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Baseball News and Notes April 2

Baseball News and Notes April 2

Baseball Today - April 2
Mon, Apr 2, 2007
By Associated Press

SCOREBOARD

Monday, April 2

Baltimore at Minnesota (7:05 p.m. EDT). Johan Santana, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, makes his second consecutive opening-day start for the Twins.

STARS - Sunday

-Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca, Mets. Delgado put the Mets ahead with an early two-run double off Chris Carpenter and Lo Duca added three RBIs, leading New York to a 6-1 victory over St. Louis.

NEW BEGINNINGS

Tom Glavine got his 291st win and Carlos Delgado put the Mets ahead with an early two-run double off Chris Carpenter, leading New York to a 6-1 victory Sunday night in the major league season opener. Paul Lo Duca added three RBIs and made a nifty tag at the plate for the Mets, who lost to St. Louis in Game 7 of last year's NL championship series, which ended when Carlos Beltran took a called third strike from Adam Wainwright with the bases loaded in a 3-1 loss.

ROSTER MOVES

The Rangers purchased the contract of outfielder Sammy Sosa from Oklahoma of the PCL on Sunday. ... The Padres agreed to a $9.5 million, four-year deal with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. ... Pitcher Matt Thornton agreed on a $3.25 million, three-year contract with the Chicago White Sox.

TRADE

The Mariners traded pitcher Travis Blackley to San Francisco for outfielder Jason Ellison.

SPEAKING

''There's no question for us as a group that it was a little bit of a disappointment that it wasn't us. It could have very easily been us, but it wasn't. Maybe it's the kind of thing that you watch and know that when the season is over for us, that's what we want to be doing.'' - Tom Glavine of the Mets, after watching the Cardinals' celebration of their 2006 championship at Busch Stadium in St. Louis before the Mets' 6-1 victory in the major league opener on Sunday night.

SEASONS

April 2

1931 - Virne Beatrice ''Jackie'' Mitchell, the first woman in professional baseball, pitched against the New York Yankees in an exhibition game in Chattanooga. Babe Ruth waved wildly at the first two pitches and took a third strike. Lou Gehrig timed his swing to miss three straight pitches. Tony Lazzeri, after trying to bunt, walked and Mitchell left the game.

1952 - Hall of Fame outfielder Monte Irvin of the New York Giants broke his ankle in an exhibition game. Irvin played just 46 games that season.

1984 - The New York Mets lost to the Cincinnati Reds 8-1 for their first opening day defeat in 10 years.

1996 - St. Francis of Illinois pummeled Robert Morris 71-1 in a Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference game that was surrendered after four innings by Robert Morris coach Gerald McNamara.

1997 - For the first time, the salary of one player - Albert Belle - exceeded the payroll of an entire team - the Pittsburgh Pirates. Belle, the game's highest-paid player for 1997 at $10 million, made $928,333 more than the whole Pirates payroll, which totaled $9,071,667.

2001 - Roger Clemens became the AL strikeout king, getting five to pass Walter Johnson as the Yankees beat Kansas City 7-3 in their season opener. Clemens fanned Joe Randa for his 3,509th career strikeout.


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Re: Baseball News and Notes April 2

Yankees put Wang, Karstens on DL
Sun, Apr 1, 2007
By Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees put pitchers Chien-Ming Wang and Jeff Karstens on the 15-day disabled list Sunday, setting their roster for opening day.

The Yankees also released left-hander Ron Villone and catcher Ben Davis, and optioned right-hander Colter Bean and right-hander Chris Britton to Triple-A Scranton.

New York opens the season with a major league-high $193.69 million payroll after adjustments for cash transactions in the trades involving Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, Javier Vazquez and Jaret Wright.

Wang, right-hander Jose Veras and right-hander Humberto Sanchez were placed on the DL retroactive to March 23. Karstens was backdated to March 26.

Wang, a 19-game winner last season and runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award, has an injured right hamstring. He threw 40 pitches Sunday off a half-mound at the team's spring training complex in Tampa, Fla.

''Feel fine. Making progress,'' he said.

Wang, expected to be out until at least late April, is slated to have another half-mound session Tuesday.

Karstens (stiff elbow) said he will have a bullpen session Monday.

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Re: Baseball News and Notes April 2

Tigers banking on Sheffield paying off

April 2, 2007

Is Gary Sheffield worth it?

That question has been asked often since Sheffield made his major league debut Sept. 3, 1988 (at Tiger Stadium, incidentally). Baseball executives, reporters and teammates have wondered if Sheffield's hitting negated his occasional outbursts and grumpiness. This, however, is not about his attitude.

It is about his ability. The Tigers have bet $41 million that Sheffield will be a star for three more years.

Sheffield says, "Age is just a number," but in his case, age is a large number: He turned 38 in November.

According to baseball-reference.com, batters with the most similar stats to Sheffield through age 37 are (in order): Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, Reggie Jackson, Billy Williams, Mike Schmidt, Dave Winfield, Rafael Palmeiro, Duke Snider, Ernie Banks and Frank Thomas. Let us first note that these are (literally) some heavy hitters. I mean, Bobby Higginson is not eating at that table. Six of those 10 guys are in the Hall of Fame. The others aren't eligible yet, but they will all merit serious Hall consideration, though Palmeiro's steroid suspension will hurt his candidacy.

This is why the Tigers jumped at the chance to acquire Sheffield. Only a few players in club history can rival his numbers. Sheffield has never won a league MVP award, but he has finished in the top 10 six times. He is unquestionably one of the best players of his generation.

But look at that list again.

Bagwell was done playing at 37. McGriff was basically done at 39. Jackson hit .236 after he turned 36, though he did set an American League record for referring to himself in the third person.

Williams retired at 38. Schmidt had his last good year at 37. Palmeiro's last really good season came at 38; he retired at 40 after severely fracturing the truth. Snider retired at 37. Banks had his last good season at 38 -- after that, when he said, "Let's play two," he meant innings.

Winfield was still a productive hitter at 41, and Thomas had an MVP-quality year last season at 38.

To sum up: By the time they were past 38, eight of those 10 guys were basically hood ornaments.

The Tigers are betting Sheffield is different. There are factors in his favor. Modern medicine and conditioning have extended the shelf life of players, and Sheffield has been a workout warrior.

"I've always had that approach," Sheffield said. "It is probably because of my stubbornness in that area that I can continue playing."

The Tigers also think they can extend Sheffield's career by turning the career infielder/outfielder into a full-time designated hitter. "I stay a lot fresher," Sheffield said. "I don't have to go out on the field and run after balls."

Moving Sheff to DH is a logical move. He has never been a great fielder. (Neither has Magglio Ordonez, the incumbent rightfielder.)

The only question is whether Sheffield will hit as well when he doesn't play the field. That can go either way -- some players hit better when that is all they have to do; others say that sitting on the bench for 45 minutes between at-bats drives them crazy.

"Hey, that's what my role is," Sheffield said. "I just gotta get used to it. I feel like I can pass the test. Until you are through it, you don't know."

Sheffield was an MVP candidate as recently as 2005. His numbers dropped last season, but he says that was because he returned from a wrist injury too early. (Sheffield has a history of playing through injuries.)

The Tigers will pay Sheffield $14 million in 2009, when he will be 40. As with the Pudge Rodriguez contract, the Tigers will hope for star-level production at the beginning of the deal with the expectation that Sheffield will probably decline by the end. That is the most likely scenario. But then again, who thought the Brewers' backup shortstop on Sept. 3, 1988, would still be a star in 2007?

"I really didn't think about what would happen my 15th year, my 18th year," Sheffield said. "I never thought about it that way. I go year to year. I figured if I put in the hard work, it would pay off."

The Tigers are banking on it.

www.freep.com

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Re: Baseball News and Notes April 2

D-Backs poised for long ride on wave of talent
By Scott Bordow
Tribune Columnist


Josh Byrnes was in the Cleveland front office in the early 1990s when the Indians put together the team that won five American League Central Division titles and went to two World Series during the decade. He's not foolish enough to predict the Diamondbacks will have the same kind of success over the next few years.

But he's not ruling it out.

"You're talking about Hall of Famers in Cleveland," said Byrnes, the Diamondbacks' general manager. "But we probably have more in our first wave of talent than Cleveland had in its first wave."

It's an impressive statement, given the Indians' roll call in the '90s: Albert Belle, Roberto Alomar, Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, etc.

But the beauty of the Diamondbacks these days is that the comparison can even be made.

Let's be clear. There are no guarantees in baseball. Today's prospect is tomorrow's has-been.

If we knew that Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Carlos Quentin, Conor Jackson, Miguel Montero and Justin Upton were going to become stars, we wouldn't be writing this column.

We'd be in Las Vegas.

But, if first impressions are any indication, the Diamondbacks are about to take their fans on a long, enjoyable trip.

And it's about time.

The last three seasons in downtown Phoenix have been about as enjoyable as rush hour traffic. The bills came due on Jerry Colangelo's spending, and the payments were 51-111, 77-85 and 76-86.

This year, by comparison, should be a Saturday drive on the Autobahn.

Do the Diamondbacks have what it takes to play in the World Series? Heck if I know. I was as surprised as anyone when the Detroit Tigers went from hapless to November.

But Arizona has enough talent in its everyday lineup and enough depth in its starting rotation that it should, at the very least, be in position to win the National League West title deep into September.

"It's funny," Byrnes said. "You look around the National League, and I'm not too sure there's a team that definitely will win 90-plus games. I'm not sure there are a lot of teams that have no chance of competing for the playoffs, either.

"There's a lot of congestion, and we like our club. We have a lot of position players who have a chance to have very good careers in front of them. We expect them to start performing now."

And the best may be yet to come.

Byrnes, with an assist from the previous administration, has built the club the right way, around those position players. Pitching may win games, but there's no bigger crapshoot in sports than drafting a high school or college pitcher and hoping he'll win 20 games some day.

Just ask the Chicago Cubs, who have had their hearts broken by Mark Prior and Kerry Wood far too often.

Better to get a Drew, an Upton, a Quentin. They may not be sure things, but they're easier to project and less likely to suffer a career-ending injury or an injury that derails a career.

"Pitching is very important, but by the same token it's the hardest thing to predict," Byrnes said. "The fact we have position players as our demographic makes it more predictable."

The young talent on hand has the Diamondbacks in an enviable position. Because their highest-paid everyday player the next few years likely will be third baseman Chad Tracy, at just $3.3 million per season, they'll have room in the payroll to acquire proven major-league pitching.

Now, Arizona's blueprint isn't infallible. A few players get hurt, the wrong decisions are made on pitchers (Russ Ortiz, anyone?) and the Diamondbacks could slink back into the hole they've been in for three years.

But I'm betting that won't happen.

Arizona is on the precipice of something big, and the journey begins Monday in Colorado.

www.eastvalleytribune.com

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Re: Baseball News and Notes April 2

The (projected) winners are ...

Soriano, Zambrano, Piniella among picks to click

April 1, 2007

BY CHRIS DeLUCA Staff Reporter
LAS VEGAS -- At the Las Vegas Hilton, the home of the largest sports book in the world, you can get action on the over/under for Alfonso Soriano's projected home runs (35½) or Carlos Zambrano's projected victories (15½).

You can get odds and action on just about anything in baseball, except for the postseason awards. The Hilton -- as with most other sports books -- won't post odds on any awards that are voted upon.

That leaves us to make our own projections as we take a stab at the four major awards in each league: MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year.

National League MVP: The Cubs might not be more than an 85-victory team, but this should be enough in the NL Central. If they reach the playoffs, that must mean new center fielder and leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano played the role everyone expected when he signed an eight-year, $136 million contract in the offseason.

American League MVP: Another big bat might have meant the difference between the Detroit Tigers winning the AL Central or settling for the wild card last season. With left-hander Kenny Rogers on the shelf at least through midseason, the Tigers will need all the extra offensive punch they can get, and new designated hitter Gary Sheffield should provide the lift.

NL Cy Young: Zambrano should have the comfort of a new five-year contract when he makes his start Opening Day against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday. He already has guaranteed a Cy Young Award for himself and a World Series title for the Cubs. It's hard to argue with the Cubs' ace about the first guarantee.

AL Cy Young: Betting against two-time winner Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins would be crazy. But if Santana is derailed by injury or ineffectiveness, White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle, a former 19-game winner, might be an interesting dark horse before he enters free agency.

NL Rookie of the Year: The Arizona Diamondbacks are loaded with young talent, and the most intriguing player is center fielder Chris Young, a 22-year-old who has been labeled a five-tool player in the same way as Cubs prospect Felix Pie. The difference is, Young is a bit more polished.

AL Rookie of the Year: Alex Gordon already has been called the next George Brett, which is unreal praise in Kansas City. The lefty-hitting Royals third baseman looks to have the tools to live up to the hype, and he is media-friendly enough to thrive in the limelight that surely will follow him.

NL Manager of the Year: Adopting the same formula that works in Soriano's favor, if the Cubs reach October, manager Lou Piniella will be the runaway favorite for his third Manager of the Year award.

AL Manager of the Year: There had been a feeling -- even inside the Oakland Athletics' clubhouse -- that the A's had been successful in recent seasons in spite of manager Ken Macha. If the A's succeed in a wide-open AL West, the nod would have to go to first-year manager Bob Geren, who is operating with far less talent than Macha enjoyed.

Leading off

"Work on it on somebody else's time." -- Jim Leyland, Tigers manager, shooting down the universal spring-training excuse among struggling pitchers -- in this case, Justin Verlander -- that they were just "working on some things" after a poor outing

Ex-factor

Joe Borowski, Cleveland Indians RHP


When the Indians opened camp six weeks ago, the idea was to make Keith Foulke their closer and Joe Borowski their main setup man. But Foulke retired the first week of camp, and Borowski was nudged into the closer's role.

The Indians have become a popular pick to win the competitive American League Central, but their success depends on how much Borowski, who turns 36 on May 4, has left in his surgically repaired right arm.

Borowski, who was an unheralded component to the Cubs' march to the 2003 National League Championship Series with 33 saves, rang up a career-high 36 saves last season while earning the minimum salary of $327,000 with the Florida Marlins. There were whispers he pitched with a sore shoulder in the second half, but the Indians still offered him a one-year, $4.25 million contract -- nearly double his previous salary high ($2.3 million with the Cubs in 2005).

The Indians were most impressed with the battles Borowski has survived.

''We wanted to go out and get proven veterans, people who have experienced the ups and downs of the bullpen,'' manager Eric Wedge said. ''People who have short memories.''

Extra bases

Tigers' troubles


The Detroit Tigers' pitching depth will be tested much earlier than expected with the loss of left-hander Kenny Rogers, 42, until at least the All-Star break. He had surgery Friday to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder.

Penciled in as the Tigers' No. 2 starter behind right- hander Jeremy Bonderman, Rogers had a strong camp, going 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA. The immediate plan is to move right-hander Chad Durbin from long reliever to fifth starter.

Durbin, 29, was once a highly regarded Kansas City Royals prospect whose career was derailed by arm trouble. In 78 major-league outings, including 56 starts, Durbin is 17-30 with a 6.14 ERA. He showed promise last season at Class AAA Toledo, going 11-8 with a 3.11 ERA.

''I can't look you in the eye and say Chad Durbin's as good as Kenny Rogers,'' Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters. ''But it doesn't mean he can't fill the role of a fifth starter and win enough ballgames to get us to the point where Kenny comes back or somebody else is ready.''

If Durbin struggles, look for the Tigers to put 21-year-old left-hander Andrew Miller, their first-round draft pick last June, in the fast lane.

For openers

Cincinnati Reds right-hander Aaron Harang tuned up for his Opening Day start against the Cubs by allowing three runs and 10 hits in five innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

''It's good to get all that out of the way down here,'' he said.

Harang had a 6.66 ERA and allowed 46 hits in 25 2/3 innings in Florida. The Reds, looking for a silver lining, point out he struck out 22 and walked two.

''He got through the spring healthy,'' manager Jerry Narron said. ''We're looking forward to Monday.''

Worth watching

Among the special features in the director's cut of ''The Natural,'' which recently was released on DVD, is a look back at ''The Sandberg Game.''

The tie-in: ''The Natural'' was released on May 11, 1984. On June 23, 1984, Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg had his career-defining game, belting two tying home runs against St. Louis Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter during NBC's ''Game of the Week.''

The look back features commentary from Sandberg and broadcaster Bob Costas discussing Sandberg's game as clips from the movie are intertwined in the story.

Numbers game

31: Years since a National League team won back-to-back World Series (the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and 1976). The defending champion St. Louis Cardinals are facing an uphill battle. NL teams haven't won consecutive World Series since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, 1980 Philadelphia Phillies, 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers and 1982 Cardinals combined for four in a row. The last NL team to reach consecutive World Series was the Atlanta Braves (1995-96).

www.suntimes.com

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Re: Baseball News and Notes April 2

10 players to watch
By Tony Massarotti

Lest we forget, it’s not about us. It’s not about the managers or coaches, umpires or executives. It’s not even about the beer.

Always and without exception, baseball is about the players.

So who will be the players to watch in 2007? That all depends on the criteria. But while the fantasy geeks do their last-minute cramming on rookies and sleepers, here are 10 players to watch during the summer of 2007, albeit for different reasons:

1. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees

Let’s be honest: A-Rod’s life is a reality show. Next week, Alex talks about going to therapy! Putting a guy like A-Rod in New York has created the perfect storm, and now Rodriguez is entering a potential free-agent year because he has the right to opt out of his current deal at the end of the season. Here’s betting that he walks.

Meanwhile, there is a season to be played.

2. Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets

Now here’s a guy who truly belongs on the big stage. Truth be told, watching Reyes leg out a triple is more exciting than the Kentucky Derby. Coming off a season during which he batted .300 with 194 hits, 122 runs scored, 30 doubles, 17 triples, 19 home runs, 81 RBI and 64 stolen bases, Reyes is now The Most Dynamic Player in Baseball.

And he’s got an arm as strong as Joel Zumaya’s.

3. Barry Bonds, OF, San Francisco Giants

Unlike A-Rod, he is beyond Reality Show status. (Quite literally, in fact.) As he approaches Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record, Bonds somehow has gone from one of the truly great, multi-talented players in baseball history to one of the sadder figures of our (pas)time. As a home run king, we all know he will be a fraud. But how will America react?

And will he ever actually go to The Big House?

4. Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP, Boston Red Sox

Red Sox fans always have been an excitable lot, but now they’ve just added a country of roughly 130 million to their viewing audience. Sox officials spent a whopping $103.11 million to get Matsuzaka -- a $51.11 million posting fee and $52 million, six-year contract -- and Matsuzaka has never thrown a professional pitch in a meaningful game on American soil.

What if the guy is a bust?

5. Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs

During the off-season, Soriano signed the biggest contract of any player available on the free-agent market, $136 million over eight years, an average of $17 million. A rare 40-40 player who plays defense as if blindfolded, Soriano is now being asked to play center field at cold, windy and raw Wrigley Field for mercurial manager Lou Piniella. Expect to see this guy in the highlights.

A lot.

6. Gary Sheffield, OF, Detroit Tigers

If it seemed that the defending American League champions were relatively quiet during the off-season, it’s because they were. The Tigers acted swiftly in acquiring Sheffield from the Yankees, then sat back and brought back pretty much their entire team, especially the pitching staff. The one thing last year’s club lacked was a patient hitter with power who rarely strikes out.

Now they have him.

7. Carlos Zambrano, RHP, Chicago Cubs

Last season, for a positively dreadful Cubs team that had the worst record in the National League, Zambrano went 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA and 210 strikeouts. How good could he be now? Zambrano is mercurial by nature and went through some public posturing before avoiding arbitration and agreeing to a one-year, $12.4 million contract.

Unless he signs an extension, he’ll be a free agent in November.

8. Andruw Jones, OF, Atlanta Braves

Funny, isn’t it? Two years ago, Jones was the Hank Aaron Award winner in the National League and the runner-up in the NL Most Valuable Player Award balloting. Now, he might trade bait (again) come July 31. The Braves have reinforced their bullpen (and then some) in an effort to improve, but if they fail to contend in the NL East, You Know Who might be available because he is eligible for agency in November.

Not a bad midseason pickup, eh?

9. Rich Harden, RHP, Oakland A’s

Every year, there are a number of players who seem to reach the proverbial crossroads; this season, Harden is among those at the top of the list. In his first full season of 2004, Harden won 11 games and posted a 3.99 ERA while striking out 167 in 189.2 innings. Since that time, he’s pitched only 174.2 innings, including a mere 46.2 last year.

So is this guy going to be a stud?

10. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Seattle Mariners

As strange as it seems, the former MVP and owner of six consecutive 200-hit seasons could be a free agent by the end of this season. Earlier this spring, Suzuki entertained onlookers by hitting a succession of home runs during bating practice, and many have theorized that there always has been more power in that bat than Suzuki might have let on.

www.nbcsports.com

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