Thursday, March 31, 2011

This Is Granderson Land

Right up until yesterday the Yankees worried that Curtis Granderson might miss the start of the season due to the oblique he strained back on March 22. But after playing in a minor league game yesterday, Granderson was good to go and the Yankees are thankful.

The center fielder tested his side immediately, diving to catch a line drive off the bat of Will Rhymes in the 1st inning. Granderson then drilled a second deck home run off former Yankee Phil Coke to snap a 3-3 tie in the 7th and the Yankees went on to a 6-3 win.

If the Yankees were following a script, they nearly did to a "t". Starter CC Sabathia matched Tigers starter Justin Verlander, going six innings with three runs allowed. Joba Chamberlain threw a scoreless 7th, Rafael Soriano did likewise in the 8th in his first Yankees appearance, and Mariano Rivera notched his first save on a called third strike of Alex Avila to end the 9th.

The Yankees trailed 1-0, but with two aboard in the bottom of the 3rd, Mark Teixeira blasted a 3-run home run. He had been just 1-17 against Verlander prior to the at-bat. But Brandon Inge delivered a two out RBI in the 4th and Miguel Cabrera picked up his first RBI in the 5th on a sacrifice fly to tie things up.

After Granderson's home run, Russell Martin, who earlier had his first hit, reached on an Inge error. The Yankees new starting catcher move to second on a Brett Gardner bunt, moved to third on a wild pitch by Ryan Perry and came home on a Derek Jeter sac fly. Nick Swisher would add an 8th inning RBI single for the final tally.

But this game belong to Granderson, who also added a long over the shoulder catch to his stellar day.


Mike Mussina threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Ken Singleton gave everyone a good laugh when he accidentally called Tigers 2nd baseman Will Rhymes, "Busta Rhymes (the rapper).

Robinson Cano made the Yankees lone error when he dropped an underhand toss covering 1st base. Last season Cano had an 81 game error-less streak.

Russell Martin had a hit, stole a base, and called/caught a good game.

Prediction Time - Yankees vs. Giants

Yankees and Giants meet in the WS for the first time since 1962

Yes, it's that time to semi-stick the neck out on the line to make predictions for the upcoming season and where better to start then in the AL East.

You have already read (hopefully) my concerns over the Red Sox rotation and bullpen. And though they will score 1,000,000 runs (probably according to ESPN), they are going to have to outscore their opponents most of the time to win.

While the Yankees also have rotation questions, they will end up with someone in the back end (Boy that didn't sound right) to help out. I don't believe Kevin Millwood will be that answer.

The Rays have a great starting rotation and nothing else. Evan Longoria will be pitched around like crazy and the bullpen is awful.

AL East
Red Sox (Wild Card)
Blue Jays
Orioles (sorry Buck)

Al Central
White Sox

You can never count out a Ron Gardenhire team; they play fundamentally sound baseball and I like their rotation and bullpen. They'll have trouble scoring runs as usual, esp. if they can't keep Justin Morneau on the field, but they will find ways to win. Delmon Young repeating his 2010 season is a key.

The White Sox are going to be strong, but outside of Matt Thornton will they get consistency in the pen? Love the lineup, and feel good about the rotation. This should be a race that goes down to the final weeks of the season.

AL West

The Rangers starting rotation looks pretty ugly on paper with no Cliff Lee and the mistake of putting Neftali Feliz back in the bullpen. He could have given them a huge boost. C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis need to repeat or near repeat their seasons from last year and it's finally time for Derek Holland to step up. Another lineup that will score plenty of runs, though you saw what happened the last time Adrian Beltre was given a big contract ("Hitless in Seattle").

The Angels have a nice rotation with Weaver, Haren, and Santana starting things off. The lineup is a bit shaky and the bullpen is a mess. Fernando Rodney is not the guy to close and it wouldn't surprise me if Kevin Jepsen took over at some point.

The A's are being picked by a lot of people to win the west because of their solid starting rotation. But this is a team that can't and won't hit. They don't have one intimidating bat in the lineup. Their main source of power will be Hideki Matsui and he may only hit 20 home runs. It's time t drop Moneyball.

The Mariners should be playing in the PCL right now. When does King Felix get dealt.


Alex Rodriguez: He's so incredibly locked in right now and will have a monster season. Whether or not the BBWAA holds his steroid past against him remains to be seen.

CY Young

Justin Verlander: His stuff is filthy; he just needs to get off to a good start.

Rookie of the Year

Jeremy Hellickson: His short stint in the Majors last year certainly gave the impression that he is the goods. Also looking forward to seeing how Kyle Drabek performs in Toronto

Comeback Player of the Year

Jacoby Ellsbury: He's healthy and with Crawford leading the way on the bases (70 steals?), I can see Ellsbury swiping 50.

Manager of the Year

Ron Gardenhire: Unfortunately for him the Yankees will knock him and the Twins out in the first round again.

* * *

The National League East will indeed be a runaway. The Philly Phab Phour (Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels) will dominate the NL. The bullpen is a mess and eventually the Phillies will probably have to make a move for another set up man or closer. Chase Utley's injury could take a toll on the line up, but that rotation speaks/shouts volumes.

They won't catch the Phils, but expect the Braves to have a good year under new manager Fredi Gonzalez. (How strange will it be to not see Bobby Cox in the dugout?) The Braves have a good rotation, decent bullpen, though they still need to figure out the closer role. If soph. Justin Heyward and rookie Freddie Freeman have big years, look out.

The Mets are getting bashed left and right, some of it deservedly so, but I think they can still finish at .500.

NL East

NL Central

Dusty Baker and the Reds should build off of last year and take the central again. The Brewers with Greinke, Marcum (both need to be healthy) and Gallardo form a formidable front of the rotation. The Cards will take a step back without Adam Wainwright.

NL West

People seem to be jumping off the bandwagon of the defending champion Giants, but I love their rotation. Granted Brian Wilson needs to get healthy fast (strained oblique; this year's trendy injury) to solidify the bullpen, and the team needs another bat, but they will take the division.

The Rockies need Ubaldo Jiminez to repeat and Jorge de la Rose to step up and be worth his contract. Good offense, decent pen, just not enough to overtake the Giants. They will battle the Brewers and Braves for the Wild Card.

The Dodgers have a pretty good team with a newbie manager (Donnie Baseball; still can't get used to that uniform), but the team still is in disarray with the battling McCourts.

Bud Black and the Pads won't get off to that tremendous start with no Adrian Gonzalez, and Mat Latos hurting.

The Diamondbacks can join the Mariners in AAAA.


Ryan Braun: Combines with Prince Fielder to help Brew Crew back to post-season

CY Young

Cliff Lee: Back (if it holds up) to dominating the NL

Rookie of the Year

Freddie Freeman: Proves the hype is right

Comeback Player of the Year

Jason Bay: If he stays healthy the home runs will return.

Manager of the Year

Ron Roenicke: First year manager leads team to playoffs


Yankees and Red Sox meet in the ALCS for the first time since the disastrous (depending on whose side you're on) 2004 series.

Giants topple the Phillies in an exciting seven game series in the NLCS.

Which leads to a series that has been 49 years in the waiting. For the first time since Bobby Richardson snared Willie McCovey's line drive in Game 6, the Yankees and Giants will meet in the Fall classic. Unfortunately I am going with the Giants in 6.

Join me in November to see how good or bad these predictions are.

It's Here...Um....Maybe

It's Opening Day at last! We made it. Give yourselves all a pat on the back and a congratulatory round of applause. But it's not going to be an easy day. Never mind that CC Sabathia and the Yankees will be locked in a battle with Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. The weather, she not look so good. forecasts a 35% chance of rain at game time (1:05 pm EDT), increasing to 65% by 3 pm. It then goes between 50% and 60% for the next couple of hours before the skies open up for the rest of the night at 7 pm.

Now normally you would be done by 7 pm but as we have seen in the past, there have been some very long, obnoxious rain delays at Yankee Stadium. My brother and I were among those who sat through a 2 hour monsoon last year. The problem is that Friday's day off looks even worse, so the guess here is that the game will get in. Whether (or in this case maybe it should be weather) or not it's a full game remains to be seen.

Today's Yankees lineup should be as follows:

LF Brett Gardner
SS Derek Jeter
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
DH Jorge Posada
CF Curtis Granderson *
C Russell Martin

* = Good news.

As expected, Pedro Feliciano landed on the DL. Luis Ayala beat out Steve Garrison for the final spot in the bullpen, leaving Boone Logan as the lone lefty, and Gustava "not a real" Molina will be the back up to Martin at catcher.

The starting lineup for the Tigers is as follows:

CF Austin Jackson
2B Will Rhymes
RF Magglio Ordoñez
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
LF Ryan Raburn
SS Jhonny Peralta
3B Brandon Inge
C Alex Avila

Monday, March 28, 2011

FullCountPitch - The Full Count: Jen Royle

Jen Royle talks with Orioles starter Brian Matusz

After seven years covering the New York Yankees for the YES Network, MLBAM and SIRIUS/XM’s Baseball Channel, Jen Royle moved to Baltimore to cover the Orioles and Ravens on MASN and 105.7 The Fan.

You can catch Jen from 6-7:15 on “Baltimore Baseball Tonight’s” O’s pregame show with Jim Duquette and Joe Orsulak for Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan, and you can also follow her on Twitter.

Today, Jen becomes the latest victim guest for “The Full Count”.

FCP: You were a Red Sox fan growing up, how did you put that aside when you starting working for other teams?

Jen Royle: YES! I was a huge Red Sox fan growing up. I literally grew up at Fenway Park. My parents were both born and raised in the city of Boston and my grandparents lived 10 minutes from Fenway Park when I was a child. So needless to say, I spent a lot of time at the ballpark. I vividly remember my father putting me on his shoulders so I could see Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, Mike Greenwell, Dwight Evans, etc. And I grew up watching Roger Clemens. Fast forward 20 years later, who would have thought I would end up covering Clemens with the New York Yankees.

In terms of the fan in me disappearing, it just sort of happened naturally. Once I started working for the YES Network in New York, I didn’t care at all about the Red Sox. I sort of just naturally turned into an unbiased, objective reporter. And let me make this clear, I didn’t care about the Yankees either in terms of winning or losing. I did, however, start to pull for certain people.

I think what most fans don’t understand is once you start covering ONE team on a daily basis, you start to build really nice relationships so it becomes difficult to hope they fail. So that also played a part in me not caring about the Red Sox anymore.

FCP: You came to Baltimore after working in the New York market for the YES Network. What’s the biggest difference you see in the way the Orioles and Yankees are covered?

Jen Royle: I mean, you can’t even compare. From a fan standpoint, a media standpoint and an organization standpoint, it’s just COMPLETELY different. In fact, to be completely honest, I think it was a culture shock for me my first month on the job. I started to question my decision to move to Baltimore because the team started off 2-16 and there were maybe 10,000 fans in the ballpark. Not to mention, I was the new girl in town and was under an abundance of scrutiny because of where I came from — Boston and New York. I had no friends in town and I was driving for the first time in 10 years. So I was a “Negative Nelly” at the beginning.

There are maybe six Orioles reporters in the clubhouse after a game, compared to 30-50 in New York. The Orioles organization doesn’t have the “win now” mentality that the Yankees have, mostly because they don’t have the financial resources and they know competing in the American League East is a much tougher task. Andy MacPhail is doing the best job he can, but he is certainly at an unfair advantage when competing with Brian Cashman.

When I covered the Yankees, we didn’t leave the clubhouse until the last player was one, we stayed on the field with them during batting practice and we went back into the clubhouse after batting practice. In Baltimore, with all due respect, the team isn’t as news-worthy. Things that may be a big deal in New York simply aren’t an issue in Baltimore. I can’t stress enough how different of an atmosphere it is.

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FullCountPitch - Opening Day Memories

Later this week, another set of Opening Day games will be upon us. (Notice I capitalized both words. The opening of the baseball season should be a national holiday; after all, it is the national pastime.) Even though your team may open the season on the road, it truly is not Opening Day until the home opener. Nothing is better when the season and home openers coincide. Having to wait a week for your home opener is just maddening. Whether you actually go to the game, watch it on television/computer or listen to it on the radio/computer, it’s one of the best days of the year.

It’s the kind of day when Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes hits three home runs to open the Cubs’ 1994 season. The day that a future Hall of Fame member, Bob Feller, no-hit the Chicago White Sox in 1940.

It is the day your team is as good as any other team. It doesn’t matter if you end up 30 games under .500 after 162 contests; on Opening Day all things are equal. Pitchers’ ERAs are a perfect 0.00; batters can hit a 1.000. The stands are packed, the stadiums are in pristine condition, and everyone is nice. It’s a party; it’s a happening. And nothing is more disappointing than losing on Opening Day. Your team isn’t going 162-0, but 0-1 is just an ugly way to start the year.

Let me share some of my favorite and/or most memorable New York Yankees Opening Days with you.

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Andy Pettitte Hideki Matsui Reggie Jackson Mickey Mantle Roger Maris Paul O'Neill Wade Boggs

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Requiem For A Heavyweight

The Oakland A's Eric Chavez had established himself as one of the best players in baseball during the period of 2000-2006. He was good for 25-30 home runs and 90-100 RBI nearly year in and year out. His defense was stellar and led him to six straight Gold Gloves (2001-2006) and helped lead the A's to five playoff appearances.

Chavez was as the top of his game until everything fell apart, literally. Chavez began having serious shoulder, back and other injuries (a broken right hand in 2004) that led to more time on the DL than in the field. Chavez had played in just 90 games in 2007 when he was DL'ed in July due to a lower back strain. A little more than a month later he underwent season ending surgery...on the torn labrum in his right shoulder that had bothered him since 2005. In October, Chavez went under the knife again to repair a bulging disk in his back. But wait, Chavez would undergo yet another surgery in November to remove "non-living" tissue that accumulated in his left shoulder as well as repair a tear that had caused pain during off-season workouts. Mr. Durable had become Mr. Hospital Gown.

Chavez reported to spring training to ready himself for the 2008 season, but lower back inflammation required two epidurals (in Feb., Apr.), and the 3rd baseman started the season on the DL. Chavez missed nearly two months of the season before he returned in late May. He played in 23 games, but had trouble finding his stroke (.688 OPS, two home runs). After going 0-3 on July 1, Chavez was placed on the disabled list once more. In mid-August his season ended prematurely again after he underwent surgery on his right shoulder. The face of the franchise was becoming a footnote.

Spring training was slow going in 2009, but Chavez was in the Opening Day lineup on April 6. He played in nine games over a 2 1/2 week span and had just three hits in 30 at-bats before the disabled list came calling again on May 1. This time his right elbow was sore and he was diagnosed with a forearm strain. Less than two weeks after being shelved Chavez started experiencing back spasms and was found to have a pair of bulging disks. In June he underwent season ending and a second career threatening back surgery. Chavez was down, but not out.

The long-time 3rd baseman saw some time across the infield to 1st base in the hopes that it would relieve some of the stress on his 32-yr old back. As it turned out he played just one game at 1st base, but DH'ed for 29 games. Then came May and the end of Chavez's season. Bulging disks in his neck were the cause this time. For the first time Chavez openly wondered if his career was over.

Each spring training is a time of renewal; the weather gets warmer, the birds come back north, and the sound of bat hitting ball can be heard throughout Florida and Arizona. With Opening Day just around the corner, Eric Chavez has once again made the journey through spring training. His facial hair is gone, he's not donning green and gold any more, but Eric Chavez's name will be announced on Opening Day. This time it will be in the Bronx and Chavez will be wearing the pinstripes of the New York Yankees when they take the field to play the Detroit Tigers.

The Yankees took a chance this past winter in the hopes Chavez could spell Alex Rodriguez at 3rd base and Mark Teixeira across the diamond. After endless hours of surgery, therapy, and doctor's visits, Chavez hoped that a change of scenery would also mean a change of luck. It's already gained him a $1.5MM contract and another opportunity to play Major League baseball.

Chavez made the team by being healthy and hitting the cover off the ball (.421). He put a cherry on the top of his spring training sundae with a home run, fittingly, on Sunday. He may not play in a large number of games this season, but if Eric Chavez gets to wear his uniform for 162 games he will be more than happy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Girardi on the Rotation

Joe Girardi discussed the rotation decisions with the beat guys this morning. These quotes are from Chad Jennings' LoHud Blog.

“Serge (Mitre) was more of a starter,” Girardi said. “He was never really a one-inning guy. We just think Bartolo (Colon) can do some different things… In a sense, you feel that not asking him to throw 200 innings might be easier on him, physically.”

“We will make sure that we use him (Colon) properly, that we don’t abuse him or throw him days in a row,” Girardi said. “We understand this is something he’s really never done a whole lot of, so we have to be smart about it. It’s kind of like when we moved Aceves, who had always been a starter, to the bullpen. How we did it with Phil Hughes when we moved him; you’ve got to be smart how you do it.”

Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild also like Colon's ability to warm up quickly.

Nova and Garcia Get The Spots

We already knew that Ivan Nova was the #4 starter (though Joe Girardi officially informed him this morning), but a bit of a surprise for the #5 spot. According to the regular Yankees beat writers, Freddy Garcia has won the final spot in the rotation with Bartolo Colon to be used in the Al Aceves role out of the bullpen.

Garcia seemed to be the early favorite for the #5 spot, but faltered in his last few starts and Colon came on strong. The guess is Girardi felt Colon could suit the pen role much better than Garcia and would be able to throw more often.

Not good news though - Pedro Feliciano likely headed to the DL. This is no surprise though since he's complained of a dead arm all spring and hasn't thrown much.

Let's just hope Kevin Millwood is never needed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Crasnick: Mitre To The Brewers's Jerry Crasnick is reporting (tweeting actually) via a source that the Yankees have dealth Sergio Mitre to the Milwaukee Brewers, thus ending Joe Girardi's love affair with him.

This could mean that the Yankees will give Freddy Garcia the long man role for now as they sort out the Colon, Garcia, and possibly, Millwood situation.

More later.

11:50 AM EDT Update: Mitre has indeed been dealt to the Brewers for outfielder Chris Dickerson. The 29 yr-old gives the Yankees some depth at Scranton; he played two-plus seasons for the Reds before being dealt to Milwaukee for Jim Edmonds last season. Dickerson was actually drafted in the 32nd round by the Yankees in 2000, but did not sign.

Colon, Garcia...and Millwood?

Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia have battled all spring training for the final two spots in the Yankees rotation. Nova solidified a spot early, while front-runner Garcia was passed by Colon in the last couple of weeks.

Rumor has it that the Yankees have signed free agent pitcher Kevin Millwood as an insurance policy. Millwood found no takers/contracts to his liking this off-season, so he has had no spring training and would need a few weeks to get ready. Hampered by injuries last year, he was just 4-16, 5.10 with a 1.510 WHIP for the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched to a 3.67 ERA for Texas in 2009, but three of his last four seasons have seen Millwood pitch to an ERA over 5.00.

The Yankees were one of a number of teams that recently watched Millwood throw and apparently came away impressed (enough) to get a deal done. While it's a #5 starter role in question, if indeed Millwood is brought up, this is not a good sign or signing for the Yankees. Here's hoping Nova and Colon/Garcia get the job done.

A Molina Perhaps

According to the Star-Ledger's Marc Carig, neither Jesus Montero or Austin Romine may be backing up Russ Martin until Francisco Cervelli heals up.

There's a very real possibility that both will get more playing time at Scranton with Gustavo Molina getting the reserve catcher role. “Molina was brought in to be an insurance policy for us,” Brian Cashman said. “That’s why he’s here. He’s got major-league time.”

Molina isn't related to the triumvirate of Bengie, Jose, and Yadier, and has just 23 games of Major League experience with the White Sox, Orioles, Mets, and Red Sox. The 29-yr old has a .122 lifetime batting average in 45 at-bats.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Colon Seals The Deal- Joins The Band of 25

Photo Courtesy of AP - Look how happy this guy is!

Barring an unforeseen injury, a Tonya Harding-eque incident, or something of that nature, Bartolo Colon put his stamp on the #5 or #4 spot (depending on Joe Girardi's preference) in the rotation last night with an impressive outing against the Tampa Bay Rays. What this means is that Freddy Garcia will be given his release at week's end and will likely catch on with another team (perhaps the Mets?).

There also hasn't been an announcement concerning the final piece of the rotation puzzle, but Ivan Nova has clearly pitched above and beyond and will get the spot.

While the Rays lineup last night wouldn't intimidate anyone, that didn't keep you from taking notice of Colon's performance. He allowed just two hits over six innings, a solo home run to Kelly Shoppach, didn't walk a batter and struck out five.

Colon needed just 64 pitches to get it done and even showed some remarkable quickness, coming off the mound to cover a 1st base on a tapper to the right side. (Yes, somewhere, someone said, "He moves quick for a big man".) Garcia has already said he wouldn't accept a trip to the minors, and though he said he would willingly work as the long man out of the pen, Girardi (for reasons still unclear to me and just about everyone) prefers Sergio Mitre for that role. (Is Mitre Latin for "blackmail the manager"?)

Manny Banuelos came back to Earth last night and showed the crazies that he's not quite ready for the Majors just yet. Man-Ban gave up a pair of runs in two innings of work and took the loss. He allowed a solo home run to Dan Johnson in the 8th inning for a bit of insurance.

Setting the 25-man

While the rotation should be set, the bullpen that heads north is not there yet. Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Mitre, and David Robertson are all set. But there's a good chance, Joba Chamberlain and Pedro Feliciano will start the season on the DL. Chamberlain was having a decent spring when he strained an oblique and was shut down. He'll be back on the mound today though against the Orioles and has a chance to prove he's healthy. Feliciano, who has been workhorse in his career has suffered from a dead arm and not thrown much. He did have a 15 pitch bullpen session on Saturday and a 25 pitch session on Monday. He's hoping to get into a game this weekend, but it would be ridiculous to rush him. Of the two, Chamberlain is more likely to head north with the club.

Eric Chavez will miss a few days with calf spasms, but appears to have locked up a backup corner infield position. Eduardo Nunez looks to be a lock for the utility infielder role over the much better gloved, but much weaker hitting Ramiro Pena. Nunez also saw some, albeit somewhat shaky, time in the outfield and would be an emergency fifth outfielder.

Andruw Jones is set to back the triumvirate of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher and occasionally DH to give Jorge Posada a rest. With Francisco Cervelli DL'ed, the battle for back up to Russell Martin will go down to the wire between Jesus Montero and Austin Romine (Be sure to read Jack Curry's touching story about the loss of Romine's cousin in Afghanistan recently). The Yankees need to decide which they are better served by- Romine's superior defensive skills or giving Montero a chance to show he should stay in the Majors. Of course, how much chance Montero will get remains to be seen with Martin catching, Posada locked in at DH, and Mark Teixeira at 1st base. The feeling here is that Montero will get a look see and will possibly be replaced when Cervelli gets healthy.

Nine days until opening day. Mmmmmm.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Full Count Pitch - Don't Count Your Wicked Awesomes Just Yet

Many pundits think the Red Sox are a lock in the AL East, but FCP is here to give you some food for thought.

Listening to/reading ESPN or other media outlets you would think the Boston Red Sox would not have to play one game in 2011 to capture the AL East title. The experts see the addition of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to a healthy lineup and think “1,000 runs scored and a dominant team”. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman reported the other day that one AL Scout said, “I don’t see how Red Sox lose the AL East.”

Hang on, unnamed source; I can see a few reasons how they might lose and I’m going to tell you and everyone else. Let’s start with the Red Sox’ starting pitching. The quintet of Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka looks pretty good on paper, but let’s take a closer look.

There’s no question that Lester is an ace, a #1 stud, who is easy to root for given that he conquered cancer. But he does struggle in April (16 starts 3-5 and a career worst 4.58 ERA) and that could have an overall effect on the team’s start. Lester will be fine as the weather gets warm, though, and is one of the most reliable starters in baseball. John Lackey, on the other hand, is not the same pitcher he was with the Angels. His ERA has steadily risen over the last three seasons from 3.75 to his worst ERA in six seasons (4.40) last year. The league average against him has also gone from .260 to .277 over the same time period, and his strikeouts per nine innings has gone from 8.6 in 2005 to 6.5 in 2011.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

BD Spring Training Report: NL To The DL | Baseball Digest

BD Spring Training Report: NL To The DL | Baseball Digest

Yesterday the Spring Training Report took a look at the injury situation in the American League. Today we take a look at who’s hurtin’ for certain in the National League.

NL East

Atlanta: Superstar-in-the-making Jason Heyward returned to the Braves’ lineup yesterday after sitting out the the last four games due to a sore back. Heyward saw a specialist on Wednesday for further evaluation. “He told me it’s bone structure vs. muscle or anything like that, nothing to be torn,” said Heyward, who hasn’t played since his back stiffened Saturday in batting practice, a scheduled day off for him. “If I can’t tear anything or do anything worse, I’ll play, and that’s what I told Fredi (Gonzalez).”

Florida: The Marlins may have a makeshift outfield in their lineup on opening day. Another superstar in the making, Mike Stanton, has yet to play in a spring game after injuring his quad in an exhibition game against the U. of Miami. While he has taken some at-bats in minor league games, he’s been replaced by a pinch-runner each time he gets on base. On Thursday, Chris Coghlan was sidelined with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder. Manager Edwin Rodriguez has not ruled out Coghlan starting the season on the DL.

Free agent pitcher Javier Vazquez was scratched from a Tuesday start due to elbow soreness, but threw a bullpen session on Wednesday and felt fine afterwards. He’s scheduled to start against St. Louis tomorrow. Fellow starter Anibal Sanchez is expected to pitch in Sunday’s game after being out since March 10 after a comebacker bruised his shin. Their potential battery mate, John Baker, is day-to-day with a muscle strain near his right throwing elbow. He can swing the bat, but so far he has been prohibited from throwing.

New York: Things have been rough in Metsville and they may get rougher. Reports surfaced this week that ace Johan Santana was behind schedule in his recovery from shoulder surgery. The Mets have denied the report, which specifically stated that Santana’s bullpen sessions were not going as planned. Whatever the case, Santana will be on the DL (as expected) to start the season. Carlos Beltran has been slowed by left knee tendinitis and might start the season on the DL. GM Sandy Alderson is contemplating not having Beltran play any additional spring games so that the DL time can be backdated.

Philadelphia: All-Star 2nd baseman Chase Utley continues to be bothered by patellar tendinitis andchondromalacia in his right knee and sought out assistance from a specialist on Thursday. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is hoping Utley can avoid surgery. “We’re doing everything we possibly can to have him not get into a surgery,” Amaro said. “Until we stop seeing progress, then we’ll continue to exhaust all those possibilities.”

Third baseman Placido Polanco had to leave Wednesday’s game after hyperextending the same elbow he had surgery on in November. He’s expected to be back in the lineup in a few days. Closer Brad Lidge is day-to-day with muscle soreness in his right bicep, but Amaro is not worried since Lidge has already thrown a good number of innings. Finally, prospect Domonic Brown was lost for the season after he broke the hamate bone in his right hand and underwent surgery.

Washington: Chien-Ming Wang continues to try to come back from 2009 shoulder surgery. He’s been limited to a pair of bullpen sessions, including one this past Tuesday, so the Nationals have not been able to set a timetable for his return. 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman strained his groin on Monday and has sat out since. He’s expected to return to action next week and said he would have played had it been during the regular season.

NL Central

Chicago: Angel Guzman will miss the start of the season and won’t be back until mid-April at the earliest, as he recovers from a tear in his throwing shoulder.

Cincinnati: Johnny Cueto had to leave his start last Friday with stiffness in his right bicep, but after having a throwing session yesterday, he’s expected to return to the mound on Saturday.

Houston: Earlier this month, the Astros lost their starting catcher, Juan Castro, for the year with torn ligaments in his knee. Infielder Jeff Keppinger is no longer hampered by the walking boot he’s been wearing since he underwent foot surgery to remove the sesamoid bone in his left foot. He’s hoping to be back in the Astros lineup in mid-May. Wandy Rodriguez, who signed a new deal this winter, has been bothered by shoulder tendinitis and was scratched from his last start. But the right-hander threw a side session this morning and is good to go.

Milwaukee: The Brewers were hoping to get off to a good start with their 1-2-3 punch of Zack Greinke,Shaun Marcum, and Yovanni Gallardo, but Greinke injured his ribs playing pick up basketball and is out until mid-April. Outfielder Corey Hart may miss opening day due to a strained rib cage. He took swings off a batting tee on Tuesday, but still doesn’t feel right. ”It’s still not coming as fast as I want it to,” Hart said. “It won’t go away. I still can’t go full-speed on anything. Hitting off the tee is fine, but I can’t amp it up the way I know I can. I can throw, but as soon as I have to do a quick move or let it go, it kills.” Catcher Jonathan Lucroy may or may not be ready to catch on opening day. He’ll undergo surgery on Monday to remove pins that were placed in his hand when he broke his pinky finger during a catching drill back in February.

Pittsburgh: Reliever Joe Beimel has been out since early March with pain in his left forearm, but has been cleared to pitch against the Orioles this coming Monday. Catcher Ryan Doumit has missed a week with a strained oblique, but is expected to be back in the lineup today.

St. Louis: Utility infielder Nick Punto underwent surgery in February for a sports hernia and is out until at least mid-April. The Cardinals’ most devastating injury was, of course, losing starter Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery.

NL West

Arizona: Infielder Geoff Blum will miss a few days with a swollen right knee that he strained earlier in the week. Zach Duke, who was competing for the #5 spot in the rotation, is out until May after a line drive broke two bones in his pitching hand.

Colorado: Aaron Cook was already starting the season on the DL due to shoulder inflammation, but then slammed and broke his finger in a car door and is out until May. 3rd baseman Ian Stewart is day-to-day with a sprained right knee. Eric Young Jr. is back competing for the utility position after sitting out all spring with a broken tibia.

Los Angeles: The Dodgers were expected to be competitive because of their starting pitching, but have suffered two injuries already. Jon Garland is out until mid-April with a strained oblique, and Vicente Padilla is lost until late April/early May with forearm surgery.

San Diego: Outfielder Kyle Banks returned from a 10-month absence after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he served as the DH on Monday. He is a certainty to start the season on the DL. Starter Tim Stauffer is still hurting from a strained hip flexor and missed his scheduled start today. He’s listed as day-to- day. Southpaw Joe Thatcher was scheduled to undergo an MRI today on his ailing left shoulder. Thatcher hasn’t appeared in a game this spring and is headed to the DL as well.

San Francisco: Starter Matt Cain returned from a nearly two-week absence caused by elbow inflammation to throw three scoreless innings on Monday. Just like their AL counterparts, the defending NL pennant (and World Series) champions are in good shape to start the season.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

BD Spring Training Report: Doctor Doctor, Gimme The (AL) News | Baseball Digest

BD Spring Training Report: Doctor Doctor, Gimme The (AL) News | Baseball Digest

With opening day just two weeks away it is time to take a look at the injury situation around Major League Baseball, starting with the American League. First though, well wishes to Atlanta Braves coach and former Major Leaguer Luis Salazar, who lost his left eye after being struck by a Brian McCann line drive last week.

Salazar, who played for the 1984 pennant winning San Diego Padres, was leaning on the railing at the top of the dugout when he was struck. Thankfully, no brain damage occurred, but his left eye was removed Tuesday after undergoing three surgeries in attempt to save it.

AL East

Baltimore: What would a season be without Brian Roberts having some kind of physical issue? This spring it’s been his back acting up after a head first slide into 1st base tweaked something. Buck Showalter told’s Brittany Ghiroli that Roberts has a 50/50 chance of playing this weekend. First year Oriole Derrek Lee has yet to see game action due to tendinitis in his right wrist, but may also play this weekend. Pitcher Koji Uehara (sore elbow) is scheduled for a bullpen session, while catcher Craig Tatum’s fight to be the back up to Matt Wieters continues to be delayed by a sore oblique. Free agent pick up Justin Duchscherer is still a couple of days away from throwing as he continues to recover from hip surgery.

Boston: J.D. Drew was considering retirement earlier this year, but his nagging left hamstring inury feels great now and he’s ready to split outfield time with Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron.

New York: Joba Chamberlain is out indefinitely, but Sergio Mitre has begun to throw again after both suffered strained obliques. Francisco Cervelli has, for the moment at least, lost the back up catching job after he fractured his foot on March 2. He’ll be out until mid-April.

Tampa Bay: Reliever J.P. Howell is not expected back in the majors until May as he continues to rehab from shoulder surgery. Shortstop Reid Brignac missed some time last week with a sore groin, but is back in action. Jeremy Hellickson finally pitched in a game last Friday after missing time with a bad hammy.

Toronto: It’s slow and steady for possible closer Frank Francisco after his right pec tightened up on him while throwing. Having thrown in only two games this spring it is not likely Francisco will be ready for the season opener. That means Jon Rauch or Jason Frasor could open the season as closer. New manager John Farrell told the Toronto Sun, “While warming up in his last scheduled outing he felt some tightness in his right pec. He came in yesterday, threw long toss and another 15 pitches off the mound. He improved as far as the feeling goes but we’re going to work him through some long toss and continue on the flat ground.”

“We feel like if we can get him three or four games (additional) before we leave camp he’ll be fine. He’s not overly concerned or overly alarmed. He feels this is a spring training aches and pains type thing that he’s going through. The red flag is not up per se with Frankie.” The Blue Jays could also be without reliever Octavio Dotel who has been shutdown with a bad hamstring. Farrell also announced that former starter Dustin McGowan will work out of the bullpen when, and if, he’s ready to come back from a pair of shoulder surgeries. The one time highly regarded prospect hasn’t thrown in a Major League game since 2008. 2nd Baseman Aaron Hill has been slowed by a quad injury, but should be ready for opening day.

AL Central

Chicago: Jake Peavy continues his come back from last year’s surgery to repair a torn latissimus dorsi muscle. After his last start on Monday, Peavy told’s Doug Padilla that he would be ready to go when the season starts. He may miss his next start though with a virus. Dayan Viciedo suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch on March 10 and is likely out a month.

Cleveland: Grady Sizemore hopes to make his spring training game debut this weekend or Monday. Sliding is the final piece of the puzzle in his recovery from microfracture knee surgery. Since that’s how he hurt the knee, he is concerned. “It’s probably the last thing we’re going to try out,” Sizemore told’s Jordan Bastian. “Obviously, it’s a little bit of a concern — since that’s how I hurt it, and the fact that it’s the leg that I’ll be landing on. We’ll want to do what we can to protect that in any way we can.”

Catching sensation Carlos Santana seems to be full recovered from his left knee surgery, but the Tribe is playing it cautious just the same. It has included playing Santana at 1st base, something the The Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes spoke to manager Manny Acta about. “It’s all about Carlos getting more at bats,” said manager Manny Acta. “We wanted get him as many at bats as possible, but with him coming back from surgery, you can’t throw him back behind the plate every day.

Outfielder Trevor Crowe has been bothered by a fatigued rotator cuff all spring, but hopes to test it out by throwing tomorrow. The injury has already cost him an extra outfield spot on the Major League roster. Pitcher Anthony Reyes made his spring debut this week after having Tommy John surgery back in 2009.

Detroit: The Tigers official website reported Monday that both infielder/outfielder Carlos Guillen and reliever Joel Zumaya will start the season on the DL. Guillen is still recovering from knee surgery, while Zumaya has been slow in coming back from elbow surgery.

Kansas City: Jason Kendall continues his rehab from off-season right shoulder surgery; he’s played in a couple of games, but is likely to start the season on the DL.

Minnesota: Closer Joe Nathan continues his comeback from last year’s Tommy John surgery. He’s appeared in six spring games so far, and although the results have not been good (5.1 IP 6 H 6 ER), he’s feeling good. If Nathan’s struggles continue into the regular season, manager Ron Gardenhire will simply go to Matt Capps to close. 1st Baseman Justin Morneau is seeing regular time after returning from lingering concussion symptoms. Catcher Joe Mauer appeared in his first spring game yesterday as the DH after sitting out due to off-season left knee surgery. The Twins M&M boys are expected to be ready to go on opening day.

Michael Cuddyer could play in his first spring game tomorrow after having a wart removed from his foot three weeks ago.

AL West

Los Angeles: Free agent Scott Downs was supposed to bolster the Angels bullpen, but he’s out indefinitely after breaking his toe on Saturday. The injury occurred while he was playing with his kids. 1st baseman Kendry Morales, who infamously broke his leg last season after hitting a game winning home run, has yet to play in a game this season. In fact, he’s yet to run the bases and is not likely to be ready for opening day. “He’s going to get his work in here and tomorrow he’s back out there on the progression,” Mike Scioscia told the Orange County Register’s Bill Plunkett on Wednesday. “He’s moving forward. He still has some things he has to do before he gets in games and running the bases is one of them.”

Oakland: A’s closer and former AL Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey is out indefinitely with a strained elbow. Bailey left Monday’s game in excruciating pain and paid a visit to renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Bailey and the A’s were relieved to find out it was just scar tissue that was causing the pain and the reliever should be able to begin throwing again next week. It’s unknown though if he’ll be ready for the season opener. If that’s the case, manager Bob Geren would use Brian Fuentes as closer.

Oft-injured Rich Harden has been out with a strained lat, but according to the SF Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, is scheduled to resume throwing tomorrow. Harden will start the season on the DL as will infielder Adam Rosales who is out until May after having foot surgery. Lefty specialist Craig Breslow is also questionable for opening day as he recovers from a hamstring strain.

Seattle: Closer David Aardsma has thrown on flat ground three times in his rehab from hip surgery, but has yet to step on a mound. Brandon League is expected to be the interim Mariners closer once the season start, though skipper Eric Wedge hasn’t announced his decision. New starting catcher Miguel Olivo missed two weeks with a strained groin, but caught a bullpen session yesterday, and barring a setback, should be ready for the M’s opener. Lefty NatE. Robertson will be out a month after hvaing arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow yesterday.

Texas: Nothing significant to note; a nice way to start 2011 for the defending AL champions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marty Marion, Cardinals Legend, Passes at 94 | Baseball Digest

Marty Marion, Cardinals Legend, Passes at 94 | Baseball Digest

Marty Marion was one of the best shortstops in the game during his 13 year career, one that included three World Series titles. According to SI’s Jon Heyman, Marion passed away earlier today at age 94.

Marion played in an era when shortstops were known for their gloves and not their bats, unlike the last decade’s breed of power hitting middle men. In a time before Gold Glove Awards, Marion topped shortstops in fielding percentage four times. But Marion was a decent hitter too. He captured the 1944 NL MVP award after batting .267-6-63 with 43 walks. He was one of the catalysts of a Cardinals team that won the World Series in 1942, 1943, and 1946 (also won the 1944 NL pennant).

You can read more about the Cardinals great shortstop in this classic Baseball Digest piece. Click here to read all about it.

Marion retired after the 1950 season as a seven time All-Star and took over as the Cardinals manager, but was let go at the end of the season. He then came out of retirement as player-manager of the St. Louis Browns for two seasons, before calling it quits as a player. Marion took over the White Sox for nine games in 1954 and managed Chicago for two more seasons before retiring from baseball.

It’s a widely held notion that Marion has been overlooked by first the BBWAA and then the Veteran’s Committtee for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Though he played a portion of his career when some of the best players were at war, Marion was still one of the best in the game at his position and should be enshrined. It’s just too bad he won’t be around to see that day come.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Lloyd Waner | Baseball Digest

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Lloyd Waner | Baseball Digest

Lloyd James Waner was born in Harrah, OK in 1906, just a few decades after the town was settled. He and his older brother Paul worked the family farm, attended school, and played baseball with whatever they could use as equipment. After graduating high school, the younger Waner attended East Central State University in nearby Ada, OK. But the lure of baseball was too strong, and Waner left school to play for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1925. It was the same franchise that would later produce the DiMaggio brothers.

Though he performed poorly with the Seals, he was league MVP the following season when he joined the Columbia (SC) Comers of the Southern League, and batted .345. That same season was Paul’s rookie season in the Major Leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates. With Paul’s backing, Lloyd tried out and made the 1927 Pirates. The rookie led the National League with 133 runs scored and hit a sizzling .355. Paul, meanwhile, won the NL MVP Award and the Pirates captured the pennant with one of the best teams of the decade.

There was just one problem; the Pirates had to go up against the vaunted Murderer’s Row lineup of the New York Yankees in the World Series. They never stood a chance. Though Lloyd hit .400, the Yankees swept the Pirates in four games in what would be the only World Series appearance for the Waner brothers, who by then were known by the monikers “Big Poison” (Paul) and “Little Poison” (Lloyd). Actually, neither was very big, standing 5’8″ or 5’9″ and weighing less than 160 pounds.

Al Abrams of the Pittsburgh Gazette talked to the speedy Waner in 1966 about his ability to leg out infield hits. Click here to read all about it!

Lloyd would hit better than .300 in 10 of his first 12 seasons in the bigs, but it was his first three seasons in the majors that really stood out. Over that stretch, he averaged 226 hits, 13 triples, 22 doubles,129 runs scored, and batted .347. The centerfielder also set career highs in several categories, including RBI, average, doubles, and triples. He played 14 seasons in Pittsburgh before being traded (at age 35) to the Boston Braves for second-year pitcher Nick Strincevich. In June he was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for another second year hurler, Johnny Hutchings.

Waner spent the ’42 season with the Dodgers before returning to Pittsburgh for the final two years of his career. It was a career that was likely extended by MLB’s desperation for players during World War II. After his playing days were over, Waner worked as a scout for the Pirates and Baltimore Orioles, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1967. Waner passed away in 1982 and was survived by his wife Frances and their two children.

Also Born Today

Stephen Drew (Hahira, GA, 1983): The Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop is beginning his sixth season in the Major Leagues after being the 15th player (Florida St.) selected in the 2004 amateur draft. Drew is a good glove and has been a consistent offensive performer, averaging 15 HR and 63 RBI per season, but the Diamondbacks had hoped his offensive would have been more developed by now.

Curtis Granderson (Blue Island, IL, 1981): The speedy centerfielder begins his second season in a New York Yankees uniform after six seasons as a Detroit Tiger. Granderson has averaged 23 HR and 69 RBI the last five seasons, and hit 30 home runs in 2009. Granderson has struggled with his average the last two seasons, but is hoping to turn things around with the work of Yankees’ hitting coach Kevin Long. In 2007, he became only the third player to top 20 doubles, triples, home runs, and stolen bases in one season.