Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies had his contract renewed for the grand total of $900,000. This may seem like the deal of a lifetime for the Phillies and a huge rip off for Howard, the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player, but the truth of the matter is $900,000 is a new record for a player with only two years of Major League service.
Pedro Martinez of the New York Mets was officially cleared to start throwing today. Martinez has a long way back to starting in a game at this point. The Mets are projecting his return to the rotation in August.
Chan Ho Park of the New York Mets was scheduled to make his first start on Friday but was scratched at the last minute because he hadn't received his work visa yet. This problem will be settled quickly.
Jason Schmidt of the Los Angeles Dodgers made his first start Friday and threw two shutout innings while striking out one. Schmidt also allowed two hits and walked two batters.
Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs started on Friday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Big Z threw two innings, allowed one hit and struck out four. In perhaps a bigger or bolder story Zambrano was quoted saying he will win the N.L. CY Young award and that the Cubs will win the World Series.
Matt Murton of the Chicago Cubs is very aware of the fact that he does not have a position locked up coming into 2007. Murton showed he is ready to fight for that spot on Friday by going three for three with four runs batted in and a run scored.
Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs showed good form on Friday as he went two for three with a run scored. This spring should be a good measuring stick for the strength in his wrist. Lee and the Cubs say he is 100% and early on it looks to be true.
Cesar Izturis of the Chicago Cubs will likely bat in the two spot or the eight hole this season and will primarily focus on hitting for average and "doing the job"meaning move runners along. Izturis went two for three with two runs scored on Friday.
Neal Cotts of the Chicago Cubs has been rumored as a long shot for a starter's role this Spring Training but he didn't do himself any favors on Friday as he surrendered three runs on four hits in just one inning of work.
Reports out of the Arizona Diamondbacks camp stated that Randy Johnson felt so good when he reached his 45 pitch count during a bullpen session yesterday that he continued to throw and stretched it out to 52 pitches. Johnson is said to be progressing very well and will thrown again on Sunday. Johnson is just throwing fastballs thus far but said he may start throwing some breaking stuff on Sunday.
Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox made his live-action debut yesterday against Boston College. Dice-K was very efficient in his two innings of work throwing only 25 pitches (19 strikes) while allowing one hit and striking out three. K topped out at 94 miles per hour and sat consistently in low 90's.
Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants stumbled through his spring debut as he was apparently stricken with the flu. Bonds went zero for two and had some trouble with the sun in left field. Bonds said several of his teammates have missed time with the flu recently and he is just getting it. The Brewers beat the Giants 21-2 on Friday afternoon.
The most recent steroid or human growth hormone scandal isn't just linked to star players. Utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. of the Texas Rangers was linked on Friday. Hairston Jr. immediately expressed shock and dismay according to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.
Ryan Dempster of the Chicago Cubs has reported to Spring Training in much better shape this year. Dempster has explained his decrease in performance last season on fatigue and a lack of competitiveness and/or preparedness. Dempster says that those will not be issues this season and he will simply "go out and do my job like I always have."
Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs will put some pressure on Ryan Dempster whether he wants to or not. Wood threw two innings of batting practice yesterday and reportedly still feels good. Wood will throw in live action for the first time early next week.
Mark DeRosa could be an interesting story this year as he has returned to the National League by becoming a member of the Chicago Cubs. DeRosa is coming off of his best offensive season by far but he will be playing this season away from the very hitter friendly ballpark in Arlington. However, on the other hand, DeRosa will have very little pressure to post big power numbers and he has recently stated repeatedly that he will be focusing on hitting for a high average and doing his job as a hitter. This is a very good idea considering all of the thump that the Cubs will have in the lineup this season. If DeRosa can maintain this free and easy hitting approach I would not at all be surprised if he would set a new career season high in batting average (.297 with a minimum of 200 AB), and homeruns (13 in 2006). With that being said the Cubs and I would also love to see DeRosa match or come close to matching his 40 doubles and 74 runs batted in this season.
Derek Lee of the Chicago Cubs will be on a mission this year to reestablish himself as one of the most powerful offensive threats in all of baseball as well as lead the Cubbies to the World Series. Derek Lee had a break out season in 2005 (50 2B, 46 HR, 107 RBI and a .335 BA) and many wondered at the beginning of the 2006 season if that was going to be a once in a career type of season or would he be able to repeat or even improve on those numbers in 2006. Well, thanks to a nearly season ending wrist injury no one got to find out the answer to that question. Early projections from various sources have Lee posting good numbers but mostly at the back end of the top ten first basemen in the league. I believe that Lee will not only return to his 2005 form (in which he had next to no help most of the season) but surpass his RBI high and approach his 2005 numbers (give or take a few) in doubles, homeruns and batting average. This season will put Lee back in the conversation as one of the best hitters in all of baseball and the Gold Glove he will win will put him in the conversation as possibly the most valuable player in the game!
Miguel Cabrera of the Florida Marlins has already established himself as one of the best offensive players in the game but he has yet to have that breakout year that would make him one of the best fantasy players in the game. Cabrera batted .339 with 50 doubles in 2006 which were both new season highs but came up just short of his season bests in homeruns and runs batted in with 26 and 114. Cabrera, barring injury, will set new marks in each of those categories this year and compete for the National League MVP award. Cabrera as well as Dontrelle Willis came out of the gate last season thinking they were on the worst team in all of baseball (as most predicted they would lose 90 games) but after a sluggish start former manager Joe Giradi whipped these youngsters into shape and they finished 78-84 and they are going to expect to compete with the National League East's best in 2007 and Cabrera will try to lead the way.
Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez of the Florida Marlins are set up perfectly to fall victim to the sophomore slump. Johnson and Sanchez look like they could follow in the footsteps of Zach Duke of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Much like Duke they took the National League hitters by surprise in their rookie campaigns. Johnson and Sanchez both finished in the top five of National League earned run average leaders (with a min. 100 innings) in 2006 (2.83 Sanchez and 3.10 Johnson) and I expect them both to develop into solid pitchers but I do not expect to see either one of them in the All-Star game or among the E.R.A. leaders at the end of the year.
However, they should both be able to come away with winning records this season.