Saturday, February 28, 2009

Joe Mather Probable to Open at 3B for Cardinals

Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa once again has rummaged around in his hat full of ragtag retreads, untested prospects and walking-wounded to pull out a rabbit in the form of young power-hitting outfielder Joe "The Beaver" Mather.

Though formerly ranked well behind various other prospects -- most notably fellow outfielder Colby Rasmus -- Mather appears to have the inside track to open at third base in place of injured starter Troy Glaus, who likely will be sidelined for most of April and perhaps well into May or beyond.

It's very early to be making such judgments, but unconfirmed reports foresee Mather's conversion as a done deal unless he completely embarrasses himself at the hot corner before the end of camp.

Mather, 25, may be considered sort of a 6-foot-4, 200-pound "Troy Glaus light," in other words a younger, left-handed version of the big, swing-and-miss power hitting starter. In a limited trial cut short by a wrist injury late last year, Mather hit 8 homers in just 133 at-bats, having previously hit 17 homers in 211 at-bats for Triple-A Memphis. 

Mather's unexpected emergence casts a pall over the candidacies of third base hopefuls Brian Barden and Brendan Ryan, at least for the short term.

If Mather sticks, it will not be the first time that LaRussa has refused to let lack of imagination stand in the way of fielding a playoff contending team, having been wildly successful in pulling Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel off the scrapheap.

In other news coming out of Grapefruit League Saturday, former Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter retired six Nationals over two innings, throwing 13 strikes on 19 pitches, though he hit a batter. He is coming off the second of two elbow surgeries, plus a myriad of other injuries sustained since his 2006 career year, when he won 15 games.

To make matters more complicated, David Freese and Brett Wallace are projected to make an impact at third base by next year if not sooner.

No Lingering Effects for Mariners 3B Adrian Beltre

Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre -- coming off variety of aches, pains and various infirmities -- suffered no day-after effects following a full-day of play in the field and at the plate, but the team still denied him his request to appear for his native Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

The team opposed his participation based on an assessment of his condition following surgery.

Beltre tested his arthoscopically repaired shoulder by deliberately swinging as hard as he could at the first pitch he saw in Friday's tilt with the Dodgers in Peoria, Ill. He missed the ball, but feeling no discomfort went on to perform without reserve as he banged out two hits, including a double plus three RBI in his team's 18-2 romp.

Though Beltre said his back was "a little stiff," he had no complaints about ailments to his injured thumb and shoulder, and especially the shoulder, over which he was most concerned, he told KONO-1000 Radio in Seattle. Though withheld from the WBC, his outlook remains excellent for opening day.

Despite Trials, Ian Stewart Sits Out for Rockies

Though at a critical juncture at 24, former top Rockies prospect Ian Stewart is expected to need a day or so of rest after stressing his left arm swinging the bat in the cage.

Perhaps he has been trying to hard.

The soreness comes at a time when Stewart finds himself under great pressure, as he must use every opportunity to prove he is worthy of a spot on a crowded roster on which he may be left with no position depending on a number of factors beyond his control.

Stewart -- a natural corner infielder who has been tried with mixed results at second base and in the outfield -- finds himself on the outside looking in as Clint Barmes has the inside track for the second base job, and Garrett Atkins plays third. Stewart's best opportunity may lie with the trade of Atkins, or if Atkins crosses the diamond to play first in the event that Todd Helton is unable to play after sustaining a number of injuries and illnesses.

Stewart's return to action was being considered for this weekend. He is being asked to be more selective at the plate, and increase contact.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Buck Martinez Back as Sirius/XM Baseball Host

Emmy-winning baseball broadcaster Buck Martinez -- former co-host of the trailblazing XM/Sirius "Baseball This Morning" program -- will return tod his familiar role alongside the empty big chair vacated by former partner Mark Patrick.

Martinez with share the microphone with Scott Graham.

Patrick continues to look for work from his home in Brownsburg, Ind. He is reported to be nearing a deal unrelated to XM.

Martinez, 59, who won an Emmy for the 1995 television broadcast of Cal Ripken's record 2,131 consecutive game, will also continue his broadcast work for TBS.

Martinez and the network had reportedly been trying to reach an agreement in recent weeks, as disclosed by network colleague Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton.

Hamilton, the familiar voice of AM radio's "Mighty 690" Southern California afternoon drivetime sports program -- recently joined the struggling network after a more than year-long, continuing network personnel upheaval which has seen the departure not only of Patrick, but Ronnie "Night Train" Lane, Mark Grey, Phil Wood, Orestes Destrade and others.

This will be Martinez's fourth year of service with XM. He formerly played 17 years as a major league catcher, making key acquaintances by sharing the same fields as such numerous baseball greats as Mickey Mantle, George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Harmon Killebrew, Frank Robinson, Tom Seaver, Ted Williams and Reggie Jackson, to name just a few.

Martinez managed the original U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic three years ago, earning him the nickname "Commander." He also formerly managed the Toronto Blue Jays.

In 2007 he and Patrick inaugurated XM's morning baseball program with former Phillies manager Larry Bowa, now third base coach for the Dodgers. Listeners gave them generous praise for originality, creativeness, entertainment and informativeness.

Mariners 3B Adrian Beltre Plays in Peoria

Despite being tentative over a number of aches, pains and infirmities, Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre swung as hard as he could at the first pitch he saw in Friday's Cactus League tilt at Peoria, Ariz., against the Dodgers.

Feeling no pain, Beltre said he went on to play without reservation as he went 2-for-3 with a double, one run and three RBI in the Mariners' 18-2 victory.

Though he said his back was "a little stiff," he had no complaints about ailments to his thumb and shoulder, and especially the shoulder, over which he was most concerned, he told KONO-1000 AM radio.

"However, he remained reluctant to commit himself to play for the Dominican Republic in the coming World Baseball Classic.

"(I'll) wait until tomorrow to see how my body reacts," Beltre said.

Whether Beltre plays tomorrow for a consecutive day in the field or appears as designated hitter will say much about his condition. Management opposes his participating in the WBC for fear it will put him at extra risk.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

'Skimming' No Surprise to Reds Marty Brennaman

An unsubstantiated suspicion that Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden may somehow be connected with the supposed fraudulent taking of kickbacks from young player prospects "comes as no surprise to me," says Hall-of-Fame Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman.

Brenneman -- who covered the Reds during Bowden's rocky tenure as general manager in Cincinnati -- suggested to son Tom Brennaman in a recent broadcast commentary for WLW Radio that a history of arguably dubious dealings by Bowden indicates something may be amiss.

"That guy has been such a bad guy for such a long time that what goes around, comes around," said Brennaman, who has a reputation for outspokenness if not being altogether blunt.

Brennaman has also been predicting that Bowden will never work in baseball management again, nor in broadcasting despite his media background.

Bowden -- reported by to be included in a federal investigation into the skimming of signing bonuses paid to player prospects from Latin America -- has denied any wrongdoing. No accusations against him have been substantiated, and no charges were filed against him as the result of his reported questioning by the FBI concerning related matters last year.

Bowden has become the center of a firestorm of publicity after it was revealed that Nationals player Esmailyn Gonzalez received a $1.4 million signing bonus after purporting himself to be a 16-year-old though he was actually 21. The Gonzalez rift is unrelated to a skimming probe, according to published statements attributed to Nationals president Stan Kasten, who stands behind Bowden.

A number of controversies involving trades and other personnel decisions have followed Bowden through much of his career, perhaps none greater than his firing of popular Reds manager Tony Perez after a lapse of just 44 games during the 1993 season.

Dodgers Jason Schmidt Abandons 98-mph Fastball

Dodgers hurler Jason Schmidt -- trying to come back from a torn labrum and other shoulder injuries -- has conceded he will no longer be able to throw his trademark 98-mph fastball, but said he can still be effective throwing in the 80s.

Readying for an outing against the White Sox on Friday, Schmidt needed only 11 pitches to retire teammates Juan Pierre, Mark Loretta and Matt Kemp during a recent intrasquad workout, though he gave up an infield hit to Casey Blake. Nine of his pitches went for strikes.

Schmidt's fastball was not clocked, but it appears as though he has lost at least 10 mph in velocity, and he indicated he has given up hope of ever being a hard thrower again.

"I just have to get it around the plate and get them to hit it on the ground," he told the Los Angeles Times at Camelback Ranch camp near Phoenix. "...I know I can do it."

The session was his first since a rehabilitative start in August. Schmidt has thrown fewer than 26 innings since signing a $47 million contract tmore than wo years ago. This is the final year of the pact.

Brewers Hitting Coach Puzzles with Corey Hart

Brewers right fielder Corey Hart has come under the tutelage of hitting coach Dale Sveum, who must figure a way to stop Hart from making a chump out of himself.

At 27, Hart should be coming into his prime, but will the Brewers see the player who hit .289 with a more than .500 slugging percentage before the All-Star break, or the sucker whose average fell below .240 after pitchers discovered he was powerless to top chasing pitches outside the zone, sometimes striking out on three pitches in a row?

With Hart's strikeouts causing his on-base percentage to fall to a paltry .263 for the second half of the season last year, any improvement should significantly boost Sveum's stated objective to instill more discipline throughout the lineup, which generally suffers from too much free swinging and too little selectivity.

Bartolo Colon Evasive at White Sox Camp

If body language, demeanor and form have anything to say about a pitcher's state of mind and readiness for play, then expect a long, long wait for White Sox starter Bartolo Colon to become productive.

The portly former Cy Young winner -- looking as though he was dragging every ounce of his 250 pounds -- has been behaving in a surly, generally disagreeable and defensive way since arriving at Cactus League camp, refusing to say anything to reporters about his condition since undergoing surgery last fall for the removal of bone chips from his elbow.

Whatever it means, it can't be good. Though projected as the No. 4 starter, he has yet to begin throwing.

Colon, 38, last pitched for the Red Sox in 2008, notching a 3.92 ERA, but his appearances came in fits and starts, as he bounced back and forth between Boston and Triple A Pawtucket, missing a number of scheduled starts. Altogether, he only pitched for 39 innings for the season and gave up a .280 opposing batting average.

Come April, if Colon can't go, it will be interesting to see what impact his disablement has on an assortment of other pitchers fighting for a spot at the bottom of the rotation, none more intriguing than six-foot-six top prospect Aaron Poreda, a 22-year-old lefty still in need of development but who can bring it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Albert Pujols' Elbow Still at Risk for Cardinals

So Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is unable to play in the World Baseball Classic because he is unable to obtain insurance. How conve-e-e-e-nient!

Sure, the story is true that Pujols is unable find a policy underwriter, and it is true that he claims that's why he won't play in the event, but it's very questionable whether he actually would have played even if he had obtained coverage.

Though last October's elbow surgery was successful in transposing or repositioning Pujols' ulnar collateral ligament -- the so-called Tommy John ligament -- another ligament remains nearly at the breaking point, and cannot be restored to full effectiveness with surgery or casual rehabilitation.

An independent medical analysis for MLB Newsonline suggests that the only reason Pujols can play with the injury is that he is not being asked to throw excessively. Were he a pitcher -- or perhaps even an outfielder or third baseman -- the ligament in all probability would have failed by now.

Though chances remain good that the ligament will remain intact, the fact remains that it could completely rupture at any time, throwing his durability into question.

After experiencing pain, Pujols recently took a week's rest from his rehabilitative regimen, and may be limited in his plate and field appearances through the remainder of camp.

Buck Martinez Negotiating Return to XM Radio

Emmy-winning baseball broadcaster Buck Martinez -- who formerly served as co-host with the departed Mark Patrick on XM Radio's morning baseball program -- has entered into talks to return to the satellite network, according to a report from a network colleague.

Weekend and evening baseball talk show host Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton -- describing Martinez as a "free agent" -- recently disclosed that Martinez and XM-Sirius brass were trying to work out an arrangement for Martinez to return to the financially struggling network to cover the upcoming baseball season.

Martinez appeared at Tigers camp in Lakeland, Fla., Sunday while working as a commentator for TBS, a position he would maintain even if he returns to XM. It would be Martinez's fourth year of service with XM if the two sides can agree on a contract.

"I don't know whether they'll be able to get it done," said Hamilton in response to a question from a telephone listener.

In addition to his work on XM, Martinez has served as a baseball color analyst for ESPN, TBS and The Sports Network, and as game analyst for the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles. He was awarded a 1995 Sports Emmy for ESPN's coverage of Cal Ripken's record 2,131st consecutive game.

Martinez -- who resides in Bellaire Beach, Fla. and Cape May, N.J. -- managed the Toronto Blue Jays in 2001-02, and was a major league catcher for 17 years, including time with the Royals and Blue Jays, before injuries to his knees forced his retirement.

He and Patrick inaugurated XM's "Baseball This Morning" program with former Phillies manager Larry Bowa in 1987, and formerly shared the program's microphone with former Yankees first baseman Orestes Destrade. All of them abruptly left the network with little explanation despite their having gained accolades from listeners for high standards in originality, creativeness, entertainment and informativeness -- achievements largely unmatched since their departure.

Bowa now serves as third base coach for the Dodgers. Estrada has served as commentator for ESPN television's "Baseball Tonight." Patrick continues to seek work from his home in the Indianapolis suburb of Brownsburg.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Athletics Seeking Backup for Ailing Eric Chavez?

Talks reportedly taking place between the Athletics and oft-injured free agent infielder Nomar Garciaparra may tell as much about the health of third baseman Eric Chavez as Garciaparra.

Though Chavez, 31, has been fielding third base grounders, he has not been cleared to make a single throw to first base since undergoing the second of his two shoulder surgeries six months ago. It remains unclear whether the A's will need to find a backup, either a part-timer like Garciaparra, or a full-time replacement such as free agent Orlando Cabrera.

Though Chavez has been hinting that he will be ready to take the field by opening day, the fact that he has chosen to sit out the first week of spring games points toward a more uncertain outcome. Having also undergone two invasive spinal procedures, Chavez ability to play a 162-game schedule appears highly remote.

Garciaparra, 35, who moved from his familiar shortstop position to corner infield positions for the Dodgers, has had a similarly dismal health outlook after it became known that he has been kept off the field in part by a hereditary condition that causes his body to build up excessive scar tissue.

Garciaparra claims he can play, however, and in addition to the Athletics, the Phillies and Twins reportedly have expressed an interest in the former Boston Red Sox No. 1 pick.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rangers Eye Andruw Jones as Cleanup Hitter

Apparently not put off by numerous reports that outfielder Andruw Jones was difficult to direct if not altogether uncoachable before being run out of town by the Dodgers, hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo has made the newly acquired former superstar his personal project at Rangers camp in Surprise, Ariz. with the idea of converting him to a cleanup hitter.

Jones -- criticized as being slow and overweight while playing in Los Angeles -- has signed a minor league contract with the Rangers and reported to camp 25 pounds lighter than his playing weight last year. Key to getting Jones turned around will be rediscovering his homerun swing, which observers said seems to have been lost in bad mechanics at the plate, especially an infirm and erratically planted right shoe or "happy foot."

Manager Ron Washington recently told the Dallas Morning News that Jones is in the mix to bat behind No. 3 hitter Josh Hamilton, who reportedly tended to wilt at times last year due to lack of protection in the lineup.

"It all depends on how the team shakes out," Washington said.

Jones, 31, has been a shadow of his former self for two and a half seasons, though he hit 41 homers in 2006.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols Has Elbow 'Discomfort'

Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols recently took a week off after "experiencing discomfort" related to a lingering ligament strain and related elbow surgery he underwent in October, The St. Louis Post Dispatch said, citing an unnamed source familiar with Pujols' condition.

Pujols, who swung a bat in the cage for several reps after arriving in camp on Sunday, told the newspaper that his elbow has favorably responded to an aggressive hitting and workout program, but that he likely will be unable to buy insurance that would allow him to participate with the Dominican Republic team in the coming World Baseball Classic competition.

Pujols has not played since the surgery, in which his ulnar collateral ligament was replaced, the so-called "Tommy John" procedure. Because he has not played since that time, he cannot be insured by a standard policy, the newspaper said.

The newspaper also pointed out that in addition to the surgical procedure, Pujols suffers from "a high-grade ligament strain" in the elbow.

An independent sports medicine consultant familiar with the procedure told MLB Rumors that a "high-grade strain" would suggest fraying so severe as to pose a potential catastrophic breakdown of the ligament, but that the chances are not great that Pujols would be in jeopardy of such a failure as long as he is merely swinging the bat or playing first base rather than pitching or throwing from the outfield.

It appears that Pujols took a 7-day break merely because he overexerted himself during rehabilitation, the MLB Rumors source theorized. "If they were worried about it, there would be no way he would be doing anything in spring training," the source said.

The newspaper report hinted, however, that Pujols may be limited to as little as one at-bat per game during spring training.

Durability Issues Linger for Cubs OF Milton Bradley

Questions continue to linger over the durability of newly acquired Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley, who despite All-Star caliber productivity last season may be forced to sit out occasionally as the result of an ugly onfield scuffle a year and a half ago.

Bradley -- set to bat fourth or fifth for manager Lou Piniella after signing a $10 million, annual, three-year contract -- missed some 200 plate appearances for the Rangers last year and frequently had to appear as a designated hitter when he could not take the field.

Refusing to answer questions about the strength of his injured right knee when questioned recently by The Chicago Tribune, Bradley claimed he would play in every single game without taking any time off.

"I wouldn't count him out" general manager Jim Hendry told the newspaper, but conceded the team will be satisfied if he appears in a projected 135 of the 162 regular season games.

Bradley, 30, who has not had a healthy season for five years, is thought to be battling residual effects of a 2007 knee injury that resulted from being tackled by Padres manager Bud Black as Black attempted to keep him from attacking umpire Mike Winters over a questionable call on the basepaths.

Having undergone anger management training -- Bradley has reported he has since begun to overcome his problems with authority figures. Associates have blamed his personality problems on the alleged difficulties between his father and mother when he was a boy.

Reds Closer Francisco Cordero Feels Discomfort

Reds closer Francisco Cordero -- coming off surgery last September to remove bone spurs from his foot -- threw off a mound briefly and experienced lingering discomfort, according to WLW Radio in Cincinnati.

Though Cordero has targeted readiness by opening day, at the moment he is "less than 100 percent," he said.

Cordero notched 34 saves with a 3.33 ERA last year, but has exhibited a downward trend since recording 44 for the Brewers in 2007. A discernible decline in his strikeouts and rise in his walks likely can be attributable to his secretly pitching with plantar difficulties for all or most of last season.

Setup man David Weathers is waiting in the wings.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Indians Groom Josh Barfield for Utility Role

Expect the Indians to give former top prospect Josh Barfield plenty of reps in the outfield and at shortstop.

Barfield, 26, the son of former major league slugger Jesse Barfield, was projected to be the Indians' starting second baseman when he came over from San Diego. But he has been unable to shake off mysteriously tenacious slumps and petty injuries.

A utility role would keep him from yet another demotion to Buffalo, though he remains in the hunt for a starting middle infield position with the prospective move of Jhonny Peralta from shortstop to third base.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Transaction Report - 2/14/09

Los Angeles Angels: Agreed to terms with pitcher Ervin Santana on a four-year contract. Santana is the youngest pitcher in the majors with at least 50 wins. He's 26 and coming off a 16-7 season with a 3.49 ERA. The deal is for four years and $30 million and keeps the Angels and Santana out of arbitration.

New York Mets: Signed pitcher Livan Hernandez to a minor league contract. A minor-league deal for the veteran whose ERA in 2008 was 6.05, and who gave up 257 hits in 180 innings. As long as the Mets are signing pitchers just for laughs, they should go get Orlando Hernandez, too.

Red Sox Will Go Slow with John Smoltz

No, that old guy in the red sweats isn't part of the grounds crew. That's future Hall-of-Famer John Smoltz.

The 42-year-old former Brave -- bald, a bit scraggly and unshaven and with just a hint of a tummy -- arrived at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla., without missing a beat, taking part in conditioning drills with other players young enough to be his sons, never giving a hint that he was anything but his familiar, indomitable, unrestrainable, competitive old self.

"I don't doubt that there's going to be times when we have to sit on him, and we will," manager Terry Francona told The Boston Globe.

Francona envisions Smoltz returning to action by June 1, coming along slowly as he recovers from shoulder surgery. How Smoltz feels and performs -- and how the Red Sox rotation and bullpen is doing -- likely will help determine whether he will start or come out of the pen.

Ozzie Guillen Will Have White Sox Running

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has intimated to Chicago media that he plans what he calls a "run-and-gun offense."

Translation: Baseball Venezuelan style.

Look for the White Sox come out of the gate fast this year, slapping the ball through the infield, bunting, sacrificing, squeezing, hitting and running and best of all -- stealing.

Twins Inspect Joe Crede's Damaged Goods

Having so far spurned a low-ball offer from the San Francisco Giants, free agent third baseman Joe Crede now is marketing his wares for the Minnesota Twins.

So far, Crede looks good in workouts, but buyer beware!

Crede's declaration to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire that he is 100 percent healthy sounds all too familiar. Suffering from chronic spinal problems for much of the past three seasons -- Crede made the same claim to the White Sox last year when he arrived at camp in Tucson, and backed it up with limber workouts and energetic play, including violent slides at the plate during spring games.

The White Sox broke camp with a supposedly healthy Crede at third, only to see him miss some 300 plate appearances when he went down during the season.

Crede, 30, has accomplished little since his career year in 2006, when he hit .283 with 30 homers. If he seriously thinks one good year out of four will bring him anything close to the supposed $8 million annual contract he is seeking, he should prepare himself for the shock of receiving half that -- if he is lucky -- from the Twins.

Then the amount should be halved again, with the total being attainable only with 50 percent incentives. Times are tough. Teams must protect themselves.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Frank Viola Fiddling with Jeremy Sowers' Motion

Retired Twins ace Frank "Sweet Music" Viola arrived in Cleveland Indians camp with the express purpose of revitalizing the career of the once-promising Jeremy Sowers.

Sowers, like Viola a left-hander, formerly was a top prospect but has spent the last few seasons bouncing back and forth between Cleveland and Buffalo. Most recently, he turned in a dismal 4-9 record with a 5.58 ERA and nearly 1.5 WHIP in 22 games with the Tribe.

Sowers remains in the mix for the No. 4 or No. 5 rotations spot, but will be kept on a very short leash. The Indians are very serious about a playoff berth this season, and if Sowers is to help the team, Viola must help him find the plate.

Cards Updates: Glaus, 2B

An AP spring training preview for the Cardinals includes some tidbits:

  • 3B Troy Glaus is not expected to be ready for Opening Day. A return in May is more likely.

  • After the release of 2B Adam Kennedy, outfielder Skip Schumaker has been mentioned as a leading candidate to take over the second sack position. But Schumaker hasn't played the infield in years. He is now, however, taking ground balls in Florida. But he doesn't sound too optimistic about the experiment: "There's a reason why I'm in the outfield, I think. Obviously, if Tony wants to throw me in that fire I’ll try it, but I don’t know how realistic that is."

  • The team has considered using onetime ace Chris Carpenter in the bullpen as Carpenter attempts a comeback from another surgery. Kyle McClellan, a middle reliever as a rookie in 2008, could step into the rotation if Carpenter begins the season in relief.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Griffey In the Dark on Mariners Talk

Ken Griffey Jr. is playing golf this week in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. According to various reports, his agent and the Seattle Mariners are in stepped-up discussions about Griffey returning to the place where his career began.

What does Griffey have to say about it all? He's in the dark. He told the Association Press:

"We don't know what we're doing next year with respect to Seattle. It's all rumors," Griffey said Thursday after finishing his round at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in California.

... Griffey said he was in the dark on where the talks now stand.

"I really don't even know. My agent is handling," he said moments after stepping off the Poppy Hills course.

When asked if he still wants to play despite knee surgery last October, Griffey said: "As long as it's still fun, I want to keep playing."

Transactions Report - 2/12/09

Colorado Rockies: Signed pitcher Randy Flores to a minor league contract. The lefty was 1-0 with a 5.26 ERA in 43 games for the Cards in '08.

Houston Astros: Agreed to terms with pitcher Chris Sampson, infielder Drew Sutton and catcher J.R. Towles on one-year contracts. Sampson pitched in 54 games for the Astros in '08 with a 4.22 ERA.

Los Angeles Angels: Agreed to terms with outfielder Bobby Abreu on a one-year contract.

Milwaukee Brewers: Claimed pitcher Nick Green off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels; designated pitcher Luis Pena and catcher Vinny Rottino for assignment; signed pitcher Braden Looper to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2010. Green is the player the Angels waived to make room for Abreu.

Minnesota Twins: Agreed to terms with outfielder Delmon Young on a one-year contract.

St. Louis Cardinals: Agreed to terms with outfielder Rick Ankiel on a one-year contract. Split the difference of their arbitration figures at $2.8 million.

Tampa Bay Rays: Signed pitcher Brian Shouse to a one-year contract with a club option for 2010; designated pitcher Juan Salas for assignment.

Washington Nationals: Signed first baseman-outfielder Adam Dunn to a two-year contract. $8 million in 2009 and $12 million in 2010, who said he's willing to play first. Manager Manny Acta says he'd like Dunn and Nick Johnson in the lineup together, but with a glut of outfielders Dunn may take most of Johnson's ABs and sent Johnson onto the trading block.

(MLB Rumors publishes the Transactions Report every evening, a rundown of the day's official, finalized, formally announced deals. Readers are invited to share their insights on the impact - or lack of impact - of the transactions in comments.)

Looper to Brewers, Shouse to Rays

Pitchers Braden Looper and Brian Shouse have new homes, Looper signing with the Brewers after spending last season with the Cardinals, and Shouse leaving the Brewers for the Rays.

Looper, 12-14 with a 4.16 ERA in St. Louise in 2008, signed a 1-year deal with Milwaukee worth $5.5 million in 2009 with an option for 2010. GM Doug Melvin called Looper a workhorse who can eat up some of the inning lost by the departures of C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets from the Milwaukee rotation.

Shouse was a part of the Brewers' bullpen in 2008, but he signed a contract - also a 1-year deal with an option for 2010 - with Tampa Bay. Last season, the lefty appeared in 69 games in Milwaukee, limiting left-handed hitters to a .180 batting average.

The Rays designed pitcher Juan Salas for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster; the Brewers designated catcher Vinny Rottino.

Red Sox Cautious - Cautiously Optimistic - with Baldelli

Outfielder Rocco Baldelli was once a young pup who played hard on the field, full-speed all the time. Now he's a bit older, a bit wiser, and diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder that can sap his strength and energy when he's not careful enough in managing his outputs.

The Red Sox signed him to a free-agent deal knowing they'll have to carefully manage his time and practice habits in order to keep him ready when needed. And that's something manager Terry Francona says the team can do.

Francona told The Providence Journal that the Red Sox will be careful with Baldelli during spring training that the team will "back him off enough" to keep Baldelli fresh.

The ProJo's Joe McDonald further quotes Francona:

"We got him at a time when he's not a 22-year-old kid who thinks he has to be the first one in the rundowns, and (thus tires himself out so that) when the games start he can't do what he can do," said Francona. "We're going to be very supportive of him and hopefully make it easier for him to help us win games."

Francona called it a partnership and the club has done its homework to understand Baldelli's situation.

"Just like a new player coming into camp, we're going to have to help him fight the urge to want to do everything," said Francona.

Baldelli is expected to back up at the corner outfield positions and provide a bat off the bench.

Heyman Maneuver: Pudge, Orlando(s)'s Jon Heyman passes along a few tidbits in today's Daily Scoop:

  • Catcher Ivan Rodriguez is drawing looks from the cash-strapped Astros and Marlins. Pudge's power is pretty much gone (it went with the steroids?), although is batting average remained respectable - at least until he got to the Yankees (.219 in 33 games) last year.

  • The possibilities for 2B Orlando Hudson look to be the Dodgers or Nationals. But Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times earlier claimed in a column that Hudson was more interested in the Dodgers than the other way around.

  • The Athletics want to sign shortstop Orlando Cabrera, but for no more than $5 million and preferably closer to $3 million.

Joel Zumaya Laying Claim to Tigers Closer Role

Manager Jim Leyland has probably all but pencilled in Brandon Lyon to replace retiring Tigers closer Todd Jones, but that's not stopping fireballer Joel Zumaya from laying claim to the job.

Zumaya -- coming back from a career threatening fracture -- has been cleared to resume play in a second opinion sought from sports surgeon James Andrews, and has announced he not only will be ready by opening day, but already is throwing at 100 percent and plans to vie against Lyon and Fernando Rodney to be the go-to guy out of the pen, according to a recent Detroit News report.

Zumaya -- who historically has thrown in triple digits -- told the News that he is developing a mid-80s splitter or changeup combination to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball.

Roberto Alomar Suit Fails to 'Out' Gay Mets Player

It was in 2002 that The New York Post quoted Mets manager Bobby Valentine as saying the major leagues were ready to accept a gay player in the clubhouse, leading to speculation that he was testing the atmosphere for one of his players to come out of the closet.

If it was a ploy to affirm that the liberal East Coast establishment was tolerant, forgiving, open-minded and understanding, it fell short, as a firestorm of speculation compelled Mets catcher Mike Piazza to confess that, no, he was not the player, and more emphatically, he was NOT gay.

Now comes former Mets second baseman Roberto Alomar, sued in U.S. District for a minimum of $15 million by an ex-girlfriend Ilya Dall allegedly exposing her to the AIDS virus, which she asserts the 39-year-old Puerto Rican contracted a number of years ago. So far she has tested negative for the virus, but medical authorities say it could manifest later.

True, the AIDS virus always has been, is now and perhaps for the foreseeable future will be largely associated with single gay men, but one need look no further than the example of late Tennis star Arthur Ashe, who was universally recognized as being exclusively heterosexual when he succumbed to the disease due to a blood transfusion. To suggest anything to the contrary would be beyond reckless. Homosexuality and AIDS are not interchangeable.

Ashe is hardly the only case of a straight man becoming HIV positive, but is the most well known one. Another who comes to mind is Magic Johnson, who acknowledges contracting the virus as the result of numerous liaisons with women. And Alomars troubles, after all, are with a woman, a woman has made no assertions about him being bisexual.

That has failed to stop certain Chicago media types (670 The Fan) from trying to connect the dots, however erroneously.

Though the suit is virtually meaningless attempting to identify Alomar as the gay player in the seven-year-old Post report, it may serve to explain a few other things about Alomar, if it confirms the allegation that he truly has what it describes as "full-blown AIDS."

Alomar unwaveringly denies the accusation, but it remains to be explained how the best second baseman in the game in Cleveland instantly morphed into a plodding, clumsy shadow of himself not only in the field but at the plate in New York.

For his career, Alomar hit .300 with 210 home runs and 1,134 RBI. His first year with the Mets he hit just .266 with a .376 slugging average and 53 RBI. It was downhill from there. It later came to light that he was experiencing double vision.

Dall, who shared a high-rise luxury apartment in the Queens Borough community of Long Island City when Alomar played with the Mets, said Alomar subjected her to unprotected copulation even though he suffered from sores on his mouth and throat, a constant cough, an infected voice box and constant fatigue, pointing to them as potential symptoms of AIDS, for which he refused to be tested.

Ultimately, his skin turned purple, he began foaming at the mouth and occasionally required a wheel chair to navigate airports, her suit contends. Observers, however, reportedly say Alomar appears normal.

Report: Mariners Closing In On Griffey's Jerry Crasnick is reporting, citing two anonymous sources, that the Mariners are now focused on bringing Ken Griffey Jr. back to his baseball home:

The Seattle Mariners have stepped up the pace in negotiations that could bring Ken Griffey Jr. back to the city where he spent the first 11 years of his major league career, two baseball sources told

Although it's unclear whether the Mariners have extended a formal offer, two sources said the team made significant progress this week in talks to bring back Griffey. Several reports this winter have indicated that Griffey is seeking a one-year deal for a base salary in the $5 million range.

Any new sense of urgency the Mariners feel may be in reaction to the deals of Bobby Abreu (Angels) and Adam Dunn (Nationals) the past couple days. In the free-agent game of musical outfield positions, Griffey and Garrett Anderson are still standing.

As noted a few days ago, the Reds' team doctor is convinced that the 2009 model of Griffey will look more like the 2007 version (.277, 30 homers) than the 2008 one (.249, 18 homers). His prognosis is based on Griffey's recovery from the latest in the long string of leg problems that plagued The Kid after departing Seattle for Cincinnati.

Griffey is playing golf this week in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. So his knee must be feeling fine; you can't swing free in golf with a bum knee, any more than you can in baseball.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Transactions Report: Kevin Millar

Milwaukee Brewers: Agreed to terms with pitchers Eduardo Morlan and Cody Scarpetta on one-year contracts. One-year deals for two minor-leaguers. Morlan was a Rule 5 draftee out of the Rays' organization last year.

Toronto Blue Jays: Signed infielder Kevin Millar to a minor league contract. Millar, 37, chose the Jays over the Yankees. He had 534 ABs with the Orioles in 2008, but had career lows in BA/OBP/SLG (.234/.323/.394). Expect him to backup at first and get some ABs at DH.

(MLB Rumors publishes the Transactions Report every evening, a rundown of the day's official, finalized, formally announced deals. Readers are invited to share their insights on the impact - or lack of impact - of the transactions in comments.)

SI: Dunn's Deal Worth $10 Million Per

As noted earlier in the post about Adam Dunn signing with the Nationals, word has been that an offer by the Nats to Dunn has been on the table for at least a couple months. That standing offer appears to be the one Dunn agreed to today, based on the size of the contract that is reporting.

According to's Tom Verducci, Dunn's two-year contract is worth $20 million. It's easy to see why Dunn jumped on that after a couple months of holding off. One day ago, Bobby Abreu was cornered into taking a 1-year, $5 million-plus-incentives offer from the Los Angeles Angels.

Dunn's positive relationship with his form GM in Cincinnati, Jim Bowden, surely played a part in his being able to nab that $20 million offer even after the market cratered - and in Bowden not re-sizing the offer downward.

Adam Dunn, Nationals Agree On Deal

That was quick. Not long after our previous post titled "Abreu Deal May Force Adam Dunn's Hand," Adam Dunn agreed to sign with the Washington Nationals according to the Washington Post.

The Post cites two independent sources and says the deal is for two years and may be announced on Thursday.

It has been believed that Dunn had an offer on the table from the Nationals for a couple months now, but that he was waiting to see if his first choice, the Dodgers, would come calling.

Perhaps the 1-year, $5 million deal that Bobby Abreu agreed with with the Angels scared Dunn into acting now on the Nationals' offer, rather than waiting any longer. It will be interesting to hear the details of the deal.

Update: cites a "baseball source" confirming the deal, says a press conference will be held on Thursday.

Update II: says the deal is worth $20 million.

Abreu Deal May Force Adam Dunn's Hand

(Update: That was quick. Dunn has agreed to play for the Nationals, according to the Washington Post.)

Bobby Abreu has agreed to a 1-year, $5 million (plus incentives) deal with the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels are thinking they got a steal. The Rays are thinking they overpaid Pat Burrell at $8 million. The Phillies are thinking they really overpaid giving Raul Ibanez $10 million.

And somewhere, Adam Dunn is stretched out on a couch, thinking, "Maybe it's time to consider a few things I haven't been willing to consider before."

Things such as a one-year deal. Earlier in the free-agent season Dunn's agent was Adamant that a multi-year contract was what his client wanted. (No surprise there.) But even after the market clearly shifted, Dunn's agent has not indicated whether his client will consider 1-year deals. Abreu didn't want (or deserve) a 1-year deal, either, but his agent isn't whining about it: He says Bobby will win the MVP for the Angels and go back on the market in 2010.

Things such as moving to first base. Dunn is set on remaining an outfielder, even though his poor outfield defense is a major part of the problem he's having finding work. If he indicates a willingness to move to first, he'll find more teams to negotiate with.

Things such as teams he has previously discounted. Dunn wants to play for the Dodgers, but so far the Dodgers haven't shown much interest (they're busy trying to wait out Manny Ramirez). The Nationals have shown plenty of interest, but Dunn isn't reciprocating. The Mariners have indicated a willingness to talk to Dunn, but Dunn hasn't returned the favor.

If Dunn is willing to go to first base, and sign a 1-year, $5 million deal, you know which team might take a run at him? The Los Angeles Angels. Two sluggers for the price of one.

The best possible place for Dunn at this point may be his old team, the Reds, even though the Reds have maintained all along they don't want him back (because who wants 40 homers and 100 walks when you can sign Willy Taveras?). But a 1-year deal with Cincinnati would mean another season in Great American Ballpark, and Adam Dunn at GABP means another guaranteed season of 40 home runs. If I'm Adam Dunn's agent, I make that call to Walt Jocketty, make an offer he can't refuse, and try this again next offseason. Not gonna happen, but I'd still try.

Eric Milton and the Dodgers

In the Transaction Report from two days ago, we noted that the Dodgers had signed a bunch of retread pitchers to minor-league deals. Then I added a mocking comment:

Los Angeles Dodgers: Agreed to terms with pitchers Jeff Weaver, Shawn Estes, Ronald Belisario, Charlie Haeger and Tanyon Sturtze on minor league deals. Eric Milton wasn't available.

Hey, the Dodgers are signing a bunch of guys who can't get Tommy Lasorda out, but at least they didn't sign Eric Milton!

But life, as they say, is stranger than fiction. Today comes a report that the Dodgers are close to a deal with ... Eric Milton.

Milton is now 33 years old. He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2007, when in six games with the Reds his ERA was 5.17. He then underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery and spent last year rehabbing in the Yankees' farm system. Late in the season, he got in six starts at Triple-A, going 0-4 with a 5.17 ERA.

Dodger Stadium can make bad pitchers look only below average; below average pitchers look decent; decent pitchers look good; good pitchers look very good; very good pitchers look great. But it can't do anything for Eric Milton.

On the other hand, the Dodgers are only signing these ghosts to minor-league deals, so no harm, no foul.

Indians 1B Ryan Garko an Endangered Species

Look for Indians 1B Ryan Garko's name to appear on the Endangered Species List if reports can be believed about veteran DH Travis Hafner's rapid recovery from shoulder surgery.

With Hafner on the mend and looking to return to his former form, and with the emergence of Kelly Shoppach at catcher, the Indians can be expected to give former starting catcher Victor Martinez a lot more time at first base.

In other words, once the music stops, Garko is the one left standing.

It's an unfortunate set of circumstances for the former Stanford man, who was just beginning to distinguish himself at the plate, having hit .282 with 42 homers in his 330-game major league introduction.

Though room for development remains, Garko clearly is poised to take the next step up, but may find himself headed to Triple A Buffalo. The minors cannot be ruled out because in the prime of his career at age 28 Garko desperately needs everyday playing time.

Reds 2B Brandon Phillips Eyeing RBIs

By his own admission, Reds 2B Brandon Phillips is NOT a power hitter, but more of "a hitter with power," but that's enough to punch his ticket to a key spot on the middle of this year's batting order.

"I'm the best person for the job," Phillips eagerly told WLW Radio, who queried him regarding the front office's failure to land a big right-handed bat during the offseason. Look for him to bat 4th or 5th at least as long as manager Dusty Baker has so few other options.

Phillips hit 21 homers last year, and 30 in 2007. Sandwiched between 1B Joey Votto and OF Jay Bruce, Phillips can easily be expected to see his share of fastballs and to knock in more than 100 RBI.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Transactions Report - 2/10/09

Baltimore Orioles: Signed Ty Wigginton to a two-year contract. Two years for $6 million total. Nice price for a multi-position player who had 23 homers in 380 ABs last year, to go with .285/.350/.526. Expected to get some starts at first and back up at third and in the outfield.

Houston Astros: Agreed to terms with outfielder Michael Bourn and pitchers Sammy Gervacio, Polin Trinidad and Wesley Wright on one-year contracts.

San Francisco Giants: Signed pitcher Ramon Ortiz to a minor-league contract. I love minor-league contracts. They are the ultimate in hope-springs-eternal baseball optimism. And it takes a lot of optimism to sign Ramon Ortiz.

Texas Rangers: Signed outfielder Andruw Jones and pitcher Brendan Donnelly to minor league contracts. If this last chance for Jones turns out to really be his last chance in baseball, he can always turn to the professional eating circuit.

Toronto Blue Jays: Acquired pitcher Matt Bush from the San Diego Padres for a player to be named or cash considerations.

Angels Now Favorite for Abreu?

Earlier today we posted the New York Daily News report that the New York Mets have rekindled their interest in free agent outfielder Bobby Abreu.

Now's Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Los Angeles Angels may well be Abreu's destination, according to his sources.

Rosenthal writes:

The Angels have asked outright waivers on right-hander Nick Green to create a spot on their 40-man roster, according to a major-league source.

That roster currently is full, so the Angels could be trying to create a spot for a free-agent hitter. They prefer Abreu to Adam Dunn, another source said.

In addition, one GM pursuing Abreu said Tuesday that he was told Abreu was close to signing with an Amercian League team. The Mariners, the other AL team with interest, are believed to be more focused on Ken Griffey Jr. and Garret Anderson.

Rosenthal does provide this we're-not-really-sure-what-it-all-means caveat, however: " it is not known whether the Angels and Abreu are close to a deal, or merely in the talking stages."

Update: Yahoo's Tim Brown says an agreement between Abreu and the Angels is near, and it's for one year at $5 million.

Matt Bush Goes Blue Jay Way

The expected trade of Matt Bush went down today, with the Toronto Blue Jays announcing they have acquired the former No. 1 draft pick from the San Diego Padres for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Or maybe just a bag of balls.

Bush was the first overall selection in the 2004 draft. He was drafted as a shortstop, but after failing to progress switched to pitcher during the 2007 season. But he then underwent Tommy John surgery and did not pitch in 2008 - although he struck on 16 batters in the 7.2 innings he did manage to pitch in 2007 before the injury.

To clear space on their 40-man rosters, the Jays released pitcher Dirk Hayhurst.

Amber Alert: Ken Griffey Jr.

(Update: Griffey to the Mariners looking like it will happen.)

Is Ken Griffey Jr. retired? And if so, is that voluntarily or because no team in baseball wants him?

The only job Griffey has right now is the largely ceremonial one with the title of American Public Diplomacy Envoy. He was named to the position last year by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. And considering the lackluster reaction to Griffey's baseball free agency, Condi may be getting more interest in front offices than Griffey is.

But that could soon change. The Mariners are known to be mulling over a Griffey homecoming, and Griffey's former Seattle teammate Harold Reynolds has been quoted as saying that Griffey wants to head back to Seattle.

What might Griffey get? At age 39, coming off another injury-addled season in which he batted only .249 with 18 homers for the Reds and White Sox, Griffey isn't asking for much: a one-year, incentive-laden deal.

And what might a team that signs Griffey get? He's a poor outfielder now, and needs to go to the AL and DH. But at least one person is convinced Griffey will be much better on the field in 2009 than in 2008, assuming a team comes along that's willing to put him on the field.

Reds team doctor Tim Kremchek is quoted thusly in the Cincinnati Enquirer (he was actually talking to ESPN's Buster Olney when Kremchek gave this quote):

"I told the Reds this - he's going to be a different player (in 2009) than he was last year. He's got a lot to prove to people, that he can still put up good numbers and help a team."

In 2007, Griffey batted .277 with 30 homers, a quite respectable season. Dr. Kremchek's contention is that Griffey can put up those numbers again now that the meniscus and cartilage damage Kremchek repaired in October has healed. (But what part of Griffey's body will give out next?)

If Andruw Jones can still find a job, then surely somebody will take a shot in the dark with Griffey, too.

Mets Taking Another Look at Abreu?

The New York Daily News offers this, their full report on the matter, as a note at the bottom of an article about Johan Santana withdrawing from the WBC:

A Mets official did not rule out signing free-agent outfielder Bobby Abreu, but indicated that any contract likely would have to be for one year at less than $4 million. Abreu, 34, hit .296 with 20 homers and 100 RBI for the Yankees last season.

Bobby Abreu at less than $4 million? If it's reached the point where Abreu will consider that kind of deal, then the Mets should be all over it. Heck, every team in the majors should be all over that. Think about it: Just last week, the Royals avoided arbitration with Mark Teahen with a 1-year agreement at $3.85 million. Mark Teahen.

Abreu at $4 million should be a no-brainer for the Mets - if, in fact, the outfielder would actually consider that price range (and he might have to, or he'll soon be missing Spring Training time).

Monday, February 09, 2009

Transactions Report - 2/9/09

Los Angeles Dodgers: Agreed to terms with pitchers Jeff Weaver, Shawn Estes, Ronald Belisario, Charlie Haeger and Tanyon Sturtze on minor league deals. Eric Milton wasn't available.

Oakland Athletics: Agreed to terms with pitcher Edgar Gonzalez on a minor-league contract.

St. Louis Cardinals: Released second baseman Adam Kennedy. Who needs a second baseman? Or at least a cheap bench player. The team picking up Kennedy - who hit .280 in 2008 - will owe him only $400,000. Kennedy was on the bench quite a bit down the stretch as the Cards turned to Felipe Lopez, but Lopez won't be back in St. Louis, either. So who will play second for the Cards? Skip Schumaker is already in the Cardinals' camp working at second base. Schumaker batted .302 in 540 ABs in 2008, with a .359 OBP. But he's never played anywhere but the outfield.

San Francisco Giants: Signed infielder Rich Aurilia to a minor-league contract. Batted .283, 10 HR, 52 RBI in 2008. Solid choice for multi-position, off-the-bench player - especially coming cheap.

Randy Johnson Vows 15- to 20-Win Season

Randy Johnson is 45 years old, and in the eyes of many fans and many mainstream media members, he's ready for the scrap heap. Fortunately, the Giants didn't believe that. Fortunately, Johnson doesn't believe that. Because he remains a very effective pitcher, if no longer an ace.

And Johnson, saying his back feels good, has pledged big things to Giants fans. Fifteen to 20 big things.

"I'm riding off into the sunset in a lot of people's eyes, but not mine, because I'm still motivated to go out there and win," Johnson said at the press conference. "I'm surely not about five wins. I'm about winning anywhere between 15 and 20 games."

Johnson also vowed he'd retire if he runs up another 5.00 earned run average, as he did three seasons ago. But Johnson winning 15 games is probably more likely than Johnson recording a 5.00 ERA.

In the two seasons since Johnson's ERA ballooned, he posted much better ERAs. While out of action most of 2007, Johnson, then 43, had a 3.81 ERA in 52 innings. In 184 inning last year, Johnson's ERA was 3.91. His ERA+ was 117, and his K's to walks number was outstanding - 173 to 44.

If Johnson's back really is fixed, as he claims it is, expect Big Unit to have a very good season in San Francisco. Like Nolan Ryan before him, Johnson is a freak of nature.

Padres to Trade Jake Peavy to Cubs by July?

The stalled talks between the Padres and the Cubs over Jake Peavy may have yielded a secret subtext that might see the San Diego ace in Chicago at midseason

Noises from the two camps seem to hint that when the sale of the Cubs is complete, a sizable chunk of undesignated cash will be left on the balance sheets for the express purpose of acquiring a major free agent at midseason, more specifically before the end of July.

The prime candidate, of course, is Peavy, whose value will have reached his probable apex as various midseason contenders accelerate a rush for a playoff berth.

By holding onto Peavy for now, Padres front office executives in addition to collecting a significant midseason trade premium also are enabled to convince boxseat buyers, corporate sponsors, broadcasters, season-ticket holders, the general gate and others that the team is making a legitimate effort to compete out of spring camp, even if in their heart of hearts they know the effort may be perceived as something not entirely unlike a sham.

Whatever the outcome, the deal will likely hurt Peavy's stats if he leaves the friendly confines of San Diego.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Rangers Take Chance on Andruw Jones

Well, somebody had to do it. That somebody turns out to be the Texas Rangers, who are expected to announce within the next two days the signing of outfielder Andruw Jones.

Jones was once a champ, a good hitter and great centerfielder. Now he's a chump. Last year, one of the worst players to appear on a major-league roster.

Whether he appears on the Rangers' major-league roster is up in the air. The deal Jones and the Rangers have agreed to is a minor-league deal. Even if Jones makes the big-league roster, the Rangers will be on the hook for only $500,000. Another $1 million is possible in incentives, but unless those incentives are along the lines of "eat 12 tacos in under 12 minutes," the Rangers probably needn't have their checkbook at the ready.

But Jones is only 32 years old. Given his past glories, and the paltry dollars (by major league baseball standards) involved, the shot in the dark the Rangers are taking is one worth taking.

Transactions Report - 2/8/09

Kansas City Royals: Signed infielder-outfielder Mark Teahen to a one-year contract. $3.85 million lets both sides avoid arbitration.

Philadelphia Phillies: Signed first baseman Ryan Howard to a three-year contract. $54 million, with a few million of potential incentives thrown in.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Transactions Report - 2/7/09

(Readers: Add your insight into today's transactions via comments.)

Baltimore Orioles: Agreed to terms with pitcher George Sherrill on a one-year contract. Sherrill got $2.75 million and the deal nixes the pending arbitration hearing. Sherrill is a poster child for why closers are overrated and overpaid. He's a mediocre pitcher, but bring him into the game in just the right circumstances and he can record 31 saves.

Minnesota Twins: Signed free agent pitcher Luis Ayala to a one-year contract. Worth $1.3 million with another $600,000 in incentives. He'll compete for the setup role. If he pitches like he did from 2003-07, it's good value.

Toronto Blue Jays: Agreed to terms with pitcher Shawn Camp on a one-year contract. After signing Ken Takahashi yesterday, the Jays decide to double-down on ineffective - but cheap! - relievers.

A-Rod or A-Roid?

Sports Illustrated has a doozie of a report on its Web site today: Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003, according to the magazine. Its report begins thusly:

In 2003, when he won the American League home run title and the AL Most Valuable Player award as a shortstop for the Texas Rangers, Alex Rodriguez tested positive for two anabolic steroids, four sources have independently told Sports Illustrated.

Rodriguez's name appears on a list of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball's '03 survey testing, SI's sources say. As part of a joint agreement with the MLB Players Association, the testing was conducted to determine if it was necessary to impose mandatory random drug testing across the major leagues in 2004.

When approached by an SI reporter on Thursday at a gym in Miami, Rodriguez declined to discuss his 2003 test results. "You'll have to talk to the union," said Rodriguez, the Yankees' third baseman since his trade to New York in February 2004. When asked if there was an explanation for his positive test, he said, "I'm not saying anything."

If Rodriguez (and 103 other players) tested positive, why weren't they disciplined? Because the 2003 testing was part of a deal with players to conduct the testing but have the results remain anonymous. So nobody who tested positive in this process was punished.

The list of 104 players testing positive was obtained by federal investigators looking into the BALCO mess via a search warrant served on the lab that conducted some of the testing.

What impact might this have on Rodriguez? Probably none. If the guy can survive rumors he was fooling around with the married, 50-year-old Madonna, he can survive this hit, too.

Padres Trying to Trade Ex-Top Pick Matt Bush

Though the Padres always respected former No. 1 pick Matt Bush's ability to throw a strike from shortstop to first base, his conversion to pitcher so far had been a virtual failure, thus complicating the prospect of trading him.

Even if the team fails to find someone willing to take him, Bush is finished as as a Padre after yet another off-field incident that has made his status with the team untenable. Bush's roster spot has been given to free agent journeyman Cliff Floyd, who signed a $750,000 one-year contact to fill the roll of a left-handed bat off the bench.

The loss to the team is marginal, given recent reports that Bush's rigorous rehabilitation regimen so far had failed to bring back his arm more than a year after reconstructive elbow surgery. With Bush's fastball tangibly short of the 90-mph mark, one can speculate that pressure over the collapse of his career may have been a factor in Bush's most recent drinking binge.

It can be expected, however, that one or more organizations may give him consideration to resume his career in the minors if his recent legal difficulties are clarified.

Police in the Southern California casino venue of El Cajon are investigating potential public drunkenness and other charges against Bush stemming from his alleged participation in an assault involving high school athletes.

It's a familiar story for Bush, who after being drafted in the first round in 2004 was suspended by the Padres after being arrested in connection with a nightclub disturbance near Phoenix, where he was to have reported to camp. His recovery from surgery was again interrupted at mid-season last year after he allegedly participated in another disturbance at a Phoenix area nightspot.

Update: Bush dealt to Blue Jays.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Rangers Give Jennings Shot at Comeback

Jason Jennings spent six years in Colorado and somehow emerged with a positive record and a positive ERA+. But not unscathed. A torn flexor tendon cropped up, and Jennings crapped out.

In Houston in 2007, Jennings went 2-9 with 6.45 ERA before surgery mercifully ended his season. At Texas in 2008, he was 0-5 with an 8.56 ERA before going under the knife a second time.

This time, Jennings and the Rangers believe, the repaired tendon will hold. Jennings says he feels better than he did at any point in 2008. And he'll get a chance to prove it when pitchers and catchers report to Rangers camp next week. On Friday, the Rangers signed Jennings to a minor-league contract.

Jennings may start the season in the minors, working his way back into shape. But the Rangers believe he can win back a place in the rotation. For a minor-league deal, it's worth finding out.

Transactions Report - 2/6/09

(Readers: Add your insight into today's transactions via comments.)

Arizona Diamondbacks: Signed pitcher Tom Gordon to a one-year contract. The contract is for $500,000 with $2.5 million in incentive clauses. "Flash" missed the second half of 2008 with elbow inflammation. Plus he's 41-years-old, so he's just plain creaky. Apparently, Jesse Orosco wasn't available.

Boston Red Sox: Signed catcher Jason Varitek to a one-year contract with club and player options for a second year. $5 million in 2009. Batted .220 with 13 homers in '08.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Signed pitcher Randy Wolf to a one-year contract. For the Dodgers, $5 million is a drop in the bucket. Which is probably what Wolf's impact will be, too.

Texas Rangers: Re-signed pitcher Jason Jennings to a minor league contract.

Toronto Blue Jays: Signed pitcher Ken Takahashi to a minor league contract. A 39-year-old with a losing record in Japan. A "what the hell, why not" move by the Jays.

Ben Sheets to the Wind

Free-agent pitcher Ben Sheets - late of the Milwaukee Brewers and the All-Star Game starter for the National League in 2008 - was closing in on a deal with the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers were offering a 2-year contract with only $10 million in guaranteed money but lots of incentives.

Then they had to go and do a physical exam. What they found scared the Rangers away from the proposed contract with Sheets, and will send Sheets under the knife.

Sheets' right elbow bothered him down the stretch last season and he didn't pitch in the playoffs. The MRI ordered by the Rangers showed a torn flexor tendon.

What awaits Sheets now is surgery. After that? He'll likely sign a two-year deal with someone - the Rangers haven't ruled out this possibility - that provides minimal pay for 2010 while Sheets rehabs, then an incentive-laden pay structure for 2011.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Options Shrinking for Manny Ramirez

Where will Manny Ramirez wind up? It's starting to look as though - barring something crazy like going to Japan for a year - Ramirez will be back with the Dodgers, and likely for less money than he hoped to get at the start of the free agent season.

The biggest reason that Ramirez appears wedded to the Dodgers at this point is that nobody else seems to want him. The Yankees and Mets have stated they aren't interested. The Red Sox? Not bloody likely. Who else has the money? There had been some reports that the Nationals - the Nationals! - might make a run. But who's kidding whom?

Ramirez wants a 4-year deal worth $100 million. The Dodgers are holding the line at two years. They've offered Ramirez $45 million for two years, and agent Scott Boras rejected it. They've offered Ramirez one year at $25 million, and Boras rejected that, too.

In this game of chicken, who blinks first? The Dodgers need Ramirez - but Ramirez needs the Dodgers, because they're his only good option.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Radio Broadcaster Mark Patrick's Career on Hold

Fans continue to await news of former XM Radio star Mark Patrick -- one of the most gifted sports broadcasters ever to wait by a telephone for months.

Though earlier rumored to have been the beneficiary of a customary, 90-day, contractual severance package since he being fired by the network in November -- which would have provided him income through much of this month -- the supposed arrangement has been called into question.

For all appearances, Patrick is languishing in his Brownsburg, Ind., "trailer" as major league catchers and pitchers prepare to report to spring camps in Florida and Arizona.

Ironically, Patrick and former "Baseball this Morning" broadcast partner Buck Martinez had reached the apex of their satellite radio endeavor when the struggling network pulled the plug on Patrick. Patrick's dismissal came even as he and Martinez had perfected an informative, entertainingly bright and yet often mockingly self deprecating and sarcastic repartee that held fans in rapt attention.

But program developer Charles 'Chuck' Dickemann -- with a more limited understanding of major league baseball than his two morning hosts -- reportedly had his share of disagreements with Patrick over form and content, with Patrick none too shy about speaking his mind, according to knowledgeable sources.

While the talent shined, the network failed to take advantage of its entree with key baseball sources to respond to tips or develop exclusives that would have greatly advanced XM Channel 75. Even the channel's hourly sports news breaks, for example, were especially repetitive, untimely and wholly unoriginal -- sometimes bordering on illiterate.

Wall Street analysts urged speculators and investors to sell their interests in XM as the network's descent into the realm of penny stocks threatened its listings on major stock exchanges. At the same time, Patrick found his contract renewal on the endangered species list.

Why haven't the powers-that-be given Patrick another chance as the new baseball season approaches? Why is it that decision making lies with all the wrong people?

(By the way it is widely accepted that Charles "Chuck" Dickemann is no relation to Charles "Bud" Dickman, talk show host Phil Hendrie's intern formerly on XM Channel 152. It was Bud, not Chuck, who was the one with the steel plate in his head, or was it the other way around?)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Kerry Wood Deal Shifts Focus to Indians Backups

Given free agent Kerry Wood's history of chronic injuries -- his $20.5 million two-year agreement to become the Indians closer tends to magnify the importance of backups Jensen Lewis, Adam Miller and others.

To some, former Angels free agent Francisco Rodriguez might have seemed a better value when he signed with the Mets at $37 million for three years, but the Indians were content to take Wood, perhaps because their bullpen has plenty of insurance.

Lewis was 13-0 in save situations near the end of last year, and Miller is throwing nearly in triple figures in winter ball, Cleveland Plain Dealer baseball writer Paul Hoynes recently reported.

Former closer candidate Rafael Betancourt is on board, as is left-handed strikeout specialist Rafael Perez, former Mets setup man Joe Smith and highly regarded, potential swingman Masa Kobayashi.