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Tag:NL Central
Posted on: March 5, 2012 8:02 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 10:58 am
 

Pirates lock up McCutchen to 6-year, $51.5 M deal

Andrew McCutchen

By C. Trent Rosecrans


The Pirates have locked up center fielder Andrew McCutchen to a six-year, $51.5 million contract, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman confirms.

The 25-year-old McCutchen made his first All-Star team in 2011 and was scheduled to be arbitration eligible after this season. The new deal buys out not only his three arbitration years, but also two free agent seasons and gives the Pirates a club option for another, giving Pittsburgh control over him through the 2018 season.

The deal is similar to the one NL Central rival Jay Bruce (six years, $51 million) signed a year ago with the Reds and the one Justin Upton signed before the 2010 season (six years, $51.25 million) with the Diamondbacks.

It also assures the Pirates will be able to build around the young star. Last season, McCutchen's batting average dropped, but his on-base percentage stayed steady and his home run and RBI totals jumped, as he emerged as one of the young stars of the game. McCutchen hit .259/.364/.456 with 23 homers and 89 RBI in 2011, while stealing 23 bases. Overall, he's hit .276/.365/.458 in three seasons in Pittsburgh, while playing a solid center field.

This is the type of move that helps the Pirates more than most teams. Pittsburgh has lost many of its young, talented players to free agency. This proactive move keeps McCutchen in Pittsburgh and allows Pirate fans a piece of mind that he'll be around in the long term. It also gives McCutchen a big payday before he would otherwise be eligible.

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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: March 4, 2012 8:29 pm
 

Injury roundup: Howard, Nix, Madson and more

Ryan HowardBy C. Trent Rosecrans

There is no timetable for Ryan Howard's return to the field after he suffered an infection near the site of his Achilles injury, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters on Sunday.

Howard is currently in a walking boot and fighting the infection with antibiotics. Howard will keep the boot on his left leg for the next week to 10 days.

"Once we're comfortable with where the infection is at, we can be more aggressive with his rehab," Amaro said (DelawareOnline.com).

In other injury news from around baseball on Sunday:

• Phillies outfielder Laynce Nix is limited to pinch-hitting and DH roles while he deals with tightness in his hamstring. Nix is expected to be in competition for the Phillies' job in left field, but Philadelphia is being cautious with him. The left-handed Nix is also expected to play some first base in Howard's absence. [DelawareOnline.com]

• New Reds closer Ryan Madson has a "minor" elbow injury and hasn't appeared in either of the Reds' first two spring games.

"He has a little irritation in his arm," manager Dusty Baker said (MLB.com). "The doctor looked at him today. Hopefully he will be all right in the next couple of days."

• David Wright will sit out at least the first two games of the exhibition season with pain in his left ribcage. Wright is still working out with the team, but the team is being cautious.

"We're going to hold him out until he's asymptomatic," general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters. [New York Times]

• Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez will rest his shoulder two more days before determining when he can return to the mound.

"I want to make sure everything is fine," Sanchez said (Palm Beach Post). "We're early in spring training, no reason to rush. I want to make sure nothing is bothering me."

He felt soreness in his should after a bullpen on Friday.

• Plenty of injury news from Rays camp -- left-hander Matt Moore threw off the mound for the first time in more than a week on Saturday, and on Sunday said he felt "normal." The left-hander had suffered from a lower abdominal strain and expects to throw again Monday and batting practice on Thursday. He could appear in an exhibition game as early as next weekend. Third baseman Evan Longoria said his bruised right hand should be good enough for him to play Tuesday, if not Monday. First baseman Carlos Pena and DH Luke Scott will take BP on Monday and expect to play as soon as Tuesday, but at least sometime in the coming week. [Tampa Bay Times]

• Giants reliever Dan Runzler will meet with Dr. James Andrews on Monday to get a second opinion on how to treat his strained lat muscle. Runzler's initial diagnosis has him out three-to-four weeks. [San Francisco Chronicle]

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Posted on: March 4, 2012 4:58 pm
 

Brewers' Corey Hart may miss opening day

Corey Hart

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Brewers right fielder Corey Hart could miss opening day for the second consecutive season.

Hart will have surgery on his right knee to repair a meniscus tear and will be out three-to-four weeks, Milwaukee assistant GM Gord Ash told reporters (via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

"The tough part is that he will miss the at-bats here," Ash said. "But it could have been worse."

Hart had an MRI on Sunday and Ash said Hart would have the surgery sometime this week.

Last season Hart started the season on the disabled list with a strained oblique. Hart, who will turn 30 later this month, didn't play his first game last season until April 26. He did play 130 games, hitting .285/.356/.510 with 26 home runs.

Hart was a late scratch for Sunday's exhibtion game with swelling on his knee. Second baseman Rickie Weeks was also held out with right-shoulder tightness, but his injury wasn't seen as serious.

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Posted on: March 4, 2012 2:17 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 5:51 pm
 

Union knows who leaked news of Ryan Braun test

Michael WeinerBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Major League Baseball Players Association knows who leaked Ryan Braun's positive drug test to ESPN, but is not considering a lawsuit, executive director Michael Weiner told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"The union is not," Weiner said when asked if they were considering legal action. "I guess I can't speak for Ryan on that point. That will be their decision. My sense is that what's done is done. I think that's also the best thing for everybody."

The leak came from someone whom the Braun defense team talked to in preparation for its case, the newspaper reported.

Weiner said the union does not believe there is an issue with confidentiality with MLB's drug program.

"Everyone associated with the case is extemely disappointed that it leaked out," Weiner told the newspaper. "I'm certain the leak was specific to this case. It does not threaten the confidentiality of the program and as I've said to players who have asked about that, confidentiality is as important as any aspect of this program.

"The program has a bunch of different goals but confidentiality is critical. If we felt there was any system-wide problem with respect to confidentiality, we really would have a problem. And that's not the case."

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Posted on: March 3, 2012 6:19 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 6:29 pm
 

Injury roundup: Wright, Marcum, Gordon and more

By Matt Snyder

Mets third baseman David Wright was scratched from the lineup in an intrasquad game Saturday due to soreness in his left side. Per the Associated Press, he has stiffness near his ribcage, something he felt back on Monday. He has been limited in workouts this week, but it's nothing to worry about just yet.

"If it was a real game, obviously I would be playing," Wright said (Associated Press). "But they wanted to try to take it slow, especially this early in the spring."

The Mets are looking for Wright to play in their Grapefruit League opener Monday night.

Other minor injury news and updates from Saturday:

• Hopefully this doesn't become a daily thing, but we have another Carl Crawford update. The Red Sox left fielder had a setback Friday with swelling in his surgically repaired wrist, but Saturday he reiterated his goal is to be ready for opening day. He's taking anti-inflammatory medication and the swelling has already decreased. (BostonHerald.com)

Brewers starting pitcher Shaun Marcum threw Saturday and reportedly indicated he felt "much better." His shoulder soreness is going away and he's scheduled to pitch his first spring game March 10. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via Twitter)

Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon took a bad hop to the mouth Saturday. He received "several stitches to close a gash on his lip." (MLB.com)

• Remember Kiko Calero? CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports that Calero is "considering Bartolo Colon surgery as he weighs a comeback." Colon had surgery that placed fat and bone marrow stem cells into his elbow and shoulder, helping him get his career back on track with the Yankees last season. Calero, 37, last pitched in 2009 for the Marlins. He had a 1.95 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 69 strikeouts in 60 innings.

Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was one of several starting pitchers to go down with lower back stiffness early on in camp, but he threw from 105 feet Saturday and will back up to 120 feet Sunday. He will then hit the mound either Tuesday or Wednesday, as his back is feeling better. (CSNBayArea.com via Twitter)

• Mets outfielder Scott Hairston was removed from Saturday's intrasquad game with an apparent side injury. Remember, Hairston ended the 2011 season on the disabled list with a strained oblique. (ESPN New York)

• Giants reliever Dan Runzler has left camp and will fly to see Dr. James Andrews for an examination on his left shoulder and lat area. An MRI showed the left-handers' rotator cuff, but surgery hasn't been ruled out. It really doesn't sound good, as even a strained lat muscle would put Runzler out for around six weeks. (CSNBayArea.com)

Padres infielder Logan Forsythe fractured a sesamoid bone in his left foot Saturday and will be out for anywhere from two to eight weeks. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

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Posted on: March 3, 2012 11:42 am
 

Alfonso Soriano leading off is a possibility

By Matt Snyder

I thought this ship had sailed a few years ago.

Instead, multiple Chicago papers have stories up Saturday morning about Alfonso Soriano being a possibility to lead off for the Cubs this season on occasion.

I'd be lying if I said only one word came to mind, but one word was most prominent: Why?

You can say the Cubs don't have a bonafide leadoff man, and that's true. But there are many better options than Soriano. In fact, he might be the worst option on the entire club. We're talking about a guy who hit .244 with a .289 on-base percentage last season. He struck out 113 times while walking 27. He had two stolen bases. He only scored 50 runs in 508 plate appearances.

Amazingly, with a putrid OBP, Soriano still managed 88 RBI and a .469 slugging percentage, due to his 27 doubles and 26 homers.

Basically, Soriano's only value is that he gets an extra-base hit every once in a while, which helped him drive home those 88 runs last season. That's not a guy you bat leadoff. Ever.

Fortunately, manager Dale Sveum's comments seem to be of a political nature, as to not dismiss anything.

‘‘During the season, a lot of things can come up to where, yeah, it can happen,’’ said Sveum (Chicago Sun-Times). ‘‘You really want Soriano just to be in an RBI spot. That’s what you really want.’’

Unfortunately, Soriano batted leadoff in an intrasquad game Friday. So it appears the possibility is realistic.

I can hear the collective groan from Wrigleyville already.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 8:20 pm
 

Injury roundup: Lee, Freeman, Crawford and more

By Matt Snyder

As happens every single spring, the minor little injuries are starting to pop up all over the place. It's bound to happen when guys first start hitting the field after a long offseason, especially with older players like 35-year-old Carlos Lee.

Lee, the Astros' first baseman, has already been scratched from Saturday's lineup due to a mild right hamstring strain. (Ultimate Astros)

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman had his kneecap briefly dislocated earlier this week, but he had an encouraging jog Friday.

"I feel great," Freeman said (MLB.com). "Hopefully, they will let me start hitting [in batting practice] again tomorrow or Sunday."

Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford is aiming for an opening day return from his offseason wrist surgery -- which he had in the middle of January -- but he had a small setback Friday. There was some inflammation in his wrist and he didn't end up taking any swings.

"I'm always concerned when there's a setback. I don't know how bad it is. But according to the doctor it doesn't look that bad," Crawford said (Boston.com). "I was feeling real good, too. I wasn't expecting this."

• Sticking with the Red Sox, closer Andrew Bailey has been limited with a lat strain, but he's "inching closer" to pitching in a spring game, after a 20-pitch bullpen session Thursday. (BostonHerald.com)

Mark Trumbo of the Angels is making progress in his recovery from a stress fracture in his right foot, to the point that he's been able to get into "more intense" workouts at third base -- where he's attempting to transition.

"We haven't been able to find out [how well he can play third], because he looks fine in some of the baby steps, but his hurdle is going to come when the game comes to full speed, [when the] ball off the bat becomes full speed," manager Mike Scioscia said (MLB.com). "We haven't been able to get close to that because of trying to fit in his rehab. He's done as much as he can, outside of the things that we're going to need him to do to evaluate him. Although those things are encouraging, the test for him is going to be much deeper as he moves on to see if he's going to be a Major League third baseman."

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley isn't necessarily injured, but after the past few seasons, the Phillies are bringing him along slowly this spring to make sure he's fine come opening day.

"It might be a little while before I play him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said (Philly.com). "I want him to keep doing his regular workouts. Right now, I'm in no hurry to play him as long as we can have him ready when the season starts. We just want him to feel good about where he's at with his practice and hitting."

• The Rays have several smallish updates. Evan Longoria will return to likely action Monday from his bruised hand. Phenom pitcher Matt Moore doesn't have lower abdominal discomfort any longer. Designated hitter Luke Scott and outfielder Sam Fuld will be delayed before appearing in any spring games. Scott had shoulder surgery last season, so it's just the club taking it slow. Fuld is in a similar situation of patience, as he had an injury in the tendon of his right wrist late last season. (MLB.com)

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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