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Tag:Bill Bray
Posted on: March 8, 2012 8:25 pm
 

Injury roundup: Price, Manny, Harper and more

By C. Trent Rosecrans

David Robertson may not even have the oddest injury of the spring for any pitcher named David in the American League East.

Rays left-hander David Price Thursday's game after two innings with what the team called a "minor neck spasm." How does one suffer a minor neck spasm? Well, apparently by toweling off the beck of his head just a bit too hard.

Really.

Don't believe me? Ask Price.



If you didn't click on the video, Price said it's happened to him before and he shouldn't miss any time. [Tampa Bay Times]

PROJECTED LINEUPS AND ROTATIONS

• Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter may not make his scheduled start on Monday because of neck stiffness that has halted his training.

Carpenter canceled his throwing session on Wednesday and said Thursday he's been bothered by the neck stiffness. He was scheduled to throw Friday, but that may not happen, either. He said there's no timetable for his return. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

• Manny Ramirez may return from a sore back on Saturday against the Reds. Ramirez has played two games this spring and was scratched on Wednesday. [MLB.com]

• Nationals prospect Bryce Harper was a late scratch from Thursday's exhibition game because of a tightness in his left calf. He's listed as day-to-day, but expects to play either Friday or Saturday.

Harper said he didn't feel the tightness when hitting, but did feel it when he was in the outfield. [Washington Times]

• Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche played in a minor-league intrasquad game on Thursday, but he's still limited on his injured foot. He hit a home run during the game, but he wasn't able to get a real feel how his foot felt. He said he may be able to play in a big-league exhibition by Saturday. [MASNSports.com]

• Two days after his first start of the year, Mets left-hander Johan Santana said he felt good and is looking forward to his next start, Sunday against the Marlins. [New York Daily News]

• Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis will make his spring debut on March 14. Markakis had abdominal surgery in the offseason. He'll DH at first. [Baltimore Sun]

• Reds left-hander Bill Bray had been shut down for two weeks with a groin injury and then stopped his scheduled bullpen session short on Wednesday. Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters that could lead to Aroldis Chapman moving back to the bullpen.

The Reds have tried stretching Chapman out and using him as a starter this spring, but he could be back in the bullpen with Bray's injury. Chapman is starting Friday in a split-squad game against the Giants. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

• The Rangers' Brad Hawpe was scratched from a B game against the White Sox because of a setback with his right hamstring. Hawpe was supposed to lead off every inning in his first action of the spring, but instead "overdid it" getting ready on Wednesday.

Hawpe said he expects to be ready by Friday. [MLB.com]

• Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez hasn't thrown in a spring training game yet, and there's no telling when he will return from the tightness in his throwing shoulder. He's expected to throw for the team in Jupiter on Friday. [Miami Herald]

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Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 1:02 pm
 

Bray to shave head, earn money for charity

By Matt Snyder

Negative stories about celebrities and professional athletes get plenty of attention, so we try to pass along the real positive ones whenever we can -- like Marlins catcher John Buck playing hero of the day this past offseason -- and here's another one to pass along: Reds reliever Bill Bray is going to shave his head in an effort to raise money for childhood cancer research on March 17.

He'll do so at the Reds' player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Donors who pledge at least $25 toward Bray's head-shaving show of solidarity will get an 8X10 autographed photo of the lefty. Hit up Bray's Facebook page for information or to make a donation.

Note that this is taking place on St. Patrick's Day, and it's no coincidence. Bray's charity is the St. Baldrick's Foundation -- note that it's combining "bald" with the holiday.

Bray's personal tie to the cause is his 10-year-old cousin, Trevor, who has been fighting neuroblastoma cancer for the past several years.

“Trevor’s parents wanted me to get several signed baseballs for their upcoming auction, but I wanted to do more,” said Bray in a statement. “I thought, in addition to that, I should shave my head to raise money and national awareness for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Shaving my head is a simple sacrifice for a promising reward for Trevor and other children battling cancer every day.”

Kudos, Mr. Bray. And Godspeed, Trevor.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 4, 2012 10:21 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 10:22 pm
 

Spring primer: Cincinnati Reds



By C. Trent Rosecrans


With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder leaving the National League Central, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty saw an opportunity to take the division. Jocketty traded two of the team's top prospects to San Diego for Mat Latos and fortified the bullpen with the additions of Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall. With Joey Votto under contract for just the next two years, the Reds see these two years as their best chance to win, and the team is going for it.

Major additions: RHP Mat Latos, RHP Ryan Madson, LHP Sean Marshall, OF Ryan Ludwick
Major departures: RHP Francisco Cordero, RHP Edinson Volquez, C Ramon Hernandez, 1B Yonder Alonso

Probable lineup
1. Brandon Phillips 2B
2. Zack Cozart SS
3. Joey Votto 1B
4. Scott Rolen 3B
5. Jay Bruce RF
6. Ryan Ludwick LF
7. Drew Stubbs CF
8. Ryan Hanigan C

Probable rotation
1. Johnny Cueto
2. Mat Latos
3. Bronson Arroyo
4. Mike Leake
5. Homer Bailey

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Ryan Madson
Set-up: LHP Sean Marshall, RHP Nick Masset, LHP Bill Bray

Important bench players
C Devin Mesoraco, OF Chris Heisey, 3B Juan Francisco

Prospect to watch
The Reds sent Alonso to San Diego in the deal that brought Latos to Cincinnati, making many nervous about the post-Votto era. If Votto doesn't re-sign with the Reds, many saw Alonso as the heir apparent. Now that Alonso's out of the picture, the first baseman of the future is Neftali Soto. The 23-year-old was the team's third-round pick in 2007 and played shortstop, third base and catcher in addition to first base. But the team finally left him at first in 2011. The reason the team kept moving him was that his bat has never been an issue. Last season he hit 30 home runs in just 102 games at Double-A Carolina, missing a month with a broken bone in his left wrist. He doesn't walk much (just 103 walks and 375 strikeouts in five minor-league seasons), but he has plenty of power to all fields, with 10 of his 31 homers (including one in four games at Triple-A) were opposite field shots.

Fantasy sleeper: Homer Bailey
"The Reds have been conservative with Bailey and the team hopes that their caution will pay off this season. If he can stay healthy, Bailey has an excellent chance for a breakout season, as he has made steady improvements in his pitch selection, control and efficiency." -- Al Melchior [Full Reds fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Ryan Ludwick
"Some observers have pointed to Ludwick's career line at Great American Ball Park (.276/.321/.600) as a sign of an impending comeback season, and it's true that he has had the misfortune of playing in pitchers' parks for most of his career. However, Ludwick has just 19 plate appearances at GABP over the last two years, a time period during which he has seen an erosion of his power numbers, both at home and on the road." -- Al Melchior [Full Reds fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
Not only does Cueto improve upon his breakout 2011, but Latos is even better than he was in the second half of 2011, giving the Reds a dominant and young top of the rotation. Add to that a healthy Arroyo and see Bailey live up to his immense potential -- and the Reds have one of the best rotations in the National League. The offense continues to put up runs and Cincinnati eases into the postseason past the fading Cardinals and Brewers.

Pessimistic outlook
Injuries and unfulfilled potential lead to the second straight season of disappointment on the Ohio River. Not only does the starting pitching falter, but Stubbs breaks Mark Reynolds' single-season strikeout record, Bruce isn't able to make adjustments and rookies Mesoraco and Cozart play like rookies at the two most important defensive positions on the diamond. Milwaukee and St. Louis once again are the class of the division, while Pittsburgh improves and not only breaks its 19-year streak of losing seasons, but also leapfrogs the Reds for third in the NL Central. Adding insult to injury, Phillips leaves as a free agent and with the team in flux, Votto is sent away for prospects and another rebuilding job is underway.

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Posted on: December 12, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: December 12, 2011 11:56 am
 

Homegrown Team: Nationals/Expos



By Matt Snyder


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

We continue the series today with the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos. Yeah, remember them -- the best team in baseball in 1994 before the strike ended the season without a World Series? If you don't, you'll need to be reminded of a certain Bartolo Colon trade, which ended up being awful for the Expos, who got 17 starts from Colon after coughing up three future All-Stars for him. What we see is a team that looks pretty good, but has loads of young talent either already developing in the bigs or soon to be arriving.

Lineup

1. Grady Sizemore, CF
2. Brandon Phillips, 2B
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Vladimir Guerrero, RF
5. Jason Bay, LF
6. Danny Espinosa, 1B
7. Ian Desmond, SS
8. Brian Schneider, C

Starting Rotation

1. Cliff Lee
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Jordan Zimmermann
4. Javier Vazquez
5. John Lannan

Bullpen

Closer - Drew Storen
Set up - Bill Bray, Craig Stammen, Collin Balester, Miguel Batista
Long - Armando Galarraga, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, Ross Detwiler

Notable Bench Players

Bryce Harper, Chris Marrero, Wilson Valdez, Anthony Rendon, Jamey Carroll, Orlando Cabrera, Geoff Blum and Roger Bernadina.

What's Good?

The starting rotation is really good, especially if you start to think about the future. Much like the real Nats, Peacock, Milone and Detwiler all have the potential to break through and really make this a strong top-to-bottom rotation. Here, you have a perennial Cy Young candidate sitting at the top, too. The batting order definitely has the potential to be good, but there are a lot of question marks, so we can't really be overly excited about it. But, much like with the rotation, there is some serious potential on the way in Harper and Rendon. Finally, the bench is really good. This team has depth.

And in case you're curious, the three All-Stars the Expos gave up for Colon were Sizemore, Phillips and Lee. None of the three had made their major-league debut at the time of the trade.

What's Not?

If we were really going to stick Vlad in right field, we'd have to pray no one hit the ball out there. Should I have gotten more creative and put Vlad at first, moving Espinosa out to right? Maybe. We could move Vlad to 1B and throw Harper into the fire, play Bernadina in the outfield and move Vlad to first or just bench Guerrero. I'm open to any idea, but the idea I used was to maximize the offense. Hey, it worked when the Cardinals put Lance Berkman in right this past real season, right? Also, Schneider is a pretty bad catching option at this point, but there were zero other options on current 40-man rosters or in free agency in the MLB (which is what we used to build these rosters). Finally, the bullpen is very thin in front of Storen in the late innings.

Comparison to real 2011

The real-life Nats are just on the cusp of breaking through, though it'll be tough in the stacked NL East. These Nats would be a bit better with the legitimate ace Lee and a great bench. Maybe mid-80s in wins, but with tons of help on the way. Much like with the real Nats, it's kind of a "watch out next year" type deal -- with the likes of Harper, Rendon, Peacock and Milone waiting in the wings while Strasburg, Zimmermann, Storen, Espinosa et al continue to get better.

Next: Boston Red Sox

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Posted on: September 8, 2011 2:23 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Williams' gem leads Angels

Jerome Williams

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Jerome Williams, Angels: Williams was one of three pitchers to take a no-hitter into the sixth inning along with Oakland's Guillermo Moscoso and Philadelphia's Roy Oswalt, but neither of those pitchers was pitching for such high stakes. With the Rangers losing earlier in the day to the Rays, the Angels took the field Wednesday night knowing they could make up ground on their rivals in the only real playoff race left. Williams retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced before Seattle's Trayvon Robinson homered to lead off the sixth inning and put Los Angeles in a 1-0 hole. It looked as if Robinson's stellar start would go for naught until the Angels rallied for three runs in the eighth inning to give Robinson and the Angels the 3-1 victory and to pull to 2.5 games behind the Rangers. Robinson's homer was the only hit the Mariners would record, as Williams struck out five and walked one.

Mark Reynolds, Orioles: Reynolds struck out four times (fun stat for the guy who's always sitting next to me at baseball games, strikeouts are worth one out, just like any other way a player makes an out), but with two outs in the 11th inning, Reynolds came through against Hector Noesi with an RBI single to give Baltimore a 5-4 victory in the Bronx.

Carlos Pena, Cubs: Pena was hitting just .135 off of left-handed pitchers and Reds lefty Bill Bray had limited left-handed hitters to just a .188 batting average this season -- so Dusty Baker's decision to replace Logan Ondrusek with Bray was sound. It just didn't work. With the game tied at 3 and one on and one out in the eighth inning, Pena caught up to Bray's first-pitch slider that didn't slide and put it on Sheffield Avenue for a 6-3 Cubs victory. Pena has five home runs and 16 RBI against the Reds this season.


A.J. Burnett, Yankees: As far as Burnett starts go, the Yankee whipping boy wasn't too bad on Wednesday, allowing four runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking four. No, those aren't great numbers, but it's certainly good for Burnett this season. However, he did make history -- and not the kind he'd like -- on Wednesday with three wild pitches. It was the eighth time he's recorded at least three wild pitches in his career, the most in the modern history. Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro and Tommy John all had seven games with three wild pitches, which is pretty decent company. Burnett has 23 wild pitches this season, the most in baseball.

Daniel Bard, Red Sox: Thanks to Bard, Tim Wakefield failed in his eighth attempt at his 200th career victory. With Boston leading 8-6 in the eighth inning, Bard hit the first batter he faced and after loading the bases and recording two outs, he gave up the lead by walking Eric Thames and Jose Bautista to tie the game. Matt Albers then came in to relieve Bard and gave up a three-run double to Edwin Encarnacion, who drove in five in the game to give the Jays the lead for good. Wakefield wasn't great, allowing five runs (four earned) and three hits in five innings. He walked three and hit two more, but was in line to record the W.

Orlando Cabrera, Giants: Many around the Bay Area are wondering why Giants manager Bruce Bochy is sticking with Cabrera over rookie Brandon Crawford at shortstop everyday. It didn't get any better in the team's 3-1 loss to the Padres on Wednesday. In the eighth inning, Cabrera dropped an easy popup behind the infield by Wil Venable, who later scored on a Cameron Maybin triple to give San Diego a two-run cushion going into the ninth with closer Heath Bell on the mound. It was Cabrera's fifth error in 30 games with the Giants. He's also struggling at the plate, going 3 for 28 in the team's last 10 games, including an 0-for-3 night on Wednesday.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 8, 2011 5:03 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Offense rules in NL Central

By C. Trent Rosecrans
2011 All-Star Game

SEE THE OTHER DIVISION ALL-STARS: AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL West

The National League Central has the most teams, some of the game's brightest stars and perhaps its best story in the Pittsburgh Pirates. How deep is the talent in the NL Central? The last two men to win the National League MVP are first basemen in the division and neither makes this NL Central All-Star team. The pitching isn't too deep, at least in terms of starters, but this lineup can absolutely mash the ball.

Ramon HernandezC Ramon Hernandez, Reds: This one is a surprise, as Yadier Molina -- perhaps the game's best defensive catcher -- is an All-Star and a deserving one at that. But the nod here goes to the guy Reds manager Dusty Baker calls "Clutch Man Monie." On opening day, his three-run homer gave the Reds a walk-off victory and he's been producing at the plate since, including a ninth-inning homer yesterday against Brewers closer John Axford and the delivered the game's winning hit in the 13th inning Wednesday night in St. Louis. Hernandez's overall line -- .316/.374/.526 -- makes up for the difference between his defense and Molina's. Molina is hitting a respectable .279/.329/.408, but Clutch Man Monie has been money, especially for a player who is still essentially splitting time with Ryan Hanigan.

Prince Fielder1B Joey Votto, Reds: Votto was the National League MVP in 2010, but Prince Fielder's been the league's MVP for the first half of this season. Fielder is hitting .302/.418/.588 with 22 home runs and 71 RBI, tied for the most in the league. Votto's been good as well, but Fielder's power numbers put him over the top. So why is Votto listed here instead of Fielder? Because as I filled out the lineup card, I looked and had Votto as DH and Fielder at first. Anyone who has seen those two with gloves on their hand know you'd rather have Votto (especially with Starlin Castro also in the infield) playing the field. So Fielder wins the spot, but Votto gets the nod, if that makes sense.

Lineup
No. Name Team Pos
1 Andrew McCutchen PIT CF
2 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B
3 Joey Votto CIN 1B
4 Prince Fielder MIL DH
5 Lance Berkman STL RF
6 Ryan Braun MIL LF
7 Aramis Ramirez CHI 3B
8 Ramon Hernandez CIN C
9 Starlin Castro CHI SS

Rickie Weeks2B Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Another Brewer nips a Red. While Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips is far and away a better defensive player, Weeks is having an incredible offensive season so far. Weeks is hitting .275/.345/.476 with 15 home runs. Phillips has 10 more RBI, but that's not all that surprising considering Weeks is used as a leadoff man. 

Aramis Ramirez3B Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: It's easy for Ramirez to get lost among the Cubs' mounting losses, but the 33-year-old is having a solid season, which may be his last with the Cubs. The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for 2012, with a $2 million buyout. The Ricketts family may want to find a cheaper option, but Ramirez has produced this year, hitting .298/.346/.495 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. He's also playing a decent third base, much better than his reputation would suggest. 

Starlin CastroSS Starlin Castro, Cubs: Sure, he's a mess defensively, but the kid can absolutely rake. Castro is hitting .305/.334/.428 with two home runs and 38 RBI, while stealing 10 bags as well. The 21-year-old is the player the Cubs will build around in the future, and for good cause. He also doesn't have a lot of competition in this division. The Pirates' Ronny Cedeno has been good defensively, but lacking offensively. The Cardinals' Ryan Theriot is hitting well, but was a below-average defensive second baseman and now he's playing short and then there's Yuniesky Betancourt, who has been terrible offensively and defensively.

LF Ryan Braun, Brewers: Talk about a stacked offensive division -- in left field you've got Matt Holliday and Braun. Braun, though gets the nod. He's been healthy (of course, Holliday's problems may make his numbers more impressive) and produced, hitting .320/.402/559 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI. He's also stolen 19 bases to boot.

Andrew McCutchenCF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: If Bruce Bochy doesn't want him, I'll sure as heck take him as my starter in center. A Gold Glove-caliber fielder, plus a .291/.389/.491 slash line and 12 homers and 15 stolen bases. McCutchen should be in the MVP discussion with the season he's had. If it weren't for McCutchen, Michael Bourn would be the pick. Bourn's hitting .288/.350/.399 with 35 stolen bases. Between those two and Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs, you could put together a heck of a relay team.

Lance BerkmanRF Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Sure he's a first baseman playing in the outfield, but who cares because he's made up for his atrocious defense with an offensive rebirth. The Cardinals gambled on Berkman this offseason and have been rewarded to the tune of .287/.399/.598 with a league-leading 23 home runs and 62 RBIs. The division also has Jay Bruce, Corey Hart and Hunter Pence, so it has right fielders to spare (not to mention Jon Jay, who played right field while Berkman was playing first for Albert Pujols.)

Prince FielderDH Prince Fielder, Brewers: This is a bit of a cheat, since I initially picked Fielder at first base. The decision here was between Votto and Holliday, and in a toss-up, I went with the reigning MVP, although either has a good case. Votto's hitting .319/.434/.497 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI, while Holliday is hitting .320/.417/.570 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI. Votto's seen fewer pitches to drive than he did a year ago, but is still producing. And once I was filling out the lineup card, I went with Votto at first base and Fielder as the DH.

Johnny CuetoSP Johnny Cueto, Reds: This division doesn't have a Cy Young candidate in the bunch, but does have several good young pitchers, including the 25-year-old Cueto, who started the season on the disabled list but is 5-3 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts this season. The Cardinals' Jaime Garcia is 8-4 with a 3.23 ERA and one of the best young left-handers in the game and Chicago's Matt Garza has been a victim of pitching for the Cubs, going 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and an xFIP of 2.86.

Sean MarshallRP Sean Marshall, Cubs: The Cubs' left-hander is 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA, striking out 43 in 41 1/3 innings, while walking just nine. His xFIP is 2.27 and he's induced ground balls on 60.4 percent of the balls put in play, a good characteristic for a middle reliever, who will often come into the game with runners on base. Apologies to the Reds' Bill Bray and the Cardinals' Jason Motte.

Joel HanrahanCL Joel Hanrahan, Pirates: Hanrahan leads the division in saves with 25 and hasn't blown a single save this season.  Of the eight runners he's inherited this year, none of scored. He has 33 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings and eight walks. He's allowed just six earned runs (good for a 1.37 ERA). The division has several good starters, including the Reds' Francisco Cordero (17 saves, 1.69 ERA), the Brewers' John Axford (23 saves, 2.90 ERA) and the Cardinals' Fernando Salas (15 saves, 2.41 ERA).

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: July 1, 2011 4:35 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Naming the middle reliever All-Stars

Romo

By Evan Brunell

The All-Star rosters will be announced Sunday and while there will be no shortage of superstars, there will be plenty of shortages of one of the most valuable commodities in the game: middle relievers.

Middle relievers get shafted, both in dollars and fame, from acknowledgment. All the glory rests with the closer in an ill-conceived role whereupon a three-run lead in the ninth is deemed more important than a one-run lead in the eighth. It's hard to blame anything for the middle reliever's small stature in the game, however -- the two prized pitching positions one can play is as a starting pitcher or closer. If you can't hack it in the rotation, your only shot is to make a career of it in the bullpen. So already, relief pitchers are known as failed starters, even as specialization increases to the point where some top prospects are exclusively relievers when drafted. Middle relievers have it worse -- they're not good enough to close, either, so are marginalized to the middle innings.

So yeah, it makes sense for middle relievers to be leftover scraps.

But middle relievers are important in the game, with virtually every manager speaking to how crucial it is for a middle reliever to be able to carry the baton from the starter to closer. Oftentimes these days, it's not enough to simply get the starter to give way to the setupman who then steps aside for the closer. You need that guy for the sixth or seventh inning.

So let's take a minute and acknowledge some of the best middle relievers in the game. To qualify, a middle reliever must have no more than five saves on the season, nor be considered a setupman. A setupman is considered to be the first reliever listed after the closer in the CBSSports.com MLB depth charts. Injuries will be factored in provided the injured reliever has not been out an extended period of time. David Robertson is considered a setupman because Rafael Soriano has only pitched 15 innings. We want to focus on those sixth or seventh inning guys that have gotten the job done.

Here are your AL and NL All-Stars, with six representatives per league.

American League All-Star middle relievers

AlburquerqueAl Alburquerque, Tigers -- Alberquerque was placed on the disabled list Friday, but that only serves to underscore how valuable he was to the team. Manager Jim Leyland said the right-hander has been a "godsend" and Detroit would be six or seven games worse without the rookie. Alburquerque was inked to a split contract that paid him a certain amount of money if he was in the majors or minors. Many were surprised, as Alburquerque wasn't thought to be much entering the year. That's changed, as his strikeout rate per nine innings (14.59) trails only one other reliever, who happens to be on this list. Alburquerque also boasts a 2.79 ERA in 29 innings.

JohnsonJim Johnson, Orioles
-- Johnson has been huge for Baltimore after seeing his luster dim somewhat over the last couple years. Johnson has shaken off injury to post a 2.28 ERA, coughing up just eight walks in 47 1/3 innings and punching out 33. It's extremely rare for a non-closer to post a Wins Above Replacement 1.0 or higher, with only two middle relievers quaifying, both whom are on this list. But a hair under 1.0 is Johnson at 0.9, along with Alburquerque.

PauleyDavid Pauley, Mariners -- Pauley has been around, being sent from the Padres to Red Sox in a minor deal and making a few spot starts for the Red Sox over 2006 and 2008. He got razed, but boasted a promising curveball and solid control numbers. An excursion in Baltimore later, Pauley ended up with Seattle and made 15 starts last season plus four bullpen appearances, registering a 4.07 ERA. He earned a job in the bullpen to start 2011 and hasn't looked back, throwing up 43 2/3 innings of 1.40-ERA ball. He still doesn't throw gas, but limits his walks and -- it must be said -- has received very good luck on batted balls dropping in for hits. He has the fifth-most innings pitched of any reliever in baseball.

PauleyGlen Perkins, Twins -- Perkins has been the object of ridicule for quite some time in Minnesota, but rubs shoulders with Alburquerque and Johnson with 0.9 WAR. The lefty has posted up a 1.98 ERA on the year and has yet to allow a home run. While his walks per nine innings is up to 3.5 from a career mark of 2.4, not many will complain about his 9.3 K/9, way over his career mark of 5.1. He's doing his job against left-handed batters too, limiting them to nine hits in 41 at-bats (.200 batting average).

PestanoVinnie Pestano, Indians
-- Behind Alburquerque and Robertson, Pestano has the highest rate of strikeouts per nine inning. Unlike the two relievers that precede him, Pestano does so with a modicum of control, walking 11 in 29 2/3 innings. There's a healthy dose of luck involved, as he's allowed 22 percent of balls to drop in for hits compared to a league average of 30 percent, plus has stranded an eye-popping 90.9 percent of baserunners. Even Mariano Rivera can't sustain such a high figure. But isn't that what you want from a reliever? To strand baserunners and strike out batters? Well, can't do much better than Pestano there.

ZieglerBrad Ziegler, Athletics -- The submariner grabbed people's attention back in 2008 thanks to his unorthodox delivery, 11 saves and 1.06 ERA. Since then, he's been a solid middle reliever. This season, though, he's something else entirely: an elite reliever. He's doing it without the benefit of luck, too. While Ziegler is struggling against left-handers much as he has throughout his career thanks to his arm angle and has been limited to just six innings worth (most submariners and low 3/4 throwers have difficulties against opposite-handed batters) -- but he's baffled righties completely and will be the perfect complement to Perkins on the squad. Overall, Ziegler has a 1.93 ERA in 28 innings.



National League All-Star middle relievers

BastardoAntonio Bastardo, Phillies -- Bastardo is currently the Phillies' closer, but we'll cut him some slack since he only just stepped into the role with Ryan Madson's injury. At the start of the season, Bastardo worked as a middle reliever and remained there for much of the year despite turning in a great performance one after the other. Bastardo racked up 33 strikeouts in 29 innings prior to Friday's games and has taken over the vital left-handed role that J.C. Romero filled for years. The way Bastardo has been going, he'll have no trouble hanging onto a setupman role once Madson returns along with Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras.

BrayBill Bray, Reds
-- Before 2011, Bray's claim to fame was being part of the contested deal that sent Austin Kearns to Washington in 2006 and separating him from close friend Adam Dunn. Dunn would later become Kearns' teammate in Washington in 2009. Gary Majewski was part of that deal headed back to Cincinnati but injuries derailed his Reds career before it even started, and a complaint was later filed by MLB that Nats GM Jim Bowden had hid Majewski's injury. But back to Bray: the lefty has quietly been a solid middle reliever the last two years but broke through this year with a 1.65 ERA. Again, as much of these relievers are, Bray is lucky that some things beyond his control have gone his way, such as batted balls in play. But there's no denying that the lefty is on his way up after struggling with injuries and looking like he was going to wash out of the game.

BrayTyler Clippard, Nationals
-- Clippard is so dominating, only one other person ranks higher in Win Probability Added. WPA measures how a player affects win expectancy during parts of the game they are directly responsible for. Clippard has had the fortune of pitching in high-leverage situations, but he's also come through at an extraordinary rate to register a 3.03 WPA, second only to Joel Hanrahan's 3.18, and Hanrahan is a closer. Put middle relievers aside for a moment. As far as WPA is concerned, Clippard is the second best reliever in the game. He's earned that distinction with a 2.00 ERA and a crazy 99.3 percent of baserunners stranded. This doesn't count inherited runs, which Clippard does tend to allow in, but still, if a player gets on base via Clippard, he's not scoring.

LuebkeCory Luebke, Padres
-- Luebke recently earned a promotion to the rotation off the strength of his bullpen work, making four starts. Coming up as a starter, Luebke was tossed in the bullpen as a left-hander and is now the third NL lefty on this All-Star team. He became a long reliever of sorts, posting a 3.23 ERA in 39 innings. Unlike most pitchers, Luebke's luck actually worked against him, as he let in baserunners over and beyond what is normally expected, and his 2.83 xFIP reflects far better what he contributed out of the bullpen.

ReynoldsMatt Reynolds, Rockies
-- Like many names on this list, Reynolds is yet another 20-something who has excelled out of the bullpen. He now makes four lefties in the bullpen, but his year can't be denied. His 3.46 ERA is the highest of any middle reliever All-Star, but much like Luebke, he's been unlucky. Serving as Colorado's primary left-handed specialist, he'll serve the same role in this bullpen after punching out 20 lefties in just 14 2/3 innings.  Reynolds can hold his own against righties but is really best avoided against them. With his ability to completely shut down the best lefty hitter in the game, both Colorado and this All-Star team don't mind that he's less than optimal against right-handers. (If Sean Marshall hadn't counted as a setupman, he would have been here in place of Reynolds.)

RomoSergio Romo, Giants
(pictured) -- Romo boasts the best xFIP of any reliever in the game -- closer, setupman or middle reliever. That xFIP is at 1.61, which is also the only xFIP under 2.00 for any reliever. (Think of xFIP as ERA minus all the aspects of ERA a pitcher is not responsible for.) Romo blends strikeout ability (38 in 25 2/3 innings) and control (four walks). It may be hard to believe, but Romo is actually outperforming his numbers from last season, in which he finished with a 2.18 ERA. (In 2011, Romo is currently at 2.45.) With a fastball that doesn't even average out to 90 mph, you wouldn't necessarily think Romo would be so dominant. But he doesn't rely on his fastball; he instead dares batters to hit his slider. And they can't. Maybe it's the beard?

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Posted on: January 21, 2011 4:10 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2011 4:23 pm
 

Reds talking extension with Volquez

Edinson Volquez So far this offseason, the Reds have done little to change their team -- for 2011 or beyond.

The biggest moves made by the NL Central champs have been extensions for Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto. They've avoided arbitration for the next three with Votto, Bruce and Cueto. Another first-time arbitration eligible player is right-hander Edinson Volquez, and the Reds are looking to buy out his arbitration-eligible years, as well.

"We're looking at both -- one-year and multi-year," general manager Walt Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer . "We're hopeful that we'll get something done."

Volquez is the team's last arbitration-eligible player. He submitted a request of $2 million, while the Reds countered at $1.3 million.

Volquez, an All-Star in 2008, was acquired in a trade for Josh Hamilton in Dec., 2007. He was suspended for 50 games last season after testing positive for a substance on the banned list, though he has claimed it was a fertility drug he used by prescription from a doctor in the Dominican Republic in order to start a family with his wife.

Volquez was coming off Tommy John surgery. Volquez was 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA last season, a year after going 4-2 with a  4.35 ERA. He was 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 2007.

The Reds have made avoiding arbitration a priority this offseason -- while Votto's deal was only for his three arbitration years, they got three arbitration years and one free-agent year from Cueto and the arbitration years and three free agent years for the "Super Two."  The team also avoided arbitration with left-handed reliever Bill Bray. Cincinnati hasn't gone to arbitration with a player since 2004.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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