-Star Cabrera leaves with sprained ankle

CLEVELAND -- Asdrubal Cabrera, the Indians' All-Star shortstop, left Tuesday night's game against the Yankees with a sprained right ankle.

Cabrera didn't appear to be seriously hurt. He came down hard on the ankle making a play in the top of the third, then remained in the game for another inning before leaving for a pinch hitter in the fourth. The Indians trailed the Yankees 6-0 when Cabrera came out of the game.

Cabrera has played in all 84 of Cleveland's games. Indians people say that he has been dragging, and really could use a day off, but the team has been reluctant to rest him because they rely so heavily on his bat.

The Indians said Cabrera is day-to-day, and that there's a chance Cabrera could be back in the lineup as soon as Wednesday.
Category: MLB
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