Posted on: July 22, 2011 8:49 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 8:58 pm

No closers were no problem for Phils

For a while, the Phillies had three closers on the disabled list. Now, with Brad Lidge back, they have three closers on the active roster.

That's Lidge, who went into the year as the closer; Ryan Madson, who eventually took over as the closer; and Antonio Bastardo, who filled in when everyone else was hurt. Jose Contreras, the other closer, remains on the DL.

But here's what's amazing: With all of that, the Phillies have had just one ninth-inning blown save this season (by Madson, on June 9 against the Cubs). The Phillies have just three blown saves total, the fewest in baseball.

Compare that to the Cardinals, who have nine ninth-inning blown saves. Or compare it to the White Sox and Blue Jays, with seven apiece.

The only teams that have yet to have a ninth-inning blown save this year are the Tigers, Red Sox and Pirates. And there should be an asterisk next to the Red Sox, because closer Jonathan Papelbon blew a four-run ninth-inning lead on June 4 against the A's but wasn't charged with a blown save because it wasn't a save situation.

Posted on: July 20, 2011 7:25 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 8:38 pm

Beltran is the big prize on trade market

The Mets aren't interested in trading Jose Reyes, who would have been the best player available on this July's trade market.

They will trade Carlos Beltran, the best hitter available on the market.

"He's the impact guy," said an official of one of the many teams hoping to acquire Beltran.

Beltran, who entered play Wednesday with 14 home runs and 59 RBI in 91 games, is good enough that even teams without a real need in the outfield have sent scouts to see him, just in case. The Rangers had a scout at Citi Field on Wednesday, even though their main focus this month has been on acquiring pitching.

The list of teams that could end up with Beltran remains a long one. The Phillies may be the most aggressive suitor, as Jon Heyman of SI.com has suggested, but the Red Sox, Giants and Braves are all still believed to be in the running. The Phillies and Giants both have had scouts in New York all week, and the Red Sox were in to see Beltran last weekend.

The Tigers and Pirates are also said to have shown interest, but the Tigers' focus continues to be on acquiring a starting pitcher, and it's not clear that Beltran would approve a deal to the Pirates. Beltran has a full no-trade clause in his contract, but it's believed he would agree to go to any of the other contenders.

The Mets are almost certain to deal Beltran, because he will be a free agent at the end of the season and won't be back in 2012, in any case. Also, they wouldn't get any draft picks as compensation when he signs elsewhere, because of a clause in his contract that doesn't allow him to be offered arbitration (and a high salary that probably would have kept them from offering it, anyway).

Because Beltran is the best hitter on the market, the Mets can try to hold out for a big price for Beltran, even though he's a true rental player. They have also suggested to teams that they would be willing to pay some or most of his contract, depending on the players they get in return.

For more trade deadline news, click here.
Posted on: July 19, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 5:01 pm

Do the Yankees need relief?

With the development of David Robertson, the probability that Rafael Soriano will return from the disabled list and the continued excellence of Mariano Rivera, the Yankees have been suggesting to teams that they're happy with their bullpen.

But eyes were raised in the scouting community when the Yankees had one high-level person in San Diego last week, then dispatched another to Kansas City this week.

The Yankees have long had interest in Royals closer Joakim Soria. They've also shown interest this summer in Padres relievers Mike Adams and Heath Bell.

The Royals haven't been very open to trading Soria. Teams that have spoken to them say the most available players on the roster are starting pitchers Jeff Francis, Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies, outfielder Jeff Francoeur and utility man Wilson Betemit. It's unlikely that the Yankees would see any of the Royals starters as a significant upgrade. Betemit could be a short-term fit, while Alex Rodriguez is out after knee surgery.

Many teams have shown interest in the Padres relievers, including the Rangers, Reds and Phillies, in addition to the Yankees.

For more trade deadline news, click here.
Posted on: July 15, 2011 8:05 pm

Manuel fine with Bochy's All-Star moves

NEW YORK -- Tim Lincecum, who was on the All-Star team but didn't pitch, starts for the Giants Friday night.

Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, both asked to pitch two innings in the All-Star Game, won't pitch for the Phillies this weekend.

And yes, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was the guy managing the National League All-Stars. But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel isn't complaining.

"They didn't get overused," Manuel said Friday. "[Bochy] earned the right to manage the team, and he can manage it any way he wants to."

Halladay, the NL starter, threw 19 pitches in his two innings. Lee followed him and threw 25 pitches in 1 2/3 innings.

Two things to note here:

First, Manuel managed the last two NL All-Star teams, and last year he used both Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson for two innings. He knows that managing the All-Star team can be a thankless job.

Second, while it's true that neither Halladay nor Lee will pitch this weekend against the Mets, that's only partially All-Star related. Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee is a strong proponent of giving his starters extra rest during the season, and planned to push Halladay's next start into next week regardless of whether he pitched in the All-Star Game or not. Manuel said Lee might have started Sunday if he hadn't appeared in the All-Star Game, but that he may have been pushed into next week, too.

As it is, the real losers are the Cubs, who will see both Halladay and Lee in the series that begins Monday at Wrigley Field.

Posted on: July 15, 2011 7:37 pm

Will Phils again trade for a pitcher?

NEW YORK -- The Phillies opened the second half with two starting position players on the disabled list, and one closer returning from the DL.

So what does that mean for the Phils' trade plans as the July 31 deadline approaches?

Good question, but here's one thing worth remembering: Every year, it seems that manager Charlie Manuel says the Phillies need another hitter. And every year, general manager Ruben Amaro trades for a pitcher.

So even with Ryan Madson returning from the DL, and even with the chance that Jose Contreras may be back, too, it would surprise no one if the Phillies go after someone like Padres closer Heath Bell.

The Phillies have made a midseason trade for a starting pitcher each of the last five years (Jamie Moyer, Kyle Lohse, Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt), but with Oswalt on the way back from the DL to join Roy Halladay, Lee and Cole Hamels in the rotation, that seems significantly less likely this year.

But don't the pitching-strong Phillies need another bat?

They might, and more specifically they could use a right-handed bat. But Phillies people will remind you that they haven't had their full lineup together very often this year, and that while Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco begin the second half on the DL, neither is expected to be out very long.

Phillies people even suggest that with Madson already back and with Polanco, Victorino and Oswalt soon to follow, they may not need to make any moves. They remind you that money is tight.

History tells you they always make a move.

And history tells you that they usually choose pitchers over hitters.


Polanco, who went on the DL Friday with lower back inflammation, could return as soon as next Wednesday. The Phillies were able to backdate the DL posting by 10 days (to when Polanco last played), and he said Friday that he was able to avoid getting a shot in his back.

"I'm just going to rest it," Polanco said.

Manuel said that Madson won't immediately return to his role as closer. The plan is to use him in the seventh or eighth inning the first time or two. Pitching coach Rich Dubee told reporters that Madson won't be used on back-to-back days, for now.

The Phillies have had three closers hurt this year (Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras, in addition to Madson), but they've had just three blown saves. And only one of those was in the ninth inning (Madson, on June 9).

Posted on: July 11, 2011 8:50 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 9:10 pm

Polanco asks, 'Where's Albert?'

PHOENIX -- Albert Pujols has 18 home runs and 50 RBI. Albert Pujols is widely acknowledged as the best hitter in baseball.

Albert Pujols isn't at the All-Star Game.

Huh? Seriously?

Pujols is having, by his standards, a subpar season. He was on the disabled list when the teams were picked. Then, when it came to naming All-Star replacements, National League manager Bruce Bochy decided he'd rather have a third catcher (Miguel Montero) than a great hitter.

So he's not here, even though people who know Pujols say he wanted to be picked.

"I'm not happy because I thought he deserved it," said Pujols friend Placido Polanco. "I wanted to be on the same team as him."

Pujols shocked almost everyone by coming back to the Cardinals less than three weeks after breaking a bone in his hand. He didn't shock Polanco.

"I saw him the day after he got hurt, and when he shook my hand, he was so strong," Polanco said. "I said, 'Are you sure it's fractured?'"

Polanco is in Phoenix, but he won't play in the All-Star Game because of a bulging disk in his lower back.

"I'm trying to avoid getting a shot on the spine," Polanco said. "I really don't want to get a shot."

For more All-Star coverage from CBSSports.com, click here.

Posted on: July 10, 2011 10:31 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2011 11:13 pm

Future stars show off desert heat

PHOENIX -- What stood out to scouts watching Sunday's All-Star Futures Game?

The heat.

Not the triple-digit temperatures outside Chase Field but the near-triple-digit radar-gun readings on display inside. More and more, baseball is becoming a game of power pitching, and Sunday offered proof that more hard throwers are on the way.

Pitcher after pitcher lit up the gun at 95 mph-plus.

Scouts said that Phillies prospect Jarred Cosart and Rays prospect Matt Moore, who both topped out at 98 mph, clocked in with the fastest fastballs Sunday.

No one is really sure why there are more hard throwers in baseball now, but everyone seems convinced that there are. One theory: kids work with private pitching coaches at younger and younger ages, developing stronger arms and possibly better mechanics.

But all the velocity doesn't necessarily mean pitching is getting better.

"They throw hard, but they don't pitch," one scout complained. "We're developing all closers and set-up guys."

Posted on: July 8, 2011 10:54 am
Edited on: July 9, 2011 12:15 pm

3 to Watch: The Trout (and Jeter) edition

The day the Yankees first brought Derek Jeter to the big leagues, the New York Times handled the news with three lines attached to the bottom of the game story.

"It is Derek Jeter to the rescue, or so the Yankees hope," Tom Friend wrote that day. "With nearly the entire infield in the infirmary, the Yankees need someone with energetic legs, and their best candidate was Jeter, who was batting .354 at Class AAA Columbus."

Jeter was 20 years old. Baseball America ranked him as the fourth best prospect in baseball (behind Alex Rodriguez, Ruben Rivera and Chipper Jones), but there were no daily internet chats about what day the Yankees would call him up.

There were no daily internet chats about anything in May 1995. But there were no daily water cooler debates about top prospects back then, either.

The world has changed in the course of Jeter's 19-year career, to the point where on the same day that Jeter will be going for 3,000 hits, a significant portion of the baseball world will still be buzzing about the Angels' decision to call up 19-year-old Mike Trout.

Like Jeter, Trout will make his big-league debut against the Mariners, tonight in Anaheim. Like Jeter, whose arrival was speeded by injuries to Tony Fernandez, Dave Silvestri and Pat Kelly, Trout is coming to the big leagues now because someone got hurt (in this case, Peter Bourjos).

Who knows if this is the start of another 3,000-hit career?

What we do know is that Trout was the second biggest name in the minor leagues (there's some debate over whether he or Washington's Bryce Harper is the best prospect, but Harper is definitely better known). And we know that if you want to get 3,000 hits, it helps to get the first one when you're young.

Jeter was 20, as was George Brett. Pete Rose and Paul Molitor were 21. Tony Gwynn and Craig Biggio were 22.

Now Trout arrives at 19, as the youngest player in the major leagues. He was one year old when Jeter signed with the Yankees. He was three when Jeter debuted in the big leagues, and now he's given Jeter a 2,998-hit head start.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Jeter batted ninth in his debut at the Kingdome, going 0-for-5 against Mariner pitchers Rafael Carmona, Jeff Nelson and Bobby Ayala, in a game Rich Amaral won for the M's with a 12th-inning walkoff home run off Scott Bankhead. Trout will debut in Mariners at Angels, Friday night (10:05 ET) and Angel Stadium, with 22-year-old Blake Beavan starting for Seattle. Beavan is just up from the minor leagues himself; he allowed just three hits in seven innings to beat the Padres last Sunday in his debut.

2. It's hard to know exactly how big this weekend's "National League East showdown" in Philadelphia really is. Yes, the Phillies' NL East lead over the second-place Braves is down to just 2 1/2 games, heading into the weekend. But with the Braves holding a five-game lead in the wild-card race, the Phils are actually up a comfortable 7 1/2 games on a playoff spot. It could be that the Phils and Braves this September will be like the Yankees and Rays last September, where they'll only be playing for playoff seeding. What we do know is that there's a great pitching matchup, in Braves at Phillies, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Citizens Bank Park. Tommy Hanson, who many feel should be on the All-Star team, faces Cliff Lee, who is on the All-Star team.

3. Jeter enters the weekend needing just two hits for 3,000, so the first game to watch is probably Yankees-Rays on Friday night. And if he doesn't get two hits Friday, the second game to watch is Yankees-Rays on Saturday. But let's say he just gets one hit in those two games combined, so that we can focus on Rays at Yankees, Sunday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. And even if the Jeter celebration comes Friday or Saturday, Sunday's game is worth watching, with All-Star James Shields facing could-have-been All-Star CC Sabathia.

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