Posted on: February 6, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 4:00 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
There's nothing like the Super Bowl to remind you that spring training is just around the corner. And with pitchers and catchers packing up their bags for Florida and Arizona, we here at Eye on Baseball will look at some of the key positional battles on tap for this spring, starting with the American League West.
Los Angeles Angels
Designated hitter: Mark Trumbo vs. Kendrys Morales vs. Bobby Abreu vs. Vernon Wells
At the end of the 2011 season, it seemed first base could be a battle for the Angels heading into 2012. That position was settled pretty easily with $240 million. The two previous candidates, Trumbo and Morales are now with BAbreu looking for playing time at DH. Add the wild card of Mike Trout possibly pushing either Torii Hunter or Wells into the DH competition and the team has a lot of players for one spot. Sure, the Angels are saying Trumbo can play third, but he's still not all the way back from an ankle injury and he hasn't proven he can handle the day-in, day-out rigors of third base (look at what it did to Kevin Youkilis last season). There's also the chance that Morales won't be healthy. There are so many variables to the Angles lineup that the only thing that seems certain at this point is that Albert Pujols will be at first base, batting third.
Closer: Grant Balfour vs. Brian Fuentes vs. Fautino De Los Santos vs. Joey Devine
One of the many players Billy Beane got rid of this offseason was closer Andrew Bailey, who went to the Red Sox for three players, leaving an opening at closer for 2012. Fuentes recorded 12 saves in Bailey's spot last season, while Balfour picked up two as well. Those two veterans should be seen as the favorites, but De Los Santos and Devine could surprise. De Los Santos struck out 43 batters in 33 1/3 innings last season, while Devine impressed in his first action since Tommy John surgery. Even if the two youngsters don't get the call after spring training, either are just one trade away from getting their shot -- and with the A's current situation, nobody in Oakland should be buying, just renting.
No. 3-5 starters: Blake Beavan vs. Charlie Furbush vs. Hector Noesi vs. Kevin Millwood vs. Hisashi Iwakuma
Felix Hernandez, of course, is the Mariners' No. 1 starter and Jason Vargas figures to be the other Mariner to start in the team's two-game series in Japan. After that, it gets interesting. Seattle signed Iwakuma to a $1.5 million contract in the offseason, so he figures to be in the rotation somewhere. Noesi was acquired along with Jesus Montero in the Michael Pineada trade and should be somehwere in the mix, as well. That leaves the youngsters Furbush (25) and Beavan (23), to go against the veteran Millwood (37). Furbush and Beavan showed flashes during 2011, but are hardly proven products. After stints in the minors for the Red Sox and Yankees, Millwood went 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA in Colorado and should benefit from pitching at Safeco Field.
5th starter: Matt Harrison vs. Alexi Ogando vs. Scott Feldman
Unless the Rangers do sign Roy Oswalt, it appears the first four spots in the Texas rotation are set with Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz, leaving three pitchers battling for the final spot. Last season the Rangers moved Ogando from the bullpen to the rotation with some success. They're looking to do the same with Feliz this season and possibly sending Ogando back to the bullpen. Ogando was 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA, but seemed to tire down the stretch. Harrison was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA last season, but still has to battle for his job. And then there's Feldman, who is a long-shot here, but is used to the yo-yoing from the bullpen to the rotation. If the team does sign Oswalt, the three could be stretched out in spring, but return to the bullpen once the season starts.
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Tags: AL West, Albert Pujols, Alexi Ogando, Andrew Bailey, Angels, Athletics, Blake Beavan, Bobby Abreu, Brian Fuentes, C. Trent Rosecrans, Charlie Furbush, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Fautino De Los Santos, Felix Hernandez, Grant Balfour, Hector Noesi, Hisashi Iwakuma, Jason Vargas, Jesus Montero, Joey Devine, Kendrys Morales, Kevin Millwood, Mariners, Mark Trumbo, Matt Harrison, Michael Pineada, Mike Trout, Neftaili Feliz, Rangers, Roy Oswalt, Spring Position Battles, spring training, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Yu Darvish
Posted on: November 28, 2011 11:54 am
Edited on: November 28, 2011 4:43 pm
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 of this feature, click here.
The Seattle Mariners have finished last place in the AL West six of the past eight seasons. Would things have been different if management had done a better job of keeping the right organizational pieces? In a word: Yes. Check this out ...
1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Adam Jones, CF
6. Shin-Soo Choo, LF
7. Dustin Ackley, 2B
8. Raul Ibanez, 1B
9. Jason Varitek, C
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Michael Pineda
3. Doug Fister
4. Brandon Morrow
5. Joel Pineiro
Closer - J.J. Putz
Set up - Rafael Soriano, Matt Thornton, Eric O'Flaherty, Brian Fuentes, Damaso Marte, George Sherrill
Long - Derek Lowe
Notable Bench Players
Adam Moore, Greg Dobbs, Bryan LaHair, Luis Valbuena, Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Willie Bloomquist, Michael Saunders, Carlos Peguero
Almost everything. The lineup is solid, the starting rotation is very good, the bullpen is great and there is some bench depth. There are superstars like King Felix and A-Rod with up-and-comers like Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Pineda. And 2011 first-rounder Danny Hultzen (starting pitcher) will soon be added to the mix.
Age in some areas. A-Rod, Ortiz, Ichiro and Ibanez are all in different levels of decline, but there's no doubt they're all certainly in decline. Catcher is also a problem, as we're left deciding between a has-been (Varitek) and a possible never-will-be (Moore). Pick your poison there.
As for the lineup, I tried to figure out how to best work it. Maybe swap Jones and A-Rod spots? I'd be OK with that, considering the seasons those two had in 2011. Also, Ichiro's OBP was terrible for a leadoff man last season (.310), but wouldn't it make the back-end of the lineup too punchless if you batted Ackley leadoff? With the way I left it, the leadoff spot is weak.
Comparison to real 2011
The 2011 Mariners lost 95 games and this team above would have a shot at winning 95. You can take away from the older stars all you want, but with that pitching staff, the offense doesn't have to be great. It only has to be good, and it's easily good enough to get plenty of wins when only needing to put three or four runs on the board. Plus, as those older guys continue to decline, the likes of Jones, Ackley and Cabrera just get better. In Sunday's Homegrown Team, I said to expect to see the Cubs toward the bottom of the rankings (when we do them). This entry is the complete opposite. Expect to see the Mariners toward the top of the rankings. This is a great team. For now.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: Adam Jones, Adam Moore, AL West, Alex Rodriguez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brandon Morrow, Brian Fuentes, Bryan LaHair, Carlos Peguero, Damaso Marte, Danny Hultzan, David Ortiz, Derek Lowe, Doug Fister, Dustin Ackley, Eric O'Flaherty, Felix Hernandez, George Sherrill, Greg Dobbs, Homegrown, Ichiro Suzuki, J.J. Putz, Jason Varitek, Joel Pineiro, Jose Lopez, Luis Valbuena, Mariners, Matt Snyder, Matt Thornton, Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Rafael Soriano, Raul Ibanez, Shin-Soo Choo, Willie Bloomquist, Yuniesky Betancourt
Posted on: June 24, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: June 24, 2011 4:41 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
BASEBALL TODAY: Just why did Jim Riggleman ditch his job? CBSSports.com senior writer Danny Knobler joins Lauren Shehadi to discuss Riggleman, Ubaldo Jimenez and more. Check it out.
Oswalt will not only likely miss his next start, he could also be done. He's already hinted at retirement and with a back injury, it may not be worth it for Oswalt to come back.
After Thursday's outing, Oswalt sounded anything but confident in his return. David Hale of the News Journal has a full transcript of Oswalt's postgame comments, and they don't sound like the comments of someone who is confident it'll be an easy road back.
Heres' the question and answer that says it all to me:
That sounds like someone who is content with walking away if he gets bad news soon.
We may know more Monday after his scheduled MRI.
HOT SEAT: Edwin Rodriguez didn't last a full calendar year as the Marlins manager and the Cubs' Mike Quade could follow that lead. Quade's on the hot seat (even if general manager Jim Hendry's seat should be hotter). [Chicago Tribune]
LI'L' GOOSE: Pirates manager Clint Hurdle compared closer Joel Hanrahan to Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, and after stifling a laugh, John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times takes a look at the comparison and sees some parallels.
SCOUTING DARVISH: Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was scheduled to see Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish's start on Friday. Darvish may be the top free-agent pitcher this season if he comes to the United States, as expected. The Braves and Twins reportedly had scouts at his last start, when he picked up just his second loss of the season. It was one of his worst starts of the season and he still gave up just one earned run, allowing nine hits and striking out 10 in eight innings. [YakyuBaka.com]
A'S OPEN TO DEAL: The sharks are circling in Oakland, as scouts have been checking out outfielder Josh Willingham, infielder Mark Ellis and left-handed relievers Craig Breslow and Brian Fuentes. [San Francisco Chronicle]
NICE RIDE: The Toledo Mud Hens players are going to miss Brandon Inge, who was activated by the Tigers on Thursday. During his rehab trip with Detroit's Triple-A team, Inge sprung for a limo for several players to take them from Louisville, Ky., to Columbus, Ohio, skipping the planned bus ride. [Detroit News]
DEJA VU: A St. Louis ace 1-7 through June? (Well, now 2-7 after Thursday night's 2-7) It's been done before. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Dispatch compares Chris Carpenter's 1-7 start to that of John Tudor's 26 years ago.
CABRERA'S CASE POSTPONED: The hearing for Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera's DUI arrest has been postponed again and rescheduled for July 12. That's the day of the All-Star Game. Cabrera, however, isn't required to be present for this hearing, though, so he can still go to the All-Star Game. [Detroit News]
NO DECISION: Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said he'd prefer not to negotiate during the season (and that doesn't make Jim Riggleman happy), but said it's not a rule. Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm has said he'd like to sign an extension to stay in Pittsburgh. [MLB.com]
BUCCO FEVER: If you haven't noticed, the Pirates (yes, the team in Pittsburgh) are in a pennant race. Sure, it's not even July yet, but we're talking the Pirates. The folks in Pittsburgh are beginning to take notice. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]
LAWRIE DELAYED: Blue Jays prospect Brett Lawrie was all but set to be called up at the beginning of the month, but before he could get the call, he was hit by a pitch and broke his left hand. Now he's having trouble gripping the bat and may not be ready until August. [CBCSports.ca]
FIGGINS DILEMMA: If you're following the Mariners, there's plenty of positives around the team -- including a record just a game under .500. But there's one big concern, Chone Figgins. The question for the Mariners is what to do with Figgins, who has two years and $17 million left on his contract. [Seattle Times]
RETURN OF THE SPITTER: Here's an interesting theory (that I'm pretty sure I don't buy, but still interesting to think about) from Mat Kovach of the Hardball Times -- is the rise of pitching because of the return of the spitball?For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: AL Central, AL East, AL West, Athletics, Blue Jays, Brandon Inge, Braves, Brett Gardner, Brett Lawrie, Brian Fuentes, Cardinals, Chone Figgins, Chris Carpenter, Clint Hurdle, Craig Breslow, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Don Mattingly, Goose Gossage, Japan, Jim Riggleman, Joel Hanrahan, John Tudor, Jon Daniels, Jonathan Broxton, Josh Collmenter, Josh Willingham, Mariners, Mark Ellis, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Quade, Nationals, Neal Huntington, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Paul Maholm, Phillies, Pirates, Pirates, Rangers, Rockies, Roy Oswalt, Tigers, Tigers, Twins, Ubaldo Jimenez, Yankees, Yu Darvish
Posted on: May 29, 2011 3:40 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2011 4:03 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
You may have missed it last night, but the A's switched closers again, with Brian Fuentes picking up the save in Oakland's 4-2 victory.
It was Fuentes' first outing since blasting manager Bob Geren following Monday's game. The next day, Geren declared Grant Balfour the closer. However, in his time as the "closer," Balfour made just one appearance, entering Tuesday's game ina non-save situation. Balfour gave up Mark Trumbo's three-run homer, but the A's still won, 4-3.
Geren said he talked to both pitchers after Thursday's game and told them Fuentes would go back to closing -- so maybe he learned from Fuentes' criticism of his communication skills.
According to Joe Stiglich of the Bay Area News Group, Balfour sounded "perplexed" by the situation.
"I was kind of in the closer's role for four days and no chance to close," He said. "It's kind of weird, but whatever. I'm just trying to pitch, whatever it takes to win for the ballclub."
Still, it will be a moot point soon enough. Andrew Bailey returned from the disabled list before Sunday's game. Bailey won't close games right away, but will ultimately return to the role.@cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 10:14 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 11:02 am
By Evan Brunell
FUENTES BLOWS UP: Brian Fuentes, the Athletics closer, had some strong words for manager Bob Geren after losing his seventh game of the year. He's now blown five of seven tie games and Fuentes isn't happy about the skipper's communication skills, saying Geren has handled his communication with the reliever poorly.
"There’s just no communication," Fuentes says. "Two games, on the road, bring the closer in a tied game, with no previous discussions of doing so. And then, tonight, in the seventh inning, I get up. I haven’t stretched, I haven’t prepared myself. If there was some communication beforehand I would be ready to come into the game -- which I was, when I came into the game, I was ready. Just lack of communication. I don’t think anybody really knows which direction he’s headed."
Fuentes really shouldn't be complaining about being brought in during a tie game on the road. The general rule of thumb is that you deploy your closer with a tie at home or lead on the road, but that doesn't mean everyone has to follow that tenet -- not to mention that rule of thumb is a pretty weak one. You bring in your best reliever for the situation that demands it most, end of story.
That aside, it appears as if Geren doesn't have the right pulse on Fuentes -- or maybe even the bullpen as a whole. Fuentes says it's difficult to adhere to what appears to be a random schedule, instead of being afforded time to stretch and prepare for coming into the game in the eighth or ninth. Again, we're seeing "established" rules for closers with no reason for being established causing problems. In Fuentes' defense, however, he didn't trailblaze these established rules -- he's just following them and it's easy to see how he thinks they're a valuable part of his preparation. From the manager's perspective, though, Fuentes may have very well been the best choice to come into the seventh inning. The problem is when you don't communicate effectively.
"I thought he misspoke," Fuentes said of when he first learned Geren wanted him in the game in the seventh. "I thought it was some sort of miscommunication, but he said, ‘No, you’re up,’ so I got up and cranked it up. You can’t try to guess along with them. Very unpredictable."
Fuentes adds that this hasn't been a situation that's been slowly getting worse; rather, it's fairly recent and Fuentes first became displeased when Oakland traveled to San Francisco this past weekend. Or maybe it's because Fuentes has a 6.48 ERA in 8 1/3 May innings.
"I think the games in San Francisco were some unorthodox managing," he noted. "I thought it was maybe the National league thing, that maybe that had something to do with it, but [Monday] was pretty unbelievable."
Just don't expect Fuentes to be the one to initiate communication. He's going to leave that up to Geren.
"I can’t predict the future. If he decides to take that step, then there will be communication. If not, I’ll make sure I’m ready from the first." (MLB.com)
LOSING CONFIDENCE: Wins and losses don't matter from an evaluation perspective, that much is clear. But for a pitcher, it can be pretty demoralizing to see an 0-7 mark next to his name, like John Danks is dealing with despite a 4.34 ERA that is plenty good enough to keep him in the rotation, as manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It’s getting harder and harder," Danks said. "That's the blunt truth. But like I said, it doesn’t do me any good to sit and dwell on it or feel sorry for myself. I got to come in ready to work and have myself ready for my next strart. That’s how I’ll go about it." (Chicago Tribune)
RANDY POFFO, BASEBALL PLAYER: Before "Macho Man" Randy Savage became a sensation in the wrestling world, he was an aspiring baseball player with a tremendous work ethic who just didn't have the talent to go beyond Class A. But that didn't stop Savage, whose real name was Randy Poffo, from trying. (Sports Illustrated)
SAVAGE HOMER: When Brewers GM Doug Melvin heard that Savage had died, it took him a while to figure out that Savage was the same Poffo who played in the minor leagues. "I think he hit a homer off me," Melvin said, hearkening back to 1972 when the two would have been on opposing rookie-ball teams. Unfortunately, Melvin was unable to verify this, as he could not find boxscores. (MLB.com)
MOVING ON: It's hard to, but Francisco Rodriguez is trying to move on from the much-publicized altercation with his ex-girlfriend's father last season. Rodriguez is off to a fantastic start as closer and appears to have made major strides mentally. (New York Daily News)
MANAGING FOR THE FANS: In case it's not clear for you just yet, Jim Leyland manages for the fans, not with fans. Leyland didn't take too kindly to being second-guessed for taking Rick Porcello out of a game in which he was one-hitting the Pirates after eight innings with 84 pitches. Closer Jose Valverde finished off the win, and Leyland went on a rant Monday about being second-guessed. (Detroit Free-Press)
START 'ER UP: The Cardinals will put Mitchell Boggs into the rotation at Triple-A after the reliever was demoted in a bit of a surprising move on Monday. The transition to the rotation isn't permanent, but it will afford St. Louis some security in rotation depth as well as allow Boggs to fine-tune his secondary offerings. (FoxSportsMidwest.com)
GOING OPPOSITE: David Ortiz seems to be taking a page out of Adrian Gonzalez's book, as Big Papi is going to the opposite field more than he ever has before, banging balls off the Green Monster. Of Ortiz's 27 hits at home so far, 14 have gone the opposite way. Compare that to a full-season total of 16 in 2008. (WEEI)
MOVE THE WALLS: Padres manager Bud Black might be getting sick of the decrepit Padres offense. Black has avoided all comment about possibly moving the walls of Petco Park in, but admitted Monday he thought there was "room for discussion." (MLB.com)
GLOVE MAN: What can't Eric Hosmer do? All the focus has been on Hosmer's offense, but he sports a pretty good glove too. Alcides Escobar thinks so, smiling enthusiastically when asked about Hosmer's defense. (Kansas City Star)
SLOW AND STEADY: Adam Lind still hasn't played in a game since May 7 thanks to a sore back, but that could finally be coming Wednesday. Once Lind returns from his minor-league rehab assignment, he'll return to first base but will see starts at DH mixed in to ease him back physically. (MLB.com)
DAT DUDE: Brandon Phillips' Twitter account is among the best in sports and has turned him into a marketing machine who fans adore. That's quite a ways from the kind of person he was in Cleveland. This is a nice profile of Phillips and how Twitter has impacted him. (MLB.com)
SELLING OUT: The Double-A Dayton Dragons are at 799 consecutive sellouts and if all goes according to plan, July 9 is when the Dragons will take out the Portland Trail Blazers for most consecutive sellouts in sports history. However, 40-60 tickets a game for the 7,230-seat stadium remain, although the team does not appear concerned about that posing an issue. (Dayton Daily News)
Tags: Adam Lind, AL Central, AL Central, AL East, AL West, Athletics, Blue Jays, Bob Geren, Brandon Phillips, Brewers, Brian Fuentes, Bud Black, Cardinals, David Ortiz, Doug Melvin, Eric Hosmer, Francisco Rodriguez, Jim Leyland, John Danks, Mets, Mitchell Boggs, MLB Rumors, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Padres, Randy Poffo, Red Sox, Reds, Royals, Tigers, White Sox
Posted on: May 24, 2011 1:13 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 1:14 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Jim Thome, Twins -- For all the talk of Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Chase Utley making their returns on Monday, it was Jim Thome who stole their thunder. Although Hamilton and Cruz each homered, Thome homered twice and upped his career total to 593. Before Monday, the Twins had managed just six homers at Target Field all season.
Corey Hart, Brewers -- Think two homers is good? Try three. That's how many Hart hit on Monday in the Brewers' 11-3 victory over the Nationals. Hart, who missed most of April on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle hadn't hit a homer since coming off the DL and was hitting just .237/.275/.329 with one RBI in 81 plate appearances. He was also hitless in his last 11 at-bats cooing into Monday. He broke through against the Nationals, racking up seven RBI on his three homers. His second homer gave him 100 for his career.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians -- If you haven't taken notice of the Indians' shortstop, you should. He may be the MVP of the first quarter of the season. After a 5-for-5 performance with two homers on Sunday, Cabrera hit another homer and then drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth to beat the Red Sox 3-2 at Progressive Field.
Bronson Arroyo, Reds -- If Edinson Volquez was sent to Triple-A for his outing against the Indians on Sunday, perhaps Arroyo should be checking out real estate in the California League. It turned out the slumping Phillies offense didn't need Chase Utley, but Arroyo, who allowed nine runs on 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings.
Kenley Jansen, Dodgers -- Now the Dodgers closer, Jansen came into Monday's game a perfect 5 for 5 in save opportunities in his brief career. Well, as you can tell from his presence here, he's now 5 for 6. With the Dodgers leading 3-1, Jansen gave up a one-out single to Bill Hall before striking out pinch-hitter Matt Downs. He then walked Angel Sanchez in an 11-pitch at-bat and with two men on, he ignored the runners, allowing a double steal. Michael Bourn tied the game with a double before hitting Clint Barmes. Hunter Pence then singled, allowing the speedy Bourn to score and give the Astros a 4-3 victory.
Bob Geren, Athletics -- How many times does a pitcher have to fail before his manager loses confidence in him? Well, that's a good question for the A's manager. Brian Fuentes entered Monday's game having lost five of the seven tie games he entered. With the A's and Angeles tied at 1, who did Geren bring out for the eighth inning? Brian Freakin' Fuentes. He walked the first batter he faced and got Bobby Abreu to ground into a fielder's choice before being replaced by Michael Wuertz. Not the worst performance, but when Torii Hunter doubled to score Abreu, Fuentes was charged with a run and the loss. He is now 1-7 on the season and is the third reliever with seven losses in the first 48 games of a season, joining Jim Kern in 1980 and Gene Garber in 1979.
Posted on: May 22, 2011 11:06 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Tim Wakefield, Red Sox -- Not much seems to be expected out of the old knuckleballer anymore, but he certainly delivered on Sunday night, allowing just one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Cubs, picking up his 194th career victory and first of the season. The only run the Cubs scored in the 5-1 Boston victory was by Starlin Castro, who led off the seventh with a double. Wakefield was already pitching professionally in the Pirates' system in 1990 when Castro was born.
James Shields, Rays -- Shields notched his second shutout and third complete game of the season, leading Tampa to a 4-0 victory over the Marlins. Shields' three-hitter included a career-high 13 strikeouts and stopped the Rays' three-game losing streak. Shields has been a boon to the Rays' bullpen, going past the seventh inning for the ninth time in his 10 starts this season -- and it was the eighth time he's gone at least seven innings while allowing two runs or less. Shields is now 5-2 with a 2.00 ERA. He has 73 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings pitch, while walking just 15. His WHIP stands at 0.93 and batters are hitting just .205 against him.
Torii Hunter, Angels -- Angels hit his first home run since April 21 -- a two-run shot in the fourth -- and followed it up with the quote of the night when asked if he remembered that one. "I can't remember that far back," Hunter said. "I haven't seen one in a while. I've seen them on TV, I've seen them in the movies, but it's a lot of fun to get one out of the way this month." His last home run was 99 at-bats ago. He has five this season.
Tim Collins, Royals -- Collins had a difficult task -- coming into the game in the 10th inning with bases loaded and no outs with Lance Berkman at the plate -- but the way he gave up the lead was disappointing. Collins got Berkman to pop up, but then walked the next two batters -- Colby Rasmus and Yadier Molina -- giving the Cardinals a two-run lead. Blake Wood came in to get the next two batters and Kansas City managed a run in the bottom of the 10th, but it wasn't enough to overcome the two free passes. It was a fitting way to decide the game, as Royals pitchers walked 13 Cardinals.
Brian Fuentes, Athletics -- The A's fill-in closer leads the majors in losses by a reliever (6) and has three losses in the last five days, including two against the Giants. On Sunday, Fuentes gave up two hits and walked a batter, as Darren Ford scored from second on Emmanuel Burriss' single. Said Fuentes: "I'm just not making pitches. There wasn't really anything that happened that wasn't my fault." Give him credit for taking credit for his struggles at least.
National League East -- All five NL East teams lost on Sunday -- the Phillies lost to the Rangers, the Marlins lost to the Rays, the Mets to the Yankees, the Nationals lost to the Orioles and the Angels beat the Braves. The five teams combined for just five runs -- three of those accounted for by the Mets in a 9-3 loss in the Subway Series. The division went 7-8 in their interleague matchups this weekend, with the Phillies and Marlins winning their series and the other three teams losing their series.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:21 pm
By Evan Brunell
What position in baseball has the worst job security?
Has to be closers, right? Tuesday, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said that Jonathan Broxton had lost his grip on the job. While manager Don Mattingly later disputed that, it's clear that Broxton is on extremely thin ice. Joe Nathan, Matt Thornton, Fernando Rodney and Ryan Franklin have already lost their jobs while John Axford, Brian Fuentes, Joakim Soria and Brian Wilson have their hands full trying to reduce their ERA.
But enough about flailing closers, how about acknowledging the ones off to tremendous starts so far?
Entering Wednesday's games, Huston Street led all of baseball with eight saves against a scant 1.88 ERA for the surging Rockies. Street has 157 career saves already, although he hasn't been a full-time closer the entirety of his seven-season career. The 27-year-old has been a bit lucky to start the year, but his talent is for real.
Meanwhile, the ageless Mariano Rivera tops the AL leaderboard with seven saves, although his ERA currently would mark his highest since 2007. This is a 2.53 ERA we're talking about here.
In Atlanta, Craig Kimbrel has ran away with the job after opening up in a presumed platoon with Johnny Venters. Kimbrel's ERA is a spotless 0.96, and he's also struck out 13.5 batters per nine. Surprisingly that isn't even the highest for a closer as New York's Francisco Rodriguez has struck out a staggering 13 in 7.2 innings. Joining Kimbrel with ERA's under 1.00 is San Diego's Heath Bell with a 0.90 mark and five saves. Bell figures to be a hot commodity on the trade market this summer, although it's no guarantee San Diego will move him.
Tied with Kimbrel for six saves include Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan, Cleveland's Chris Perez, Florida's Leo Nunez and Oakland's Brian Fuentes. Of those, only Fuentes doesn't have a firm hold on the job, as his history indicates he's not an elite closer. That's reflected in his 4.06 ERA on the year thus far and should lose his job once Andrew Bailey returns and proves ready to assume his role.
Two other closers in Jose Contreras and Neftali Feliz with strong starts to the season only recently hit the disabled list. Of the other strong starters, Kyle Farnsworth for Tampa Bay jumps out. Here's a pitcher who's always had tremendous stuff but has been a basketcase. He seems to have become a new pitcher over the last couple years, though, and he's certainly enjoying life as a Ray with five saves and a 1.23 ERA. Still, it feels as if he's due for a blowup any time now.