Tag:NL Central
Posted on: February 26, 2012 10:07 pm

Report: Reds, Marshall close to extension

By Matt Snyder

The Cincinnati Reds and relief pitcher Sean Marshall are close to a contract extension, reports John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“That’s one of the things we said we wanted to do when he traded for him,” Jocketty said (Cincinnati.com). “We want to get it done sooner than later. We’d like to get it done before games start.”

Marshall seems to believe it's even closer than that.

“We’re talking about it,” Marshall said (Cincinnati.com). “We might have something [Monday].”

 This makes too much sense from the Reds' point of view. Marshall is set to be a free agent after the 2012 season. They traded Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and prospect Ronald Torreyes for Marshall, so having him for only one year didn't seem like a great deal. If they extend him a few seasons, it could very well end up being a big win for the Reds.

Marshall, 29, is one of the better left-handed relievers in baseball. He was had a 2.26 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 79 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings last season. He had 34 holds, five saves and only four blown saves.

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Posted on: February 26, 2012 6:30 pm

Report: Craig ahead of schedule in recovery

By Matt Snyder

Cardinals utility man extraordinaire Allen Craig is ahead of schedule in his recovery from knee surgery, reports MLB.com.

Craig had the surgery in November and was said to be down for four to six months, meaning missing a large chunk of the early part of the 2012 season was a very real possibility. It still is, but the MLB.com report says Craig has the goal of being ready opening day. His new manager, Mike Matheny, won't go that far just yet.

"The job of the medical staff is to hold him back," Matheny said (MLB.com). "Once they start releasing him more, we're going to have more to work with. As far as what that lines out to [be], there are still other peaks to get to. I don't know if he's going to make that next one. He's where he's supposed to be and actually a little bit ahead. I'm listening to what they're telling me, and I'm not jumping too far ahead with my own conclusions that yes, he's going to be here. It's still too early to tell."

Craig, 27, hit .315/.362/.555 with 11 home runs in just 219 plate appearances last season. He appeared in game action at first base, second base, third base and all three outfield positions.

Though he's not a starter, Craig is one of the most important bench players in the majors. Not only did he show what he can do in the World Series -- when he came through in the clutch several times -- but he can play almost anywhere on the diamond. Considering the age of Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman, and injuries bound to occur throughout a 162-game season, one would expect Craig to have plenty of opportunities to fill in this season.

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Posted on: February 26, 2012 12:54 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 5:17 pm

Astros 'leaning heavily' toward new uniforms

By Matt Snyder

The Houston Astros will move to the American League West in 2013, and they may have new uniforms in doing so. In fact, it sounds pretty likely.

“If the change is going to be made, certainly next year going to the American League is our transition and we’re leaning heavily that way," new owner Jim Crane said (via Ultimate Astros).

[Knobler: Crane off to a good start]

Any logo or uniform changes must be submitted to Major League Baseball by May 1, but the public won't see them until after the 2012 season. Of course, the Marlins changed up this past year and there were some leaks throughout the late part of the regular season.

Crane pondered changing the name from Astros earlier this offseason, but the outcry from fans was so overwhelming he backed off. It appears he will continue to keep fan feedback a priority.

“We’ll get some of the staff and some of the fans in on the next look, and hopefully we’ll make a decision on the deadline that they’re requiring if we’re going to make a decision,” Crane said (Ultimate Astros).

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Posted on: February 25, 2012 12:21 pm

MLB's Braun response gets Star Wars treatment

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Major League Baseball's response to the Ryan Braun decision sounded to many as a bit, shall we say, harsh?

One Twitter user, @FauxFrankWren, seemed to think the statement released by reminded him of the strong-armed tactics of a dictatorship from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Shyam Das does sound like a name only George Lucas could invent -- I wonder if he'll get his own action figure anytime soon.

Speaking of action figures, I'm not sure why Lucas didn't say anything in the late 90s when Luke Skywalker wasn't looking exactly natural.

Hat-tip: Big League Stew

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Posted on: February 25, 2012 10:39 am

Photo: Lance Berkman's new look

Lance Berkman

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Repeating as the World Series champions is a serious business -- and Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman is obviously feeling the pressure.

In the team's first full workout on Friday, Berkman wore a fake mustache for "about two thirds" of the workout, according to the Associated Press cutline.

It's a good look.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:02 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 7:57 pm

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs

By Matt Snyder

After watching the Cubs go from a 97-win club to a 71-win version in just four seasons, owner Tom Ricketts took serious action in 2011. He fired general manager Jim Hendry and landed his version of a big fish, in former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Epstein took over as club president then added Jed Hoyer as general manager and Jason McLeod as senior vice president of scouting and player development, among other front office pieces. The new management group then hired Dale Sveum as the big-league manager and started to clean house. It's going to be a long process, but said process has begun in earnest.

Scott Miller's camp report: Cubs Giddy With Optimism | Likes, Dislikes

Major additions: OF David DeJesus, 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Ian Stewart, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Travis Wood
Major departures: RHP Carlos Zambrano, OF Tyler Colvin, RHP Andrew Cashner, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 1B Carlos Pena, LHP Sean Marshall, LHP John Grabow

Probable lineup
1. David DeJesus, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Bryan LaHair, 1B
5. Alfonso Soriano, LF
6. Ian Stewart, 3B
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Darwin Barney, 2B

Probable rotation
1. Matt Garza
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Paul Maholm
4. Randy Wells
5. Travis Wood

Chris Volstad will also be in the mix, but I gave Wood the nod because he's left-handed.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Carlos Marmol
Set-up: Kerry Wood, Jeff Samardzija

Important bench players

IF Jeff Baker, C Welington Castillo, OF Tony Campana, OF Reed Johnson

Prospects to watch
There are two here in particular that could make an impact in 2012: OF Brett Jackson and 1B Anthony Rizzo. It's entirely possible both are in the lineup come August. With Rizzo, it's a matter of whether or not LaHair can hit in the majors long-term -- as he could merely be one of those so-called Quadruple-A players. If that is the case and Rizzo is hitting well in Triple-A, the Cubs might well decide to turn to Rizzo. With Jackson, he's blocked all over the outfield, however, center field could easily be cleared in July. If the Cubs fall out of contention prior to the trade deadline -- and let's face it, that's a pretty good bet -- Byrd is a great trade candidate (sorry, I don't think the Cubs can deal Soriano just yet due to his contract). Byrd is in the final year of his contract and can play all three outfield positions, so surely some contender would cough up one mid-tier prospect for him. If that happens, the logical step for the Cubs would be to see how Jackson fared in center field for the final two months to determine if he can stay there or if he needs to be moved to a corner.

Fantasy sleeper: Bryan LaHair
"Usually, when a player in his late 20s puts up eye-popping numbers at Triple-A like a .331 batting average, 38 homers and 1.070 OPS, he's dismissed right away as a Quadruple-A player, but apparently the Cubs' front office thinks LaHair is different -- and not just because of his impressive 59 at-bat stint in the majors last year. The experiment could still be a failure of Kila Ka'aihue proportions, which is why you shouldn't bother with LaHair in mixed leagues, but late in NL-only formats, why not?" - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Carlos Marmol
"If blown saves were Marmol's only problem, it'd be one thing, but the bottom line is he's not the efficient out-getter that Epstein and Hoyer would like their closer to be. His walk rate is as bad as it gets, and as a result, he's always pitching out of jams. Sure, his high strikeout rate helps compensate for it, but if he produces anything short of a best-in-the-league-type hit rate, his WHIP is in the danger zone." - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
The deep pitching staff throws well and pays immediate dividends, as the bullpen improves with much better rest. Plus, behind the changes in right field and third base, the defense is also improved. Even Marmol's control issues drastically dwindle. LaHair and Stewart prove they can hit major-league pitching throughout the season and DeJesus turns out a perfect leadoff man for the suddenly balanced offense. And the Cubs find themselves right in the thick of the NL Central race with the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers until the end of the season, possibly even finishing somewhere in the top three.

Pessimistic outlook
By the end of July, Garza, Dempster and Byrd are all traded as the Cubs have no shot of making the playoffs. The Cubs try to avoid the cellar in a battle with the Astros, but continue the rebuilding effort and look forward to hitting the 2013 free agency class full-steam (less than $40 million is committed to 2013 payroll so far). Really, this is more realistic than pessimistic, because as much as the Cubs' coaches, players and front office say they're trying to win this year, it's obvious this is a two-year plan at the absolute minimum.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 3:46 pm

Starlin Castro touches upon allegations

By Matt Snyder

Back in early January, accusations of sexual assault against Cubs All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro emerged. Castro was interviewed by police in mid-January upon his return to America from his home in the Dominican Republic, otherwise there hasn't been much news on the subject.

Friday, in Cubs camp, Castro addressed the situation, sort of.

"I cooperated with the police [by] talking about that," he said (Chicago Sun-Times). "I don't have [anything more] to say about that. I'm ready to play baseball and practice very hard to help this team win this season."

Alfonso Soriano, Castro's closest friend on the Cubs, got his buddy's back.

"I think he didn't make a mistake because he did not do anything wrong, and I believe in him," Soriano said (Chicago Sun-Times). "He's such a great guy, and he thinks everybody can be friends with him. Now he knows when that happened to him he has to be a little more careful."

And Castro agreed: "You've got to be careful, because a lot of bad people in the world." (Chicago Sun-Times)

So it would appear Soriano and Castro are painting the picture that the allegations against Castro were untrue. And it has been about five weeks since the police interviewed Castro for several hours, so it's entirely possible this matter is behind the Cubs' shortstop.

Castro, 21, hit .307/.341/.432 with 10 homers, 66 RBI, 91 runs, 22 stolen bases and an NL-leading 207 hits last season. He made his first All-Star Game.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 3:15 pm

Video: Braun discusses winning his appeal

By Matt Snyder

Friday, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun came to spring camp just one day after learning his appeal was upheld and he wouldn't have to serve a 50-game suspension for his positive drug test last October. And he came out swinging.

Here's a portion of the press conference:

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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