Posted on: August 13, 2010 10:50 am
Edited on: August 13, 2010 10:55 am

3 to watch: The Beat S.D.? edition

In San Francisco, they hate the Dodgers. It's that simple. They hate Dodger Blue. They hate Tommy Lasorda.

In San Diego, they hate the Dodgers. No doubt about it. There's nothing they love to chant more than "Beat L.A.!"

But the Dodgers aren't going to be at AT&T Park this weekend. The Padres are.

The Dodgers aren't leading the Giants by 2 1/2 games in the National League West. The Padres are.

Who knows if Giants-Padres hatred is even possible. Maybe this is the weekend we find out.

Thank you, Jonathan Sanchez.

Sanchez is no Brandon Phillips, but he did "guarantee" that the Giants will sweep the Padres in these three games, and then go on to make the playoffs.

"We're going to play San Diego now and we're going to beat them three times," he said, after losing his last start, Sunday in Atlanta. "If we get to first place, we're not going to look back."

No, it's not exactly "little bitches" material. And he's no Joe Namath.

But it's better than everyone getting together and laughing about the Dodgers being nine games out.

Or is it?

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Padres know how good Sanchez can be, because he no-hit them last year. He hasn't beaten them in four meetings since, but two of those were 1-0 losses to Mat Latos earlier this season. Sanchez may be happy to know that he won't be facing Latos in Padres at Giants, Friday night (10:15 ET) at AT&T Park . Clayton Richard, who has a 6.69 ERA over his last seven starts, will open the series for the Padres, with Latos facing Madison Bumgarner on Saturday, and Wade LeBlanc opposing Tim Lincecum on Sunday.

2. Now this is a rivalry, Cubs and Cardinals. Except that the Cardinals just got done fighting with the Reds, and the Cubs aren't a factor in the National League Central. And Carlos Zambrano, who starts in Cubs at Cardinals, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Busch Stadium , has done a lot more to anger Cubs fans than he has to upset Cardinal fans. Chris Carpenter, who played a big part in stirring up the Cardinals-Reds feelings, starts for St. Louis.

3. This is not a rivalry, Orioles and Rays. But with the O's seemingly revived under Buck Showalter, it'll be interesting to see whether they have any effect on the American League East race. Including this weekend, the Orioles have nine games remaining with Tampa Bay, six games left with the Red Sox, and six left with the Yankees. We may know more by the time 24-year-old Jake Arrieta faces 23-year-old Jeremy Hellickson, in Orioles at Rays, Sunday afternoon (1:40 ET) at Tropicana Field .

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 4:05 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2010 4:31 pm

Dodgers get Dotel from Pirates

The Dodgers have acquired reliever Octavio Dotel from the Pirates.

Dotel has been closing in Pittsburgh, where he had 21 saves in 26 opportunities, but the Dodgers will use him in middle relief. Jonathan Broxton is their closer, and Hong-Chi Kuo became an All-Star pitching the eighth inning.

Posted on: July 31, 2010 2:05 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2010 2:32 pm

Dodgers get Lilly, Theriot from Cubs

The Dodgers have acquired pitcher Ted Lilly and infielder Ryan Theriot from the Cubs.

Infielder Blake DeWitt and two minor leaguers will go to the Cubs, and sources familiar with the deal told CBSSports.com that Chicago will pay $2.5 million to help offset Lilly's salary. Lilly is making $12 million this year, and will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Before settling on Lilly, the Dodgers had asked the Cubs about Ryan Dempster. They also talked to Pittsburgh about Paul Maholm, and to the Astros about Roy Oswalt.

Lilly isn't a big impact starter, but the Dodgers needed to add to their rotation, and he could provide some help.

"The stuff isn't there anymore, but he still competes," said one scout who has watched him recently.

Posted on: July 30, 2010 11:04 am

3 to watch: The Roy II edition

Aren't top starting pitchers supposed to be hard to find? Don't you need to develop your own, because you'll never be able to trade for one?

This July, they're everywhere.

Well, not everywhere, but the Rangers (Cliff Lee), Angels (Dan Haren) and Phillies (Roy Oswalt) were each able to trade for a starting pitcher whose was a multiple-time All-Star. Two of the three (Lee and Oswalt) have been 20-game winners. All three have received Cy Young votes.

There have been other trades made this month. There will be more trades made before Saturday's 4 p.m. EDT deadline for making deals without waivers.

But we can already say that this will be the July of the ace pitcher.

The Phillies won't be surprised. They've made five in-season trades for starting pitchers in as many years. They've made two trades for All-Star pitchers named Roy in just the last eight months.

Three of the four starters in their likely postseason rotation (if they get there) were acquired in trades.

Trading for Joe Blanton two years ago helped the Phillies win the World Series. Trading for Lee last year got the Phillies back to the World Series.

Now they have Oswalt, to slot in behind Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels in a top of the rotation that could be the best in the game.

Other teams will deal for starting pitchers this month. The White Sox were trying to get Edwin Jackson Friday morning. The Dodgers were reportedly talking about Ted Lilly. Jake Westbrook and Jeremy Guthrie are still out there.

There are some hitters still available, most notably Adam Dunn and Lance Berkman.

But this will be known as the July of the ace, the July of Lee, Haren and Oswalt.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Halladay made his Phillies debut with an 11-1 win on opening day in Washington. Now Oswalt goes to the same spot for his Phils debut, in Phillies at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Nationals Park . The Nats won't have Stephen Strasburg to help them sell tickets this weekend, but all that means is that there will be more available for the army of fans traveling down from Philly. One thing they might not want to know: Oswalt is winless in his last seven starts against the Nats, last winning in 2005 at RFK Stadium.

2. It's probably the pennant race more than the possibility of a 600th home run, but Tropicana Field is sold out for all three games this weekend. It will be the first time that the Rays have sold out three consecutive regular-season games. One attraction is Matt Garza, whose first start since his no-hitter comes in Yankees at Rays, Saturday night (7:05 ET) at Tropicana Field .

3. What the Padres have done so far this year is impressive, but the National League West race still seems wide open. One scout familiar with the division predicted this week that the Giants have the best chance of winning it. It sure would help if they added a hitter. By the time they see Clayton Kershaw, in Dodgers at Giants, Sunday night (8:05 ET) at AT&T Park , we'll know whether they have.
Posted on: June 25, 2010 10:26 am

3 to watch: The Wrong place, wrong time edition

If we're going to have one final weekend of interleague play, we may as well have Dodgers-Yankees.

Too bad they put it in the wrong place.

Too bad that right before, or right after, Manny in Boston we didn't get Joe in New York.

Joe Torre against the Yankees is a nice little side story. Joe Torre against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium would have been a must-watch.

"It certainly would have been something that would have been exciting," Torre said last weekend. "There's no question."

A Torre appearance in Yankee Stadium wouldn't have presented Yankee fans with the same conflicted feelings that Manny Ramirez in Fenway Park presented the people of Boston. But it sure would have been interesting to see how Yankee management reacted, given the 2007 breakup and the Yankees' reluctance ever since then to acknowledge that Torre was such of big part of their recent history.

Torre against the Yankees at Dodger Stadium doesn't have the same feel. With the exception of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankee players have professed their love for their former manager (and vice-versa). There will be hugs all around.

And as for Torre at Yankee Stadium, there's always the World Series. Torre likes to remind people that the Dodgers were two wins away from giving him that return last October.

"That would have been pretty wild," he said.

It could still happen, but given the likelihood that Torre leaves the Dodgers after this season, it would probably need to happen this October.

In any case, Dodgers-Yankees is one of a few potential World Series previews on this final-weekend interleague schedule. You've also got Twins-Mets, Rockies-Angels and Tigers-Braves, as you can see on this weekend's edition of 3 to watch:

1. The Tigers don't say that Brennan Boesch is going to have a better career than Jason Heyward. But they do like to point out that right now, Boesch has better numbers than Heyward. In any case, in a year where the rookie class has been heavily tilted towards the National League, the Tigers are the exception, with an outstanding rookie class of their own. They'll show off another one -- 22-year-old left-hander Andy Oliver -- in Tigers at Braves, Friday night (7:35 EDT) at Turner Field . One rival scout who saw Oliver recently at Double-A Erie said "his stuff is electric," and predicted that at the very least the Tigers would use him as a nasty left-on-left reliever in September. Now, with Rick Porcello getting a tune-up at Triple-A Toledo, Oliver gets his chance early.

2. Torre made his feelings about the Dodger rotation known late in spring training, when he named Vicente Padilla as his opening day starter. No one -- then or now -- would call Padilla the Dodgers ace, but in Yankees at Dodgers, Friday night (10:10 EDT) at Dodger Stadium , he opposes Yankee ace CC Sabathia. It's hard to imagine the Dodgers spending money to add a true ace this summer, but it's hard to imagine them getting to that Torre-in-New York World Series without one.

3. We don't get Torre in New York, and we also don't get Johan in Minnesota, because Johan Santana's first-ever meeting with his former team comes in Twins at Mets, Saturday afternoon (1:10 EDT) at Citi Field . Oh well. At least we get Carl in New York. That's Carl Pavano, who starts for the Twins Saturday, and presents us with this question: When he gets booed, will it be because of the Mets fans who always boo any current or former Yankee (even Phil Coke of the Tigers on Thursday night), or will it be Yankee fans, who with good reason never warmed up to the guy who basically stole money from them for four years? One other starter who will be on the minds of fans of both of these teams: Cliff Lee. If the Twins and Mets are going to meet in October, you've got to figure that means one of them has traded for the left-hander whose presence in Philadelphia prevented Dodgers-Yankees last October.
Posted on: June 21, 2010 12:44 am
Edited on: June 21, 2010 11:22 am

3 to watch: The Good to see you? edition

When Manny Ramirez went back to Boston, we at CBSSports.com went there with him.

This week, Garret Anderson goes back to Anaheim, Chris Carpenter goes back to Toronto and Carlos Silva goes back to Seattle.

Sorry, we can't be everywhere.

For all the problems with interleague play, it does provide us with homecomings and get-togethers that we might never see otherwise. Like Joe Torre and the Yankees, who will meet up this weekend at Dodger Stadium but will no doubt talk about it all week.

"Those kids, they made me famous," Torre said, while overseeing the Manny-in-Boston circus over the past weekend. "It'll be a little tough. I've never pulled against them before. I've always pulled for them, even when I was watching the World Series [last fall]."

The Torre vs. Yankees story would have been more compelling if the games were at Yankee Stadium, because the people Torre clashed with in his final days in New York (and most of the people he complained about in his book) likely won't be at Dodger Stadium.

But it will still be Joe Torre, and it will still be the Yankees, and it will still make us tolerate interleague play, at least for a few more days.

With that, here's the next-to-last interleague edition of 3 to watch:

1. Stephen Strasburg's fourth start isn't a coming-home story, but we promised to highlight every Strasburg start, and the way he's going, we're not going to stop now. Besides, Herb Score struck out 16 in his fourth career start, so Strasburg has something to shoot for, in Royals at Nationals, Wednesday (4:35 EDT) at Nationals Park . Already, he has two double-digit strikeout games in his first three starts. But according to research through the baseball-reference.com play index , there are two other guys who had two double-digit strikeout games in their first three starts (Karl Spooner and Daisuke Matsuzaka). There's no one that baseball reference shows as having three double-digit strikeout games in their first four starts.

2. Carpenter was 49-50 in his six years with the Blue Jays. He's 76-25 in his six-plus years with the Cardinals. So maybe the fans in Toronto, where he'll pitch in Cardinals at Blue Jays, Wednesday night (7:07 EDT) at Rogers Centre , don't remember him as fondly as they remember his good friend Roy Halladay. Halladay will also face the Jays this week, but the G20 summit that forced this weekend's series to be moved from Toronto to Philadelphia denied the Doc his homecoming.

3. At least the Toronto fans don't dislike Carpenter. Not sure you can say the same about the Mariner fans and Silva, who they'll see again, in Cubs at Mariners, Thursday afternoon (3:40 EDT) at Safeco Field . Silva went 5-18 in his two seasons with the M's, after signing a ridiculous four-year, $48 million contract. He's 8-2 in two-plus months with the Cubs, which would make the contract look a lot less ridiculous, even if he hadn't helped the Cubs dispose of Milton Bradley (who will also face his old mates this week).

Posted on: June 18, 2010 9:30 am

3 to watch: The Is it over yet? edition

Lakers-Celtics is a rivalry.

Dodgers-Red Sox? Not exactly, but at least the presence of Manny Ramirez at Fenway Park makes you think that interleague play is worthwhile.

For three more days.

Do you realize that we've got another full week of interleague play coming? Another full week of Royals-Nationals, Rangers-Pirates and Mariners-Brewers.

It's not going away, not for another week and not for another few decades. Bud Selig is convinced that fans love every minute of it, and he'll cook up the numbers to prove it.

So what that at least three teams felt the need to stage bobblehead nights this weekend to boost interleague attendance?

Part of the problem is that the interleague schedule no longer makes any sense. When baseball began interleague play in 1997, the idea was that it would be division vs. division, with each team in a division playing basically the same schedule, and with opponents rotating year-to-year. Every six years, the theory went, you'd get to see each team from the other league twice, once at home and once away.

That system didn't last, and now teams seem to be drawn together at random. The Phillies went to Yankee Stadium for an interleague series last year, and went right back there this week. The Tigers and Diamondbacks seem to play every year.

This year, the Red Sox play four of their six interleague series against teams that were in the 2009 playoffs. The Rays play none of their six against playoff teams.

The system is broken.

To fix it, I'd build off a suggestion Ken Davidoff made this week in Newsday . Ken wants interleague play shortened to one week, with an NFL style schedule that would have first-place teams play first-place teams, second-place teams play second-place teams, and so on.

Good idea, but it's not realistic to eliminate the traditional-rivalry games (Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, Twins-Brewers, etc.), as Ken would do. These games still draw fans, they still draw interest, and they're still worth it.

So work out a plan that preserves those matchups (one series a season), and still gives us one week of interleague games under a system that makes sense.

And while you're working it out, here's this weekend's 3 to watch:

1. No, we haven't gone back on last week's vow to feature every Stephen Strasburg start. Not at all. In fact, when I got to Penn Station this morning, I almost got on the southbound Acela, headed towards White Sox at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Nationals Park . But even Strasburg III couldn't keep me away from Mannymania.

2. How do you know interleague play lasts too long? When both Fox TV and ESPN pass on a Subway Series, that's how. The funny thing is that this weekend's series in the Bronx feels worthwhile, now that the Mets are winning again (thanks in part to a kind interleague schedule that sent them to Baltimore and Cleveland, while their rivals were stuck playing powerhouse teams). And Mets at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium , features a pair of young nine-game winners, in Mike Pelfrey and Phil Hughes.

3. For all the talk about how Manny is hated in Boston, when he left town on July 31, 2008, after the trade to the Dodgers, people came up to hug him at Logan Airport on his way out of town. They hate him, and they love him, and they'll likely do both again, in Dodgers at Red Sox, Saturday afternoon (4:10 EDT) at Fenway Park . Manny is 6-for-26 with eight strikeouts in his career against Tim Wakefield, but the last of those at-bats came 10 years ago.
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