Tag:Matt Harrison
Posted on: February 6, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 4:00 pm
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Spring position battles: American League West



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.

Oakland Athletics
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.

Seattle Mariners
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.

Texas Rangers
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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Posted on: December 19, 2011 11:15 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 7:31 am
 

Rangers have highest bid for Yu Darvish



By Matt Snyder


Yu Darvish could be headed to America very soon. The Texas Rangers have won the bidding for the Japanese phenom, Major League Baseball announced late Monday night. The Rangers did so with a bid of more than $51.7 million, sources told CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler (Jeff Passan of Yahoo first reported exactly $51.7 million). That money will be paid to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters once a contract -- independent of the posting fee -- is agreed upon with Darvish. The Rangers have 30 days to agree to terms with Darvish, otherwise they won't pay the posting fee and Darvish remains the property of the Fighters.

"We were pleased to learn that the Texas Rangers were the high-bidders for Yu Darvish," agent Arn Tellem said in a statement. "The Rangers are an extraordinary franchise in an exceptional city with equally exceptional fans. Yu is honored to be prized so highly and recognized as a once-in-a-generation pitcher. We look forward to getting negotiations underway."

Darvish to Texas
Darvish, a 25-year-old right-hander, has been the ace of the Fighters for five years. In those five seasons, Darvish is 76-28 with a sparkling 1.72 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. He's struck out 9.5 batters per nine innings and walked just 1.9 per nine. He's also thrown 50 complete games and 15 shutouts. In 2011, Darvish went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 276 strikeouts in 232 innings with 10 complete games and six shutouts.

Darvish may very well serve as the ace for the Rangers, though they seem to not really need titles on that rotation. Darvish will join Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison to form a pretty solid 1-5 rotation for the two-time defending AL champs.

Also, this means the Rangers can leave both Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman in the bullpen in front of eight-inning man Mike Adams and closer Joe Nathan, giving them a very formidable final four to close out games. Nothing is set in stone yet, as the Rangers could still elect to use Ogando in the rotation. They certainly have options.

Darvish actually has some family roots in America. His Iranian father attended high school in Massachusetts and played soccer at Eckard College in Florida, which is where he met Darvish's Japanese mother.

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 1:38 pm
 

How will Texas respond to Angels' challenge?



By C. Trent Rosecrans

A year ago the Rangers were crushed when Cliff Lee went to Philadelphia. This year they expected to lose C.J. Wilson, but the difference is the landing spot. Lee went to the National League, Wilson is staying in the American League West -- and joining Albert Pujols in Anaheim.

The Rangers will now step back and reassess where they stand in regards to their divisional rival.

"Our job just got more challenging," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine told CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler. "We just saw him seven games and I can't say we figured him out."

The question now is whether the Rangers try to counter with big moves of their own. It's still possible, despite the denials of team president Nolan Ryan, that the team goes after Prince Fielder. Ryan says the team is comfortable with Mitch Moreland at first base, but he said the same last year about Michael Young and third base before signing Adrian Beltre.

MLB Winter Meetings

And then there's the rotation. As it stands now, the Rangers rotation is Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz. That's not bad, but it's not the Angels' rotation.

Feliz -- like Wilson and Ogando before him -- is being moved from the bullpen to the rotation. It's worked well enough before for the Rangers, so this could work. Feliz came up in the minors as a starter, starting 27 games in 2008 and 13 in 2009, the last time he started. The Rangers also signed Joe Nathan to make sure they had an experienced closer to fill his shoes.

Another possibility is moving Scott Feldman back to the rotation. The 28-year-old right-hander started two games in 2011 and has 80 career starts under his belt. Feldman won 17 games in 2009 and is 29-28 with a 4.69 ERA in his career as a starter, striking out 4.8 batters per nine innings, down from the 5.6 strikeouts per nine as a reliever.

Texas, though, could very well go outside of their organization to bolster their staff. General manager Jon Daniels scouted Yu Darvish in person this past season and the team has had success in Japan before with Lewis. Darvish, though, must go through the posting system, which is hardly a sure thing on a blind bid for the posting fee.

Another possibility is Matt Garza. The Cubs have let it be known they are open to trading anyone -- including the 28-year-old right-hander is arbitration-eligible and will be a free agent after the 2013 season. Garza went 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA in his first year in Chicago. The Rangers are talking to the Cubs about a deal for Garza, who would help their rotation.

Roy Oswalt is also a free agent and could be a fallback option.

The Angels shocked the baseball world on Thursday, the Rangers were among them. But the Rangers are unlikely to sit still and will certainly be worth watching going forward.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 5:10 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Atlanta Braves

Elvis Andrus

By C. Trent Rosecrans


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.

The Braves have seemingly always believed in developing talent from within and occasionally supplementing from the outside. It's a formula that's worked for many years and has become a blueprint for most of baseball. However, that doesn't mean they don't make mistakes from time to time, and if you're a Braves fan, you probably already rue the date July 31, 2007, already. On that day, the Braves sent Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beau Jones to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay. The Rangers have been to two World Series since the trade and the Braves none.  

Lineup

1. Elvis Andrus, SS
2. Martin Prado, LF
3. Brian McCann, C
4. Chipper Jones, 3B
5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
6. Freddie Freeman, 1B
7. Jason Heyward, CF
8. Kelly Johnson, 2B

Starting Rotation

1. Adam Wainwright
2. Tommy Hanson
3. Brandon Beachy
4. Matt Harrison
5. Mike Minor

Bullpen

Closer - Craig Kimbrel
Set up - Neftali Feliz, Jonny Venters, Matt Belisle, Julio Teheran, Charlie Morton
Long - Bruce Chen

Notable Bench Players

Adam LaRoche, Mark DeRosa, Rafael Furcal, Yunel Escobar, Wilson Betemit, Andruw Jones, Jordan Schafer, Tyler Flowers, Brayan Pena and Garrett Jones give this team an acceptable backup at every spot on the diamond and more. 

What's Good?

The depth is incredible -- in the pitching staff and the position players. Even if Wainwright weren't available because of his injury, the team has Chen, Morton or the rookie Teheran to step in, or they could move Feliz to the rotation without even having to look anywhere else for its closer.

What's Not?

Heyward is playing out of position in center -- it was between him and Francoeur, so I went with Heyward. Other than that? Well, Wainwright might still have been injured and the rotation is young, but talented.

Comparison to real 2011

There's no chance this team would have missed the playoffs, like their real-life counterparts did. The rotation is solid (even without Wainwright) and would have given first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez more innings, meaning he may not have run Kimbrel and Venters into the ground. The lineup has enough punch to aid that goal. Does this team win the World Series? Maybe. The rotation isn't a postseason killer -- yet, but there's certainly potential.

Next: Toronto Blue Jays

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:04 am
Edited on: October 28, 2011 4:02 pm
 

World Series Game 7: Harrison in spotlight



By Matt Snyder


Rangers at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m. CT, Busch Stadium, St. Louis. Series is tied, 3-3.

ST. LOUIS -- While there is rightfully plenty of focus on the Cardinals' Game 7 starter -- it's Chris Carpenter, even though the Cardinals wouldn't say anything on record Thursday night -- I've gotten a good chuckle out of the public reaction to Rangers manager Ron Washington naming Matt Harrison the Game 7 starter.

World Series Coverage
Remember back to before Game 4 of this series. Washington was said by many to be making a mistake in letting Derek Holland start, considering Holland was abysmal in the ALCS. And Holland went out and handcuffed the Cardinals for 8 1/3 innings. So now Washington is being questioned for using Holland in Game 6 in relief and going with Matt Harrison as the Game 7 starter. It's amazing how short-term memories rule the day.

Let us also realize Harrison wasn't that far from having a much better outing in Game 3. He was the victim of bad defense and a botched call in the top of the fourth inning when everything came unraveled. It's entirely possible that if Ron Kulpa made the correct call at first base and the defense was perfect behind him that Harrison comes away with a win.

With a 3.39 regular-season ERA, Harrison is no slouch. Plus, Holland will surely be in relief again -- he did a good job in relief in Game 6 after Alexi Ogando's pathetic effort. It would be foolish to count the Rangers out and it would be incredibly short-sighted to question Washington's decision on a Game 7 starter.

Then again, don't you have to like the Cardinals' chances when simply looking at Carpenter vs. Harrison?

PITCHING MATCHUP

Carpenter vs. Rangers:
In 13 innings this World Series, Carpenter has allowed 11 hits, four earned runs and three walks while striking out eight. He has been susceptible to the longball, as he's coughed up three homers. Both Adrian Beltre (4-for-8 with a home run) and Mike Napoli (4-for-8 with two home runs) have hit Carpenter well. Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young (all hitting .167 off Carpenter) do not.

Harrison vs. Cardinals: All we have to go on was Game 3, and it was bad. Harrison was roughed up for five runs (three earned) on six hits in just 3 2/3 innings. The Rangers' pitchers would allow 16 runs in that game. There's no question the result was bad, but -- as stated above -- we have to keep it in context. The only Cardinals player who has more than one career hit off Harrison doesn't even play (Gerald Laird). Allen Craig has homered off Harrison while David Freese has doubled, otherwise it's just a bunch of three at-bat samples with a single or walk mixed in. There really isn't much to draw from.

LINEUPS

Rangers Cardinals
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Ian Kinsler 2B 1 Ryan Theriot 2B
2 Elvis Andrus SS 2 Allen Craig LF
3 Josh Hamilton CF 3 Albert Pujols 1B
4 Michael Young 1B 4 Lance Berkman RF
5 Adrian Beltre 3B 5 David Freese 3B
6 Nelson Cruz RF 6 Yadier Molina C
7 Mike Napoli C 7 Rafael Furcal SS
8 David Murphy LF 8 Skip Schumaker CF
9 Matt Harrison LHP 9 Chris Carpenter RHP

NOTES

• The Rangers have still not lost back-to-back games since August, but the Cardinals have refused elimination even under the most dire circumstances. Game 7 will mark the ultimate test and something absolutely will give. It's just a question of which team does so.

• Carpenter was hit pretty hard in his only other start on three days' rest: Game 2 of the NLDS against the Phillies and it's worth noting the Rangers have a much better offense than Philly.

• Rangers ace C.J. Wilson will be available out of the bullpen, just as Holland should be as well. For the Cardinals, expect Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse to be available if need be -- this time with their arms, not just bats. 

Matt Holliday is done, but Cruz and Napoli are both playing. It will be most interesting to see how Napoli's ankle will react after being hyperextended?

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:57 am
Edited on: October 24, 2011 3:07 am
 

Resilient Rangers never lose two in a row



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- If you're a gambler, here's a good tip: Bet on the Rangers in the next game after a loss. Upon completely handcuffing the Cardinals for a 4-0 victory in Game 4 of the World Series, the Rangers have now played 44 times since last losing consecutive games. They lost to the Red Sox on August 27, which was their third loss in a row. Since then, the Rangers have gone 31-13 and have yet to drop two straight in that span.

So what's the secret? Maybe it's just having no clue about this little "streak."

“I didn’t know that," said Game 3 starter Matt Harrison.

"No, I didn't know that," said Game 2 starter Colby Lewis. “I definitely don’t worry about stats, the only time I hear about stats is when you guys come up and report them to me.”

World Series
Of course, not everyone is unaware.

“Yeah, we’ve been told about it a lot over the past few weeks by you guys," Michael Young said, drawing laughs.

So it can't be blind ignorance to the "streak." Maybe it's the ability to have a short memory?

“The good players are the ones who turn the page and forget what happened in the past," second baseman Ian Kinsler offered up.

Maybe it's making adjustments?

“We’re good at making adjustments; we’re good at turning the page," Young said. “People talk about turning the page a lot, but the biggest thing is making sure you don’t completely forget it, because you gotta learn from it. So if you gotta make an adjustment, you make it.”

Or, maybe it's resilience?

“It seems like we lose a game, we don’t get our heads down. We just get up and get right back at it," Harrison said. "We seem to always bounce back after we take a beating. We took a beating last night, but we came into today focused, and Derek was out there ready to go. He did a great job tonight.”

Actually, the answer is simpler still.

There's a reason why the Rangers can't seem to agree whether or not they know they haven't lost two straight in about two months. And there's a reason they're so good in the game following a loss. It's precisely because they don't talk or think about it. They're a great baseball that doesn't get caught up in feeling pressure, and instead, focuses on looking ahead and making adjustments. It's a combination of everything.

Interestingly enough, however, it's possible this "streak" stays intact with the Rangers losing the World Series in seven games. So instead of avoiding two straight losses, they'll need to string together two straight wins at some point in this series.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 1:44 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 4:03 am
 

Bad call? Yes. Reason for Rangers loss? No



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Other than the rightful praise of Albert Pujols and the Cardinals offense after a 16-7 shellacking of the Rangers in Game 3 of the World Series, the story gaining the most traction among fans is the blown call by umpire Ron Kulpa in the top of the fourth inning. Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday hit a routine double-play ball, but Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler made an errant throw to first base. Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli made the catch and a swipe tag.

“We ran into each other, I don’t know whether he tagged me or not," Holliday said afterward. "I didn’t watch it. All I know is we ran into each other and I ended up on the ground, so I don’t know.”

Replays showed Napoli clearly tagged Holliday, but Kulpa called him safe. He even admitted the mistake after the game.

"I saw a replay when I walked off the field, and the tag was applied before his foot hit the bag," he said.

World Series, Game 3
Had the correct call been made, the Cardinals would have had two outs with no one on base. Instead, the floodgates were opened and the Rangers would never recover -- even if they tried with two big innings.

"He looked like he tagged him before he reached the base from my point of view," Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said. "I wasn’t sure until I saw the replay. He was out, but he called him safe and I just had to move on."

Only the entire complexion of the game had been changed. Harrison and the Rangers' defense melted down. It was 5-0 before the inning ended. Sure, the final score was 16-7, but what if the Rangers got the correct call and escaped the inning down 1-0? And then took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth? That's a completely different game.

“I don’t think it did (harm the Rangers) psychologically, no, but the game could have turned out differently," Harrison said.  "That’s four runs that inning, so if he woulda called him out there they may or may not have scored that inning.”

"You gotta move past that," Napoli said. "We had a chance to get out of the inning, but we didn't make the plays we had to."

Napoli himself was among the culprits. It was just 2-0 when Napoli made a terrible throw to home, letting in two more runs before Harrison coughed up an RBI single to Ryan Theriot, completing the scoring for the inning. And it was Harrison who gave up a single and double following the botched call. And don't forget that the bad call was only made possible by Ian Kinsler's bad throw. If he makes a good throw, the call is an easy out. So that inning was the Rangers' fault.

"We had more chances after that," Napoli added. "We came back and scored three runs that inning. We had more chances after that, too."

"We didn't lose because of the call."

And he's right. Even if you take that four-run inning off the board, the Rangers were outscored 12-7 in Game 3. We can talk about momentum or shifts in psyche or anything else fictional and hypothetical if you want. It simply has no factual basis and, thus, no relevance.

The bottom line is that two things beat the Rangers Saturday night: The Rangers and the Cardinals. Blaming one call is a very convenient excuse and ignores the bad defense and pitching, not to mention the Cardinals' offensive explosion. Give Napoli credit for being accountable and refusing to blame the entire game on one call in the fourth inning. One call doesn't cost a team a game in which they lost by nine.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:10 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 4:11 am
 

Pujols, Cardinals slug way to Game 3 win



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cardinals have taken Game 3 of the World Series from the Rangers, 16-7, and now hold a 2-1 lead.

Hero: As if there was any other choice. After a bad Game 2 and a slight media controversy, Albert Pujols went utterly ballistic. The line: 5-for-6 with three home runs, four runs and six RBI. It was only the eighth three home-run game in postseason history, and only the third in the World Series.
World Series, Game 3

Goat: The Rangers pitching and defense was huge in Game 2 and it totally faltered in Game 3. We're not going to single anyone out, but you can pick from this group: Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman, Alexi Ogando or even Elvis Andrus (OK, maybe not, but he had no business making an error on a routine play, and that runner did come around to score).

Turning point: It's gotta be Kinsler's throw/the blown call. There's no way of knowing how the game goes if Kinsler makes a decent throw or if Ron Kulpa makes the correct call, but the Cardinals took full advantage and led the rest of the way.

It was over when ... Pujols crushed an Ogando pitch into the upper deck. That three-run bomb gave the Cardinals an 11-6 lead in the top of the 6th. When it was 8-6, the game was certainly in doubt. In fact, it felt like the Rangers would come back and eight runs wouldn't be enough. But Pujols' prodigious blast put the game out of reach. Or, to better sum up how the Rangers fans felt on this homer, check out the Rangers sitting behind the plate.



Next: We'll do it again Sunday night in Game 4. Edwin Jackson is set to take the hill for the Cardinals while Derek Holland is pitching for Texas. As with the Game 3 slugfest, don't expect it to come down to the starters. As we just witnessed, this is an offensive park. First pitch at 7:05 p.m. CT. Don't miss it.



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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com