Posted on: February 25, 2011 8:46 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:37 am
RESURRECTIONS: Carlos Beltran is making some progress on his rehab program, as he ran the bases Wednesday. "That's a huge sign, because he told me when he starts running the bases he'll be close to playing. So that was a big sign for me," manager Terry Collins said (ESPN New York ). The five-time All-Star hasn’t played a full season since 2008, but at age 33, it’s not out of the question to return to form for at least a year or two. He played last September, but was shut down the last week when his bothersome knee flared up.
Disclaimer alert: he hasn't pitched in a game since June 13, 2009, he's 38 years old and it's awfully early in camp. Still, Jason Isringhausen is impressing Mets brass thus far. Armed with a new changeup, Izzy has been good enough to draw the word "outstanding," from Collins. (New York Times )
Elsewhere, Brandon Webb is still on a long road back himself. He threw "60 to 65 pitches off flat ground" Thursday. He'll throw again Friday and if there are no setbacks, the Rangers will put him on the mound either Sunday or Monday (ESPN Dallas ). The right-hander, who finished in the top two of Cy Young voting three consecutive seasons before falling injured, hasn't thrown a pitch in the majors since April 6, 2009. Webb, 31, is a complete wild card this season for the defending AL champs.
And though it isn't near as long a road back as Webb, Jake Peavy of the White Sox is feeling very optimistic, though he's careful not to get too far ahead of himself. "I'm far ahead of where I thought I would be at this point," Peavy told MLB.com . "But I can't push it and I've got to be cautious." In fact, the White Sox’s potential ace might be on track to start April 6, if everything goes as well as it possibly could. The 29 year old went 7-6 with a 4.63 ERA in 17 starts in 2010, last pitching July 6. He underwent season-ending surgery to repair a detached muscle in his pitching arm.
ABDOMINAL ANNOYANCE: Franklin Gutierrez was forced to fly back to Seattle to visit with some doctors about an ongoing stomach issue Thursday. The center fielder has suffered severe stomach pains on occasion since late last season, to the point that he couldn't eat well and his play was affected. It could help explain some of his offensive woes, as Gutierrez went .212/.253/.304 in his last 75 games at the plate. He did tell reporters last week his issue was gone, but it has apparently resurfaced and he'll likely need to get on some sort of medication to alleviate the pains. (Seattle Times )
SLIM CC: After dropping 25 pounds this offseason, CC Sabathia says he can already tell the difference when it comes to his stamina. "In years past, I would get a little gassed in my bullpens once I got 30, 40 pitches in, but I felt pretty good," he told the New York Times . "I was able to keep my mechanics together and work on stuff that I need to work on." If this carries over the regular season, watch out. The big fella has averaged 240 innings a season since 2007, averaging just a tick above seven innings per start. And he has more stamina?
On a lighter note, he noted the toughest tests for him during the season are road trips to Kansas City (BBQ) and Chicago (deep-dish pizza). Amen, CC.
BREWER BARGAIN: As Ryan Braun watches peers cash in with what some consider ludicrous contracts, one might wonder if he feels like his eight-year, $45 million contract -- of which he has five years remaining -- is short-changing him. The reality is that with the numbers Braun puts up, factoring in his age (27) and durability (at least 151 games in each of his three full seasons), the contract is an absolute steal for Milwaukee. To Braun's credit, he's not griping. He's only thinking about the playoffs, he says. As for the money thing, he told MLB.com: "I get it, but it's a non-issue. I pay attention to what goes on around the game, obviously, but I'm happy for all of those guys. I agreed to a deal three years ago that goes five [more] years, and I'm excited and honored to be here." (MLB.com )
IRON MAN? The ever-polarizing A.J. Pierzynski wants to catch every game this season. Yes, all 162. There's no need to get into the realism of that one, what with his career high in games being 140, his offensive skills deteriorating and his age hitting 34. Plus, there's nothing wrong with wanting to play every game. More guys should want that. The juice in this article is the always-hilarious Ozzie Guillen, who once said he hates his catcher only a little less than the competition. This time around, he again said Pierzynski annoys him and that "sometimes I wish he wouldn’t even come to the ballpark." It should be noted, Guillen was laughing, thus, saying everything tongue-in-cheek. (MLB.com )
UNDER BYRD'S WING: It's always sad when veteran players have an ego too big to take a younger player under their wing. A football example comes to mind: you know, something with a guy wearing number four and a team that just won the Super Bowl. Anyway, I digress. We're talking about baseball. And Marlon Byrd of the Cubs has been working with top Cubs prospect Brett Jackson this spring. They're both center fielders, and Byrd's even embracing the inevitable for the sake of the franchise. "Last year, he really didn't know me," Byrd told MLB.com . "Now I say things and he understands that it's to help him. I even have to sit him down and say, 'I've got to help you to get ready because if you're going to move me to right field, you have to be ready. If not, I'm capable of playing at 34, 35 years old.' He got a kick out of that. He laughed."
RESTORING POWER IN THE BAY: ESPN’s SweetSpot blog takes a look at Jason Bay, specifically his power. Or, if we’re talking about 2010, a lack thereof. Four times in Bay’s career he went yard at least 30 times in a season. After signing a big contract with the Mets, he did so just six times in 401 plate appearances in 2010. There were health problems and an adjustment to a new, cavernous park, but the output was still horrifying, as Bay slugged just .402 (his career slugging percentage is .508). Bay said he believes 30 home runs this season is "reasonable," and points to David Wright -- whose home run total jumped from 10 to 29 in his second season with Citi Field as a home.
BOSTON RED STALKS: Remember how Carl Crawford was creeped out about the Red Sox virtually tailing him over the winter before inking him to a colossal contract? Johnny Damon, part of the group replacing Crawford in Tampa Bay and former Red Sox outfielder, isn't surprised. He even offered up an example of when it had happened in the past. "I know Boston had followed guys before like Mo Vaughn especially; they wanted to see what he was doing all the time. The Boston fans, they follow you around too to see what you’re doing, it seems like they’re everywhere. But when a team's investing $142 million they probably have a right to know every little bit of your history," he told the St. Petersburgh Times . Interesting. Damon wasn’t anywhere close to Boston when Vaughn departed via free agency, but he could very well be correct. And if he is, the Red Sox did their homework well. Check out Vaughn’s stats by year -- right when he departed Boston, his regression began.
-- Matt Snyder
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Posted on: February 20, 2011 11:17 am
Edited on: February 20, 2011 12:00 pm
OPEN MOUTH, INSERT FOOT: Over the last few days, the Mets (especially skipper Terry Collins) have made no secret of their displeasure that Luis Castillo had yet to show up to spring training yet despite position players not being required to report until Saturday. Collins said he would have hoped Castillo would have showed up early to show a commitment to the team and to winning the second-base job. The media jumped on the story, also excoriating Castillo. With a $6 million salary in the final year of a contract that has been a headache for New York, the former Marlin is a prime candidate to be released at the end of spring training along with Oliver Perez.
One problem: Castillo was dealing with a medical issue in the family, as his 50-year-old brother is set to have "serious" surgery Monday, and quite understandably was spending time with his brother and dealing with the issues, much like a smattering of other ballplayers were late to camp due to visa complications, medical issues, births in the family and the like.
"I know my situation here, and I try to be practice baseball," Castillo said to ESPN New York upon arrival after speaking to Collins. "That's not easy, because my brother is my family.
To be fair to Collins, Castillo made no mention of this issue in a mid-week phone conversation and one would think it smart to mention it. That said, this is egg on the face for the new-era Mets they simply did not need. (ESPN New York)
WELCOME TO TAMPA, HERE'S A BOBBLEHEAD: Need more proof that Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez are being looked at to take up the slack on the Rays? The team will hand out a ManRam bobblehead May 29 against the Indians. Damon's turn comes July 17 against Boston. (St. Petersburg Times)
HERE'S SOME TYLENOL: Concussions are taking center stage in the NFL, but baseball has its own problems. The good news? In recent years, baseball has been paying attention to the problem and concussion-related DL injuries are on the rise. Now, Jeff Zimmerman takes a look at what we know so far. The takeaway? Even 60 days after the concussion is drastically worse than the player's production leading up to the injury. (Fangraphs)
THE RED LIGHT COMES ON: Carl Crawford has a lot to live up to in his first season in Boston with a $142-million contract in hand. How will Crawford adjust to the increased pressure and media coverage? Just fine, it appears. (Boston Globe)
STAND ASIDE, Miguel Batista: There's a new author in town as R.A. Dickey plans to publish a book in the coming year that will display the "intertwining paths of his personal and professional lives, with stories and anecdotes from his childhood and through the approaching season." Dickey mentions he will be honest about certain affairs that may not please people, but will not throw anyone under the bus. Dickey is one of the more literate ballplayers in the game and is penning the book largely himself, so it will be interesting to see how the book turns out. (New York Times)
YOU CAN PUT IT ON THE BOOOOAAARRRD... YES!: Wily Mo Pena put on a power display, with second baseman Kelly Johnson saying Pena hit eight home runs for every nine swings. Pena's known for his power and BP is a great way to showcase it, but how about hitting a curveball instead? (Arizona Republic)
LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: As baseball readies for Opening Day, Andrew Simon takes a... unique look at what fans of each team have to look forward to. Hey, K.C. fans: "The additions of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur should help offset the loss of Yuniesky Betancourt." (ThePostGame.com)
Posted on: February 19, 2011 10:39 am
Braves fans may not want to visit Target Field this year just in case they manage to go on the day of Kent Hrbek-Ron Gant bobblehead night.
The Twins confirmed to the Star-Tribune that the bobblehead seen to the right will indeed be given away this year -- at a date to be released in March.
The play, of course, is from Game 2 of the 1991 World Series when the Twins first baseman -- well, either kept the tag on Gant as he came off the base or pulled Gant off the base, the exact wording depends on your allegiance -- leading to 3-2 Twins victory.
I grew up playing first base, so I always identified with Hrbek -- it's all within he rules if you can get away with it. And there's a ton of little things you could do at first base that aren't exactly within the rules. I actually got a job in high school because of my knowledge of playing outside the rules. I was playing first four our team and one of the umpires was keeping an eye on me and noticed what I was doing. After the game, he asked if I was interested in umpiring Little League games in the summer, since I obviously knew the rules enough to know I was breaking them.
I've been wanting to get to Target Field soon, and this may push me to it. Or, you know, at least send me to the electronic Bay.
If you don't remember the play, here it is recreated by Legos:
BELISLE SIGNS: The Rockies signed reliever Matt Belisle to a two-year deal worth $6.125 million plus bonuses, his agency, CAA, tweets .
How far did baseball change in the 90s? I always think about Matt Belisle when I think about the draft and bonuses. When I was on the Reds beat, I remember guys sitting around talking about draft bonuses, and Ken Griffey Jr. was joking that he, the No. 1 overall pick in 1987 received a signing bonus of $160,000.
What was funny, was nobody believed him. To all the younger players, it seemed impossible that the No. 1 overall pick -- and Ken Griffey Jr. no less -- got just a $160,000 signing bonus.
Somebody pointed out Belisle was a second-round pick and I don't remember if Belisle or someone else revealed the Braves gave him $1.75 million in 1998 -- and that had Griffey going for a while. And it had everyone else laughing.
NICE RIDE: One of the best parts of spring training is checking out the rides players bring into the park. Check out Mariners' non-roster pitcher Royce Ring's ride. Not too shabby. (Everett Herald )
HAPPY TEAMMATES: Jason Varitek said he's happy to have Carl Crawford as a teammate, since now he won't have to try to throw him out. (Boston Herald )
Yankees TALE: A good story from Freddy Garcia about throwing a split-finger fastball for the first time during a game. (NorthJersey.com )
HALTED: The 56-game hitting streak of Florida International's Garrett Wittels was stopped Friday in the team's season-opener against Southeastern Louisiana. Wittels, a junior shortstop, was held hitless in four at-bats. The Division I record is 58 games, set in 1987 by Robin Ventura. (MLB.com )
CONCUSSION INFO: FanGraphs.com's Jeff Zimmerman looks at the recent history of concussions in baseball and looks at players' performance before and after the concussions. The small sample of players performed worse after their concussion.
This makes sense, but the bigger problem is concussion are likely under-reported. This has become a huge issue in football, expect to hear more about it in baseball.
THE RESULTS ARE IN: Pablo Sandoval is down 38 pounds since the end of last season. (San Jose Mercury News )
BAD HAIR SEASON: Johnny Damon's new 'do is drawing attention in Tampa -- gotta give it the ol' thumbs down. (St. Petersburg Times )
TRIBUTE: Bill Bergen may be the worst hitter in baseball history. (FanGraphs.com )
WELCOME RETURN : Could the VW Microbus be coming back? I love it. (Road & Track )
TEARFUL GOODBYE?: A ruling in a California court could hurt the future of EA's NCAA series of video games. (CNBC.com )
FEELING OLD: The new bassist for the Smashing Pumpkins is one of the little girls from the Siamese Dream album cover. (Kottke.org )
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
Posted on: February 1, 2011 6:16 pm
Damon called signing with the Rays a "dream," but Maddon was more focused on what Ramirez can bring to the club. The mercurial outfielder has tons of questions surrounding him, chiefly his ability to hit. And everyone knows about his off-the-field issues, but Maddon didn't seem concerned about that.
"My hair is already white. If he could turn it brown, I would be appreciative," Maddon said, before turning serious.
"I had dinner with him last night, as you know he’s actually a very ingratiating fellow. … We had a good conversation, I explained to him about the Rays and how we do things here and he just continued to repeat the mantra that at 7 o’clock he’s going to play hard and compete. And he said that to me several times. So I think he’s at the point where he feels like he has something to prove. He’s lost some weight, he’s in great shape, he’s been working out with Evan Longoria and some other fellows. It was great to see them [Ramirez and Damon] together, it was a lot of fun."
That's all well and good, but as Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago have found out, keeping ManRam happy takes a lot. It was a great move for Tampa at just $2 million, but there's a lot of baseball to be played, and Ramirez is no longer the kind of player in which teams will swallow hard and deal with the bad. It's got to be all good.
Nobody is going to outwork Carl, I can promise you that. Whether it’s offense, hitting, base running, defense, he’s one of the few accomplished outfielders that I’ve known in the last few years that will work a full group during batting practice on a daily basis to get ready for a game. Knowing the Boston fans and how knowledgeable they are, they will appreciate -- if they show up early and watch Carl work -- that aspect … There’s nothing there to not like about Carl as a baseball player. He’s going to make some mental mistakes, but who doesn’t? I really believe the mistakes are going to be so infrequent that the fans are going to dig him regardless.
-- Evan Brunell
Posted on: January 22, 2011 12:01 am
Edited on: January 22, 2011 9:47 am
Could Vladimir Guerrero be close to joining the Orioles?
That's what former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden tweets . Bowden, now working for Sirius XM, says Guerrero is "getting close to accepting humbling deal w O's."
The Baltimore Sun 's Dan Connolly is all for it , writing the Orioles are now in a position to go get Guerrero for $5-$6 million, as the music has come close to stopping on the designate hitter version of musical chairs.
The Rays reportedly landed two DHs on Friday, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, while the Jays added offense in Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli.
The likely suitors appear to be down to the Angels, Rangers and Orioles. The Rangers didn't pick up his option, while the Angles didn't re-sign him after 2009.
Connolly notes the Orioles could move Luke Scott to left field, which would make Felix Pie the fourth outfielder and send Nolan Reimold to Triple-A, something the team could consider anyway.
UPDATE: That's why there was a question mark on the headline (I'm never quite sure what to do with reports from Leatherpants) -- the Orioles' Andy MacPhail denied the Bowden report in an e-mail to MASN.com's Steve Melewski . "Report is not accurate," MacPhail said in the e-mail. Of course, it could just be a differing of opinion on what constitutes "close" or it could be that the Orioles haven't talked to Guerrero.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
Posted on: January 21, 2011 8:26 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2011 10:28 pm
The Rays have shored up their designated hitter spot in a big way on Friday -- not only signing Johnny Damon as expected, but also Manny Ramirez, Sports Illustrated 's Jon Heyman tweets .
CBSSports.com senior writer Danny Knobler reported earlier the Rays were close to signing Damon, 37. Damon hit .271/.355/.401 for the Tigers in 2010, but managed just eight home runs.
Ramirez hit .298/.408/.460 with the Dodgers and White Sox last season with nine homers, appearing in just 90 games.
With Ramirez in the fold, Damon will likely have to man the outfield some for the Rays and can also serve as a babysitter for his former Red Sox teammate.
UPDATE: Damon will get $5.25 million from the Rays, plus $750,000 in attendance bonuses. Ramirez will earn $2 million, Heyman tweets .
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
Posted on: January 21, 2011 9:33 am
Edited on: January 21, 2011 12:17 pm
The Rays are nearing an agreement with Johnny Damon, confirms Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com.
While there is "some work to be done," it appears as if Damon will eventually sign a deal with Tampa Bay. He should help replace the leadership void left in the clubhouse and should act as the primary DH although the two-time World Series champion will also likely see some action out of left field.
Damon hit .271/.355/.401 for the Tigers in 2010 over 613 at-bats. While his home runs plummeted to eight from 24, he showed he still had enough in the tank to help a club, adding 36 doubles.
Another DH is also nearing a deal with Manny Ramirez set to find a new team by the beginning of next week, reports ESPN. The Angels, Rangers and Rays have been the most aggressive for Ramirez's services and the losing teams could turn to Vladimir Guerrero.
A source told ESPN that Ramirez is not concerned about money, but rather wants to get playing time and prove that last season's .298/.408/.460 line in 320 plate appearances is an aberration and he can do better.
-- Evan Brunell
Posted on: January 19, 2011 8:35 am
Edited on: January 19, 2011 8:36 am
Johnny Damon could still end up back in the American League East -- as the Blue Jays are reportedly eyeing Damon and Scott Podsednik, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reports .
The Jays signed the speedy Rajai Davis to a two-year, $5.75 million contract on Tuesday to avoid arbitration, but are still looking at other leadoff options.
Davis, who had 50 stolen bases in 62 attempts for the A's last season, had nearly as many stolen bases as the entire Toronto roster last season (58), but his subpar on-base percentage of .320 make him a less-than-ideal candidate to leadoff full-time. Toronto sent two minor-league pitchers to Oakland to acquire the 30-year old in Novemeber.
Damon and Podsednik are also attractive because the Jays are heavily right-handed, with only two left-handed-hitting players on the roster, Adam Lind and Travis Snider.
Damon had a .355 on-base percentage in 2010, but managed to steal only 11 bases last season and 12 in 2009. Podsednik stole 35 bases with the Royals and Dodgers last season and had a .342 OBP.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans