Posted on: June 6, 2010 8:31 pm

3 to watch: The Perfect prospects edition

The two biggest early-season trends in baseball, we said last week, were perfect games and imperfect umpires.

We missed a trend: Perfect prospects.

Jason Heyward. Stephen Strasburg. Mike Stanton.

And don't forget Bryce Harper.

Monday, the Nationals are expected to use the first pick of the draft on Harper, touted as the best power-hitting prospect scouts have seen in ages. Tuesday, the Nationals will show off Strasburg, touted as the best pitching prospect anyone has ever seen. That same night, the Marlins will show off Stanton, who is only leading all of professional baseball in home runs.

Take it a day farther, and you have Stanton and the Marlins facing Roy Halladay on Wednesday, just 11 days after Halladay's perfect game in Florida.

So there you have it, the perfect convergence, with one of the perfect game pitchers facing one of the perfect prospects.

Let's hope that doesn't mean we're headed for more imperfect umpiring.

On to this week's 3 to watch:

1. The Nationals attracted their biggest crowd since opening day last Friday, which if you remember was the rumored day for Strasburg's debut. A much bigger crowd is expected for Pirates at Nationals, Tuesday night (7:05 EDT) at Nationals Park , since this really is going to be Strasburg's debut. What, you thought everyone just wants to see the Pirates? The Washington Post suggested it's the "most buzzed-about happening" in Washington since the Obama inauguration. That might be a little much, but you get the idea -- this is a big deal.

2. So if Armando Galarraga throws a no-hitter, in Tigers at White Sox, Tuesday night (8:10 EDT) at U.S. Cellular Field , does he count as having tied Johnny Vander Meer? Or actually one-upped him, since neither of Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters was a perfect game, let alone a 28-out perfect game? One more thing to think about, in the admittedly very unlikely event that Galarraga is perfect again: Before last Wednesday, Tigers manager Jim Leyland had been planning to skip Galarraga's turn this time through the rotation.

3. Thanks to Stanton, who hit 21 home runs in 52 games at Double-A Jacksonville, the Marlins lineup that Halladay will face, in Marlins at Phillies, Wednesday night (7:05 EDT) at Citizens Bank Park , will not be the same one he faced on May 29 in Miami. But at least it's still the same team. Of the last 11 pitchers to pitch a perfect game (not including Galarraga), Halladay will be just the second to face the same team later in the same year. The only other pitcher to do it in the division play era (i.e. since 1969) was David Wells in 1998. Three months after his May 17 perfect game against the Twins, he saw them again -- and shut them out again, this time on four hits.
Posted on: May 28, 2010 10:42 am
Edited on: May 28, 2010 1:30 pm

3 to watch: The What now? edition

A month ago today, we told you that the Mets were a mess to figure out.

Well, guess what? A month later, the Mets are a mess to figure out.

One week, they're changing three-fifths of the starting rotation, and everyone thinks they might change the manager, too. There's a mess with John Maine, a mess with Darryl Strawberry and a mess with Francisco Rodriguez.

Then the Mets win a series from the Yankees, and sweep a series from the Phillies -- on three straight shutouts . Anyone need reminding that the Yankees and Phillies are the defending league champions?

So now the Mets are rolling again, just two games behind the Phillies in the National League East. Now we see all the Mets' potential, with two ace-like starting pitchers atop the rotation (Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey), with grit that they haven't shown in years, with Jose Reyes looking like himself atop the lineup, with Carlos Beltran coming back sometime (although not soon), with a rebuilt rotation, and with a team that sure does seem to respond for Jerry Manuel.

And a team that still owns the worst road record in the entire National League. A team that plays in a ballpark where it sometimes seems impossible to hit a home run, and still features a key middle-of-the-order hitter (Jason Bay) who has homered only at home.

Oh, and a team that's about to open a road series against the team with the worst home record in baseball.

Sounds like a perfect place to begin this weekend's 3 to watch:

1. At this point, we'll have to assume that Manuel's job is safe for another . . . no, we're not going to say it, because with the Mets, there's always another crisis around the corner. But what about Ken Macha? A week ago, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel , "I can tell you unequivocally, we are not making a manager change on Monday." That was last Monday he was talking about, and the Brewers unequivocally did not change managers that day. Macha was still the manager when the Brewers finally won a home series (against the awful Astros), and we're going to have to assume he'll be there when Santana faces Yovani Gallardo in Mets at Brewers, Friday night (8:10 EDT) at Miller Park .

2. There's still a lot of doubt that Roy Oswalt will actually get traded, given the limited list of teams he's said to be interested in going to, and Astros owner Drayton McLane's limited (or non-existent) history of trading away his favorite players. But one popular destination, at least when baseball people talk about Oswalt, is the Angels, who have been searching for an ace for more than a year now. The Astros aren't on the Angels' interleague schedule, so they won't get to see Oswalt in person. They will, however, get a close look at another even more likely-to-be-available ace, Cliff Lee, in Mariners at Angels, Friday night (10:05 EDT) at Angel Stadium . Lee starts Friday, Felix Hernandez starts Sunday, and Chone Figgins will be back in Anaheim for the first time in a Mariner uniform.

3. Josh Johnson hasn't allowed a run in more than two weeks. The Phillies haven't scored a run off a starting pitcher in a week. Josh Johnson is the scheduled starter, against Roy Halladay, in Phillies at Marlins, Saturday night (7:10 EDT) at Sun Life Stadium . Sounds like maybe the Phillies ought to think about scoring a run Friday night against Chris Volstad.

Posted on: April 9, 2010 12:06 pm
Edited on: April 9, 2010 12:54 pm

Loria on expectations: 'I have high standards'

The Marlins play in the same division as the two-time NL champion Phillies, and the spring darling Braves. Their payroll is up 58 percent from 2009, but it's still the lowest in the division and the fifth-lowest in baseball. They made no major additions over the winter, unless you count Nate Robertson, acquired after he failed to make the Tigers rotation.

And their owner began spring training by saying, "I expect us to make the playoffs."

Isn't that a little much?

"I have high standards for these guys," Jeffrey Loria said this week. "And I want them to have them for themselves. They're as good as they want to be."

There will be those who read that as even more pressure on manager Fredi Gonzalez, who Loria reportedly considered replacing with Bobby Valentine at the end of last season. Loria won't talk about that decision now, other than to say that "Bobby is someone I've known for 25 years."

He also says, "Fredi's the manager. Period."

But when the owner puts out there that the expectation is to make the playoffs, it's easy to go the next step yourself and say the team needs to do well for the manager to keep his job.

"I expect a lot," Loria admitted. "I expect it from myself, too."

Tonight, the Marlins open their next-to-last home season in the ballpark that has had so many names, it's hard to remember what to call it (just looked it up, it's Sun Life Stadium this year). And the one thing Loria doesn't have high expectations for is Marlins attendance. They were last in the league in 2009 (1.46 million), and when you ask him if they'll draw better, he says, "This year?"

He promises that the fast-rising new ballpark will be "a wonder," and that it will be like no other ballpark ever built.

And he believes he'll have a team worthy of playing there. In fact, he thinks he already does.

"I love the team," he said. "I do. I like the pitching. I like the lineup. I love my players."


As bad as their attendance was last year, the Marlins never announced a crowd of less than 10,000. The Pirates did, and by announcing 9,352 for their game against the Dodgers, they win the award for the first sub-10,000 crowd of 2010, too.

The Pirates had good crowds for their first two games against the Dodgers, so their first-series average of 26,479 was not the worst of the teams that opened 2010 at home. For the first three games combined, the Pirates drew better than the White Sox, Rays, Royals and A's.

Tampa Bay will no doubt draw well this weekend, with the Yankees in town, but their attendance for Games 2 and 3 of the opening series against the Orioles (15,220 and 16,191) is more proof of the long-term problems the franchise faces. And more proof that it will be next-to-impossible for the Rays to come up with the money to sign free-agent-to-be Carl Crawford.

Category: MLB
Posted on: April 8, 2010 5:37 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2010 9:57 pm

Encouraging signs for Dontrelle

Yes, Dontrelle Willis was fortunate to be facing the Royals today, and fortunate to give up just two runs while allowing nine baserunners in six innings.

But here are two reasons for the Tigers to be encouraged by Willis's first big league start since June:

1. Willis didn't fall apart after a terrible first few batters. At one point in the first inning, his pitch count was 16 pitches, 4 strikes. But from that point on, he threw 72 pitches, 50 of them for strikes.

2. Willis's fastball, unimpressive early on, got better as the game went on. He was 85-88 mph early, then threw several pitches at 93 mph later, according to mlb.com's Gameday.

Nate Robertson, the guy Willis beat out for the final spot in the Tiger rotation, said yesterday that the big difference he noticed in Willis this spring was an ability to keep innings and games from quickly unraveling. He showed that today against the Royals.

Robertson starts for Florida against the Mets tonight, and the Marlins seem overjoyed to have him.

"He's a left-handed presence in the rotation," owner Jeffrey Loria said. "He's a guy who knows how to win ballgames."

You can bet that Tiger fans will be comparing Robertson to Willis all year, just as Phillies fans will compare Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and just as Yankees fans will compare the output of Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson with the output of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

Willis's final line today was 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, and no decision in the Tigers' 7-3 win. Robertson takes the mound in about an hour and a half.

Posted on: March 30, 2010 1:45 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2010 3:48 pm

Marlins acquire Robertson from Tigers

The Marlins have acquired left-hander Nate Robertson from the Tigers, allowing both teams to set their opening day starting rotation and ensuring that Dontrelle Willis will return to the big leagues as the Tigers' fifth starter.

The Tigers got minor-league left-hander Jay Voss in the deal, and will also pay a large chunk of Robertson's $10 million contract.

Robertson, originally drafted by the Marlins and then traded to the Tigers in January 2003, joins a starting staff that will also include Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad. Clay Hensley had been leading the competition to become the fifth starter, but the Marlins were never comfortable with using him. Robertson will be the only left-hander in the rotation.

The Tigers had similar concerns about the end of their rotation. Robertson was having a good spring (2-1, 3.66), but the Tigers weren't convinced that he can be successful without the velocity he had earlier in his career. They had settled on Jeremy Bonderman as their fourth starter (behind Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer), and preferred Willis over Robertson for the fifth spot.

Willis is a one-time 22-game winner (with Florida in 2005), but he has just one win in two years since coming to the Tigers in the Miguel Cabrera trade. He has had troubles with command and anxiety issues, and at times the team seemed to be on the verge of simply releasing him.

Willis pitched significantly better this spring, (2-0, 1.20), although he still had eight walks in 15 innings. Scouts were impressed when he hit 93 mph on a radar gun in a start last week.

Voss is a 22-year-old reliever who pitched in Double-A last year, and was in the Marlins' major-league camp this spring.


One side note: The last few winters, Robertson was the only player on the Tiger roster who made his year-round home in Michigan. A Kansas native, he had settled down in Canton, Mich.

In speaking to reporters after the trade was made, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said Robertson told him, "My heart is in Detroit."

The Detroit Free Press reported this week that Brandon Inge has decided to move to Michigan year-round. Inge and his wife Shani lived in the Ann Arbor area for several years, but later moved to South Carolina.

There's no guarantee Inge will be with the Tigers past this season. His four-year, $24 million contract runs out at the end of the 2010 season.

Posted on: March 15, 2010 6:59 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2010 7:04 pm

Liriano healthy, happy and 'ready to start'

JUPITER, Fla. -- Yes, it's true, Francisco Liriano looks healthy this spring.

Yes, it's true, with the injury to closer Joe Nathan, the Twins have thought about using Liriano as their closer, because they have depth in the rotation and his pure stuff might make him the best option on their staff.

"We're considering contingency plans," general manager Bill Smith said today.

Here's guessing that the contingency plan they choose won't have Liriano pitching the ninth inning. Two reasons, which are related: First, while Liriano has said he'll do whatever the Twins ask, he clearly doesn't want the job; second, the most important thing the Twins can do with Liriano is to keep him healthy, and pitching him on back-to-back days may not be the best way to do that.

"I've never pitched two days in a row, three days in a row," Liriano said after facing the Marlins today. Then, asked again about the closing job, he said, "I'm trying to get myself ready to start."

The Twins are still awaiting a final verdict on Nathan, who told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune today that he intends to try to play catch this Saturday.

It's understandable that they would think of Liriano as an option in the likely event that Nathan needs surgery and can't pitch this year. It seems unlikely they would actually make the move unless they're completely convinced that Liriano could handle it physically and mentally, considering how much work and time they've put in to get him back on the mound.

Since going 12-3 as a rookie in 2006, Liriano has started just 38 games over the last three seasons combined.

Even now, even though he feels good and says "nothing bothers me at all," he's understandably cautious when he describes his health.

Asked today if he feels confident in his arm, Liriano's answer may have said a lot: "So far, yeah."


Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez and Braves manager Bobby Cox meet regularly for coffee during the winter. Gonzalez joked today that during those meetings, he tried to trade for Braves mega-prospect Jason Heyward.

"I wasn't offering enough," Gonzalez said with a laugh. "He wanted Josh Johnson."

But Gonzalez actually has a 20-year-old outfield prospect of his own, and while Mike Stanton doesn't seem to be as advanced as Heyward (and is far less likely to make the opening day roster), he's not that far behind.

Stanton is on the Marlins' travel roster for Tuesday's game at the Disney Complex, against Heyward's Braves.

"That's no coincidence," Gonzalez said. "I'm going to show [Cox] my guy."

Posted on: December 8, 2009 12:32 pm

Marlins talking Lindstrom with 5-6 teams

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Marlins have five or six teams interested in trading for closer Matt Lindstrom, and sources say there's still a real chance they could make a deal with one of them by the time the winter meetings end on Thursday.

While the Marlins also continue to field offers for second baseman Dan Uggla, the Lindstrom talks seem at this point to be further along
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 31, 2009 4:18 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2009 4:20 pm

Marlins get Nick Johnson from Nationals

The Marlins have acquired Nick Johnson from the Nationals for minor-league pitcher Aaron Thompson, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

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