With all the controversy swirling around Gary Matthews, Jr. it seems like the Rangers may have really done the right thing in letting him walk. Looking through some old reference material (I knew there was a reason I saved those old books) I noticed that Matthews was listed as 200 lbs. in 2000, went up to 210 in 2002 and this year is now listed at 225. Obviously listed weight is not always accurate every year but it is probably safe to say that Matthews has bulked up over the past few seasons. With the federal investigation underway, the less benign reasons for that bulking up are a real possibility. The Angels have been taking a hard line stand, so Matthews has some serious questions marks as to whether he will even play this season, much less reproduce his career-year numbers from 2006.
Garret Anderson's rave reviews today shouldn't get you too excited. His AVG and SLG have declined every season since his peak year of 2003. His OBP got a little bump last season but is still substantially below his pre-injury years. Anderson is projected to continue this slide by the Insider Baseball projection software and there is no good reason to dispute that. He may be healthier than he has been but he is also turning 35 this year.
Brad Penny's woes shouldn't be taken too seriously at this point. He has had an erratic spring training record in the past and his results have not correlated with his regular season performance.
Eric Byrnes would be a strong contender for the title "Mr. March."He possessed a career spring training batting average of .323 heading into this Cactus League as opposed to his average of .261 when the games count. We've seen strong production from him before in exhibition games.
Jon Garland threw 36 more pitches (about 1/3 of a start's worth) in 2006 than in 2005, but logged 10 fewer innings. His ERA jumped by a run, although his K and BB totals were comparable. The problem was that he became eminently hittable. In fact, no AL pitcher allowed more hits than Garland last season. Given his heavy workload (more than 3300 pitches for 3 straight seasons and the first such season at age 24) it's not all that surprising. It looks like his 3.50 ERA in 2005 was the aberration and the 4.00+ ERAs he has posted for the other 4 seasons of 5 are the norm. The ChiSox gave him plenty of run support last year, resulting in a healthy win total, but it would be tough to count on that again.
With Mark Prior showing velocity problems and how having trouble with command of his curve ball, his status as a possible sleeper (oh, how the mighty have fallen) is getting less likely. He is looking more and more like a pitcher who burned brightly for a short time and then flamed out.
Two factors are working against Carlos Zambrano. First, he has shouldered a heavy workload at a young age. He won't turn 26 until June 1st, but has already logged 4 seasons of 3400 pitches or more. Second, the bulk of his performance last year was driven by strong outings against the weaker offensive teams. Even outside Chicago, the NL Central seems improved offensively and that will have an impact on Zambrano. His predicted numbers are gaudy, but he may not be able to hit them.
If the stars align correctly, Josh Hamilton could end up making a decent contribution this year. With Ken Griffey, Jr. always a question mark as to health nowadays, playing time may be there for the taking in the Cincinnati outfield. If Hamilton shows a spark of being able to reach his potential the Reds will want to keep him. The major cloud will be whether Hamilton has finally beaten back the demons that have plagued him since being drafted. Hopefully he has and his story will be a successful one.
Dontrelle Willis is a definite one to watch in the "early work at a young age category."He just turned 25 in January and has thrown a total of 7171 pitches in the last 2 seasons. In 2006 he tossed 3613 pitches, which was 55 more than 2005, but worked 13 fewer innings. Willis' ERA also jumped over a run, from 2.63 to 3.87 and his strikeouts dropped by 10 while he walked 28 more, a whopping 51% increase in free passes. The Marlins may find out that they held on to the D-Train a little too long if he shows more ill effects of his workloads.
Boof Bonser seemed to get more comfortable at the major league level after being recalled in August of last year. His 57 strikeouts in 64-2/3 innings was excellent, and his 12 walks considerable lowered his rate from his earlier time with the Twins, where he walked the same number in only 35-2/3 IP.
Humidor or no humidor, Danny Graves and Colorado are just not two great tastes that go great together.
Abdominal strains are tough for any player, since so many baseball motions involve twisting the trunk, so it's not surprising to see Cliff Lee's prognosis as being out for up to 6 weeks. Often, these initial predictions are optimistic, so don't be surprised if Lee does not hit the projected May 2 return date.
If Victor Martinez's illness-related weight loss was mostly water weight, then it sounds like it might have been the stomach bug that was going around. If so, we can thank the Indians for not filling us in on the gory details.
Kerry Wood looks like he is far more successful in coming back from an injury-plagued few seasons than is Mark Prior. Wood's reinvention as a reliever will not leave him as valuable as he was as a dominating starter (see Lou Blasi's primer on relative value in yesterday's blog if you missed it). However, it will leave him miles ahead of what he is worth sitting on the DL (and we know how painful that can be.)
Prior to last season Jose Contreras had been a strong finisher, posting a 22-9 record with a 3.88 ERA after the All Star Break as opposed to 13-9 with a 4.79 ERA beforehand. In 2006, the tendency was reversed as Contreras saw his ERA climb from 3.65 to 4.71. That split is deceiving, as Contreras was lights out through the beginning of May, leading the majors in ERA, before a pinched nerve in his leg put him on the DL. After returning from the injury, Contreras was a different pitcher, posting an ERA of 5.11 the rest of the way. If he is fully recovered, Contreras should bounce back, probably not to the level he was at after his first 6 starts of 2006, but better than his overall numbers last season.
Here are some press notes from the team beat writers this morning:
Teixeira, Mark - Tex/1B: The Dallas Morning News reports that "In the fourth, first baseman Mark Teixeira felt pain in his left knee as he tried to leave the batters box on a double-play grounder. He stopped running and was removed. Teixeira has had some soreness in the knee all week. ... Teixeira said he plans to reduce activity over the next couple of days but does not envision the knee being a significant problem. "Where the soreness is, if I make a movement it doesn't like, it lets me know right away," said Teixeira, who is 5-for-19 this spring. "I think I've just overused it a little. I'll back off some."
Blalock, Hank - Tex/3B: As the Dallas Morning News reports, "third baseman Hank Blalock felt some tightness in his left calf during a morning agility drill. He was scratched from the lineup about an hour before game time. ... Blalock said that had it been the regular season, he would have played."
Giambi, Jason - NYA/DH: As the New York Post reports, "Jason Giambi was scratched yesterday due to calf cramps. He is slated to travel to Ft. Myers tonight and play against Boston."
League, Brandon - Tor/RP: As the Toronto Star reports, "Blue Jays RHP Brandon League (strained back muscle) threw his fourth bullpen session with no problems. "I'll throw live BP on Wednesday, a simulated game at the minor league complex on Saturday then in a game if everything goes OK," said League, who could be Toronto's setup man this season."
Eckstein, David - StL/SS: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that "Shortstop David Eckstein (side-muscle strain) ran at full speed for the first time Sunday, his final test before rejoining the lineup Tuesday against Minnesota. Eckstein said throwing and sprinting were bigger tests for his mild strain than swinging the bat."
Carpenter, Chris - StL/P: As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, "Back when he was devoting a lot of time to honing his changeup, Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter targeted his third start of spring to bring all of his pitches together. He did that Sunday. Although the Cards eventually lost 6-3 to Atlanta, Carpenter pitched a brisk 4 2/3 scoreless innings and limited Atlanta to two base hits. Using his curve, cutter and even a few changeups, Carpenter got 12 of his 14 outs on groundouts. ... Blake Hawksworth was scheduled to pitch Sunday but did not when Carpenter's pitch count took him deeper into the game and left no innings available for the prospect."
Encarnacion, Juan - StL/OF: According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "the Cardinals wait on Encarnacion, who required offseason surgery on his left wrist. Encarnacion hit against coaches Sunday a day after being scratched from a session. La Russa said, "He's going in the right direction but we don't feel he's going to start in the next couple days."
Edmonds, Jim - StL/OF: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that "After his first round of on-field batting practice this spring, centerfielder Jim Edmonds said his availability for opening day is hardly a given. The mildest "hiccup" in the Gold Glove fielder's recovery from offseason shoulder and toe surgeries could well leave him on the disabled list when the Cardinals play the New York Mets April 1. ... Edmonds warmed to his batting practice session, improving from awkward early swings to lining some drives. He also trotted after fly balls in the field and did some agility running. ... Edmonds added that his progress would have to be "right on" to be ready to play in less than three weeks.He described Sunday as "just a step." ... The questionable availability of Edmonds and right fielder Juan Encarnacion after surgeries in the offseason may significantly affect the underdog candidacies of John Rodriguez and Skip Schumaker, both of whom broke camp with the club last season.Rodriguez, the team's leading pinch hitter last season, recently mused "I have to hit .800" to make the club."
Putz, J.J. - Sea/RP: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that "Closer J.J. Putz, who has been out for a couple of days because of a tender right elbow, played catch during Sunday's workout to test how the rest has impacted his arm. He's probably going to throw again in a day or two."
Ramirez, Horacio - Sea/P: The Seattle Times reports that "Another day, another solid outing for a Mariners starter. This time, Horacio Ramirez took his turn, allowing only one hit in four innings. Ramirez hasn't allowed a run this spring, and the Mariners starters have allowed just three in the past 21 innings. Eight of Ramirez's first nine outs were on ground balls as the Mariners built a 3-0 lead. ... Ramirez added that he didn't feel fatigued and that his communication with catcher Kenji Johjima improved from their first outing this spring."
Mariners - Sea/T: As the Seattle Times reports, "Adrian Beltre returned to third base after missing games to rest a sore left shoulder. Jose Guillen played right field, testing his arm for the first time during spring training after Tommy John surgery. And closer J.J. Putz played catch. Beltre knocked in a run, and both he and Guillen tallied one hit in the Mariners' 12-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said both "looked good."
Kouzmanoff, Kevin - SD/3B: According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, "Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff continues to perform well defensively. "That's what we expected,"said General Manager Kevin Towers. "He may be a little unorthodox, a little funky, but we think he's a major league average defender."For the third consecutive game, Kouzmanoff collected an extra-base hit, a triple to left-center."
Sanchez, Freddy - Pit/3B: According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, "Freddy Sanchez, out since Tuesday with a mildly sprained right knee ligament, is riding a stationary bicycle and doing other light exercising but probably won't play again until Wednesday at the earliest. The Pirates play the Indians in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday, then have their only off day of the spring on Tuesday."
Bay, Jason - Pit/OF: As the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports, "Jason Bay, who had offseason knee surgery, played in the field for four innings Sunday against Cincinnati - his first time in the outfield this spring. He was used as a designated hitter in his first two exhibition game appearances. Bay had a run-scoring single in the fourth off Eric Milton while going 1-for-3. With the Pirates off Tuesday, Bay also expects to play left field Monday against Cleveland."
Lieber, Jon - Phi/P: As the Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News reports, "As starters Brett Myers, Freddy Garcia, Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer find their ways, the Phillies are delighted with the way Jon Lieber is pitching, with his sharp slider. Lieber has allowed one run, a homer, in two starts. If he continues to pitch this way, the Phillies will become even more reluctant to trade him, especially as the specter of injury to other teams' starters makes them better appreciate their six starters. Certainly, one insider said, the asking price for Lieber will increase as the spring progresses."
Moyer, Jamie - Phi/P: The Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News reports that "Phillies lefthander Jamie Moyer certainly looked ready for the season to begin. He allowed two hits in five scoreless innings in a 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers yesterday at Bright House Networks Field. He walked one and struck out two, and kept the Tigers' offense off-balance throughout. ... Moyer was scheduled to throw 70 to 75 pitches, but was so economical he threw 59."
Benitez, Armando - SF/RP: The Contra Costa Times reports that "If offseason rumors are to be believed, the Florida Marlins have a uniform fitted for Armando Benitez and a trade agreement ready to seal once he proves his health. But when Benitez made his Cactus League debut Sunday, the Marlins didn't have a scout in attendance. And the way Giants manager Bruce Bochy talks about clean slates, it's becoming more likely that Benitez actually will start the season as his closer. Benitez took the first step toward reclaiming his old role, working a relatively clean inning in the Giants' 8-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners. He fell behind three of four batters but yielded only a soft single to Jose Vidro before retiring the side. He threw nine of 17 pitches for strikes, including an eye-level fastball that Raul Ibanez was kind enough to wave through to end the inning. ... Benitez mostly threw sinkers and fastballs, which one scout clocked between 86-94 mph. It's not the fastball from his prime years, but the velocity was encouraging for a Cactus League debut. ... Bochy plans for Benitez to pitch every other day, then get in some back-to-back outings before camp breaks."
Loaiza, Esteban - Oak/P: According to the Contra Costa Times, "Right-hander Esteban Loaiza (right shoulder tightness) played catch under the supervision of pitching coach Curt Young and said he should be ready to throw Wednesday in a minor league simulated game. Crosby is scheduled to hit in the game. The A's are off that day."
Blanton, Joe - Oak/P: The Contra Costa Times reports that "Right-hander Joe Blanton went 3+ innings against the Giants, allowing two earned runs and five hits in his second spring start. In the third inning, Blanton had a runner on third with one out -- one run already in -- but ended the threat by striking out Todd Linden and Pedro Feliz. ... Blanton has looked solid in his two starts after having his first outing pushed back due to slight shoulder soreness. Blanton said he merely needed a couple extra days to build up arm strength. He waited longer to start his offseason throwing program this winter, hoping it will keep his arm fresh late in the season."
Delgado, Carlos - NYN/1B: According to the Newark Star-Ledger, "After missing four consecutive games due to a stiff neck, Carlos Delgado returned to the lineup, played five innings and went 1-for-3. "It was nice to be out there," he said."
Sanchez, Duaner - NYN/RP: As the Newark Star-Ledger reports, "Reliever Duaner Sanchez resumed workouts yesterday after sitting out the previous three days for disciplinary reasons. His once scraggly beard and hair newly trimmed, Sanchez played catch and later served as the first baseman as the rest of the pitchers worked on their fielding. Sanchez said that, one by one, he is working his way around the clubhouse and apologizing to his teammates for being late last week, an infraction that turned into a three-day ban from camp. "Everything's fine," he said. "It's great to be back." Manager Willie Randolph said everything was back to normal."
Abreu, Bobby - NYA/OF: As the New York Post reports, "Bobby Abreu took 25 swings off a batting tee, 25 against soft toss and 25 regular hacks against a batting practice pitcher in the indoor cage. Abreu hasn't played in a game due to a strained left oblique muscle."
Wang, Chien-Ming - NYA/P: According to the New York Post, "Chien-Ming Wang's tight right wrist was news to Joe Torre and GM Brian Cashman so it's not believed to be an issue. However, Wang admitted the hinge was tight after a four-inning stint against the Indians yesterday at Legends Field. "It's tight because I threw more pitches," said Wang, who fired a spring-high 61 chucks. Nobody from the medical staff alerted Torre or Cashman about a potential problem."
Ford, Lew - Min/OF: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that "Lew Ford will have surgery on his right knee today in the Twin Cities and will return to camp Tuesday. The Twins hope he will miss a month and not six weeks."
Nix, Laynce - Mil/OF: As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports, "While the Brewers have a bounty of outfielders and seem set with at least their top four of Bill Hall in center, Corey Hart in right and the platoon of Geoff Jenkins and Kevin Mench in left, one player opening some eyes is Laynce Nix. Nix is tied for the team lead with three home runs and carries a slugging percentage of .813. On Saturday, Nix blasted a long home run over the 30-foot, center-field wall.
Gordon, Alex - KC/3B: The Kansas City Star reports that "Third baseman Alex Gordon returned to limited workouts Sunday morning, easing the Royals' anxiety regarding his sore right shoulder. "I could have played (Sunday),"he said. "I mean, it's not 100 percent, but I can tell now it's just a bump or a bruise. I already feel a lot better."Gordon didn't throw in Sunday's workout but was able to do everything else, including a preworkout photo shoot for Sports Illustrated that was postponed Saturday because of his injury.Even so, club officials indicated he isn't likely to play until later in the week. "There's no urgency to get him back,"general manager Dayton Moore said, "until we feel really good about how he feels."... Gordon apparently injured his shoulder Friday night against the Angels by diving for a ball. The pain increased overnight and raised concerns when he reported Saturday morning to the club's complex. ... Gordon is projected to be the club's starting third baseman after being selected last season as the consensus minor-league player of the year. He is batting .333 with six hits in 18 at-bats in eight spring games."
Williams, Woody - Hou/P: As the Houston Chronicle reports, "Astros righthander Woody Williams, who is making progress with the elbow tenderness he has had this spring, threw four scoreless innings against Astros minor leaguers Sunday at Osceola County Stadium. "I felt better, getting there," Williams said. ... Williams struck out four and walked one while giving up only one hit. He also had an RBI single. He would like to work on throwing his cutters to righthanded hitters."
Ordonez, Magglio - Det/OF: According to the Detroit News, "Leyland said Magglio Ordonez was "OK," but swelling was still evident where Ordonez was hit in the head Saturday by a Josh Beckett curveball. X-rays were negative and Leyland said doctors found no evidence of a concussion. Ordonez is expected back this week."
Lee, Cliff - Cle/P: As the Akron Beacon Journal reports, "For the third year in a row, an Indians starting pitcher will miss the beginning of the season.Cliff Lee, who has been waiting patiently for an abdominal strain to heal, was unable to throw a scheduled bullpen session Sunday, necessitating Plan B.``Cliff is better, but he still feels it,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ... Head trainer Lonnie Soloff's timetable could sideline Lee until May. ... If Lee is unable to start a throwing program for 10 days, and it takes an additional six weeks of preparation, he won't return to the rotation until May 2. Of course, all such predictions are highly speculative right now.But one thing is certain: With the season set to start April 2, another pitcher will have to fill in for Lee. At the very least, he seems certain to miss at least three starts. ... Lee first felt a strange sensation on the right side of his abdomen throwing his second bullpen of the spring the last day of February. ... Lee has undergone an MRI scan, which shows a strain."
Reds - Cin/T: According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, "Jerry Narron has been saying that if veteran reliever Dustin Hermanson is healthy the Reds have another guy to pitch at the "end of the game."What does that mean?"The eighth and ninth," the Reds manager said Sunday. ... The Reds still have to decide whether they will bring 11 or 12 pitchers north for the regular season.Narron did identify five relievers Sunday - Mike Stanton, Rheal Cormier, Bill Bray, David Weathers and Todd Coffey - that are likely to be in uniform on Opening Day at Great American Ball Park barring an unforeseen circumstance. ... Hermanson is scheduled to make his second spring relief appearance against the Blue Jays today at Ed Smith Stadium. Also expected to pitch in relief of starter Matt Belisle are Victor Santos, Weathers and Bray."
Prior, Mark - ChN/P: The Chicago Sun-Times reports that "Mark Prior has seen his last Cactus League game for at least the next week, and doubts are increasing about whether he'll open the season in the Cubs' rotation. One day after Prior pitched poorly for the second time in as many games, he had his second meeting of spring training with manager Lou Piniella on Sunday morning and came out of it with a starting assignment in a minor-league intrasquad game. Piniella said he wants to see the former All-Star work on command of a curveball he has yet to throw for a strike and regain confidence away from the scrutiny of fans and media. Piniella said the plan calls for Prior to rejoin the rotation in major-league games after his start Thursday, but that could change unless Prior's work changes dramatically."
Matsuzaka, Daisuke - Bos/P: As the Providence Journal reports, "Daisuke Matsuzaka's third appearance in a Red Sox uniform didn't go as smoothly as the first two, but there was no cause for concern after his four-inning stint yesterday against the Baltimore Orioles.Matsuzaka yielded three runs on six hits in the Sox' 5-3 loss to the Orioles. All three runs came on home runs - a solo shot by Jon Knott in the third and a two-run belt by Jason Dubois in the fourth. He started strong, retiring the side in order in the first with two strikeouts and allowed only an infield hit to the four batters he faced in the second before getting into trouble with the long ball in his final two innings. ... On both homers, Matsuzaka missed location with his fastball. With Knott, he wanted to go outside but left the pitch over the middle of the plate. With Dubois, he wanted to bury him inside, but again allowed the fastball to catch too much of the plate. ... Matsuzaka said that because the Orioles are a divisional opponent whom the Sox will meet frequently over the season, he altered his approach and experimented some in the final two innings.He threw fastballs up in the strike zone to see if hitters would offer at those pitches. ... Matsuzaka's next outing will come Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Vero Beach."
Pedroia, Dustin - Bos/2B: The Boston Globe reports that "Rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who has just three hits in his first 21 spring at-bats, had a one-on-one session on a back field with hitting coach Dave Magadan. Pedroia was the only projected Opening Day starter not in yesterday's lineup, as Alex Cora played second base. But Francona shook his head when asked if there was any scenario, short of an injury, in which Cora would open the season at second base instead of Pedroia. "That's not a knock on AC [Cora]," Francona said. "We brought Pedroia in to be our second baseman. I don't even know what he's hitting."
Gonzalez, Mike - Atl/RP: The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that "Mike Gonzalez was 24-for-24 in save opportunities last season for Pittsburgh, but the left-hander has been far from perfect this spring.Gonzalez saw his Grapefruit League ERA climb from 6.00 to 11.25 after allowing three hits, three runs and two walks in the sixth inning Sunday vs. St. Louis. ... The Braves expect big things from Gonzalez after trading Adam LaRoche to the Pirates to get him. This spring he has allowed five runs and seven hits in four innings, with four walks and one strikeout.Gonzalez missed the last month of the season with tendinitis in his pitching elbow, but Cox and the Braves insist they aren't worried and that he's fine.Gonzalez said last week the elbow was no longer an issue and he felt great."
Davies, Kyle - Atl/P: According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Kyle Davies got behind 3-and-0 against each of the first two St. Louis batters Sunday, and more than one Braves official thought, "Not this again."He settled down and pitched four scoreless innings in a 6-3 Grapefruit League win against the Cardinals. But his early wildness was a reminder of why Davies could be sent to Class AAA Richmond to begin the season. ... Davies allowed two hits and three walks (two in the first inning) and reduced his spring ERA to 2.25 in three starts.He allowed five hits and two runs Tuesday vs. Washington, when he was supposed to work three innings but was pulled after throwing 50 pitches in two innings. ... The Braves signed veteran left-hander Mark Redman on Friday to replace injured starter Mike Hampton. Davies is likely competing with Lance Cormier for the final spot in the rotation.Cormier entered Sunday as the Grapefruit League leader in wins (three) and strikeouts (10) and ranked fourth in ERA (2.00)."
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