Monday, September 04, 2006
Knowing all too well that Red Sox pitcher John Lester's cancer advances further every day, doctors have already hastened the rookie's chemotherapy regimen. But no matter how quickly the treatment was begun, hopes that Lester will be back soon are wishful thinking at best. Though teammates are looking forward to seeing him next spring, the chances of him being ready to pitch by then are very remote. Suffering from one of the many varieties of non-Hodgekins lymphoma, Lester's chances for recovery are good, but not without great difficulty for many more months. Lester likely will not be ready to pitch in the majors until the end of 2007, very possibly 2008, if indeed he ever pitches again. Even with youth and athleticism on his side, his chemotherapy treatments will have the inevitable side effect of weakening his immune defenses, making him vulnerable to virtually hundreds of opportunistic maladies, from common infections and colds to pneumonia and other forms of cancer. Moreover, the treatments will cause Lester's stomach lining and intestinal walls to be weakened, making it difficult for him to injest nutrients, thus leading to prolonged loss of strength, muscle mass and body weight.
Journeyman reliever-starter Sun-Woo Kim will get the call to start in Cincinnati's hotly contested matchup with San Francisco on Wednesday while 20-year-old super prospect Homer Bailey remains in Chattanooga. Fans had flooded ticket outlets Sunday when the team refused to name a starter for the game, leading to wild rumors that the fireballing Bailey would be the surprise callup as the Reds battle neck-and-neck with the Giants for a wild card berth. Observers speculated that Bailey would be needed to halt a freefall in the standings following the Reds disasterous West Coast road trip in which eight of 10 games were lost. Though Bailey looks impressive with a sparkling minor league 1.63 ERA, and was personally visited in Chattanooga by Reds GM Wayne Krivsky last week, he has no experience beyond the AA level. Bailey was bombed Saturday when he came out of his most recent game with the bases loaded in the first inning. Facing just seven batters without getting an out, Bailey surrendered four runs in a 5-3 loss. Despite the battering, Chattanooga Lookouts manager Jayhawk Owens told Chattanooga Times Free Press writer David Paschall that Bailey would make his next regular minor league start Thursday. With the youngster rapidly approaching his innings limit for the season, Bailey likely will not be seen with the Reds before next spring.
Fate may have dealt a potentially serious blow to the Cincinnati Reds playoff prospects Monday when superstar outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. dislocated his right middle toe while chasing a fly ball off the bat of fellow future Hall-of-Famer Barry Bonds of the Giants. Griffey limped off the field as Cincinnati went on to lose the game 5-4 in 10 innings. Griffey could be back soon if doctors are able to brace the toe to prevent pain and further injury. But his prospects of effectively playing a position as difficult as center field are a little dicey, considering that he may be forced to run rather gingerly for the remainder of the regular season. In the worst case, Griffey could even find himself virtually benched until the playoffs, doing little more than pinch hitting if anything. Worse, if he tends to favor one leg over the other, new strains or injuries could result.
Though he is hitting in only the .280s with just 11 homers in a little more than 400 atbats, Padres second baseman Josh Barfield has been moved up from No. 8 to the No. 5 spot in the batting order. The rookie, who has batted everywhere in the lineup No. 3-4, seems a bit of an odd choice until one considers the shortage of other options. Despite flirting with first place for the National League Western Division for much of the season, the Padres offense remains fairly lackluster. San Diego is ranked 26 out of 30 teams offensively, with a mere .261 batting average.
It's hard to imagine the Indians seriously thinking of such a plan let alone sticking with it, but manager Eric Wedge is considering platooning rookie first baseman Ryan Garko with Victor Martinez at first base, while Martinez alternately platoons with Kelly Shoppach behind the plate. Both Garko and Martinez are handling their bats well, with occasional power plus averages exceeding .300. But Garko, a righty, is thought to be potentially tougher on lefty pitching while the switch-hitting Martinez hits righties best, or so goes the theory. Someone should point out to Wedge that, so far this season anyway, Garko has been hitting 100 points higher against righties.
Former Indians closer-of-the-week Fausto Carmona's arm is being conditioned by trainers at AAA Buffalo so that he can return to Cleveland, this time as a starter to replace fellow rookie Jeremy "A.J." Sowers in the rotation. With the Indians 18 games out of first, and with nothing to play for, manager Eric Wedge has decided that it's pointless to risk Sowers' health by pushing him too hard at his tender age of 23. Though Sowers has pitched only 76 innings for the Tribe, he already threw an additional 97 innings for the Bisons before being called up, putting him dangerously close to his career seasonal limit of approximately 175 innings. Sowers will continue to travel with the team, but he'll do little more than rest at game time. Meanwhile Wedge is eager to see whether Carmona, having failed as a closer, may be more suited to go long. Watch for Carmona to take Sowers' last two scheduled starts.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Not bad enough that his season average has sunk to the .230s, Colorado's Clint Barmes' freefall has become so serious that he has only a half dozen hits in his last 100 atbats. For now, the one-time Rockies shortstop of the future has been usurped by rising prospect Troy Tulowitzki, 21, whose recent hot streak for the AA Tulsa Drillers enabled him to reach 13 homers while flirting with a .300 batting average in little more than 400 atbats before being called up. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle had tried almost everything to break Barmes out of his slump -- dropping him in the lineup, extra time off, more work in the batting cage, moving him to second -- all to no avail. Barmes must now pull himself together during winter ball and play himself back onto the team next spring or face demotion to Colorado Springs in '07. Tulowitzki has been compared to a young Bobby Crosby, only he's ahead of where Crosby was when Crosby was Tulowitzki's age. Tulowitzki's power should enable him to approach the 30-homer plateau once he fills out as a big leaguer.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Even with super prospect Alex Gordon being named Texas League Player of the Year, what do the the Royals have to say to him? "Don't call us, we'll call you." Despite the fact that Gordon, 22, the No. 1 2005 pick, is hitting .323 with 28 home runs and 93 RBI in a little more than 400 atbats for AA Wichita, he will be passed over for a September callup. The Royals have Mark Teahen playing well at third, Gordon's main position, so there's no room for him there. But they won't try him at first base, DH or pinch hitter either. This despite Gordon leading the league with a .587 slugging percentage and hitting 18 homers and 16 doubles in his last 53 games. Gordon was the subject of wide speculation that he would be called up when Teahen was struggling earlier in the year, but it appears that despite all the big talk about improving the team this year, management's main concern is to block Gordon from advancing his service clock, thus postponing his rendezvous with his contract arbitration date.
Last year the Twins were too smart to sign broken down old Frank Thomas to play designated hitter, even though he was available for a mere $650,000. Now as Thomas is poised to break the 30-homer threshold for Oakland, Minnesota has had nothing from the DH position all year, not from Tony Batista, not from Ruben Sierra, not from Rondell White. Now the Twins have acquired 37-year-old Rangers castoff Phil Nevin from Chicago in exchange for a bag of balls, two passes to A Prairie Home Companion and a half dozen Vienna hots, and they still have nothing at DH.