Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gary Sheffield Ponders Playing for Rays or Marlins

Tigers slugger Gary Sheffield -- hitting just .224 with 13 homers in the worst year of his career -- says he would consider playing for the Marlins or Rays instead of the Tigers because it would bring him closer to home.

"My thing is that you get tired of being away from home as much," the lifelong Tampa resident told The Detroit News in a recent question-answer session. "Being away for eight months is tough. At the end of the day, nobody knows if Tampa's going to win this year or win next year. But every player wants to play at home."

Sheffield -- who has clashed with close personal friend and manager Jim Leyland over being relegated to a designated hitter role instead of right field -- has been put on waivers but has found no takers with two more years left on his $14 million annual contract. Even if another team wants him, he is unsure he wants to play two more years, though he will come back for 2009, he said.

"...If I do play, if it ain't here, it could possibly be there (in Florida) -- or somewhere else," Sheffield said. "Who knows? I'm not ruling anything out. And I might not even want to play (two years from now). I might just want to stay home, because I have a lot of things going on outside of baseball that I have to pay attention to."

Sheffield has battled shoulder trouble all season, and has been held to just 340 at-bats. He predicted he would hit the seven home runs he needs to reach the 500-plateau this month. He will observe his 40th birthday in November.

Kevin Gregg Blamed in Marlins Playoff Elimination

Marlins relievers Joe Nelson and Matt Lindstrom look to pick up most of the save opportunities with closer Kevin Gregg benched with leg trouble -- but their efforts at this point are all but academic.

Gregg, 30, had kept quiet about a painful knee injury that prevented him from pitching effectively over the past two weeks, and now must take the blame for costing his team a playoff berth by blowing four critical saves in a row.

The Marlins have fallen seven games back, with little or no chance to catch the Mets or Phillies.

Gregg's most conspicuous failure came last week when he surrendered a game-winning grand slam to Carlos Beltran of the Mets. Altogether, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound righty had given up 12 runs in his last seven innings for a total of four losses in four outings, bringing his total to nine blown saves on the year.

Fans were furious with manager Fredi Gonzalez for continuing to hand Gregg the ball when he obviously was no longer effective. But how could Gonzalez have been expected not to pitch Gregg if Gregg refused to level with him?

"....Don't you think it would have been nice for Gregg to tell Gonzalez the knee was a trouble spot before taking the mound?" asked Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero. "Gonzalez sent Gregg out to the mound seven times since Aug. 15, usually with the game hanging in the balance, without having complete information about his pitcher's health.

"It's one thing if Gregg had said something...Then Gonzalez could have made a decision...knowing all the facts. But Gregg put Gonzalez in a difficult spot by saying -- well, nothing."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Victor Martinez Questionable on Return to Indians

As anticipated, injured Indians catcher Victor Martinez returned to Cleveland from Buffalo in time for the weekend series with the Mariners, having gone 6-20 for a batting average of .300 during his brief minor league rehabilitation. But his durability remains a question.

The 30-year-old cleanup hitter must be considered less than whole if for no other reason than his rustiness following a near two-month layoff for elbow surgery. He also will need an unspecified amount of rest, depending on how he feels.

Martinez now has been slated to share at-bats with backup catcher Kelly Shoppach, as Shoppach's play offensively and defensively has earned him a significant if not a majority of playing time behind the plate. Shoppach largely has been hitting between .260 and .270 with 17 homers.

Martinez -- who played first base and singled and walked before being lifted for a pinch runner in his first game back -- will see time as designated hitter, catcher and first baseman.

Martinez went down on June 11, undergoing surgery two days later to remove bone chips from his right elbow. It later developed that Martinez had been fighting mounting soreness in the elbow for some two years until it became unbearable.

With Martinez displaying little or no power when the season opened, the Indians blamed his struggles on a pulled hamstring. While possibly true, the claim certainly was an effective and convenient cover for the fact that Martinez was having trouble not only at the plate but with his throwing arm, a disclosure that would have led to an open season on stealing.

The hamstring story was suspicious because catchers' hamstrings are stretched more than any other professional athlete and rarely rupture or fray.

Though Martinez hit .300 with 25 homers in 2007, he had been a shadow of his former self as he struggled with elbow pain, having failed to hit a single homer in nearly 100 at-bats before going on the disabled list.

Billy Wagner May Not Finish Year Unless Needed

With only a month left to play it hardly seems likely that the Mets will fall from playoff contention -- like last year -- but if so, closer Billy Wagner's health appears so questionable that he likely won't make another appearance without a playoff berth at stake.

The hard-throwing lefty has been approaching the breaking point of his smallish, 5-foot-10, 37-year-old frame, with the only wonder that his excessively violent throwing motion has not caused him to reach this point sooner.

While the Mets watch as deadlines have lapsed for his anticipated return, Wagner is playing catch in addition to other rehabilitation exercises to reduce discomfort and swelling in the elbow of his throwing arm. The objective is to build up healthy tissue to, in effect, replace strength lost because of permanently ruptured or frayed strands of tendon.

Anti-inflammatory medicines help reduce discomfort and swelling, which have been tenacious.

Wagner -- with another year remaining on his $43 million contract -- remains invaluable to the Mets' divisional race. He was among the league leaders with 27 saves when he went down, though he has blown seven.

Expect him to make every effort to return by the end of September as long as there's a point to it.

Brandon Morrow to be Added to Mariners Rotation

The Mariners will add 24-year-old righty Brandon Morrow and his 100-mph fastball to the five-man rotation Monday, with his first start anticipated by Friday or Saturday when he looks to replace one of the team's struggling starters.

Morrow -- being converted from a relief role -- will appear in his sixth game for the Triple A Tacoma Raniers on Sunday before being promoted to watch Carlos Silva pitch in what may be among the last of Silva's appearances as a starter this year.

Silva is finally healthy after coming off the disabled list.

As part of a conditioning program to enable him to pitch deeper into games, Morrow has been stretched out to some 70 pitches in previous Pacific Coast League appearances, and has been given a minimum target of 80 pitches for his final minor league tuneup, the team told MLBnewsonline.

So far, Morrow has been hammered at Tacoma, where he has failed to reach the fifth inning in five appearances while sporting a 6.75 ERA with two losses. His strikeouts have been consistent, however, and the team prefers to believe that his 1.47 ERA in 36 innings of relief with the Mariners more accurately reflects his ability.

Morrow pitches fluidly in the high '90s, his fastball occasionally touching triple digits. His fastball is deadly when matched to a changeup clocked in the low '80s, and has enabled the team to project him to eventually become half of a deadly one-two power punch when paired with fireballing ace Felix Hernandez.

The decision to promote Morrow effectively locks him into the expanded, 40-man roster, along with fellow Raniers teammates Jorge Sosa and Ryan Feierabend. Feierabend has already made the rotation.

Silva -- a Twins castoff -- had been signed with an anticipation that he could offer the team complete games, eating up 200 innings for the season. With an ERA topping 6.00, however, Silva frequently has seen an early hook and will be fortunate to tally even 150 innings for the season, a major disappointment.

Silva -- a sinker baller who has been brilliant when able to hit his spots -- likely will be given a few more shots to prove he is worthy of his rotation slot for the remainder of the season, with starters Miguel Batista and R.A. Dickey also potential candidates for demotion to the bullpen to make room for the debut of youngsters, depending on whether lefty Jerrod Washburn is traded.

Silva gave up nine earned runs in fewer than four innings in his last outing, then complained of right triceps tendinitis.

Giants IF Pablo Sandoval's Future a Weighty Issue

There was a time just a couple of years back that spray-hitting Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval looked a little like the Venezuelan reincarnation of Wade Boggs, a slow, 5-foot-11, spray-hitting, natural lefty of average gerth who can hit to all fields with gap power, but with limited defensive range and good hands and who throws right.

But that was more than 50 pounds ago.

In fact, over the past five years the 22-year-old South American has ballooned from 175 pounds to nearly 250, making him a formidable catcher -- his former and present secondary position -- but a defensively limited third baseman, shortstop and first baseman, all of which he can play in addition to backstop.

And also unlike Wade Boggs, Sandoval is ambidextrous and not only can switch-hit but can also throw left-handed if he chooses, giving him a distinct advantage making pickoff attempts from the plate to first base, depending on whether he wears a left-handed or right-handed glove.

Just exactly where he will fit in on the diamond remains to be seen. But in the meantime, the Giants will take full advantage of his bat, which during his limited introduction is producing at a .372 clip with a .535 slugging percentage, even though a number of his hits might have gone for doubles if only he could waddle around the basepaths a little faster.

Whether Sandoval remains at third base depends partly on whether he can bring his weight under control, and whether he can find a power stroke. Though power has never been a part of his game, he managed one homer in every 22 of his 175-bats at Double A Connecticut this season.

It's not difficult to project Wade Boggs type numbers for him over the remainder of his career, but unfortunately he will top 300 pounds by his 30th birthday if something isn't done soon.

Joe Torre Has Confidence in Angel Berroa

In his quest to put together a lineup that can score more than two runs, Dodgers manager Joe Torre moved The Offense up one spot in the lineup Thursday, batting him third.  This of course presented a problem because only two batters preceded Manny after the pitcher's spot.  

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa solved this problem when he moved Albert Pujols to the three spot by batting the pitcher eighth, increasing the likelihood that runners would be on base for Pujols.  But Torre did not employ that strategy last night, and his reasoning was surprisingly sound:  "I'm not sure if [Danny] Ardoin or Berroa are going to add to the probability of getting people on base."

There's nothing like giving your seven and eight hitters a boost of confidence by publicly announcing that they aren't good enough to bat last.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Red Sox Close to Adding Kotsay

After receiving the news that All-Star J.D. Drew is headed to the DL, the Red Sox moved quickly and are close to adding Braves centerfielder Mark Kotsay.  The veteran, known as much for his defensive prowess as his oft-injured back, is batting .289 this season, coincidentally the same clip at which Drew was hitting prior to his injury.  While Kotsay may be able to duplicate Drew's average, his power numbers fall well short of Drew's level of production.  Compared to 19 home runs and 64 RBIs for Drew, Kotsay has contributed only 6 and 37 respectively.  Kotsay has a limited no-trade clause and Boston is making a concerted effort to convince him to waive it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Joe Torre Needs to Stop Pinch-Hitting sub-.150 Hitters With the Game on the Line

"Batting:  Mark Sweeney
Batting Average: .132" -

Oddly, Sweeney singled (to, raising his average to an impressive (by Andruw Jones standards) .143.

Andruw Jones is a Huge Mess

Andruw Jones is trying to figure out how to get his .161 batting average back in the lineup. Nobody, apparently even Jones, expects him to take a single at-bat away from Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, or even fourth outfielder Juan Pierre.  

So Jones has been trying out first base at AAA Las Vegas.  This makes sense, because of course he will supplant James Loney, one of the Dodgers hottest hitters, when  he returns from the DL.

The Dodgers apparently are also eager to get Jones' .161 batting average back in the lineup because they agreed to this absurd experiment.  It would make a lot more sense to find at bats for Pierre, by making him the only left handed hitting shortstop at any level above Little League.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nolan Ryan Seen Favoring Old Four-Man Rotation

Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, now in his latest manifestation as president of the Rangers, is bringing an "old school" approach to the game not only by asking minor league prospects to pitch longer, but speculatively to prepare themselves for a return to the historical four-man rotation rather than five-man rotation.

Ryan -- who once threw some 240 pitches in a single game -- has sent word to minor league camps that he wants each prospect to increase their personal pitch count targets to last at least one more inning per outing, thus projecting them into the seventh and eighth innings of games, according to recent comments by acquaintance, broadcaster and former Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy.

The move has prompted unconfirmed speculation in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex that Ryan is eyeing a return to the familiar four-man rotation used during much of the 61-year-old strikeout king's career. Kennedy believes the switch to the five-year rotation and other more modern innovations are the result of "copy cat" strategists.

Rays Fans Taking Notice of Team's Advances

The Rays are beginning to see some benefits of playing to win rather than worrying so much about profits, player options and arbitration deadlines that have limited front office decisions in previous seasons.

With the team continuing to hold its tenacious lead in the American League eastern division, attendance has climbed 33 percent and merchandise sales are up 75 percent, according to The St. Petersburg Times.

Rocco Baldelli Returns to Rays But Still Impaired

Rays outfielder-designated hitter Rocco Baldelli -- returning from the 60-day disabled list after suffering from a rare muscle disorder -- has started out at a fast clip in limited play, but still has a way to go before reaching 100 percent.

Though Baldelli recently hit his first home run and is batting .300 in his first 20 at-bats, he continues to feel fatigued, so much so that he holds himself out of practice to save energy for game action, he told The St. Petersburg Times.

"Playing two games in three days, playing in the field, was a little rough on my body," Baldelli said. "...It was difficult. I'm not going to say it was easy."

Baldelli has played the field but is being limited largely to pinch hitting and starting as designated hitter against lefties. He continues to feel tired not only because of his extended layoff, but because of medication he is taking to hold off the manifestations of his rare muscle affliction.

Baldelli went on the disabled list March 28 with a mitochondrial disorder that affects the chemical composition of the blood stream, thus slowing muscle recovery after activity.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yankees OF Shelley Duncan Finding Stroke

Yankees outfielder Shelley Duncan struggling at Triple A Scranton, Wilkes Barre where he has been rehabbing a separated shoulder -- may have suddenly found his stroke in time for the September 1 roster expansion.

In a weekend outing at Allentown, Duncan was five four nine with two homers, two doubles, and seven RBI.

Though the Yankees’ chances for a playoff berth appear all but dead, the team has yet to officially run up the white flag and Duncan will be a handy playing piece should the team become hot and re-enter the race.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dodgers Set to Acquire Greg Maddux

The Dodgers have reached a tentative deal to acquire Greg Maddux from the Padres for two players to be named later.  Maddux will replace the oft-injured and perpetually out of shape Brad Penny in the Dodgers rotation.

Vin Scully: Craig Counsell is the "Pride of Notre Dame"


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Manny Ramirez is Superior to Andruw Jones

The excellent Manny Ramirez has been the Dodgers left fielder for only 16 games, but has already surpassed the aggressively incompetent Andruw Jones' offensive production for the entire year:

Jones:  3 HR and 14 RBI in 205 at-bats (74 strikeouts)
Ramirez: 6 HR and 20 RBI in 56 at-bats (11 strikeouts)

The Dodgers will pay Jones $9 million in salary this season and already paid him $5.1 million of his signing bonus before the season.  In contrast, Manny Ramirez is costing the Dodgers $0.

Nolan Ryan Puts Young Rangers Pitchers on Trial

Expect Rangers president Nolan Ryan -- who speculatively is believed to be seeking an established pitcher or two in the off season -- to use the remaining weeks of the season to evaluate which if any of the young members of his rotation are capable of remaining with the club.

The most recent results of such evaluations occurred with the demotion of righty Luis Mendoza, who likely will join Scott Feldman, Matt Harrison and Tommy Hunter as candidates for the remaining No. 4 or No. 5 rotation spots next spring. All under 24, they have been prematurely pressed into action to fill voids left by injuries or performance failures, most notably that of No. 1 starter Kevin Millwood.

B.J. Upton to Return to Rays After Being Benched

Rays outfielder B.J. Upton -- benched by manager Joe Maddon in the sixth inning of Friday's game for failing to hustle -- will return to the lineup today, Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times.

It was the second time Upton has been disciplined in as many weeks, most recently failing to play crisply in an attempt to turn a double play, and having dogged it running out a grounder on Aug. 6.

Upton -- who will observe his 24th birthday on Wednesday -- is hitting a mediocre .264, but his more than .370 on-base percentage has enabled him to steal 36 bags.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Marlins Recall Paul Lo Duca from Albuquerque

The arrival of veteran catcher Paul Lo Duca from the Triple A Isotopes gives the Marlins a veteran presence behind the plate as the team approaches the home stretch in the playoff race.

Though the 37-year-old one-time Dodgers star had been released by the Nationals July 31 after hitting only .230 in 46 games, he had knocked out 11 hits 26 at- bats against Pacific Coast League pitching since agreeing to a minor league contract with Albuquerque. Lo Duca will complement Marlins starter Matt Treanor, who recently returned from the disabled list.

Lo Duca is best remembered for his career year with the 2001 Dodgers, when he hit .320 with 25 homers, benchmarks he has never approached since. With his defensive skills also in decline, his reputation in the twilight of his career has been somewhat mixed.

Tom Glavine's Injury Leaves Hole in Braves Rotation

The outlook for the Braves rotation remains muddled with Tom Glavine's latest collapse, an outing which saw him give up four walks, seven hits and seven runs in just four innings in last week's loss to the Cubs.

Struggling with elbow pain, the 42-year-old lefty was unable to achieve much more than 80-mph on his fastball, and he immediately returned to the disabled list to await a probable examination of his torn flexor tendon by famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

It could mean the end of his career.

"It's a little sore now," Glavine told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "(I'll) see how it feels tomorrow and the next day. It feels the same as it felt in my two rehab starts."

For the season, Glavine is 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA, and with this latest trouble is the third member of the big three in the Braves rotation to go down succession, John Smoltz and Tim Hudson having been disabled with season-ending surgery. Moreover, Mike Hampton remains a question mark, having surrendered five hits and six runs in four innings in his last outing against the Diamondbacks.

The Braves have called up Matt DeSalvo from Triple A Richmond to replace Glavine, but as a reliever he is no solution in the team's effort to fill out the rotation.

Paul Lo Duca, Dallas McPherson Wandering Desert

There's nothing better to awaken a hitter like wandering in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, if former major leaguers Paul Lo Duca and Dallas McPherson are any indication.

No sooner than being cut by the Nationals for lack of productivity, the one-time Dodgers star catcher arrived at Triple A Albuquerque with a flourish, knocking out 11 hits in his first 26 at-bats for a .423 average. If Lo Duca keeps it up, he should gain some attention from Marlins front office executives, who are carrying him as a deep reserve during the ongoing pennant race.

But not necessarily.

The Marlins have been content to let McPherson -- the former Angels third baseman of the future -- waste away in the minors all season; this despite his 40 homers, three triples, 17 doubles, 70 walks and 91 RBI in just 399 at-bats.

Run production in the Pacific Coast League must be somewhat discounted, as the desert air tends to inflate offensive numbers. Moreover, McPherson also has been held back because he is playing behind Jorge Cantu, who is in the midst of a career year playing third base with the parent club.

Playing in Albuquerque, McPherson labors under the terms of a minor league contract, a distinct discount from what he would be paid if called to the majors. The team, however, reportedly has denied that money is a consideration, despite the fact that McPherson might have come in handy from time to time throughout the year, most notably when a designated hitter was needed during interleague play.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lastings Milledge Enflamed Facing Ex-Teammates

Former Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge -- now playing with the lowly Nationals after being kicked out of town for political incorrectness -- returns to New York in the midst of a 14-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .375.

Though his average for the season sits at .258, Milledge is hitting at a .306 clip since coming off the disabled list, with five homers and three triples in 75 at-bats.

For those needing a refresher course, the Mess traded Milledge for off-and-on injured outfielder Ryan Church, part-time catcher Brian Schneider, a Marv Thornberry rookie card and a half dozen slightly used Chesapeake Bay crab pots after Milledge appeared in a rap song by childhood friend Manny D in which the words "ho" and "niggah" were uttered.

That he was merely 21 when the song was recorded perhaps gives him a slight excuse for the offensive language, but no one shall ever forgive him for the unspeakable crime against nature of high-fiving fans along the third baseline rail after hitting a homer.

John Rocker could not be reached for comment.

Brad Penny Still a Huge Mess, Disgrace

Bradley Penny's line so far tonight against the Phillies:
1st inning:  4 runs
2nd inning: 2 runs

season ERA:  6.10

body shape: mango

Rangers' Jarrod Saltalamacchia in Red Sox Future?

With veteran catcher Jason Veritek expected to look for a three- or four-year deal on the open market in the offseason, the Red Sox may need to replace him by building a bridge to prospects Mark Wagner or Luis Esposito -- who will not be major league ready for two or three more years.

Therefore, the team must find a place holder such as Jerrod Saltalamacchia of the Rangers or Mike Napoli of the Angels, according to Peter Gammons commenting during a Boston Globe question-and-answer session.

Either would be a bit of a comedown.

"Remember, the average production from the catching position per team as of this morning was a .251 ave. with 10 homers and 52 RBI. The 2005 Jason Varitek is not going to be out there," Gammons said.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dodgers Activate Nomar for a Few Days

The Dodgers activated shortstop Nomar Garciaparra from the DL before tonight's game against the Phillies.  In his first inning back, he robbed Jimmy Rollins of a hit deep in the hole and surprisingly did not re-injure himself.

It would be unreasonable to expect Nomar to stay healthy for more than a few games, so the club placed Andruw Jones on the DL with a fake injury, retaining Angel Berroa and Pablo Ozuna as Nomar-insurance.

Aubry Huff, Randy Winn Reportedly Clear Waivers

Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff and Giants outfielder Randy Winn have cleared waivers, making them available to any team desiring them, according to various, unconfirmed broadcast and new media reports.

Ironically both Huff and Winn have historically been strong second half performers. Where Winn might go is anyone's guess, but with the Rays needing a stopgap replacement for injured rookie third baseman Evan Longoria, would the team once again open the door for Huff's return to Tampa?

Brian Cashman Lets Paul Byrd Pass to Red Sox

Say what you will about the speculative firing of Mets General Manager Omar Minaya, the next baseball executive to walk the plank in New York may be Brian Cashman of the Mets crosstown rivals.

That gleam reflecting off the forward deck of that sinking Yankee clipper ship on the East River Waterfront is coming from the hardened steel sabre of Yankees Co-Chairman Hank Steinbrenner, who watched as Cashman failed to claim Indians hurler Paul Byrd off the waiver wire, thus allowing Byrd to fall to Boston.

How convenient for the Red Sox, whose precarious five-game wild-card lead over the Yankees had just been been seriously jeopardized by the loss of starter Tim Wakefield to his all-too-familiar shoulder problems.

What can Cashman be thinking?

All the Red Sox had to pay was a bag of balls, six cans of chowder and a David Clyde rookie card for Byrd, a playoff experienced, veteran starter with a 1.46 ERA and 4-0 record since the All-Star break. Though 37, Byrd already all season had been a perfectly serviceable option, but suddenly is even more valuable since discovering he can stop surrendering homers by not tipping his pitches.

This is Cashman's second dubious decision, since he, Gene Michael and Stump Merrill were believed to have ganged up on Steinbrenner to talk him out of signing free agent home run king Barry Bonds.

Cashman opted instead to trade for Xavier Nady of the Pirates. There's nothing particularly , wrong with Nady -- and Bonds comes with his share of baggage -- but Cashman had to give up prospect Jeff Karstens to acquire Nady, and all Karstens has done since leaving the Yankees is pitch 15 scoreless innings, including a two-hit complete game.

Bonds would have cost Cashman nothing more than a major league, season pro-rated minimum of $150,000, yet would have been an unmistakable force in the middle of the lineup, providing a desperately needed spark in the Yankees flat, demoralized lineup.

Hopefully Cashman has an explanation that will become evident in the next few days. It had better be good.

Red Sox Land Indians' Byrd

The Red Sox have acquired pitcher Paul Byrd from the Indian.  After placing Tim Wakefield on the 15-day DL, AL wild-card leading Boston felt an increased urgency to add depth to its pitching staff.  It's basically a no-risk move by Boston as all they gave up was cash or a player to be named later.  Byrd got off to a horrendous start this season, but has won all four of his starts since the All-Star break.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Reds Finally Find Taker for Adam Dunn, Manny > Dunn

In a move reeking of desperation, the Diamondbacks today pulled a Ned Colletti by acquiring a sub-.240 hitter.  Having missed out on Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, and every other big bat available in July, the D'Backs had to settle for Adam Dunn and his .233 batting average.  Yes, Dunn has 32 home runs but there's a reason the Reds have been desperately trying to dump this guy for three years - he already has 120 strikeouts and is a perrenial 200 strikeout threat.  He strikes out almost a third of the time.  That's a feat normally not achieved by anyone other than pitchers. 

More amusing is that the Reds convinced the Diamondbacks to pay $2 million of the $4 million remaining on Dunn's salary.  The response to that argument is that if the Diamondbacks don't resign Dunn, they'll be rewarded with 2 draft picks.  But to receive the draft picks, they must offer him arbitration, which he could accept, potentially costing the club close to $15 million in 2009.

This is a great move for the Reds, who save themselves $2 million and get a pitcher with a lot of potential in Dallas Buck (although he had Tommy John surgery after college). Buck was drafted in the third round of the 2006 draft, after leading Oregon State to a national championship, and is currently pitching in high-A ball.  Arizona also gets two players to be named later, one of which is supposedly an "MLB ready starter."

UPDATE:  the "MLB ready starter" is Micah Owings, according to several industry sources, however he won't be "named" until after the season because he was claimed by several other teams.

Angels Sweep Hapless Yankees

The Angels continued their dominance of the American League this weekend by sweeping the hapless Yankees and improving their MLB best record to 74-43.  The sweep dealt a severe blow to the Yankees playoff hopes, who now sit 8.5 games behind the AL East leading Rays.

Although the Yankees trail the Red Sox by only 4 games in the wild card race, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which that lead does not expand.  The team has been stifled by injuries all the way around, particularly the starting rotation.  Beyond Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, injuries to Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes, and Joba Chamberlain have forced the club to rely on guys like Sidney Ponson and Dan Giese (spelling?) to get them to a bullpen that has been struggling lately.  That is not going to cut it.

Rangers' Nolan Ryan Targets CC Sabathia, Sheets

Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan -- now playing the part of the floundering president of the woeful Texas Rangers -- is expected to tap team owner Tom Hicks' bank account for $100 million or so to acquire some real pitching next year -- with Brewers free agents CC Sabathia or Ben Sheets among his goals.

That's what gumshoe Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe has learned while awaiting for the Red Sox to face the Rangers this week, while unrelated reports have described the all-time strikeout king as being insufferably frustrated with his team's league worst 5.27 ERA.

If Sabathia and Sheets cannot be had, Ryan likely will trade with the Blue Jays for A.J. Burnett.

"It's a shame the Rangers have given away Justin Duchscherer, Chris Young, Armando Galarraga, and John Danks in various trades or they'd have a pretty good staff," Cafardo said.

It's also a shame that the Rangers play in perhaps the worst hitters' park in the league, with few marque pitchers likely to seriously consider playing there.

OF Nelson Cruz Poised for Promotion to Rangers

Look for the Rangers to promote outfielder Nelson Cruz -- who has been hammering minor league pitching at Triple A Oklahoma City -- if Brandon Boggs misses significant time due to problems with his throwing motion.

Cruz -- who failed to impress during earlier big-league opportunities -- has finally begun to figure out Pacific League pitching with a .344 average, 37 homers and 98 RBI in 366 at-bats with the RedHawks, swamping the productivity of such teammates as veteran Kevin Mench and former No. 19 overall pick John Mayberry Jr.

Boggs may be forced to the disabled list if pain in his shoulder continues to persist, hampering his ability to reach home plate, third base and cutoff men on throws from the outfield. A decision likely will come within days.

Boggs has been undergoing rehabilitative drills as the team prepares to face the Red Sox in a three-game tilt this week.

Reds Trade Adam Dunn for ... Who?

The Cincinnati Reds on Monday traded Adam Dunn to the Arizona Diamondbacks for, the AP report says, "a minor-league pitcher" and two players to be named later.

The minor-league pitcher, named now, is Dallas Buck. Dallas Buck? Who is this guy, a holdover from 1970s porn? Dallas Buck? Does he have a bushy mustache and a chestfull of thick black hair?

Who is Dallas Buck? He's a Single-A pitcher who underwent Tommy John surgery last year. Oh, now I get it. Maybe the Reds just wanted to acquire the guy who's in the lead to star in the movie version of Magnum, P.I..

Dallas Buck. Kinda makes you wonder what the names are of the "two players to be named." If it was up to me they'd be named Dirk Stone and Ridge Thacker.

Reds fans just better hope they aren't name Moe and Larry.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Giants Give Fred Lewis a Chance to Show His Stuff

Late bloomer Fred Lewis -- who surprisingly has played himself into a full-time outfield gig at the expense of veteran Dave Roberts -- is being given a shot at batting in the 3-hole for the Triple A San Francisco Giants.

With veterans Aaron Rowand and Bengie Molina hitting behind him, Lewis theoretically will see a more predictable variety of pitches, especially a lot of fastballs in the zone. The idea is that this will help Lewis cut down his strikeouts, and realize his five-tool potential with 20-30 homers, 40-50 bags and an average in the .300 range.

Opportunity Knocks for Diamondbacks' Chris Burke

When one door closes, another opens -- so the old axiom goes -- and the door may be open just a crack for Diamondbacks second baseman Chris Burke.

The unfortunate sidelining of starter Orlando Hudson -- likely to miss much or all of the rest of the season after sustaining a wrist injury in a collision with Braves baserunner Brian McCann -- comes at an ideal time for Burke, as Burke is in the midst of a rare hot streak.

Once upon a time the fair-haired second baseman of the future for the Astros -- Burke has squandered most of his chances until now, barely keeping ahead of the "bust" label. But as it happens, the young is speedster hitting at a better than .300 clip in limited action over his last 10 games and maybe -- just maybe -- is finally beginning to figure things out.

See whether manager Bob Melvin has the daring to help Burke build on something while he has a chance, or succumbs to the seduction of reserve Augie Ojeda's leather, despite Ojeda's more limited upside.

Ironically, Hudson's injury came just as the team's decision makers determined that the team had enough depth to trade top middle infield prospect Emilio Bonifacio to the Nationals. Of course, who could blame them? Having missed most of the end of last season, Hudson wouldn't miss the end of the season for the second year in a row, now would he?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Marlins 2B Dan Uggla Struggling with Ankle

Marlins All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla is a shadow of his former self since his torrid pace in May when he knocked in 12 home runs and hit .347.

Attempting to play with the pain of a sprained left ankle sustained in a base running mishap, Uggla's average for the season has fallen to .261 largely due to a production drought that saw him go 4-36 from June 28 to July 24. Though his discomfort has been severe enough that at one point he even sat out for 11 games, he has refused to go on the disabled list.

While presenting himself as game-ready his abilities remain severely impaired as evidenced over the past 30 days, a period in which he has hit just .107 with 3 homers.

At this rate he may as well sit out anyway. It's puzzling why the Mariners--in the midst in a playoff fight--don't move Jorge Cantu to second base and bring up Dallas McPherson from Triple A Albuquerque to place third base at least until Uggla once again can return to being a potent force.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Mariners' Brandon Morrow Plays Musical Chairs

Minor leaguers Jake Woods and Ryan Rowland-Smith stand to be the primary beneficiaries as the Mariners prepare to trade starter Jerrod Washburn and convert former top closer prospect Brandon Morrow into a starter.

At the same time, former starter Miguel Batista has been demoted to the bullpen, leaving a total of three holes in the Mariners rotation with the loss of injured ace Erik Bedard. Look for Wood or Rowland-Smith to claim at least one of the spots, though Woods seems to be holding down a bullpen position for now.

The spate of personnel moves appear to set the stage for the trade of Washburn to the Yankees, or perhaps to another suitor as other teams may try to claim him.

Though the non-waiver trading deadline has passed, Washburn would ordinarily have a high probability of going unclaimed because he is owed one more year on his four-year $37.5 million contract, which initially had been worth more than $50 million with incentives.

But any number of teams might find room for him -- not only to block the Yankees -- but to take advantage of the veteran lefty's recent rounding into form, as Washburn has a 3.24 ERA over his last 10 starts, games in which even the underperforming Mariners have managed an impressive six wins.

Washburn's career mark stands at 98-97.

Morrow -- the former UCLA starter whose fastball occasionally tops out at 98 mph -- is a major puzzle piece in the team's effort to fill the vacuum to be left by Washburn, with Wood and Smith-Rowland also looking to advance from Tacoma as the 25-man roster revamped before expanding to 40 players Sept. 1.

The team anticipates Morrow will be ready to start for the parent club well before the end of next month, though he has yet to throw more than 50 pitches in any of his minor league appearances.

Bedard meanwhile is expected to miss time for at least another three weeks. Though the Mariners have maintained loyalty to rotation mainstay Carlos Silva, it would appear the team would have little to lose by sitting Silva in favor of offering youngsters more chances to pitch, leaving yet another opening in the rotation, even if just for a start or two.

Lefties are hitting .344 against Silva, righties .300, as he has failed to last more than six innings in two of his last three starts.

The Hefty One Has No Excuses

Now would normally be a good time to make a rude comment about the shape of Brad Penny's person.  Everyone knows professional athletes shouldn't be shaped like avocados, but the 6'4'' 290 pound Jonathan Broxton's dietician may have something to say about that.  In six save opportunities since Takashi Saito's injury, Broxton has saved all six, allowing 1 run on 2 hits while striking out 10 in 6 2/3 innings.  The 6'4,'' mere 260 pound Penny now has no excuses.

The heavyset Dodgers pitcher returns to action tonight against the Giants, as he tries to build upon his formidable 5-9 record.  Nothing short of a complete game shutout should be expected.

Dodgers Looking at Greg Maddux

The cheap-ass Padres want to trade Greg Maddux so they can dump the almost $3 million that they owe him the rest of the year.  The cheap-ass Dodgers (the same Dodgers who normally line up to throw hundreds of millions of Dodgers at injury risks) are interested in Maddux (and the Dodgers are the only team to which Maddux will approve a trade), but want the Padres to pay almost $2.5 million of his salary.  So basically the Dodgers want Maddux for free.  And why shouldn't they?  They got the Indians to pay all of Casey Blake's salary and the Red Sox to pay almost all of Manny Ramirez's (who by the way is awesome) salary, so it may surprise some that the Dodgers are willing to pay Maddux even $500,000.

The amusement of a potential Maddux deal does not end there.  August is usually the month for Ned Colletti to admit he screwed up at the trade deadline and didn't get what he needed (the Manny Ramirez defense fails miserably because he had nothing to do with that deal).  Last August, Colletti claimed Tijuana native Esteban Loaiza from the A's and assumed $8 million in guaranteed salary.  Loaiza rewarded Colletti's foresight by posting an 8.34 ERA.  That brilliant move came a mere 5 days after Colletti signed David Wells, who posted a 5.12 ERA the rest of the year.  Maddux is having a decent year in terms of  his 4.17 ERA (5-8 record), but it makes metaphysical sense that once he dons a Dodgers uniform, his ERA will balloon to above 6 . 

Also, Maddux is no fun unless Chipper Jones is there for him to call Larry.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

D-Backs Lock Up Haren Through 2012

Dan Haren and the Diamondbacks have agreed on a four-year, $44.75 million extension that will keep him in Arizona through 2012.  The new deal voids the final two years on Haren's old deal and also includes a club option for the 2013 season.  Acquired in the offseason from Oakland, Haren has adjusted nicely to the National League and is among the league leaders in several major statistical categories.  He was also named to his second consecutive All-Star Game this season.

Top 10 Other Secrets of Major League Baseball

The screen capture above is from the Yahoo front page, and it touts the fact that Ozzie Guillen has revealed one of baseball's most closely held secrets: Pitchers sometimes intentionally throw at opposing batters! And, sometimes, managers order pitchers to do so! Shocking!

This incredible revelation got me to thinking: There must be other secrets hidden within major league baseball. What are they? Like any intrepid reporter, I hit the phones -- haranguing, hitting up, browbeating, pleading, cajoling and even bribing sources all thoughout baseball to give up other secrets.

And they did give up secrets. They gave up 10 of them.

Top 10 Other Secrets of Major League Baseball

10. Bud Selig sleeps in a coffin.

9. When players and managers talk about "the book," they're talking about Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.

8. Vin Scully died in 1998.

7. Lockerroom hot tubs are filled with tobacco juice.

6. Ted Williams' frozen head is kept in the freezer in the Red Sox lockerroom, behind the Popsicles.

5. George Brett puts pine tar on his hemorrhoids.

4. Ken Griffey Jr. misunderstood Barry Bonds' instructions, rubbed "the Clearasil" on his skin.

3. Players don't "adjust themselves" because their cup actually needs adjusting, but just because it feels good.

2. Don Zimmer and his brood live under the front porch at George Steinbrenner's house.

1. All the players have slept with Madonna.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Brian McCann Passes Brain Functionality Exam

Braves catcher Brian McCann -- having sat out a week after sustaining a concussion in a home plate collision with Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino -- is about to be cleared to return to the field this week after a successful brain functionality comparison test.

In the test McCann was asked simple questions like: Who is president of the United States? What is the date or your birth? What is your address? What is your mother's maiden name?

McCann's ability to answer promptly and easily was then compared to an identical test he took at the beginning of the season. Because his responsiveness matched favorably, McCann will be cleared to return to the backstop after being limited to pinch hitting only.

Concussions otherwise known literally as brain bruises -- even relatively mild ones such as that experienced by McCann -- are not to be taken lightly, especially considering this season's experience with Mets outfielder Ryan Church. Church missed a number of games after suffering post-concussive dizziness, nausea, headaches and other manifestations, and had to return to the sidelines after several truncated attempts to return to action.

Fortunately for McCann, his symptoms were limited to little more than cranial discomfort, which has passed. But for others such as former Giants catcher Mike Matheny and Brewers outfielder Cory Koskie, post-concussive syndrome not only put an end to their careers, but continues to impact their lives.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Bobby Jones Warns: Look Out for Brad Penny

Former major league pitcher Bobby Jones -- now managing for Triple A Oklahoma City -- warns the Giants to look out for Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny, who will return to action in San Francisco Friday.

"He looked great to me," Jones told The Daily Oklahoman after Penny faced Jones' Red Hawks recently in a final tuneup before returning to action. "We got some hits off him, but it was a challenge.”

More than 8,000 fans turned out to see the 30-year-old Broken Arrow High School standout return to action with Triple A Las Vegas. By at least one count, Penny threw 67 pitches with 50 going for strikes, some topping out at 97-98 mph. He lost 4-3, but he struck out four in four innings in his first action against live batters since mid June.

"I'm glad I got to let a few go,” said Penny, who understandably was a bit tentative in trying to come back from an inflamed shoulder. "...I've got to work on my split. That was my first time against live hitting, and I hung a few splits and a couple of curve balls. But overall, I thought my curve ball was pretty good.”

Jones could not disagree.

"I thought he threw very well,” Jones said. "He hit his spots. He was throwing his breaking ball for strikes and locking our hitters up."

Las Vegas manager Lorenzo Bundy noted some late inning fatigue.

"He labored a little bit those last couple of innings, but he seems to turn it up a notch when he gets men on base,” Bundy said. "It's been a long time since he faced hitters. Overall, it was a pretty good outing. That's a good hitting ball club over there, so it was a nice test for him.”

Oklahoma Tuneup Has Jeff Francis Ready to Return

Former 17-game winner Jeff Francis is set to return to action for the Rockies Tuesday after a successful final rehabilitative outing at Double A Tulsa.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle was quoted by The SportsXchange as describing Francis as having a good fastball and a lively changeup.

Francis went 1-0 in three minor league starts, surrendering just one run in little more than 14 innings. After going 17-9 with a 4.22 ERA last season, Francis has been a shadlow of his former self this season, going 3-7 with a 5.67 ERA in 17 starts before going on the disabled list with soreness.

Friday, August 01, 2008

No Interest in Pirates Shortstop Jack Wilson

Interest in Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson -- the subject of trade talk throughout the year -- waned to the point that all negotiations and inquiries had virtually ceased over the past week even as the July 31 deadline approached, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

It would seem that Wilson -- hitting .274 with 12 doubles in 241 at-bats after missing much of the season with injury -- likely will remain a Buc for a while yet.

Expect Mariners to Continue Trying to Deal Players

The fireworks have concluded following the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, but expect the Mariners to continue to try to deal veteran talent for prospects as part of new General Manager Lee Pelekoudas' rebuilding effort.

The team was able to deal reliever Arthur Rhodes, but trading becomes more difficult now because players can be claimed by other teams before they can be dealt. Still, the Mariners remain motivated because of an abundance of expendable personnel, including but not limited to Ichiro Suzuki, Adrian Beltre, Jerrod Washburn, Raul Ibanez, J.J. Putz, Jose Vidro and Jeremy Reed.

Observers have advance the theory that Pelekoudas has been unsuccessful so far because he asks too steep a price.

Brandon Moss Anticipating Pirates Opportunity

Prospect Brandon Moss -- hitting .282 for Triple A Pawtucket with eight home runs in 163 at-bats -- is looking forward to playing with the Pirates after being traded as part of the blockbuster, six-player Manny Ramirez-Jason Bay deal.

"It's great news,'' Moss, 24, told The Providence Journal after learning he would go to Pittsburgh. "Obviously, I love this (Red Sox) organization. It's the only one I've known. I've basically grown up in it. I've been here for six years, since I was 18 years old. But at the same time I see how it is up there. Maybe it's an opportunity to get a little more time than I would have here. I think it all worked out.''

The Red Sox -- in the past known for suppressing opportunities for younger players -- has been advancing its prospects since Theo Epstein took over as general manager. But as an established team, opportunities for newcomers are generally fewer than with the constantly rebuilding Pirates.

Moss projects as a valuable prospect not only because of defensive skills but his pedigree at lower minor league levels, having hit .339 and .422 with 15 homers in two Single A stops four years ago for a batting title.

In addition to Moss, the deal included Manny Ramirez being dealt to the Dodgers, Jason Bay to Boston and Andy LaRoche to the Pirates.

Moss was practicing at McCoy Stadium in Providence when manager Ron Johnson told him he had been traded just as the trading deadline.

"I had no clue," Moss told The Journal. "I honestly didn't think I was going to be traded. It was weird. It was five o'clock...I knew something was up once he was calling me in.''.

Ned Colletti is Not the Genius

Earlier today, MLBnewsonline joked that there was no way in hell Ned Colletti had anything to do with the Manny Ramirez trade. Bob Nightengale confirmed this on KLAC radio, saying that it was instead Frank McCourt who made the phone calls.

Nightengale said the teams had agreed on Andy LaRoche, but that the Pirates were insisting on Bryan Morris or Chin-Lung Hu. Ultimately, McCourt made the decision to include Morris, and the deal got done. Ned Colletti can probably start looking for a new job (not as a GM).

Poll: Dodgers Biggest Winner in Three-Way Trade

A poll of more than 21,000 subscribers showed that as of midnight EST Thursday a decisive majority believed the Dodgers got best of the deal in the three-way trade involving Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, Pirates outfielder Jason Bay and Dodgers third baseman Andy La Roche.

The deal gives the Dodgers a big, mid-lineup slugger in Ramirez, 36, who becomes a free-agent at the end of the year with no options. Meanwhile Bay, 29, goes to the Red Sox and will remain under Boston's control until the end of next year.

The Pirates received from the Dodgers third baseman Andy LaRoche, 22, brother of first baseman Adam LaRoche, and pitching prospect Bryan Morris, 21. From the Red Sox the Pirates received prospects Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss, both 24.

Asked which of the three teams benefited the most, poll respondents said the Dodgers, 51 percent, the Red Sox, 26 percent and the Pirates 24 percent.

In addition to the personnel moves, the Red Sox also are paying $7 million of the $20 million still owed to Ramirez this year.

Though reaction has been mixed in Boston, many fans expressed gladness that Ramirez and his difficult personality had been purged, a reaction somewhat reminiscent of the reaction in Los Angeles when often overrated Dodgers outfielder J.D. Drew opted out of his contract to go to the Red Sox.