Tag:NL Central
Posted on: February 22, 2012 9:59 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 10:06 pm
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New Cubs manager Sveum puts together bunt tourney

By Matt Snyder

As the Cubs franchise strives to do a complete makeover, fundamentals have been reemphasized in camp this season. More attention is reportedly being paid to baserunning and pitchers' fielding, for example. Also: Bunting.

And in the spirit of the upcoming March Madness -- watch the NCAA basketball tournament on CBS! -- new manager Dale Sveum has devised a 64-man bunting tournament that will begin Thursday. With there only being 62 players in camp, Sveum threw himself in the bracket along with strength coach Tim Buss (via Chicago Tribune). Tribune beat writer Paul Sullivan has posted a picture of the entire bracket on his Facebook page.

Sveum made setup man Kerry Wood a No. 2 seed -- and if that's an accurate ranking, it's a good thing the Cubs are refocusing on bunting considering Wood hasn't had a big-league plate appearance since 2007 -- and put himself against Wood in Round 1 as a 15.

Sullivan reports the players' consensus is that starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells are the favorites, though speedy outfielder Tony Campana named himself the man to beat.

Having seen many Cubs games the past several seasons, I'd be shocked if anyone beats Dempster -- not that the winner really matters. And my reaction to seeing Alfonso Soriano as a 15-seed? How are there at least four worse bunters in camp?

Two things here do matter, though:

1. The focus on fundamentals.
2. Having fun. It's a long spring training and exercises like these help bring the team together. If you scoff at that notion, note that Joe Girardi had the 2009 Yankees compete in a billiards tournament in spring training as a team-building exercise. Obviously these Cubs don't have the same level of talent as the eventual '09 World Series champions, but the point remains that Sveum has his head in the right place.

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Posted on: February 22, 2012 2:59 pm
 

Pujols still objects to nickname 'El Hombre'

Albert Pujols

By C. Trent Rosecrans


When Albert Pujols was in St. Louis, he made it clear he didn't like being called by the nickname "El Hombre," even asking fans not to call him by the monicker in 2010.

Pujols said he felt it was a disrespect -- not a clever play -- of Stan Musial's nickname, "The Man." That's why it was a surprise, in St. Louis especially, when the Angels put up billboards in Southern California with Pujols' picture next to the words "El Hombre."

On Wednesday, Pujols made it clear he still doesn't like the name and didn't authorize the billboards.

"Like I say, I haven't talked to them, but I prefer not to use [El Hombre]," Pujols told Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I still have the same respect for [Musial] as I had, not just waht he's done in baseball, but for what he did for his country. That's something you have to appreciate."

Musial served in the Navy during World War II and last season was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

According to the Angels, there are 20 such billboards in Southern California.

Hat-tip: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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Posted on: February 22, 2012 2:38 pm
 

Report: Edgar Renteria leaning toward retirement

Edgar Renteria

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Former World Series MVP Edgar Renteria is leaning toward retirement, although his agent, Barry Meister told FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal that the 35-year-old shortstop probably won't file official retirement papers anytime soon, leaving the door open for a return.

Renteria played for the Reds last season, but Cincinnati instead chose to go with rookie Zach Cozart as its starter at shortstop, along with backup Paul Janish. Renteria received two offers of minor-league contracts from National League teams, but he chose not go that route.

"It had nothing to do with the team," Meister told Rosenthal. "It just had to do with the feeling that this might be the right time."

Renteria won two Gold Gloves and was a five-time All-Star, as well as two World Series titles and another appearance. Although, the highlight of his career came early, when at 20 he hit the game-winning RBI single in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 1997 World Series with the Marlins. He then won the World Series MVP with the Giants in 2010. He also appeared in the 2004 World Series with the Cardinals.

In an interesting twist, he could be hanging up his glove in the same offseason season that countryman and fellow Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera retired. Cabrera, 37, played for the Giants and Indians last season -- and coincidentally, was the shortstop for the Reds in 2010. He was also the shortstop for the Red Sox when Boston beat Renteria's Cardinals in the 2004 World Series.

What makes it really interesting is that the two, who are probably the greatest players to ever hail from Columbia, had a rivalry and didn't like each other. Here's a story from 2008 written by Jorge Arangure in ESPN The Magazine that examines and explains the feud. It's a fascinating read, but the crux is this -- Renteria felt Cabrera was jealous of him and then there's a money aspect to the entire deal.

In Cincinnati, I've dealt with both and found it odd. Teammates liked -- and even loved -- both players, they were well-respected and were also good with the media. Renteria, whom I was around less, seemed more quiet, while Cabrera is outgoing, loud and hilarious.

Renteria and his brother founded the Columbian Professional Baseball League and he is seen as a hero in Columbia, while last season Cabrera became a U.S. citizen.

If Renteria retires, he'll end his career with a .286/.343/.398 slash line, 140 home runs and 2,327 hits to go along with five All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. He also played on seven playoff teams with four different franchises. Cabrera finished his career with a .272/.317/.390 slash line, 123 home runs and 2,055 hits. He never made an All-Star team, but did win two Gold Gloves and played on six playoff teams. From 2004-2010, he appeared in the playoffs in all but one of those seven seasons, making six playoff appearances with five different teams.

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 3:25 pm
 

Red Sox receive RHP Chris Carpenter for Epstein

Chris Carpenter

By C. Trent Rosecrans


In what only seems fitting, the Red Sox and Cubs have agreed upon the compensation for new Chicago president Theo Epstein, but there are still players to be named for both teams to complete the deal, dragging out the case even longer. The two teams have been trying to figure out the compensation for Epstein's move from Boston since the World Series, when Epstein was hired.

The Red Sox will receive right-hander Chris Carpenter (no, not that Chris Carpenter) and a player to be named, while the Cubs will also receive a player to be named. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters the players to be named will be decided by the end of spring training. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said the two players to be named are just a "procedural" thing to satisfy MLB transaction rules.

Carpenter, 26, was ranked the No. 13 prospect in the Cubs' system by Baseball America (and the same publication had the Cubs' system ranked No. 14 overall).

The Cubs drafted him in the third round of the 2008 draft out of Kent State. Last season he pitched in 10 games for the Cubs, putting up a 2.79 ERA in 10 innings, allowing 12 hits, a home run, seven walks and eight  strikeouts. In his first season as a reliever, Carpenter pitched in 32 games between Double-A and Triple-A, going 3-4 with a 5.91 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings. He had a WHIP of 1.617.

"I am relieved that this process is over and particularly pleased that the teams were able to reach agreement on their own without intervention from MLB," Epstein said in a statement from the Cubs. "I truly hope and believe that this resolution will benefit both clubs, as well as Chris, who is an extremely talented reliever joining a great organization at a time when there's some opportunity in the major league bullpen."

While there had been reports that Bud Selig would have to decide the matter, Selig said the two sides worked out the move on their own.

"I am pleased that the Cubs and the Red Sox have resolved this matter," Selig said in a statement realsed by MLB. "It has always been my preference that Clubs resolve matters like this amongst themselves, as they understand their unique circumstances better than anyone else could.  Though the matter required time, both Clubs demonstrated professionalism throughout their discussions, and I appreciate their persistence in finding common ground."

Cherington said he was happy to have the matter decided.

"I think it took this long because it was a unique circumstance," Cherington said, according to the Associated Press. "We talk to teams all the time about trades and it's player for player and it's pretty easy to, easier to, assign value and figure out what's fair, what's not fair. In this case it was just tougher because it involved not just an executive but a friend."

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:06 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 11:18 am
 

Epstein compensation may be announced Tuesday

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Major League Baseball is expected to announce the compensation the Red Sox will receive from the Cubs in return for the hiring of president Theo Epstein on Tuesday, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports.

According to Heyman, the compensation was negotiated by both parties with input from MLB. One thing that worked in the Cubs' favor was the fact Epstein only had one year to go on his contract and his relationship with John Henry was seen as deteriorating. The Red Sox are expected to receive a minor-league player or players in compensation for allowing Epstein to go to Chicago, but the perceived value of that player or players is what has been in question since Epstein's hiring in October.

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Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:29 pm
 

Burnett joins Pirates, creates competition



A.J. BurnettBy C. Trent Rosecrans


The Pittsburgh Pirates rarely cause a stir in the national media -- but plenty of people were in Bradenton on Monday to see newest Pirates A.J. Burnett throw his first side session of the spring.

Burnett, officially traded from the Yankees to the Pirates on Sunday, reported to Pirates camp on Monday. To make room for Burnett, the Pirates placed Rule 5 selection Gustavo Nunez on the 60-day disabled list with a right ankle injury.

According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, about a dozen reporters spoke to Burnett before the start of Monday's workout. While that number pales in comparison to the media horde that follows the Yankees, it's a pretty sizable scrum for the Pirates.

"It's going to be a fresh start," Burnett said, according to Biertempfel. "It's going to be fun. I'm back in the National League where I can hit and bunt and get the joy back into the game."

Burnett, 35, said he learned from his three seasons with the Yankees -- "one thing I can take from my time in New York is I'll never back down from anything."

With Burnett in camp, the Pirates have six starters for five spots in the rotation. Burnett and fellow new Pirate Erik Bedard will certainly make the rotation. Also involved in the rotation battle are Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens. The team also has Brad Lincoln, as well as non-roster invitees Jo-Jo Reyes and Daniel Cabrera.

"One of the signs of a club getting better is when your decisions get tougher as you move forward," manager Clint Hurdle told reporters (again, via Biertemfel at the Tribune-Review). "We're going to put people on the mound, let them pitch, and it will all shape itself up."

McDonald and Morton are likely to be in the rotation with the new guys, while Correia and Karstens may be battling it out for the last spot.

Correia was an All-Star last season, but the 31-year-old right-hander made the team on the strength of his 11 wins in the first-half of the season and despite a 4.01 ERA. He was 1-4 with a 7.23 ERA in the second half of the season.

Karstens, 29, was 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA last season.

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Posted on: February 19, 2012 11:07 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 11:22 pm
 

K-Rod contemplates lawsuit against former agents

By Matt Snyder

Brewers relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez may file a lawsuit against his former agents, Paul Kinzer and Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

K-Rod and his attorneys allege that he was led to believe he had a no-trade clause that included 10 teams -- the Brewers being one of them -- by his agents when he initially signed a three-year contract with the Mets before the 2009 season. Instead, the former closer found out there was no such clause in July of last season. After realizing the omission, Rodriguez fired the agents and hired Scott Boras.

"They did something atrocious,'' Rodriguez's attorney Richard Johnson said (USAToday.com). "Their utter arrogance makes this so evil. It's like rear-ending somebody, but instead of stopping your car and trading insurance information, these guys blew up the car, took off, and ran away. They committed negligence, and turned it into a fraud case.''

Boras negotiated a $500,000 buyout out of K-Rod's vesting option for 2012, which was worth $17.5 million. He would have pretty easily finished enough games to make the option vest had he stayed with the Mets or been traded to a team that would use him as the closer. Instead, he accepted the buyout and was traded, eyeing a big free agent this deal in the offseason.

As the closer market dried up this past offseason, however -- not to mention the fact that Rodriguez had zero saves with the Brewers -- Rodriguez decided to accept arbitration from the Brewers instead of hitting the open market and ended up with a one-year, $8 million contract.

"He's going to lose a lot of money, the question is whether it's seven figures or eight figures,'' said Johnson(USAToday.com). "There's long-term damage to his career. He wasn't even in position to be marketed as a closer last winter. They really [messed] with his career in a monumental way.''

Had Rodriguez's contract contained the no-trade clause, he could have made sure he was in a closing situation -- perhaps having a great second half and setting himself up for a free agency offer from a team seeking a closer. Instead he'll remain in the setup role at least one more season.

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Posted on: February 19, 2012 6:54 pm
 

A.J. Burnett-to-Pirates trade is official

Burnett to Pirates
By Matt Snyder

A.J. Burnett is officially a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The final two hurdles in the transaction that sent Burnett to the Pirates via trade were for the right-handed pitcher to pass a physical and Major League Baseball to approve the trade. Both happened Sunday, according to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman.

The trade had to be approved by the MLB offices due to the Yankees paying $20 million of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's contract.

The return for the Yankees is two lower-level minor-league players, 25-year-old right-handed reliever Diego Moreno and 20-year-old outfielder Exicardo Cayones. Neither are expected to make much of an impact on the Yankees' system, as this deal was basically a salary dump.

Burnett, 35, was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 173 strikeouts in 190 1/3 innings last season for the Yankees.

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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