Posted on: May 23, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 4:34 pm

A's Fuentes is making (losing) history

In 16-plus years as a Yankees reliever, Mariano Rivera only once lost as many as six games in a season -- and never more than six.

In 47 games with the A's, Brian Fuentes now has six losses.

According to baseball-reference.com, only one relief pitcher since 1919 has ever lost more games this early in a season. Gene Garber lost seven of the first 47 games with the 1979 Braves (who, not coincidentally, were 18-29 on the way to a 94-loss season). Before Fuentes, the only pitcher in the last 20 years to lose six of his team's first 47 games was Vic Darensbourg, who did it with the fire-sale Marlins of 1998.

Yes, I realize that wins and losses don't tell the full story for any pitcher. But when your closer keeps losing games (and Fuentes is the A's closer, with Andrew Bailey on the disabled list), you've got trouble.

Seven times this year, A's manager Bob Geren has put Fuentes in a tie game. He lost five of those games, an amazing (and devastating) stat for a pitcher who almost never works more than one inning. Fuentes' other loss came after one of his two blown saves.

If you're wondering how the A's could be below .500 this year despite a rotation that has by far the lowest ERA in baseball (2.67, which is 0.38 better than the second-best Mariners), obviously their weak lineup is part of the answer. But so is Fuentes.

Posted on: May 16, 2011 9:46 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 10:08 pm

The Gaby Sanchez All-Star campaign

NEW YORK -- Joey Votto is the reigning MVP.

Albert Pujols is the best player in the game. Ryan Howard leads the league in RBI.

And Logan Morrison is trying to get Gaby Sanchez elected as the National League's All-Star first baseman.

I guess you can't blame a guy for trying. But you realize, Logan, this isn't going to be easy.

"I'm trying to get the awareness out there," the Marlins left fielder said Monday.

Morrison began his campaign over the weekend on Twitter, at @LoMoMarlins. He plans to continue it daily there, and vowed to take the campaign to the MLB network, and wherever else he can.

"I've got 25,000 [Twitter] followers, and if they all vote 25 times . . . " Morrison said.

If they all vote 25 times, it's still not going to be enough.

"It can't hurt, right?" Morrison said.

And what does Sanchez think of all this?

"He's politically correct," Morrison said. "He says he doesn't care, and just wants the team to win."

For the record, Sanchez is off to a fine start. He's a fine player, and if you didn't read colleague Scott Miller's column about him in spring training, it's still worth reading now.

And, as Morrison helpfully pointed out, Pujols is off to an uncharacteristic slow start. Votto and Howard aren't, but Pujols is.

Anyway, if you want to vote for Sanchez, go right ahead. It would certainly please Logan Morrison.

Just don't expect him to win.

Not at first base. Not in the National League.

Posted on: May 16, 2011 6:47 pm

Marlins hit Ramirez second, first time since 2006

NEW YORK -- Another struggling star.

Another lineup switch, to another unfamiliar spot.

At least Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez didn't ask Hanley Ramirez to hit ninth. Or eighth.

He is asking him to bat second, starting with Monday night's game against the Mets. For Ramirez, the 2009 National League batting champ who is hitting just .213 this year, it's the first time he has hit anywhere but leadoff or third since his rookie year of 2006.

"He's still in the middle of everything," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said he has been speaking to Ramirez about a potential switch for the last couple of weeks, and said he also considered moving Ramirez (who had hit third in every game he started this season) into the leadoff spot, or even to fifth or sixth.

Rodriguez sold the idea as a way to move John Buck out of the eighth spot (Omar Infante dropped from second to eighth), but Buck moved up just one slot, to seventh.

Really, this was about Ramirez, and about finding a way to get him going.

"I think they're going to pitch him the same," Rodriguez said. "I think he's going to approach it the same. I don't think it's going to be a big change."

But he does hope it's going to be a change, because while the Marlins are off to a good start at 23-16, they're not the same team when Ramirez is struggling.

The struggles, Marlins people say, have been solely about Ramirez's offense. While he has six errors, people around the team insist that there haven't yet been signs of him carrying his offensive struggles into the field.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 15, 2011 10:44 pm
Edited on: May 15, 2011 11:15 pm

3 to Watch: The wild wild card edition

The last time the Yankees and Rays met at Tropicana Field, the games were great.

And basically meaningless.

It was last September, and both teams were headed to the playoffs. One would be the American League East champion, the other would be the wild card. Either route would be acceptable, and you even could have argued that the wild card was preferable (sure enough, the wild-card Yankees won a playoff series while the division champ Rays didn't).

Expanding the playoffs (and punishing the wild card) could take care of the problem, as soon as next year.

But there may not be a problem in the AL this year, if early-season results hold at all. The way things look, there's a real chance that the race for the wild-card spot could be a multi-team free-for-all deep into the season, which would mean no easy fall-back position for the AL East runner-up.

As of Sunday morning, eight of the 11 teams that didn't lead their divisions were within three games of the wild-card lead, with the Tigers in front. Obviously, not all those teams are going to stay in the race through the summer.

But do you want to bet right now that two or three of them don't?

So as the first-place Rays get ready to host the second-place Yankees for the first time this season, here's a suggestion: Win the division, and you don't need to worry about the wild card.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Josh Johnson has faced the Mets 13 times in his career. He has lost just once, and in five of the 13 starts he allowed either two or three hits. So when Johnson goes against the Mets, as he will in Marlins at Mets, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Citi Field, it's worth paying attention. In his first start against the Mets this year, on opening night in Florida, Johnson took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

2. The other day, I asked two scouts who had just seen the Rays what they liked about them, other than the starting rotation. The answer: "The starting rotation," both said. And if you want to know why that rotation looks even better than it did last year, look no farther than James Shields, who takes a 4-1 record and 2.08 ERA into Yankees at Rays, Tuesday night (6:40 ET) at Tropicana Field. Scouts say the big difference in Shields is that he is spotting his fastball better, and thus avoiding an over-reliance on his very good changeup.

3. Sunday's rainout in Detroit set up the pitching matchup of the week, with Justin Verlander going against Josh Beckett in Tigers at Red Sox, Thursday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his last three starts in Boston. It's an interesting two-game series, with the hot Tigers against the recovering Red Sox, and with Victor Martinez returning to Fenway. As bad as the Red Sox catching has been, you think anyone in New England will suggest that they should have kept Victor?

Posted on: May 13, 2011 1:10 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 1:32 pm

Ruiz, Young, Morrison all back from DL tonight

Three teams will get significant players back from the disabled list on Friday.

The Phillies are activating catcher Carlos Ruiz, who missed the last 12 games with a lower back strain. The Twins are activating Delmon Young, who missed the last 19 gaems with an oblique strain. And the Marlins are activating Logan Morrison, who was out 21 games with a sprained arch in his left foot.

The Phillies have rolled on in Ruiz's absence, going 8-4 without him. But if anything, Ruiz has raised his profile among scouts with his play this year. Just this week, a group of scouts were talking about how he now ranks very near the top of any list of major-league catchers.

Ruiz takes Brian Schneider's roster spot. Schneider went on the DL with a left hamstring strain.

Ruiz played in a rehabilitation game Thursday night for Class A Clearwater, as did Chase Utley and Roy Oswalt. The Phillies have been quiet on a projected date for Utley's return, but it's worth remembering that he tends to keep these rehab assignments as brief as possible. As for Oswalt, the Phils have been hoping he'll be able to start on Tuesday in St. Louis, although his lack of velocity Thursday night must be a concern.

The Twins haven't done nearly as well without Young, going 6-13 while he has recovered from a strained oblique. While Joe Mauer's health and Justin Morneau's struggles justifiably get more attention, Young's absence has been felt. Young drove in 112 runs last year, although he wasn't off to a great start (.228, 6 RBI in 16 games) before he got hurt.

The Twins optioned Rene Tosoni back to Triple-A Rochester to make room for Young.

Morrison was a big part of the Marlins' early-season success, hitting .327 with 11 RBI in 15 games. The Marlins went 12-9 in his absence.
Posted on: May 8, 2011 8:27 pm

3 to watch: The perfect matchup edition

Twice last year, Roy Halladay pitched against Josh Johnson.

Their combined numbers in those two games: 32 innings, 16 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 3 walks, 30 strikeouts and a 0.28 ERA.

And one perfect game.

One game ended 1-0, in Halladay's favor (that was the perfect game, and the one run was unearned). The other game ended 2-0, in Johnson's favor.

The second game, in which Halladay allowed one run on six hits in eight innings, is his only loss in 19 starts against National League East opponents in his year-plus with the Phillies. He's an incredible 18-1 with a 1.56 ERA in those 19 games.

Which brings us to Tuesday night, when Halladay and Johnson meet up for the first time this season.

It's far too early to call this a Cy Young showdown (and Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals, who is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA and two shutouts, might be just as good an early candidate). And since this is just the second of six series between the Phillies and Marlins, there's every chance that Halladay and Johnson could meet up again.

That's fine. Anytime they meet, they're the featured game on 3 to watch. Anytime they meet, I'm paying attention, and I'm betting you will, too.

On to 3 to watch:

1. By this point in his Cy Young season, Zack Greinke was 6-0 with a 0.40 ERA. This year, because he played basketball and broke a rib, he's just now making his first home start, in Padres at Brewers, Monday night (8:10 ET) at Miller Park . Brewers fans are no doubt excited to see Greinke, but you have to wonder how much the Brewers' recent slide (eight losses in the last nine games) has hurt their enthusiasm.

2. Coming out of spring training, the Braves were the popular pick as the NL East team with a chance to take the division title away from the Phillies. But it's the Marlins who have spent most of the first five weeks of the season in second place, often just half a game behind the Phils. The Marlins split two games in Philadelphia last month (a third game was rained out), and they get their next chance at home this week. The highlight matchup, of course, is Halladay vs. Johnson, in Phillies at Marlins, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Sun Life Stadium.

3. If Halladay vs. Johnson might help decide the NL Cy Young race, then Michael Pineda vs. Zach Britton might have helped decide the American League rookie of the year race. Too bad that Pineda is facing Jake Arrieta (a fine young pitcher, but not a rookie) in Mariners at Orioles, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Camden Yards . Pineda, 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings, is the early leader. Britton, 5-2 with a 2.93 ERA, faces the Mariners on Thursday night.

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 28, 2011 2:27 pm

DeRosa goes to DL, not to Marlins

The Marlins could use a true third baseman, but it won't be Mark DeRosa -- at least not now.

DeRosa went on the disabled list Thursday, because of continuing pain in his surgically repaired left wrist. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants gave DeRosa an injection in the wrist, and want to rest him for seven to 10 days.

That will shut down any DeRosa to the Marlins talk, not that it should have been too hot a topic in the first place. According to sources, while the Marlins have had internal discussions about third basemen (as they should), they never got to the point of actually discussing possible deals with the Giants.

The Marlins have used four different third baseman in the first 24 games of the season, after prospect Matt Dominguez showed this spring that he wasn't ready to take over the job (and then fractured his elbow in a Triple-A game). "The four-headed monster," as one Marlins person described it, has combined for an .812 OPS that actually ranks right in the middle of major-league teams.

While that's not bad, the Marlins will keep looking. They just won't look at DeRosa -- at least not anytime soon.

Category: MLB
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