Posted on: May 12, 2011 6:52 pm

3 to watch: The Verlander edition

Ryan Braun remembers Justin Verlander's first no-hitter. He was there.

So no, Braun wasn't surprised to see Verlander throw a second no-hitter last Saturday in Toronto. And no, Braun won't be surprised if some day Verlander throws another one.

"Any starting pitcher who is throwing 100 [mph] in the eighth inning or the ninth inning should put himself in position to throw a no-hitter sometime," Braun said this week. "As far as dominant stuff goes, he's as good as any pitcher I've ever seen."

Braun saw Verlander's first no-hitter, in June 2007, but he didn't play in the game. He was in his first weeks in the major leagues, and Brewers manager Ned Yost gave him that night off.

Yost now manages the Royals, which means he'll see Verlander again on Friday night, in the Tiger right-hander's first start since no-hitting the Blue Jays.

Verlander has great history against the Royals, including throwing his first big-league shutout in Kansas City in 2006. He's 10-2 in 16 career starts against the Royals, with a 2.58 ERA.

He's never thrown a no-hitter against them. Not yet.

"On his good days, he's at the top of the league stuff-wise," said Craig Counsell, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Verlander's first no-hitter. "And he's able to maintain that special velocity through the game."

Despite his success against the Royals, this Kansas City team may not be the most likely opponent if you're looking for another Verlander no-hitter. Current Royals players have hit a combined .312 against Verlander, with Billy Butler one of Verlander's toughest opponents at .406 (13-for-32).

And how did Verlander do in his first start after his first no-hitter?

Not bad. He beat the Phillies, 7-4, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings. But there was no real no-hit threat, as Verlander allowed a second-inning single to Abraham Nunez.

On to 3 to watch:

1. The American League Central could be getting interesting, now that the Tigers have won eight of their last nine and the White Sox have won four of their last five. The Tigers are now just percentage points behind the second-place Royals, going into the series that will begin with Verlander against Luke Hochevar in Royals at Tigers, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park.

2. The last time the Red Sox sent Josh Beckett to the mound against the Yankees, they were 1-7 and it already felt like must-win time. Things aren't as desperate now. Then again, the Sox just lost two in a row in Toronto, John Lackey gave up nine runs, and once again Boston is three games under .500. And they're in New York. So yeah, maybe it is must win, especially when Beckett takes the mound against CC Sabathia for Red Sox at Yankees, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Yankee Stadium.

3. It's Cardinals-Reds time again, so that means it's time for more interesting tweets from Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, right? As of late Thursday afternoon, there hadn't been any, but we'll keep watching, all the way through Cardinals at Reds, Sunday afternoon (1:10 ET) at Great American Ball Park. As of now, the Cardinals are still saying that Sunday's game is the last one that ailing manager Tony La Russa will definitely miss, but stay tuned on that, too. Meanwhile, acting manager Joe Pettini did his part to play down the importance of this series, saying Thursday, "It's early in the year, so it's just another series."

Posted on: April 29, 2011 12:50 am

3 to watch: The How do you know? edition

Already this year, Josh Johnson has carried a no-hit bid into the eighth inning. And another into the seventh. And another into the sixth. And another into the fifth.

In five starts, he's never given up a hit before the fourth inning.

The easiest thing to do would be to predict that Johnson is going to throw a no-hitter this year.

And I'm not going to do it.

Not after talking to Edwin Jackson, I'm not.

Jackson threw a no-hitter last year, when he was pitching for the Diamondbacks. But when I asked him to guess who will throw this year's first no-no, he politely refused.

"How do you ever know?" asked Jackson, who now pitches for the White Sox. "Because if you'd have asked me if I was going to throw one, I'd have said, 'Never.' I'd have bet my paycheck that I'd never throw one."

How do you know?

"I always said I'd never throw one," said Mark Buehrle, Jackson's White Sox teammate. "And I've got two."

Buehrle was willing to guess, though.

"Somebody like [Justin] Verlander or Josh Johnson," he said.

Verlander has thrown a no-hitter, in 2007 against the Brewers. Johnson hasn't -- yet.

Johnson gets another chance Saturday in Cincinnati.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Since the start of 2009, Tim Lincecum has at least one win over every National League opponent, with one exception. Would you guess it's the Nationals? Lincecum lost his only start against the Nationals last year, and a Bob Howry blown save cost him a potential win in 2009. He gets another chance in Giants at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Nationals Park.

2. Back in spring training, we asked when Alex White would make his debut with the Indians. We didn't guess it would be in April, and we didn't guess he'd be joining a first-place team. It is, and he is. The Indians' 2009 first-round pick is only getting a chance this soon because of two injuries to starting pitchers, but he will get a chance in Tigers at Indians, Saturday night (6:05 ET) at Progressive Field. One oddity, though: White is actually four months older than Rick Porcello, the Tigers' Saturday night starter. Porcello will be making his 63rd big-league start.

3. You wouldn't think Johnson would no-hit the Reds. The Reds haven't been no-hit since 1971 (Rick Wise) . . . unless you count that Roy Halladay no-hitter in the playoffs last year. Then again, Johnson's first major-league win came in Cincinnati, and in that game he allowed no hits . . . in three innings of relief. But no, I'm not predicting he throws a no-hitter in Marlins at Reds, Saturday night (7:05 ET) at Great American Ballpark. How do you know?

Posted on: April 22, 2011 10:01 am

3 to watch: The 'No extra significance' edition

Some Reds try to play down their new-found rivalry with the Cardinals.

"There's no extra significance at all," Jay Bruce told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Oh yeah? Tell that to Brandon Phillips.

When the Reds' team plane landed in St. Louis on Thursday night, Phillips went straight to his Twitter account .

"Just landed in St. Louis! Sad face," he posted. "But these wins will make me happy!"

One hour later, he was at it again, saying he told teammates that the best thing to eat in St. Louis was Lunchables.

No extra significance?

How about those T-shirts they're selling in St. Louis , the ones that read "Mike Leake stole this shirt for me"?

Look, we know rivalries can be overblown. Most teams don't really hate each other as much as the fans would like them to. Players change teams. As Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters Thursday, it's not like the Reds have anything against Lance Berkman or Ryan Theriot.

Besides that, the Cardinals and Reds know better than most teams that head-to-head meetings often don't decide division titles. The Cardinals won 12 of 18 games against the Reds in 2010 -- including six of the final seven -- and the Reds still won the National League Central.

But please don't tell me that these games have "no extra significance."

On to 3 to watch.

1. As we mentioned in the last 3 to watch, the Indians and Royals are on top of the American League Central -- right now. And one scout who just finished watching the White Sox said they "look uninspired" and "look like they're still going through spring training." Perhaps they'll look more inspired this weekend in Detroit, starting with White Sox at Tigers, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park. Mark Buehrle (5-0 in his last eight starts against the Tigers) faces Justin Verlander (5-0 in his last five starts against the White Sox). It's the first Buehrle-Verlander matchup in more than three years, since an April 2008 meeting when the White Sox won, 13-2, in a game where Nick Swisher and Pudge Rodriguez were the two leadoff hitters.

2. Mike Leake won't be starting in this weekend's Reds-Cardinals series. Chris Carpenter will be. All he's done against the Reds is win each of his last 10 starts, dating back to 2006. Last year alone, Carpenter was 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA against the Reds. He goes against Travis Wood in Reds at Cardinals, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Busch Stadium. The Fox network even thought enough of the matchup to send its top crew (Guess the Yankees and Red Sox aren't playing this weekend). ESPN even noticed. "We haven't been on the Sunday night game in I don't know how long," Baker told the Enquirer.

3. Remember when John Lackey was the Angels' ace? Remember when it seemed like another black mark against Angels owner Arte Moreno that he allowed Lackey to leave as a free agent, the same winter the Angels tried but failed to trade for Roy Halladay? Now Jered Weaver and Dan Haren are a combined 9-0 with a 1.20 ERA, while Lackey carries a 9.82 ERA into his start in Red Sox at Angels, Sunday afternoon (3:35 ET) at Angel Stadium. That's not to say the Angels couldn't use more rotation depth. While Weaver and Haren are 9-0 (going into Haren's Friday night meeting with Jon Lester), the rest of the Angels pitchers are 3-7.

Posted on: April 11, 2011 12:23 pm

At 103 mph, Chapman still excites

By now, we all know that Aroldis Chapman throws hard.

We still get excited by seeing it.

When I asked one scout what stood out to him from the Reds-Diamondbacks series over the weekend, the Reds reliever was one of the first things he mentioned.

"A legit 103," he said. "He was 103 on all the guns. I've never seen anyone else do that. Nobody has. The Arizona fans don't know too much about what's going on, but they knew him. Whatever [the Reds] paid him, it was worth it."

And yet -- pay attention, Reds fans -- this same scout believes that the Reds should keep Chapman in exactly the same role he's in now, setting up closer Francisco Cordero. He said Chapman is still too inconsistent with his command to be trusted as a closer.

"He's right where he belongs," the scout said. "He still throws too many pitches. For a year or two, they should keep him right where he is."
Category: MLB
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: February 27, 2011 4:07 pm

In so many places, a sad spring

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs don't go a day this spring without thinking of Ron Santo.

They barely go a day without talking about him.

"It's good to think of him," manager Mike Quade said Sunday, a few moments after recording his first radio pregame show with Keith Moreland, Santo's successor in the Cubs broadcast booth.

The Cubs will wear a patch on their uniforms to honor Santo, who died in December. The Indians are wearing a patch to honor Bob Feller. At Goodyear Ballpark on Sunday, the grounds crew painted a "19" in front of the Indians dugout for Feller, and a "10" in front of the Reds dugout for Sparky Anderson.

In Peoria, the Mariners ran a video on Dave Niehaus before their spring opener.

Nice tributes, all of them. It's sad that this spring is filled with them.

Santo. Feller. Sparky. Niehaus.

And now Duke Snider.

The Hall of Fame announced Sunday that Snider died in California, at the age of 84.

Unlike some of the others, Snider wasn't around big-league ballparks as often in recent years. For many fans of my generation and those younger, the biggest memory of Snider is from Terry Cashman's song, "Willie, Mickey and the Duke."

But Snider lives on in the memories of Brooklyn Dodger fans. He lives on in the memories of those who have been with the Dodgers over the years.

"Although it's ironic to say it, we have lost a giant," Vin Scully said, in a statement released by the team. "He's joining a great Dodger team that has moved on."

The Dodgers will no doubt find a way to honor Snider. I have no doubt they'll do it well, just as the Cubs have done, just as the Indians and Reds have done, just as the Mariners have done.

In too many places, it's been a sad spring.
Posted on: January 7, 2011 11:37 am
Edited on: January 8, 2011 6:02 pm

Cubs get Garza, NL Central gets stronger

Three big pitchers have changed teams this winter. Two of them have landed in the National League Central.

First Zack Greinke went to the Brewers. Now the Cubs have acquired Matt Garza, in a deal that was widely reported (including here) on Friday and announced late Saturday afternoon.

The price for Garza was high in terms of prospects, and that's why trading him suits the Rays in an offseason where they've already lost Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and their entire bullpen. The Rays need to build towards the next time they can seriously challenge the Red Sox and Yankees in the American League East, and that time is unlikely to be 2011.

The Cubs, on the other hand, are trying to win now.

Adding Garza to a rotation that includes Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster turns the Cubs into a serious contender in the Central, along with the Greinke-fortified Brewers, the defending division champion Reds and the always-involved Cardinals.

To get Garza, the Cubs sent pitcher Chris Archer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, outfielders Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld and catcher Robinson Chirinos to the Rays. The Cubs get Garza, and also outfielder Fernando Perez and pitcher Zachary Rosscup.

The Cubs have been searching all winter for a top starting pitcher, but there just haven't been many available. Cliff Lee left the Rangers to sign with the Phillies, and Greinke was traded from the Royals to the Brewers, but there wasn't much else there.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry said as much in the Cubs' press release announcing the deal.

"It's not every day a premier and proven big-game pitcher entering his prime becomes available," Hendry said. "It is impossible to acquire a pitcher of Matt's caliber and not give up some quality talent."

Baseball America recently ranked Archer, a 22-year-old right-hander, as the top prospect in the Cubs system, comparing him to ex-Rays right-hander Edwin Jackson. The newspaper also ranked Lee fourth and Guyer 10th.

At his best, the 27-year-old Garza can be one of the top pitchers in the game. His Game 7 win over the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series sent the Rays to the World Series and earned him ALCS Most Valuable Player honors. Then, in 2010, Garza pitched the only no-hitter in Rays history.

Garza was a 15-game winner in 2010, and the move out of the AL East and into the NL Central could make him even better as a Cub.

Or maybe the NL Central is on its way to becoming on of baseball's glamor divisions, too.

Posted on: December 30, 2010 6:06 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2010 6:12 pm

Ex-big leaguer Boros dies at 74

What a sad year this has been for the Tigers.

Ernie Harwell died. Sparky Anderson died. Bill Lajoie died.

And last night, Steve Boros.

Maybe he wasn't as well known as the other three, but I'd challenge you to find anyone who knew him and didn't like him. And just about anyone who spent time in baseball over the last 50 years ran into Boros at one time or another.

He was a $25,000 Tigers bonus baby in 1957, a local kid signed out of Flint and the University of Michigan. He was never a big-league star, but he spent parts of seven seasons with the Tigers, Reds and Cubs. He later managed in the big leagues, with the 1983-84 A's and the 1986 Padres. He was one of the first managers to make use of a computer.

Boros came back to the Tigers in 1996, working first as minor-league field coordinator and then in other jobs through 2004.

Boros was 74.

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