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StarDust Bum
02-16-2015, 12:49 AM
2015 MLB Win Totals

February 14, 2015

2014 Win Total Results

Win totals for the 2015 Major League Baseball season have been released by the Atlantis sportsbook in Reno, Nevada.

The highest win total sits with the defending National League East champion Washington Nationals at 93, while the team with the lowest total is from the same division, Philadelphia Phillies (67).

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series last year and finished the regular season with an 88-74 record. Their win total for the 2015 season opened at 85 victories.

Bettors can compare 2014 Win Totals posted from the Atlantis to this season, which gives you a better idea of the 2015 expectations placed by the oddsmakers.

A couple National League teams expected to improve are the Cubs and Marlins. Chicago and Miami both had win totals listed in the sixties last season. For 2015, the pair are expected to attain close to a .500 (81-81) record.

In the American League the Angels and Red Sox have been given the most respect. Teams that are expected to drop off include the Tigers, Rays and Rangers.

One club the Atlantis is expecting to improve is Houston, who has a win total of 73 . To put things in perspective, the Astros had the lowest win total posted the last two seasons, which includes a number of 57 in 2014.

Below lists every team's final wins from each of the last three seasons, while the right column displays the 2015 win total courtesy of Atlantis.


NATIONAL LEAGUE WIN TOTALS

Team Wins - 2012 Wins - 2013 Wins - 2014 Win Total - 2015

Arizona 81 81 64 72
Atlanta 94 96 79 73
Chicago Cubs 61 66 73 81
Cincinnati 97 90 76 79
Colorado 64 74 66 70
L.A. Dodgers 86 92 94 91
Miami 69 62 77 81
Milwaukee 83 74 82 80
N.Y. Mets 74 74 79 81
Philadelphia 81 73 73 67
Pittsburgh 79 94 88 85
San Diego 76 76 77 84
San Francisco 94 76 88 85
St. Louis 88 97 90 87
Washington 98 86 96 93

Compare Win Totals at the Westgate SuperBook

AMERICAN LEAGUE WIN TOTALS

Team Wins - 2012 Wins - 2013 Wins - 2014 Win Total - 2015

Baltimore 93 85 96 84
Boston 69 97 71 86
Chicago White Sox 85 63 73 82
Cleveland 68 92 85 81
Detroit 88 93 90 81
Houston 55 51 70 73
Kansas City 72 86 89 83
L.A. Angels 89 78 98 87
Minnesota 66 66 70 68
N.Y. Yankees 95 85 84 80
Oakland 94 96 88 82
Seattle 75 71 87 85
Tampa Bay 90 92 77 77
Texas 93 91 67 76
Toronto 73 74 83 83

StarDust Bum
02-16-2015, 12:52 AM
SuperBook posts HR Futures

February 4, 2015

Opening Day of the 2015 pro baseball season takes place on Monday April 6, 2015 as 30 teams will look to win the World Series. Future Odds have been up since last November after the Giants defeated the Royals in the Fall Classic. Not surprisingly, neither San Francisco or Kansas City is expected to repeat this season.

Bettors looking for an alternative option on the diamond can do so with a popular baseball player prop being offered at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Who will hit the most home runs in the 2015 season?

According to the SuperBook, Miami's Giancarlo Stanton and Toronto's Jose Abreu are listed as the co-favorites at 8/1 (Bet $100 to win $800). Last year, Stanton finished with 37 dingers while Abreu had 36.

The player to hit the most home runs last year was Baltimore's Nelson Cruz, who hit 40. His odds to repeat as the home run leader are 60/1 (Bet $100 to win $6,000) and the reason for the high return is clearly related to his new environment. Cruz won't be playing in hitter-friendly Camden Yards this season, rather he's competing at pitchers park in Safeco Field since he inked a four-year deal with Seattle in the offseason.

Listed below are all of the odds posted at the SuperBook.

ODDS TO HIT MOST 2015 REGULAR SEASON HOME RUNS

GIANCARLO STANTON 8/1
JOSE ABREU 8/1
EDWIN ENCARNACION 12/1
CHRIS DAVIS 12/1
JOSE BAUTISTA 18/1
MIGUEL CABRERA 18/1
ANTHONY RIZZO 18/1
MIKE TROUT 20/1
PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT 20/1
CHRIS CARTER 25/1
MARK TRUMBO 25/1
GEORGE SPRINGER 25/1
JOSH DONALDSON 25/1
TROY TULOWITZKI 25/1
BRYCE HARPER 25/1
CARLOS GONZALEZ 30/1
JAY BRUCE 40/1
ADAM JONES 40/1
ALBERT PUJOLS 40/1
PRINCE FIELDER 40/1
AVISAIL GARCIA 50/1
EVAN GATTIS 50/1
EVAN LONGORIA 60/1
GREGORY POLANCO 60/1
JOSH HAMILTON 60/1
KRIS BRYANT 60/1
MATT ADAMS 60/1
PABLO SANDOVAL 60/1
RYAN BRAUN 60/1
YASMANY TOMAS 60/1
NELSON CRUZ 60/1
JOEY VOTTO 100/1
STEVE PEARCE 100/1
VICTOR MARTINEZ 100/1
ADAM LAROCHE 100/1
ADRIAN GONZALEZ 100/1
ANDREW McCUTCHEN 100/1
DAVID ORTIZ 100/1
FREDDIE FREEMAN 100/1
HANLEY RAMIREZ 100/1
JASON HEYWARD 100/1
JORGE SOLER 100/1
JUSTIN UPTON 100/1
LUCAS DUDA 100/1
MATT KEMP 100/1
TODD FRAZIER 100/1
WILL MYERS 100/1
YASIEL PUIG 100/1
YOENIS CESPEDES 100/1
FIELD (Any Other Player not listed above) 10/1

***SEASON MUST CONSIST OF AT LEAST 150 REGULAR SEASON GAMES FOR EACH TEAM

***PLAYER MUST PLAY IN AT LEAST 1 REGULAR SEASON GAME FOR ACTION

***IN CASE OF A TIE -- WINNERS ODDS ARE DIVIDED BY NUMBER OF WINNERS

StarDust Bum
02-16-2015, 12:53 AM
Shields can opt out of Padres' deal in 2017

February 13, 2015

SAN DIEGO (AP) - James Shields can opt out his new contract with the San Diego Padres after two years and $31 million.

The 33-year-old right-hander finalized a $75 million, four-year deal Wednesday that calls for a $10 million salary this year and $21 million in each of the next three seasons. The Padres have a $16 million option for 2019 with a $2 million buyout that would be payable by Jan. 15, 2019.

Shields' deal gives him the right to terminate the contract no later than three days after the 2016 World Series and to become a free agent. San Diego would retain its right to make him a qualifying offer,

Shields gets a hotel suite on road trips as part of the deal.

The opt-out provision was first reported by Fox.

StarDust Bum
02-16-2015, 12:55 AM
$100M pitchers must produce results fast

February 13, 2015

Max Scherzer and Jon Lester might as well have neon-green dollar signs stamped all over their uniforms and caps when spring training opens next week.

Their careers were redefined this offseason when they joined baseball's elite echelon of $100 million arms, a sweet 16 whose salaries total an even sweeter $2.42 billion. Every game they start and every pitch they throw will be viewed through the prism of their 1 percenter incomes.

Judging by history, they had better succeed swiftly with their new teams. Wins and innings pitched are likely to dwindle with age.

Theo Epstein, the Chicago Cubs' president of baseball operations who signed Lester, likens these megadeals to a ''splurge on a luxury item,'' baseball's equivalent of a Birkin bag or vintage Ferrari.

Is the roster candy worth it to their teams? Or merely a status symbol?

''They are difference-makers. They are special talents. Usually there are only 10 to 12 of these in the game, and they give you something that no one else has,'' said agent Scott Boras, who negotiated the deals for Kevin Brown, Barry Zito and Scherzer. ''A lot of teams have a lot of pitchers, but few teams have a true No. 1.''

Only three pitchers have won World Series rings after signing nine-figure contracts: CC Sabathia with the New York Yankees, and Zito and Matt Cain with the San Francisco Giants. The rest find their finances sated but their ambitions starved.

The $100 million pitchers have combined to average a 12-9 record and 3.39 ERA during the first four seasons of their deals, according to STATS. During the remaining years, they fell to a 7-7 record and 4.43 ERA.

Durability decreases dramatically, with the group averaging 205 innings in first seasons, 178 by the third year and 132 by the fifth.

Justin Verlander was 124-65 and 30 years old when he signed his big deal with Detroit in March 2013. He is 28-24 since, slowed by core muscle surgery before the 2014 season.

''I don't think that there's anyone that looks at long-term contracts for pitchers that are older and thinks that all of them are going to be years of investment that are at the highest rate,'' Detroit Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said. ''You expect some type of decline and adjustment that takes place.''

Pitchers and catchers start workouts with the World Series champion San Francisco Giants on Thursday, and position players join five days later. Among the players making fresh starts are Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez with Boston; Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and James Shields with San Diego; and David Robertson with the Chicago White Sox.

And Alex Rodriguez returns to the New York Yankees at age 39 following his yearlong suspension.

Seeking the first championship in franchise history, Washington gave the 30-year-old Scherzer a $210 million, seven-year contract, $5 million shy of the record for pitchers set by the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.

The Cubs, who won their last title 17 days after the Ford's first Model T left the car factory in 1908, guaranteed $155 million over six seasons to Lester and included 25 hours of private jet use annually to seal the deal with the left-hander, who turned 31 last month.

Epstein weighs health history, body type, athleticism, character, work ethic, mechanics and toughness among the factors in determining whether a pitcher is worth it.

''If you sign Andy Pettitte at age 31, you would have gotten performance throughout the contract,'' Epstein said. ''So it's just a matter of trying to sign the right guy.''

Brown became baseball's first $100 million man when he signed with the Dodgers in December 1998. He had pitched Florida to the 1997 World Series title and San Diego to the 1998 NL pennant.

Brown's deal shocked a sport accustomed to escalating salaries since free agency began in 1976.

Sandy Alderson, then an executive in the commissioner's officer, called it `an affront to baseball.'

''I'm in mourning,'' said Larry Lucchino, San Diego's president at the time. ''Not for the Padres, but for baseball.''

Brown was 139-99 with a 3.30 ERA when he agreed to the contract and went 72-45 with a 3.23 ERA during the deal for the Dodgers and Yankees, who acquired him for the final two years. In all, the $100 million men have averaged a 96-64 career record with a 3.46 ERA when they agreed to the contracts, then a 39-28 mark with a 3.55 ERA mark while earning the big money.

Just two of the previous 14 have losing records under their deals: Zito was 63-80 for San Francisco and Cole Hamels has gone 17-23 for Philadelphia despite a 3.05 ERA in the first two seasons.

''For most long-term deals, you see the best return on investment in the earlier years and typically in the last year or two, you're not getting quite the bang for the buck,'' Epstein said. ''Inflation helps mitigate that somewhat, because by the end of your deals, salaries have escalated, the cost per win has escalated, so you're not requiring the player to do quite as much to be worth the contract at that point.''

Nine of the pitchers reached their deals as free agents, and the others were within two years of free agency. Kershaw and the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka were the youngest at 25, and Brown the oldest at 33.

Boras said the dropoff is factored in. He argues the aces are underpaid in the initial seasons.

''These players may be worth $40, $45 million for those three or four years,'' he said, ''The complaint is that, `Oh, you're going to pay for this in the latter years.' Well, the reality of it is you're not paying their true value in the early years. That's the quid pro quo.''

StarDust Bum
02-16-2015, 12:56 AM
Marlins to host 2017 All-Star Game

Miami, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Miami Marlins have been officially selected to host the 2017 All-Star Game.

Major League Baseball made it official during a Friday press conference.

"Miami has hosted two World Series, and I am pleased that Marlins Park will now welcome the city's first All-Star Game in 2017," said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. "The Marlins and the City made a comprehensive bid to hold a memorable All-Star Week during the Club's 25th season. As the Gateway to Latin America, Miami will be a perfect venue for a global game to celebrate the summer's best sporting event."

It will be Miami's first time hosting the event, but it is not the first time it has been awarded the game.

MLB awarded the Marlins the 2000 All-Star Game only to take it away and give it to Atlanta after the 1997 World Series team was dismantled. The franchise had also made a bid to host the 2015 contest.

"The Miami Marlins are thrilled to host the 2017 All-Star Game at Marlins Park. This is representative of a new chapter in so many ways, including the evolution of our great city, the bright future for our ballclub, and even the sport itself, as we welcome our new and dynamic Commissioner to the helm," noted Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. "It's an exciting time for baseball and we look forward to hosting one of its iconic events."

Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park will host this year's All-Star Game, while San Diego will welcome the 2016 Midsummer Classic.

Once the next three games are completed only four existing ballparks will remain that have not yet hosted an All-Star Game. They are: Yankee Stadium, Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field and Washington's Nationals Park.

StarDust Bum
02-16-2015, 01:01 AM
Major League Baseball Transactions

For The Last 7 Days

DateTeam

Date Player Transaction

02/15/2015 Los Angeles David Aardsma, RP Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/15/2015 Texas Jamey Wright, RP Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/13/2015 Chicago Cubs Gonzalez Germen, RP Outrighted to Iowa (PCL)
02/13/2015 Atlanta Eric Young, LF Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/13/2015 San Diego Josh Bell, 3B Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/13/2015 San Francisco Clay Rapada, RP Signed to a minor league contract
02/13/2015 Houston James Hoyt, RP Invited to spring training
02/13/2015 Cincinnati Ismael Guillon, SP Outrighted to Louisville (INT)
02/13/2015 Kansas City Joe Blanton, SP Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/13/2015 Toronto Josh Donaldson, 3B Signed to a one-year, $4.3 million contract through arbitration
02/13/2015 Houston Joe Thatcher, RP Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/13/2015 Miami David Phelps, SP Signed to a one-year, $1.4 million contract through arbitration
02/13/2015 Chicago WSox Matt Albers, RP Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/13/2015 Chicago WSox Nick Delmonico, 3B Signed to a minor league contract
02/13/2015 Boston Jess Todd, RP Signed to a minor league contract
02/13/2015 Arizona Addison Reed, RP Signed to a one-year, $4.875 million contract to avoid arbitration
02/13/2015 Arizona Aaron Blair, SP Invited to spring training
02/13/2015 Arizona Yoan Lopez, P Invited to spring training
02/13/2015 Arizona Peter O`Brien, C Invited to spring training
02/13/2015 Arizona Mark Thomas, C Invited to spring training
02/13/2015 Arizona Braden Shipley, SP Invited to spring training
02/13/2015 Arizona Archie Bradley, SP Invited to spring training
02/13/2015 Arizona Danny Dorn, LF Invited to spring training
02/13/2015 Arizona Tim Crabbe, SP Invited to spring training
02/13/2015 Arizona Jake Barrett, SP Invited to spring training
02/13/2015 Kansas City Greg Holland, RP Signed to a one-year, $8.25 million contract to avoid arbitration
02/13/2015 Cincinnati Aroldis Chapman, RP Signed to a one-year, $8.05 million contract to avoid arbitration
02/12/2015 Milwaukee Beau Wallace, C Signed to a minor league contract
02/12/2015 Milwaukee Josh Roenicke, RP Signed to a minor league contract
02/12/2015 Kansas City Derek Gordon, P Signed to a minor league contract
02/12/2015 Seattle Rafael Perez, RP Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/12/2015 Washington Spencer Kieboom, C Invited to spring training
02/12/2015 Washington Scott McGregor, SP Invited to spring training
02/12/2015 Washington Manny Delcarmen, RP Invited to spring training
02/12/2015 Washington Emmanuel Burriss, 2B Invited to spring training
02/12/2015 Washington Matt Skole, 3B Invited to spring training
02/12/2015 Washington Pedro Severino, C Invited to spring training
02/12/2015 Washington Rafael Martin, RP Invited to spring training
02/12/2015 Washington Cutter Dykstra, 2B Invited to spring training
02/12/2015 San Francisco Fernando Cabrera, RP Signed to a minor league contract
02/12/2015 Kansas City Kelvin Herrera, RP Signed to a two-year, $4.15 million contract
02/12/2015 Houston Roberto Hernandez, SP Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/12/2015 San Francisco Casey McGehee, 3B Signed to a one-year, $4.8 million contract
02/11/2015 Oakland Matt Olson, 1B Invited to spring training
02/11/2015 Atlanta Todd Coffey, RP Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/11/2015 Oakland Tyler Clippard, RP Signed to a one-year contract to avoid arbitration
02/11/2015 San Diego Aaron Northcraft, RP Designated for assignment
02/11/2015 Cleveland Michael Martinez, 3B Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/11/2015 Toronto Chris Colabello, 1B Outrighted to Buffalo (INT)
02/11/2015 San Diego James Shields, SP Signed to a four-year, $75 million contract with a club option for 2019
02/11/2015 Washington Jerry Blevins, RP Signed to a one-year, $2.4 million contract through arbitration
02/11/2015 Cincinnati Chris Dominguez, RF Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/10/2015 Colorado Ryan Casteel, C Invited to spring training
02/10/2015 Colorado Trevor Story, SS Invited to spring training
02/10/2015 Colorado Dustin Garneau, C Invited to spring training
02/10/2015 Colorado Tom Murphy, C Invited to spring training
02/10/2015 Colorado Ken Roberts, SP Invited to spring training
02/10/2015 Colorado Scott Oberg, RP Invited to spring training
02/10/2015 Colorado Jon Gray, SP Invited to spring training
02/10/2015 Atlanta Jose Veras, RP Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/10/2015 Pittsburgh Vance Worley, SP Signed to a one-year, $2.45 million contract through arbitration
02/10/2015 Atlanta Matt Capps, RP Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/10/2015 Baltimore Hunter Harvey, SP Invited to spring training
02/10/2015 Baltimore Brian Ward, C Invited to spring training
02/10/2015 Baltimore Dariel Alvarez, RF Invited to spring training
02/09/2015 LA Angels Matt Joyce, DH Signed to a one-year, $4.75 million contract
02/09/2015 Philadelphia Cesar Jimenez, RP Outrighted to Lehigh Valley (INT)
02/09/2015 NY Yankees Kyle Davies, SP Signed to a minor league contract
02/09/2015 Tampa Bay Jake Elmore, 2B Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training
02/09/2015 Washington Eric Fornataro, RP Outrighted to Syracuse (INT)
02/09/2015 St. Louis Jon Jay, CF Signed to a two-year, $10.975 million contract

StarDust Bum
02-16-2015, 01:02 AM
Chapman, Reds avoid arbitration with 1-year deal

Cincinnati, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The Cincinnati Reds agreed to terms Friday on a one-year contract with left-handed fireballer Aroldis Chapman, avoiding arbitration.

Chapman overcame a scary incident in spring training to record 36 saves last season for the Reds. He missed the first month of the season after being hit in the face by a line drive but still made a third consecutive trip to the All-Star Game while finishing with a 2.00 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 54 appearances.

The 26-year-old native of Cuba has a career record of 15-16 with 113 saves and a 2.32 ERA in 259 games, all with the Reds.

StarDust Bum
02-16-2015, 01:03 AM
PADRES STILL HAVE TO MAKE PLAYOFFS

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Well, the San Diego Padres certainly had themselves an offseason, huh?

After drastically upgrading their lineup earlier this winter, the Padres turned their attention to the rotation this past week and made it official with righty James Shields on Wednesday, signing him to a 4-year, $75 million deal.

The pact also includes an team option for a fifth season that could make it a $91 million deal.

Like he was when he was traded to Kansas City back in 2012, Shields is a perfect veteran addition to a young San Diego rotation that already is pretty solid. Only the Washington Nationals had a better team ERA in the NL. And no team had a lower bullpen ERA in the NL than the Padres' 2.59.

Righty Tyson Ross emerged as an All-Star, Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner are solid, while Cuban project Odrisamer Despaigne showed flashes of brilliance. Plus Brandon Morrow was brought in and who knows what oft-injured Josh Johnson can bring.

But as talented a group as it may have already been, it needed a leader - more specifically someone who will eat a whole lot of innings. And at the very least Shields will take the ball every fifth day, as he has made no less than 31 starts in each of the last eight seasons, making a league-high 34 in each of the last two years.

Speaking of that megatrade three winters ago between the Tampa Bay Rays and Royals that landed Shields in Kansas City, the other centerpiece of that deal - Wil Myers - now also calls San Diego home.

"Probably safe to say Padres are the final winner in the Shields trade," Myers tweeted after the Shields signing became official. "Should be an exciting year in San Diego!"

Now Kansas City also got Wade Davis as a throw-in in that same deal, so I don't think anyone is complaining. Well, maybe the Rays.

Myers was right about one thing, though. If anything, the Padres could be the most interesting team entering the season. But let's not forget, rarely does the team that wins the winter win in October.

In fact the last few teams that transformed themselves like this failed miserably.

The New York Yankees doled out almost a half a billion dollars in contracts last winter and missed the playoffs. How about the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 or the Miami Marlins in 2012? Heck, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in back-to-back years and still missed the playoffs.

San Diego is certainly loaded with name talent, but this is still a lineup that was historically bad at times last season. Now, most of those faces are gone and replaced with the likes of outfielders Matt Kemp, Myers and Justin Upton, along with catcher Derek Norris and third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

Maybe outside of Norris, don't all those players have a giant question mark next to their name. Myers is supposedly one of the best young talents in the game, right? Then why will he be playing for his third franchise before he even turns 25?

And let's be honest, they still may be a third-place team in their own division behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and the defending world champion San Francisco Giants.

No, neither the lineup upgrades nor Shields guarantees the Padres anything. It does make them more exciting. And at least relevant for the first time in a long time.

And that alone makes it a successful offseason.

StarDust Bum
02-18-2015, 02:08 AM
A's sign Zito to minor league deal

February 17, 2015

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Left-hander Barry Zito is returning to the Oakland Athletics with a minor contract that includes an invitation to major league spring training, two people with knowledge of the agreement said Tuesday.

The people, speaking on condition of anonymity because the A's hadn't announced the signing, said Zito would receive a $1 million, one-year contract if added to the 40-man roster. The deal was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Oakland's pitchers and catchers report to the club's new spring training home in Mesa, Arizona, on Thursday, with the first workout the following day.

Zito, 36, did not pitch last season.

He was taken by Oakland in the first round of the 1999 amateur draft and began his major league career with the A's the following year. He signed a $126 million, seven-year contract before the 2007 season to join the San Francisco Giants but had a largely disappointing stint across the bay. He was left off the postseason roster for all three rounds in a 2010 championship run, then helped San Francisco win another World Series in 2012.

Zito could earn $175,000 in performance bonuses: $25,000 each for five, 10, 15, 18, 20, 23 and 25 starts. While he could earn a rotation spot early in the season, Oakland hopes to have a pair of starters back by June as they return from elbow ligament-replacement surgery: Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin.

Oakland, coming off its third straight playoff appearance, added several young starters while making nine trades involving 27 players this offseason. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir return in the rotation. and Drew Pomeranz and Jesse Chavez also could be candidates.

Zito pitched Game 5 of the 2012 NL Championship Series at St. Louis with his team facing elimination as the Giants rallied to win the series in seven games. He then won the opener of a surprising World Series sweep of the Tigers.

A new father last year, Zito took 2014 off from baseball and worked to resurrect his career.

The three-time All-Star and 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner, he is 165-143 in 14 major league seasons, including 102-63 with a 3.55 ERA in seven years for Oakland.

StarDust Bum
02-18-2015, 02:10 AM
A-Rod makes apology, doesn't speak <br />
<br />
February 17, 2015 <br />
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NEW YORK (AP) - Alex Rodriguez issued a five-paragraph handwritten apology ''for the mistakes that led to my suspension'' on Tuesday without...

StarDust Bum
02-18-2015, 02:12 AM
Reds open spring seeking new rotation

February 17, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) - The Reds open spring training on Wednesday with a couple of openings in the starting rotation - an unusual situation for Cincinnati.

Starters Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon were traded in the offseason, a significant overhaul to what was their strength last season. Cincinnati's rotation was the one constant in a disappointing, 86-loss season that saw the offense struggle and the bullpen implode.

Cincinnati upgraded the bullpen by adding Burke Badenhop and Kevin Gregg. First baseman Joey Votto is expected back from a left leg injury that sidelined him for most of last season. That leaves a lot of the focus on filling out the rotation in February and March.

''We feel we have a competitive team,'' manager Bryan Price said. ''This isn't a rebuilt situation. So we have to feel as confident as we can one-through-five in our rotation.''

There are even some questions about No. 1 as pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday in Goodyear, Arizona. Their first workout will be on Thursday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Feb. 24.

Johnny Cueto became the Reds' first 20-game winner since 1988. He's in the final year of his deal. The Reds want to keep him but aren't sure whether they'll be able to get an agreement on another big contract.

He's followed in the rotation by Homer Bailey (9-5, 3.71 ERA in 23 starts) and Mike Leake (11-13, 3.70 ERA in 33 starts). The Reds are hoping that Anthony DeSclafani, who was acquired from Miami as part of the trade for Latos, will fill one of the two open spots. DeSclafani went 2-2 with a 6.27 ERA in five starts and eight relief appearances.

Left-hander Tony Cingrani was 2-8 with a 4.55 ERA in 11 starts and two relief appearances last season, when he was sidelined by a sore shoulder.

Another candidate is right-hander Raisel Iglesias, who signed a seven-year, $27 million deal last June. He defected from Cuba in November 2013 and worked out for major league scouts in Haiti. Given his time away from competitive baseball, the Reds aren't sure how much to expect from him this year.

They're open to using him as a reliever this season and finding out what they've got.

''How much can he handle as far as the workload goes?'' Price said. ''Long-term, we see him as a starting pitcher. The question is do we feel comfortable giving him enough innings to be a starter in our rotation all season long?''

The rotation hasn't been so unsettled since 2010, when Edinson Volquez was returning from elbow surgery and Leake was competing with Travis Wood for a spot in the rotation. The Reds won the NL Central that season and lost to Philadelphia in the opening round of the playoffs.

''It looks a lot more like 2010,'' Price said. ''We had a handful of young prospects and somehow we carved out a nice rotation for a playoff team.''

Votto will get a lot of attention from the medical staff as well as the coaching staff once he starts working out. He missed 99 games last season and didn't play after July 5 because of strained muscles above his left knee, which affected his mobility and his swing.

When the medical staff checked him out last month, Votto appeared to be fully recovered.

''His strength was outstanding and the stamina was good,'' Price said. ''So we're just looking at him hitting the ground running when Joey gets out to Goodyear and see with our own eyes where we're at. But we're confident he's going to be ready to go.''

StarDust Bum
02-18-2015, 02:13 AM
Tanaka set to start Florida workouts

February 16, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is set to start workouts ahead of spring training.

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Tanaka was scheduled to arrive in Florida on Monday night from Japan. Tanaka missed 2 1/2 months last year while rehabilitating a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He returned for two late-September starts.

''So far everything is good,'' Rothschild said Monday at the Yankees' minor league complex. ''That doesn't mean it will be going forward, but we're going to do everything we can. We'll put schedules together and things like that to try to keep him healthy.''

Signing to a $155 million, seven-year contract, Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts. The Yankees say he has been throwing as part of his normal conditioning program in Japan.

StarDust Bum
02-18-2015, 02:15 AM
Remaining Free Agents

February 17, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) -The 29 remaining free agents:

BALTIMORE (2) - Johan Santana, lhp; Joe Saunders, lhp.

BOSTON (1) - Ryan Dempster, rhp.

CHICAGO (2) - Paul Konerko, 1b; Matt Lindstrom, rhp.

CLEVELAND (1) - Jason Giambi, 1b.

DETROIT (2) - Joba Chamberlain, rhp; Phil Coke, lhp.

KANSAS CITY (2) - Raul Ibanez, of; Josh Willingham, of.

LOS ANGELES (2) - Sean Burnett, lhp; John McDonald, ss.

NEW YORK (2) - Rich Hill, lhp; Derek Jeter, ss.

SEATTLE (2) - Joe Beimel, lhp; Chris Young, rhp.

TORONTO (1) - Dustin McGowan, rhp.

---

ATLANTA (1) - Ryan Doumit, c.

COLORADO (1) - Franklin Morales, lhp.

LOS ANGELES (2) - Josh Beckett, rhp; Kevin Correia, rhp.

MIAMI (1) - Rafael Furcal, ss.

MILWAUKEE (2) - Lyle Overbay, 1b; Francisco Rodriguez, rhp.

NEW YORK (1) - Bobby Abreu, of.

PHILADELPHIA (1) - Mike Adams, rhp.

ST. LOUIS (1) - Mark Ellis, 2b.

WASHINGTON (2) - Scott Hairston, of; Rafael Soriano, rhp.

StarDust Bum
02-19-2015, 03:22 AM
Champion Giants look to win in 'odd year'

February 18, 2015

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - The San Francisco Giants roll in even years, winning the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Enough of that pattern, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

''We want to have a lot of fun in an odd year,'' he said while San Francisco pitchers and catchers reported for spring training on Wednesday.

Pitchers and catchers also reported to the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies. The rest of the major league teams will get going over the next few days, half of them in Arizona, half in Florida.

As usual, pitching should be San Francisco's strength. Bochy said he's pretty set on the five-man rotation that will open the season.

He didn't name them. But by eliminating the non-starters he did mention, the five would be ace Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy and Tim Lincecum.

''We haven't put the order down exactly but we've got a pretty good idea of what it's going to be,'' Bochy said.

He said Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit would be long-relievers and spot starters. Vogelsong re-signed with San Francisco, a one-year, $4 million deal, knowing the crowded starter situation he was rejoining.

''We talked a little bit about the situation and he understands it,'' Bochy said. ''You can't have enough depth in the rotation. I'm glad that Ryan decided to come back with us and I think it's going to be a workable situation. They can help each other out, maybe give a guy a start off.''

Lincecum said he has rediscovered the mechanics that once made him among the best in the game.

''My body just started to kind of click and grasp onto the things I used to do naturally,'' he said.

He isn't taking the starting role for granted.

''I feel I have to re-earn my spot in the rotation,'' he said. ''I didn't really finish off the year very well last year at all. That kind of left a drive in me. I want to get that back and discover what went wrong.''

Cain seems to be fully recovered from last year's surgeries on his right elbow and right ankle.

''Matt looks great, feels great,'' Bochy said. ''I mean, really has got a great look about him. I think he's excited that he's healthy again and he'll be back on the mound. He's a big part of the staff. We need him. We need Matt to be who he is and stay healthy this year.''

Of the projected starting five, only the 39-year-old Hudson won't be ready right off this spring.

He is still recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle.

''I'm probably a couple of weeks behind where I normally am,'' Hudson said. ''I had my surgery on the second of January so I wasn't able to start throwing until the latter part of January. So just from a throwing standpoint I have a little ways to go before I'm ready to get in some games. My mindset is just to be ready for the real games when the season starts, whether that means me pitching in one game or four games this spring.''

The team lost two starters from last year's championship squad. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval signed a five-year, $95 million free agent contract with Boston. Mike Morse signed a two-year, $16 million deal with Miami.

But those who are returning are a strong bunch, their manager said.

''With this team, I think it's fair to say we're pretty well set,'' Bochy said. ''...We're in a good place. We'd like to have a lot of fun in an odd year. We'd like to change that up, so we'll see if we can do that. I love the fact that we've had the continuity here with this staff. We have depth in the rotation. This is a team with a lot of character.''

Sitting in the Scottsdale Stadium dugout, the manager reflected only briefly on last year's triumph.

''We had a great year last year,'' he said. ''I hope they took time to enjoy it and savor all of that, but it's time to go to work.''

At the Phillies camp in Clearwater, Florida, manager Ryne Sandberg said Ryan Howard would be the team's first baseman, despite the team's rebuilding efforts and attempts to trade the declining veteran.

Howard is due a minimum of $60 million over the next two years.

''Right now he's here to prepare for the season as one of the guys,'' Sandberg said. ''If he gets to where he's hitting 30-35 home runs, which is good home runs for this day and age of baseball, he can help us win games this year. To see him in the spring and see him prepare and have him get ready, he's here. Right now, unless he gets unseated he's the first baseman.''

StarDust Bum
02-23-2015, 01:03 PM
Cubs, Indians, Mets and Reds are biggest MLB season win totals moves

Spring has sprung at the sportsbooks where MLB season win totals have been on the board for more than a week. We talk to bookmakers in Nevada and online to see which teams have garnered the most action on their season projections and the subsequent adjustments to those win totals.

Chicago Cubs (Open 81.5, Move 83)

According to Steve Mikkelson, sportsbook director at the Atlanta Casino Resort in Reno, the first book to open MLB season win totals, the Cubs have taken a ton of action on the Over after making a splash this offseason, moving their win total as high as 84 before buyback on the Under trimmed that number to 83 wins.

“Good action so far, more on the Over to this point,” says Mikkelson. “Public is all in on the Cubs this year which is driving this number.”

St. Louis Cardinals (Open 88, Move 89)

The Cardinals are perennial National League contenders in a very competitive NL Central. According to Peter Childs of Sportsbook.ag, a big bet on the Over immediately boosted this total but outside of that, smaller wagers are taking St. Louis Under.

“We’ll get down to 88.5 soon, but we’re always aggressive with our initial line moves on these season specials because more times than not, once a popular side gets bet like a Cardinals team Over, it’s tough to get buy back on the Under,” says Childs.

Cleveland Indians (Open 81, Move 85)

The Indians made serious improvements last season, finishing 2014 at 85-77. Oddsmakers came in lower to open the Tribe’s 2015 win total, and were hammered with money on Cleveland Over. This total has been pumped up as many as four wins as of this weekend.

“I just missed on this one, as everyone believes they are much better than I did and keep betting the Over,” says Mikkelson.

Kansas City Royals (Open 79.5, Move 80.5)

Some books in Nevada opened 79.5 on the Royals, while others stayed high and posted 80.5 for Kansas City, which is coming off an 89-73 renaissance of a season in 2014. Money hit the Over, forcing adjustments in both markets.

“Since we opened high, I’m not going to be that aggressive moving off that early initial action because it was expected but we did go from 80.5 (Even) to 80.5 Over (-130),” says Childs.

Cincinnati Reds (Open 79, Move 77.5)

The Reds appear bound for a letdown as the rest of the NL Central goes up, according to the early action on the Under Cincinnati’s season win total. The Reds dealt pitchers Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon this offseason, and rumors of a fire sale are buzzing as spring training approaches.

“I guess they feel someone in this division has to lose, and the Reds didn’t instill confidence by trading away two of their starters,” says Mikkelson.

New York Mets (Open 82, Move 82.5)

The National League East belongs to the Washington Nationals (who have seen their win total climb as well) but the battle for second in the division is up for grabs. Atlanta seems in rebuild mode, Philadelphia is selling off its roster and Miami is a wild card. That has early money believing in the Mets improving on a 79-win season in 2014.

“It’s been all Over money so far,” says Childs. “We got to 82.5 pretty quickly and did book some sharp action Under 82.5 but not enough to get us to move off that one sharp bet. If we take more sharp Under action, we’ll move it back to 82 (Even).”

Oakland A’s (Open 82.5, Move 82)

In Reno, odds on the Athletics and Giants (Open 85, Move 84) are a bit skewed when compared to everywhere else, due to the amount of tourist traffic from the Bay Area. Oakland has drawn the expected Over money from A’s fans but this number has been trimmed half a win since opening.

“By far the most interesting of the teams, as we just keep taking public money Over, then smarter money Under,” he says.

StarDust Bum
02-25-2015, 02:53 AM
2015 MLB Divisional Odds

February 23, 2015


Opening Day of the 2015 pro baseball season begins Monday April 6, 2015 as 30 teams will look to win the World Series.

Getting to the postseason isn't easy but six teams will earn a spot by winning their division.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opened their MLB Division Odds in mid-February, which are listed below.

2015 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL DIVISION ODDS per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

Odds to win National League East
NATIONALS 1/4
MARLINS 5/1
METS 6/1
BRAVES 35/1
PHILLIES 100/1

2014 Winner - Washington Nationals

Odds to win National League Central
CARDINALS 6/5
PIRATES 12/5
CUBS 11/4
BREWERS 15/1
REDS 15/1

2014 Winner - St. Louis Cardinals

Odds to win National League West
DODGERS 2/5
GIANTS 5/1
PADRES 7/2
ROCKIES 50/1
DIAMONDBACKS 50/1

2014 Winner - Los Angeles Dodgers

Odds to win American League East
RED SOX 9/5
BLUE JAYS 5/2
ORIOLES 9/2
YANKEES 9/2
RAYS 6/1

2014 Winner - Baltimore Orioles

Odds to win American League Central
TIGERS 2/1
INDIANS 2/1
ROYALS 13/2
WHITE SOX 9/4
TWINS 25/1

2014 Winner - Detroit Tigers

Odds to win American League West
ANGELS 3/2
MARINERS 8/5
A'S 5/1
RANGERS 6/1
ASTROS 20/1

2014 Winner - Los Angeles Angels

**IN CASE OF TIE--MLB TIEBREAKER WILL DETERMINE DIVISION WINNER**

**TEAMS MUST PLAY AT LEAST 160 REGULAR SEASON GAMES FOR ACTION**

StarDust Bum
02-25-2015, 02:54 AM
Tigers' Chamberlain returns on 1-year deal

February 24, 2015

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) - Detroit has signed Joba Chamberlain to a one-year contract, bringing the free agent reliever back to the Tigers after an up-and-down season as their setup man in 2014.

Chamberlain went 2-5 with a 3.57 ERA last year, earning an eighth-inning role for Detroit. But the right-hander struggled down the stretch, posting a 4.97 ERA after the All-Star break and allowing four earned runs over two postseason appearances.

Chamberlain turned 29 in September. He finished the regular season with 63 innings, his most since 2010.

Although Detroit's bullpen was unreliable last year, the Tigers still have many of the same relievers, including Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Al Alburquerque and now Chamberlain.

StarDust Bum
02-25-2015, 02:55 AM
Nats' Zimmerman making transition to 1st

February 24, 2015

VIERA, Fla. (AP) - The way Ryan Zimmerman sees it, change is not something to get all worked up about.

After being the Washington Nationals opening day third baseman for the past nine seasons, the 30-year-old is making the transition to first base this spring.

''All good things come to an end,'' Zimmerman said Tuesday. ''Not too many people get to play as long as I have, and be as lucky as I have been so far. I've still got a lot of baseball left. It's like a new chapter, I guess. We'll go from there.''

For the second straight day, Zimmerman spent his morning working out in the stadium with manager Matt Williams and coaches Mark Weidemaier and Jeff Garber. He took ground balls and infield throws - including some in the dirt - and also spent some time practicing flipping the ball to the pitcher covering the bag.

''A lot of it's just being over there and getting some experience . not so much in learning the cutoffs, but getting that muscle memory and getting used to the responsibilities over there,'' Zimmerman said. ''Other than that, it's a pretty self-explanatory position. I've just got to get some experience in some games this spring.''

When Williams came in as the Nationals manager last season, he announced Zimmerman would get some work at first base during the spring. In fact, Zimmerman played there for five games last year and also spent 30 games in left field while playing only 23 at third in an injury-plagued campaign.

With Anthony Rendon establishing himself as a potential star at third base, and first baseman Adam LaRoche leaving during free agency, the Nationals have decided it's time to have Zimmerman switch corner infield spots.

''It's going to be an easier transition for him as opposed to other folks because he's a fantastic athlete,'' Williams said. ''But still, it's the other side of the diamond. He's working every morning on it.

''It's good to be able to get him out there by himself and be able to take our time and do the things we want to do. That will continue. He's never shied away from extra reps and working hard, that's for sure.''

Second baseman Danny Espinosa noted there is a difference between fielding ground balls that have a lot of top spin, and taking throws that have back spin on them. Bur like the Nationals manager, he doesn't believe Zimmerman will have a tough time making the switch.

''With his athleticism and the glove work that he's always had at third base, it will be a much easier transition for him to go to first base because his glove works so well,'' Espinosa said.

Zimmerman, who played in only 61 games last year because of shoulder and hamstring injuries, is hoping a slight change in his offseason regimen will help him stay in the lineup for at least 150 games in 2015. He said he feels healthy right now.

''The last year-and-a-half, two years have been rough for me,'' he said. ''Obviously, the first seven years, I played almost every single day. I didn't have to worry about any aches and pains. I was 20 years old. Nothing ever hurt.

''It's been a learning experience.''

Switching positions will certainly be a challenge, but Zimmerman called it ''fun'' and appeared to like the idea of having to prove himself all over again. He is hoping to become as good at first base as he was at third.

''It's a big part of us being a good team,'' he said. ''That's the whole goal. I have to be the best that I can over there and help the guys out in the field like our first basemen in the past have helped me out.''

StarDust Bum
02-25-2015, 02:56 AM
A-Rod hugs and works out with Headley

February 24, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Alex Rodriguez started his second day of workouts at the New York Yankees' minor league complex by hugging Chase Headley, the player signed to replace him at third base.

''He's an excellent addition to our team,'' Rodriguez said Tuesday. ''He had some questions, stuff about hitting, baseball dialogue. That's my wheel house. It was great.''

Suspended for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract, Rodriguez missed all of last season and is trying to return as his 40th birthday approaches in July. Yankees manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman say Headley will be their starting third baseman and Rodriguez will compete for at_bats at designated hitter.

''If I thought that I was coming here as a first baseman or a left fielder or whatever, that wouldn't have made sense for me,'' Headley said.

Rodriguez has apologized to the Yankees and to fans, but didn't go into specifics on his actions that led to the suspension. Six years ago, he admitted using performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas.

When asked whether he will be mentally OK without using PEDs, Rodriguez responded: ''I think I'll be fine, but only time will tell.''

Rodriguez walked onto the main field, where around a dozen other position players were stretching along the right-field line, two days before full-squad workouts start at the major league complex, a little more than one mile away. A-Rod headed to Headley for the warm greeting.

''We just started the process of getting to know each other better,'' Headley said. ''It was great to meet him and talk baseball a little bit. As a player, you experience different things through your career. There's been different sets of circumstances that I've dealt with and this was just another one. Every interaction I've had with him has been positive.''

Rodriguez noted the absence of Derek Jeter, who retired last fall after 20 major league seasons and five World Series titles. Jeter appeared to distance himself from Rodriguez after A-Rod was quoted in a 2001 Esquire article saying ''Jeter's been blessed with great talent around him'' and ''he's never had to lead.''

''No one can replace the captain,'' Rodriguez said Tuesday. ''I know I'm going to miss him tremendously.''

Rodriguez and Headley played catch, took grounders together at third and hit in the same group. Rodriguez took 35 swings, hitting three homers and two drives that landed high on the batter's eye in center field.

The three-time AL MVP, who turns 40 in July, has not played a full season since 2007 because the suspension, operations on both hips and other injuries.

''The most important thing is to be patient,'' he said. ''It's going to take at least three to four weeks to start getting a good read.''

Girardi thinks Rodriguez will be ready to play next week, when the exhibition schedule starts. Asked whether his feelings toward Rodriguez have changed, Girardi said ''I don't know.''

''My personal feelings are my personal feelings,'' he said. ''I don't think that's something you discuss. I'm going to do whatever it takes to get the most out of him.''

NOTES: After talking with reporters for five minutes, Rodriguez had an extended conversion with Yankees executive director of communications and media relations Jason Zillo. ... LHP CC Sabathia (knee) had his second bullpen session. ''I'm really pleased with what I saw,'' Girardi said. ... Former major leaguer Scott Rolen was at the minor league complex to work with Yankees 3B prospect Eric Jagielo. Yankees vice president of player development Gary Denbo extended the invitation.

StarDust Bum
02-27-2015, 03:11 AM
No word on discipline for Angels' Hamilton

February 26, 2015

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton was on the minds of his teammates Thursday, a day after he was in New York to meet with Major League Baseball officials about an unspecified disciplinary issue.

The 33-year-old Hamilton has a history of drug addiction and alcohol abuse, leading to suspensions that cost him more than three years while in the minors. The Angels have confirmed Hamilton's meeting with MLB, but have declined to give any more information.

''I don't know any of the details, so I can't talk about that. But we miss him and we hope everything works out,'' MVP outfielder Mike Trout said.

''I know that he's going through a lot,'' Trout said.

Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, hasn't reported to spring training in Arizona after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder earlier this month.

''He's not here in camp with us,'' general manager Jerry Dipoto said. ''He is at home rehabbing from the surgery and we're going to leave it at that.''

Hamilton already was expected to be out until after the regular season begins because of the surgery.

''We'll wait for Major League Baseball and see what the next step is. I don't think it will serve us any purpose to look too far down the road,'' manager Mike Scioscia said.

''We can deal with a lot of hypotheticals and a lot of rumors that are out there, but it's not going to serve any purpose,'' Scioscia said.

Hamilton is entering the third season of a five-year, $125 million contract. He is still owed $83 million: $23 million this year and $30 million in each of the next two seasons.

Hamilton has been a disappointment for the Angels, batting just .255 with 31 homers and 123 RBIs in two seasons.

Pitcher C.J. Wilson called Hamilton one of his best friends in baseball.

''I support him as a person,'' Wilson said. ''When you have something going on, given what Josh has been through, you're looking out for him as a person first and his family.''

In February 2012 while with Texas, Hamilton acknowledged he'd had a relapse with alcohol. It was his second known alcohol relapse in three years, both occurring in the offseason.

''You all know how hard I play on the field and I give it everything I absolutely have,'' Hamilton said at the time. ''When I don't do that off the field, I leave myself open for a weak moment.''

The overall No. 1 draft pick by Tampa Bay in 1999, Hamilton was suspended for more than three years because of drug and alcohol use while in the Rays' organization. He missed the entire 2003, 2004 and 2005 seasons.

Hamilton made his big league debut with Cincinnati in 2007. Since making the majors, the Reds, Rangers and Angels have hired people to help Hamilton with his sobriety.

StarDust Bum
02-27-2015, 03:12 AM
Stanton faces first pitches since beaning

February 26, 2015

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - Giancarlo Stanton saw his first live pitches since his beaning back in September. The Marlins will have to wait at least one more day to watch Stanton take his first swing.

While other members of his hitting group swung freely Thursday during the Miami's first live batting practice sessions of the spring, Stanton - wearing a traditional-style batting helmet - tracked all 10 pitches he saw, five from Henderson Alvarez and five from Brad Hand, into the catcher's mitt.

The 25-year-old Stanton says he didn't experience any anxiety stepping into the batter's box for the first time since a Mike Fiers fastball broke his orbital bone and damaged five teeth in September.

He says, ''It was just like any other spring training.''

StarDust Bum
02-27-2015, 03:13 AM
Jays' Saunders out until July with injury

February 26, 2015

DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) - Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Michael Saunders stepped on a sprinkler while shagging fly balls, tearing cartilage in his left knee and sidelining him until the All-Star break.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos said Thursday surgery is likely but Saunders will seek a second opinion.

Saunders said he felt a pop after stepping awkwardly on a sprinkler head Wednesday while going for a ball at the team's training facility.

Saunders was acquired by the Blue Jays in December from Seattle for pitcher J.A. Happ and was projected to be a starter.

The 28-year-old Saunders hit .273 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 78 games with the Mariners last season.

StarDust Bum
02-27-2015, 03:14 AM
Yanks' Tanaka nears 1st batting session

February 26, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka threw 40 pitches in his third bullpen session Thursday and could be ready to throw batting practice early next week.

Tanaka missed 2 1/2 months last season while rehabilitating a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He returned for two starts in late September, and Boston chased him with an eight-run second inning in his final outing.

''I was throwing with more force than the last bullpen,'' Tanaka said through an interpreter. ''As far as hitting the spots as location goes, I think it was better than the last bullpen as well. I feel that I'm on track. It gives me confidence that I'm moving in the right direction.''

The Yankees are considering whether to give rotation pitchers an extra day between starts occasionally by using a sixth starter, an idea Tanaka thinks is good.

''You get that extra day to recover, and that's definitely a plus for me,'' he said.

The Yankees expect Tanaka will be ready for opening day.

''If things progress like they are, absolutely,'' New York pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. ''You could see he dialed it up today.''

Signed to a $155 million, seven-year contract in January 2014, Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA over 20 starts.

NOTES: Spring training instructor Hideki Matsui arrived at camp. ... Former two-sport standout Drew Henson will be a Yankees' pro scout this season after serving as a hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Yankees.

StarDust Bum
02-27-2015, 03:16 AM
Kelly feeling 'very fortunate' with Twins

February 26, 2015

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - Tom Kelly still has a lot to teach the Minnesota Twins.

He wasn't about to let a health scare keep him from returning to spring training.

Kelly arrived Thursday at the team's facility, ready to resume work as a guest instructor five months after a minor stroke.

''I was very fortunate,'' Kelly said, adding: ''I had a lot of big-shot doctors take care of me and really did a nice job.''

He said he's feeling well, just unable yet to engage in more intensive activity. Maybe he'll hit 50 grounders one day instead of 100.

''Last week I tried to amp things up a touch. That didn't work so well. Had a day or two when I had to do nothing,'' Kelly said. ''But the following day I was fine. I discovered it's a process. I feel so bad for people who have worse things happen.''

The 64-year-old managed the Twins for 15 seasons before retiring in 2001 and has since worked for the organization as a special assistant to the general manager, focusing his expertise on infield play during spring training and providing scouting reports as needed during the regular season. He has provided color commentary on cable television broadcasts for a handful of games in recent years, too, but Kelly said he thinks he's done doing that despite a request to continue on a limited basis.

The practice fields are where Kelly is at home, of course, barking instructions and feedback for young players in his growly baritone and sauntering through the CenturyLink Sports Complex like a grandfather of sorts for the team's uniformed personnel.

''It's always fun to see the green grass, I'll tell you that, boy, especially after how cold it's been up in Minnesota. It's always good to come down. I don't want to say it was a challenge thing, but it was a little bit of a challenge to get better and get going and do the things that I'm accustomed to doing,'' Kelly said.

This year, Kelly's tutelage will be valuable for more than just the players. First-time manager Paul Molitor has already sought some advice from his former boss, and there will surely be more informal chats throughout February and March. Molitor played for Kelly with the Twins from 1996-98 and was a bench coach on his staff in 2000-01.

''Every time I talk to him, I always preface it by telling him he has to do what he thinks is right,'' Kelly said, adding: ''Paul and I talked a lot over the winter. I don't want to say like you feel like you're needed here if he has a question or two or whatever, because there are other people here who can handle it.''

But general manager Terry Ryan and team president Dave St. Peter urged Kelly to return, realizing his influence on the entire camp. For Molitor, for example, one piece of Kelly's advice was to manage a couple of games the last week of spring training just like he will in the regular season to start to get a feel for the various aspects of strategy he'll soon be responsible for juggling.

''It's a good thing for me,'' Molitor said. ''The understatement of the year is that he has a wealth of knowledge. He just sees things in a different light. He just experienced everything you can experience up here obviously. If I missed things like I obviously will, he'll try to fill in some of those spots.''

This is Molitor's team, of course. Kelly has tried to make that clear many times. ''Do you mind if I throw a few things out there?'' has been his typical approach to Molitor.

''And I say, `Give me my paper,''' Molitor said at his desk, pretending to write.

---

StarDust Bum
02-28-2015, 02:51 AM
Cubs' Arrieta finds right formula for success

February 27, 2015

MESA, Ariz. (AP) - Jake Arrieta approaches baseball different than most of those in the game.

He carries a gallon of kale juice around the Chicago Cubs' spring training facility. He uses Pilates as a part of his offseason regimen. Chances are, his body percentage might be lower than his 2.53 ERA last year.

So it's no wonder that Arrieta has hit it off with new Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who is best known for his offbeat ways of managing a team.

''I like when guys come at me from different directions,'' Maddon said. ''And he is one of those guys.''

''He's confident, looks you in the eye and he is bright. I kind of like it,'' he said. ''We talk a lot. He is very interesting. He likes to just talk to me about stuff.''

Arrieta's stuff was the talk of baseball last season when he had three near no-hit bids.

He finished the season 10-5 in 25 starts after beginning the year on the disabled list because of shoulder stiffness. In 156 2-3 innings, he struck out 167, walked 41 and allowed 114 hits.

It was a breakout season for Arrieta, who turns 29 on March 6. It came after a rather middling start (20-25 with 5.46 ERA) to his major league career after being called up by the Orioles in 2010.

Arrieta said he believes the improvement can be traced to the fact that he finally matched his mindset to the physical portion of the game.

''The mental side of the game is more important than people understand,'' he said. ''At the highest level, everyone has the tools. It's about how are you going to separate yourself on another level and how are you going to prepare and be ready for all of the challenges thrown your way during competition.''

''I was able to shift away from the mechanical focus into more of a mindset focus,'' he said. ''It is what has helped prepare me to reach the next level.''

That really started back in 2013 when he was acquired by the Cubs, along with reliever Pedro Strop, for reserve catcher Steve Clevenger and pitcher Scott Feldman.

Arrieta, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Orioles out of TCU in 2007, made nine starts for the Cubs in August and went 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA.

All together, he has essentially put together one season - 34 starts - in his time with Cubs and has gone 14-7 with a 2.81 ERA.

If Arrieta continues that type of production, he will fit in nicely behind newcomer and expected ace Jon Lester.

Arrieta enters the spring confident and ready to take on that type of role as he tries to build off last year's success.

''I always reassess the way the season went and whether or not I want to incorporate new things or keep the same and go from there. So I started incorporate Pilates and shift away from heavy weightlifting,'' he said.

''I've come to that point in my career where I know how my body reacts to certain things and what I can put it thorough and handle different types of training,'' he said. ''I've formulated a pretty good routine and I am going to stick with it.''

And if something else pops up, he knows he can go to Maddon to try and work things out. Or just talk about whatever topic two of baseball's deep thinkers get into that day.

''It's really important for guys to establish things in common or interests outside of baseball,'' Arrieta said. ''It's what we do all day every day, so it is nice to find out something from behind the scenes to get to know each other's personalities.''

StarDust Bum
02-28-2015, 02:53 AM
OF Pierre retires after 14-year career

February 27, 2015

MIAMI (AP) - Outfielder Juan Pierre announced his retirement Friday after a 14-year career in the majors that included a World Series championship with the 2003 Florida Marlins.

Pierre, 37, ranks 18th in career stolen bases with 614. He was a .295 hitter who finished with 2,217 hits.

''I do have one regret,'' Pierre tweeted. ''I finished with 18 home runs. Really wanted to get 20, so if any team wants to sign me for 3yrs, that should be enough time.''

Pierre broke into the majors in 2000 with the Rockies and also played for the Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers and Phillies. He batted .247 in 113 games with the Marlins in his final season in 2013.

The Alabama native played in every game from 2003 to 2007. He batted over .300 six times, scored at least 100 runs three times and stole over 60 bases three times.

StarDust Bum
02-28-2015, 02:54 AM
Bautista thinks new adds will help Jays

February 27, 2015

DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) - The past few seasons have been somewhat of a disappointment for Jose Bautista.

The Toronto slugger has enjoyed personal successes, including a pair of top five AL MVP finishes, since his breakout season in 2010.

But the Blue Jays haven't reached the playoffs in more than two decades.

''We haven't done a better job playing baseball, and it's led to the seasons that we've had,'' Bautista said Friday. ''We've been an average team comprised of better-than-average players. And to me, that's not satisfying to know that I was a part of those teams.''

Those frustrations were especially apparent last season after the Blue Jays finished third in the AL East despite being atop the division for 61 days. They led by as many as six games in early June.

Bautista said at times he couldn't tell if some teammates were dissatisfied by losing.

''You'd walk around after a loss of a crucial game or a bad beating you took,'' he said. ''Sometimes, you see people and you don't know what they're thinking. I'd at least rather know.''

With the offseason additions of All-Stars Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, Bautista believes there be will more of a competitive spirit around the clubhouse.

''We need something along those lines here every now and then,'' the five-time All-Star said. ''It's good to have guys to who winning matters and is important and they get to show it with passion. When they don't perform up to their capabilities, I don't see anything wrong with that.''

Manager John Gibbons said Bautista's ability to stay healthy last season was crucial during the team's early run. Bautista avoided the disabled list for the first time in two years, batting .286 with 35 homers and 103 RBIs in 155 games.

''He's our go-to guy,'' Gibbons said. ''He's been that guy ever since he arrived here and really came into his own. We don't pin everything on one guy, but you look at what he's done the last few years and I would say he's one of the top five players in baseball.''

But personal accomplishments are not what Bautista is seeking in 2015. The right-field wants to finally win and break the Blue Jays' playoff drought that dates to their 1993 World Series title, the longest in North American sports.

''I still feel like I have a lot of time left to play,'' the 34-year-old said. ''We love playing. We love competing, and winning the championship is what it's about every time the season starts. This year is no different. The personal success has been great in the last five, six years, but you crave to win. I guarantee it's a better feeling sacrificing some personal success for some team success,'' he added. ''I've never been in that situation before. But I would make that trade any day.''

NOTES: Two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who agreed to a minor league contract on Thursday, is expected to report to camp Saturday. GM Alex Anthopoulos said while it's ''highly unlikely'' Santana will be ready for opening day, he is viewed by the organization as a candidate for its starting rotation. The 35-year-old lefty has not pitched in the majors since 2012 because of multiple injuries to his throwing shoulder and a torn left Achilles tendon he suffered during extended spring training with Baltimore last June. Santana will earn $2.5 million if he makes the big league roster and has an April 28 opt-out clause. ''If we can get him on the mound and be healthy, we don't have any doubts that he could be a very good starter,'' Anthopoulos said. ... Gibbons said all position players reported on-time Friday for the first full-squad workout. ... RHP Aaron Sanchez is tentatively scheduled to start the exhibition opener against Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

StarDust Bum
02-28-2015, 02:55 AM
Wainwright may miss season opener

February 27, 2015

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - Adam Wainwright won't pitch in exhibition games until mid-March because of his abdominal strain, a delay that could prevent the St. Louis Cardinals ace from starting the major league season opener at the Chicago Cubs on April 5.`

Wainwright was hurt Monday while putting a 45-pound weight back on a rack. He returned to St. Louis for an examination by Dr. Michael Brunt, who said the injury was minor.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is open to the idea of pushing back Wainwright's season debut a couple of days if the right-hander doesn't respond to proscribed rest as quickly as doctors expect.

''That's always an option,'' Matheny said Friday. ''We just have to see where we are and what it looks like, too.''

Wainwright will avoid running and weightlifting for at least the next couple of days, but can resume throwing because his delivery and follow through don't cause any discomfort. He even emerged from the clubhouse during one of Friday's downpours and threw on flat ground.

''It's the news that we thought we were going to hear but it was relieving to hear it - to know that there isn't something else in there going on that should cause some concern,'' Wainwright said.

The Cardinals' training staff will evaluate Wainwright's progress early next week.

''Everything that I've heard is that in four or five days I should feel dramatically betterm and they can start kind of bringing me along slow to get back into a normal daily routine,'' Wainwright said.

Wainwright and the Cardinals say he needs at least three and preferably four spring training starts to be ready for the season.

St. Louis had already planned to scale back the exhibition workload of its ace, a plan that Wainwright accepted but didn't completely embrace. Wainwright made five exhibition starts last year.

''Everybody was saying, `You need to scale back your innings in spring training,''' Wainwright said. ''Well, God just naturally found a way to make that happen without ticking me off.''

Matheny wouldn't commit to a date for Wainwright's first spring training start.

''It might not look all that different depending on how he progresses,'' Mathney said.

Wainwright went 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA last year, then underwent offseason elbow surgery to remove cartilage from his throwing elbow. He began 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA and started the All-Star Game for the NL, then went 8-5 with a 3.24 ERA.

Most players chose not to follow Wainwright into the rain. Pitchers threw bullpen sessions inside the covered batting cages, and position players held their workouts in the clubhouse rooms and hallways.

''We are going to try and stay on pace with getting the things accomplished that we would have done out there, with just a different space,'' Matheny said.

StarDust Bum
02-28-2015, 02:56 AM
Sabathia goes through 3rd pen session

February 27, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - CC Sabathia threw 41 pitches during his third bullpen session at spring training.

The 34-year-old left-hander was hobbled by a degenerative cartilage problem in his right knee last season and didn't pitch after May 10. He had surgery in July.

''No problems,'' Sabathia said Friday. ''Still working on things. My cutter, my changeup.''

Sabathia said he will have another bullpen session before likely advancing to batting practice.

''Try and take it slow,'' Sabathia said. ''Not rush it or overdo it in February.''

Sabathia plans on wearing a knee brace this season and will receive injections and have fluid drained as needed.

The six-time All-Star and 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner made only eight starts last year and finished 3-4 with a career-worst 5.28 ERA. He is 208-119 with a 3.63 ERA in 14 seasons.

Ivan Nova, coming back from right elbow ligament-replacement surgery in April, threw 26 fastballs and appears on track to rejoin the major league team by June.

StarDust Bum
02-28-2015, 02:58 AM
Rollins adjusts to new uniform back home

February 27, 2015

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Jimmy Rollins savors a bite of bacon at his locker, then steals a quick glimpse at the bright blue No. 11 uniform hanging behind him. It's before 8 a.m. in the desert and the veteran shortstop becomes a bit poetic about it all, the cross-country move back to his home state of California, going from wearing bright red in Philadelphia to a more subdued blue.

''Same face, new place,'' Rollins quipped Friday morning with that warm, familiar grin. ''Obviously, I'm very familiar with the uniform growing up in California, so it's not foreign to me. The numbers are much smaller. Red is so vibrant and out there that you don't have to look to see red. Blue is so subtle and softer on the eye that I don't really see the colors. It goes back to being familiar with the uniform, seeing it so often.''

The Dodgers dealt for Rollins in December, also receiving $1 million from the Phillies to help cover his $11 million salary for this season. He's only a couple of days into spring training work at Camelback Ranch, still becoming acquainted with teammates and coaches and routines.

Rollins spent a couple of hours earlier this week chatting up Yasiel Puig and going through a workout with the Cuban outfielder, with a little bit of translation help.

''I no longer have the relationships that I had with the guys, the history with them,'' Rollins said of his decade-and-a-half stint with the Phillies. ''I'm learning new guys and starting new relationships. It's very smooth. Fortunately, I've played against a lot of the guys in here. They're new as far as us being on the team together, but not so new that I don't know anyone's name.''

The 36-year-old Rollins is thrilled to be playing in his home state of California again as a pro. He was born in Oakland and grew up in Alameda.

To keep him fresh and healthy, he will require his occasional days off, and manager Don Mattingly said Friday he is still determining who will be the regular fill-in when the shortstop needs a break.

Just his presence means plenty to the reigning NL West champions, who won 94 games to finish six games ahead of the eventual World Series-winning San Francisco Giants.

''It's going to be huge. Jimmy comes with a big resume as far as championship player but also a guy that's been great on the field, a guy that's still being productive,'' Mattingly said. ''When you start looking at his numbers, it doesn't matter what age he is, he's still playing well in all areas. He has credibility in our clubhouse instantly and has that championship pedigree.''

Rollins, a three-time All-Star and Gold Glover, batted .243 last season with 17 homers, 55 RBIs and 28 stolen bases. The 2007 NL MVP won the World Series in 2008.

He'd like another ring before he's through. For now, Rollins is navigating through all the change.

''I'm sure he's getting his feet wet like a lot of the new guys,'' reigning NL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Clayton Kershaw said. ''He's great. He's been around a real long time, he's won. He's played the game probably longer than anybody in here.''

He joins one of baseball's most experienced infields, which includes Juan Uribe at third, Howie Kendrick at second and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

''It's good to have a guy who we knew what we were going to get off the field and on the field,'' Gonzalez said.

NOTES: Lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu was set to return to participating in some baseball activities after missing two days of camp with back spasms and discomfort. ''Definitely good news with him that he's going to be up moving around, doing some stuff with the training staff,'' Mattingly said. ... Closer Kenley Jansen, out eight-to-12 weeks recovering from left foot surgery, is doing as much as possible while still in a walking boot and on crutches - even tossing a ball with one knee on a chair.

StarDust Bum
02-28-2015, 02:59 AM
Arenado confident he can become a star

February 27, 2015

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Nolan Arenado won't turn 24 until April and he has already collected plenty of accolades, including two Gold Gloves.

The Colorado Rockies third baseman thinks he can become a star. Many agree, including his manager. But there was a Hall of Famer this week who wanted to make sure Arenado stayed grounded.

''I saw Dave Winfield and he said, `My third year, I thought I had it figured out. But I didn't.' And he's one of the greatest hitters of all time,'' Arenado said Friday. ''So I'm definitely going to listen to him.''

Arenado has a history of looking up to his elders, from Todd Helton as a rookie to Troy Tulowitzki last year. But Arenado has plenty of confidence, as he should.

As a 22-year-old rookie in 2013, he dazzled on the field with his range, a strong and accurate arm and the tendency to make sensational plays. Not long after being criticized in the minors for being too heavy, he became the first major league rookie third baseman in 46 years to win a Gold Glove.

Then his bat, which lagged as a rookie, woke up in his second year. Arenado had a 28-game hitting streak and was at .305 with six homers and 28 RBIs when he broke his left middle finger on a headfirst slide in Atlanta on May 23.

''Mentally, it was devastating for me,'' Arenado said.'' And I know I hurt the team a little bit. I just wanted to be there for the guys. And not being able to be there kind of stunk.''

Arenado's season and the Rockies' fortunes were never the same. Colorado, 27-23 a day after he got hurt, finished 66-96 amid an avalanche of injuries.

With Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez out, Arenado returned in July and was moved to the heart of the order while playing through stingers in his hand. He still finished hitting .287 with 18 homers and 61 RBIs in what he called a ''weird year'' that helped him mature.

''I don't know how much further he can go defensively. I don't know if it's possible,'' manager Walt Weiss said. ''But we saw him offensively hit in the middle of the order, especially the second half of the season.

''You know how I feel about Nolan. This is a guy that loves to practice, loves to play, has a passion every time he puts on a uniform. I think he's a star in the making.''

Declaring himself 100 percent before the Rockies' first full squad workout Friday morning, Arenado feels it's time to continue his ascent. He believes it's realistic he can join Tulowitzki and Gonzalez on the list of the game's top players.

''I try not to talk about it because I've got to go out there and show it. But I believe I can play at a level they've been playing at,'' Arenado said. ''I'm still growing.''

Weiss said the ''youthful at_bats'' of his rookie year dwindled in 2014. He was better aware of situations and smarter at the plate.

If he can make another jump this season and remain one of baseball's top fielders, the Rockies may surprise.

''I think it's good to be the underdog,'' Arenado said. ''But we're not even the underdog. We're not even talked about. We're nobody. But that's OK. We don't need that bright light, that pressure.

''If we stay healthy, we're going to do some damage.''

NOTES: Weiss said all players were present for the first full squad meeting and workout. Most players have been in town for at least a couple weeks. . Weiss said his message to the players focused on having the right mentality throughout camp. ''I'm excited about this group,'' he said. . Colorado's first Cactus League game is Wednesday against Arizona.

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:00 AM
MLB may play spring games in Cuba

February 28, 2015

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) - Cuba could be a spring training destination once more.

Major League Baseball is considering playing future spring exhibition games on the island nation and baseball hotbed, which used to routinely host American teams in the days before Fidel Castro came to power.

Baseball players' association president Tony Clark said Saturday there have been ''ongoing'' discussions about playing in Cuba, which recently renewed diplomatic ties with the United States. Clark said there were conversations about Cuba hosting games this spring, but there wasn't enough time to finalize details.

''We weren't able to put those pieces in play this go-around,'' Clark said following his annual union meeting with the Cleveland Indians. ''It is conceivable somewhere down the road that there may be a spring training game played in Cuba, but it's hard to tell when at this point in time.''

The Baltimore Orioles played a spring exhibition in Havana against the Cuban national team in 1999, ending a 40-year gap since the last visit by a major league team.

Major league teams regularly held spring training camps in Cuba in the 1940s and `50s. The Cincinnati Reds had a Triple-A affiliate on the island, the Havana Sugar Kings.

Cuba and the U.S. have a long-time connection through baseball. Several Cuban-born players, including former stars Luis Tiant, Jose Canseco and Orlando ''El Duque'' Hernandez, as well as current players such as Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu, have thrived on MLB teams. Last season, 19 Cuban-born players were on major league rosters.

Clark said players understand that baseball, now more of an international game than ever, can play a part in the healing process between the U.S. and Cuba.

''I think what's great is that you look around any locker room now and you appreciate how international and how global our game is,'' Clark said. ''Cuba being a piece that no one really knows about.''

''It seems like every Cuban player who comes over here is contributing significantly to our game and it's beneficial for everyone. There is intrigue. There is interest. I'm very interested to see what happens here,'' he said.

Indians manager Terry Francona visited Cuba in the late 1970s as a teenager, touring the communist nation with a U.S. national team. During the trip, Francona had his picture taken while shaking hands with Castro, but the photograph was of poor quality and it's one he wishes he still had.

Francona does have great memories of his time in Cuba and would love the chance to go there again with his ballclub.

''I think it would be cool,'' he said following practice. ''My dad was there in '56, and he said at the time it was almost better than the major leagues. There were four teams in Havana. He was the MVP of something and he came home with a black Cadillac. That's not the winter ball I remember.''

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:01 AM
White Sox ace Sale has foot fracture

February 28, 2015

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Chicago White Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale has a fracture in his right foot and may miss opening day.

The team announced Saturday that he's expected to be sidelined at least three weeks.

Sale, who was injured in an accident at his home on Friday, had X-rays of his foot Saturday at a hospital in Glendale. He'll have more tests after the swelling goes down.

The 25-year-old was 12-4 with 208 strikeouts and a 2.17 ERA last season, finishing third in the American League Cy Young Award voting

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:02 AM
A-Rod may play in Yanks' spring opener

February 28, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Alex Rodriguez might be in the New York Yankees' lineup for Tuesday's spring training opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said a decision will come Monday.

Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 2014 season because for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract.

With the re-signing of Chase Headley to start at third base, Rodriguez is competing for at_bats as the designated hitter. He might get limited playing time at third and first base.

The Yankees begin exhibition play at the Phillies' complex in Clearwater, Florida.

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:03 AM
McCutchen eyeing another step forward

February 28, 2015

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) - The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 95 games in 2005, the year they drafted outfielder Andrew McCutchen in the first round. Four years later, when McCutchen made his major league debut, they lost 99 games.

McCutchen has seen the franchise at its worst. As he has matured into one of the top players in the National League, the Pirates also have been on the upswing.

The Pirates got an NL wild-card berth in each of the past two seasons. This year, McCutchen wants more.

''We're not here to try to win a wild-card game,'' McCutchen said. ''We're here to win the division and keep going from there to win a championship.''

Such a statement would have drawn laughter not too long ago. McCutchen said perceptions about the Pirates have changed.

''People look at us a lot differently because they know we're for real,'' McCutchen said. ''It would've been easy to say 2013 was a fluke and we just got lucky. But we showed up in `14 and were able to do the same thing. We know we're for real. And other teams know they just can't come in (thinking), `All right, we're going to beat the Pirates.' We're not that team anymore.''

The Pirates have a solid bullpen and a starting rotation topped by left-hander Francisco Liriano and right-hander Gerrit Cole. The infield includes veteran second baseman Neil Walker, who hit a career-best 23 homers, and third baseman Josh Harrison, who had a breakout season in 2014.

''We have a really good team,'' McCutchen said. ''And I believe the outfield will be our anchor.''

McCutchen is a three-time MVP finalist in center field. He's flanked by Starling Marte in left and Gregory Polanco in right. All three of them can hit for power and a high average, have above-average speed and are very good defenders.

''Right now, we are the best outfield (in the majors),'' Marte said. ''I think we have a chance to catch every ball that's hit.''

Marte, 23, was a Gold Glove finalist last year and has batted .282 over his first three seasons. Polanco, 22, was the Pirates' top prospect last year and played in 89 games after being called up in mid-June.

''It's all about getting to know each other,'' McCutchen said. ''When Marte first got here, I'd yell, `I'll get it,' (on a fly ball) then look and he'd already be there. Now, when the ball's hit, I know he can get it. Now, I just have to figure out Polanco.''

McCutchen, 28, should have plenty of time ahead to work with Marte and Polanco. McCutchen is in the middle of a six-year, $51.5 million contract, which includes a club option for 2018.

''Andrew's been a critical part of the team,'' Pirates chairman Bob Nutting said. ''I love having him in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform and I hope he (wears it) for a long, long time.''

Nutting and his front office group have begun to consider whether they should offer McCutchen a contract extension. McCutchen will make $10 million this season, and management must decide if they Pirates can afford to double his salary in a longer-term deal.

''It's a challenge we're looking forward to,'' Nutting said.

As he works out during spring training, McCutchen is not focused on getting a longer contract.

''Right now, I'm not too worried about it,'' McCutchen said. ''It's nothing that I'm thinking about. If it happens, that would be great.''

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:05 AM
McGehee's move to Giants is homecoming

February 27, 2015

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Casey McGehee has been everywhere on the baseball map.

He played high school ball near Santa Cruz, California, played collegiately at Fresno State and then began a tour that took him to Chicago (Cubs), Milwaukee (Brewers), Pittsburgh (Pirates), New York (Yankees), Japan (Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles) and Miami (Marlins).

Now he is back in his old stomping grounds, or close to them, after being traded from Miami to the San Francisco Giants and he said it ''just feels right.''

''I don't know how else to put it,'' McGehee said Friday. ''I have loved everywhere I've been and have learned a lot, but there's something about coming back to the area where you grew up.''

When the Giants lost Pablo Sandoval to free agency, they began to look for a veteran presence at third base and general manager Brian Sabean dealt minor league pitchers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo to the Marlins for McGehee.

''The guys here have made it (the transition) easy for me. It didn't take long for them to start ragging' on me,'' McGehee said.

McGehee's best season was 2010, when he hit .285 with 23 home runs and 104 RBIs in 157 games and was named the Brewers' MVP.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound McGehee said he has hit in the fifth spot for most of his career, sometimes fourth. In Miami last season, he hit fourth behind slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

''The spot doesn't matter,'' McGehee said. ''I'm sure (manager Bruce Bochy) will figure out a good place for me.''

The conditions at AT&T Park can be less than ideal for hitters, but McGehee is quick to point out, ''they're not nearly as bad as Candlestick (Park) was. No matter where you play, you still have to hit the ball hard.''

He hit the ball hard even during his one season in Japan, where he hit .292 with 28 homers and 93 RBIs in 144 games.

''It wasn't ideal, but I enjoyed it,'' he said. ''I think baseball in Japan is better than people give it credit for.''

NOTES: Asked if closer Santiago Casilla was doing OK after being hit in the leg by a batted ball on Thursday, Bochy said, ''He was dancing for me this morning.'' Casilla likely will return to the field on Saturday. ... Bochy saw right-hander Tim Lincecum throw Friday and said the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner ''looked good. He threw the ball well, had good command of his pitches.''... The Giants will be traveling in a bigger plane this season that befits three World Series championships in the last five years. ''We have a lot of big guys and now they will be more comfortable, get better rest,'' Bochy said.

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:06 AM
RF Matt Kemp confident about new-look Padres being contender

February 28, 2015

PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) - Matt Kemp stood up from his locker, navy blue hoodie covering his head and began signing the nursery rhyme, ''Rain, Rain, Go Away.''

Aside from Saturday's gray skies and precipitation in the forecast all weekend, San Diego's new right fielder is loving his new life that is taking him a couple of hours farther south in Southern California with the Padres.

''This is a different pace,'' Kemp said. ''I'll go from LA to San Diego, two beautiful cities. San Diego's just a little bit more laid back and chill. I'm enjoying my time here. New changes, new faces.''

Kemp has made one thing clear already: The Padres have baseball's best outfield.

''I wouldn't have said it if I didn't believe it,'' Kemp said with a smile. ''We have a good enough outfield to compete with any outfield, just like (Pittsburgh's) Andrew McCutchen, just like those guys, of course they're supposed to believe in their guys. On paper, they are one of the best outfields in baseball. We have a lot to prove. It's a new year.''

Kemp will be part of an outfield trio that also includes fellow newcomers Justin Upton in left and Wil Myers the expected starter in center. Yet Cameron Maybin still hopes to win the job in center field, and Will Venable also is in the mix.

All three projected starters came in trades. All three within 48 hours: Kemp in a deal with the reigning NL West champion Dodgers, 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Myers from the Rays and Upton swapped by Atlanta.

''Everybody gets their work in. Everybody gets here early,'' Kemp said. ''There's a lot of guys here committed to winning. We're ready to go.''

The Padres' expectations are all about the postseason in the early days of spring training, beginning with building the foundation now to get them there come late September.

Even manager Bud Black has a sense of humor about the flurry of offseason movement that overhauled his roster.

''No trades, no transactions,'' Black quipped before heading to the practice field.

Black already appreciates Kemp's belief in this team.

''I like that. He's confident,'' Black said. ''I like the fact that Matt looks around and sees our group. I think I've heard him say, `You look at the group of outfielders ... it's a good group. It's a lot of nice baseball players. So for him to say that, it's pretty good, right? It's real.''

San Diego went 77-85 last season for third place in the NL West behind Los Angeles and the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Now, the Padres aren't just talking a big game - the plan to back up this star-studded roster with results. The Padres haven't reached the playoffs since 2006.

''Every team, every year you show up always has high expectations and sometimes you don't know for sure if a championship is really realistic, but I think it's safe to say looking at the talent, looking at it on paper, there's no reason we shouldn't be competing for the playoffs and have a chance to win a championship over here,'' new infielder Clint Barmes said.

And, they just added James Shields on a $75 million, four-year contract this past week.

''The names have changed,'' Black said. ''If the expectation level has risen, we like it. We like that. Personally I like it. The coaches like it. The players like it. So as a group, there's nothing better than to think that you have a solid team, and we feel as though we do, so that's a good thing.''

NOTES: Black has no concerns about Shields making a speedy adjustment. ''Here's a guy who's 33 years old who has service time. He knows his body, he knows where it needs to be Feb. 28,'' Black said. ''He's in tune with what he has to do personally. It's been noted, he has a great feel for a team, he's engaging. He's got a personality. He's a competitor. It's early and I don't expect this to change, he's saying the right things from a team concept and leadership.'' ... Jason Lane, the former outfielder who came up as a left-handed pitcher last season, will start the Cactus League opener Wednesday against the Mariners and is slated for two innings

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:11 AM
Rays reliever Belisario fractures shoulder, out indefinitely

February 28, 2015

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) - Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Ronald Belisario has fractured his non-throwing shoulder in a swimming pool accident and is not expected to be ready for the start of the season.

The team said Saturday that Belisario will be sidelined indefinitely. The Rays right-hander injured his left shoulder getting out of a pool in Venezuela last month. Belisario will be held out of on-field drills for at least two weeks.

Belisario is a non-roster invitee competing for a bullpen job after going 4-8 with a 5.56 ERA in 62 appearances with the Chicago White Sox last season.

President of baseball operations Matt Silverman said Belisario's shoulder ''hadn't been checked out until he got here'' for spring training this week.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Royals 1B Hosmer hoping to build off postseason success

February 28, 2015

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) - Eric Hosmer hit a basketball, football and volleyball for a PlayStation commercial at Surprise Stadium, the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals.

Hosmer said the basketball was the easiest to hit because ''it's so big.''

A baseball must have looked basketball-sized to Hosmer in the postseason last year.

Hosmer hit .351 and set a franchise record with 12 RBIs in 15 games during the playoffs and World Series. He had six multihit games in the postseason, three of them with three hits.

''A lot of guys didn't have numbers they wanted to in the regular season, but turned it up in the postseason,'' Hosmer said.

Hosmer was one of them. He hit .270 with nine home runs and 58 RBIs, all career lows. Not numbers Hosmer desired.

''Definitely not,'' Hosmer said.

Hosmer hit .321 with a .509 slugging percentage after July 1. But he missed 29 games with a broken right hand after being hit by a pitch from Jon Lester on July 20. He tried to play through it, but went on the disabled list Aug. 2.

The Royals' season ended with a 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the World Series.

''I know the taste it left in all our mouths,'' Hosmer said. ''I know it made the offseason feel like it was that much longer. The way it ended, it was tough. It was tough to look at all these guys after that loss because all these guys had invested so much. We all truly believed we were going to do it, so to come up short and the feeling we had, it didn't seem like it was time to be over.''

The Royals did end a 29-year playoff drought.

''It's a different feel'' in spring training this year, he said. ''We've always had the confidence in our abilities as our group, but doing what we did last year and knowing how far we got with pretty much the same group of guys coming back, it definitely gets you hungry and confident as a group.''

The 25-year-old Hosmer agreed to a $13.9 million, two-year contract on Feb. 18. His agent, Scott Boras, called him as he was packing to drive to the Phoenix airport to fly to Tampa for his arbitration hearing the next day.

''It went from get your suit ready to you don't have to go,'' said Hosmer, who has won two Gold Gloves. ''That's why we hire representation, so we don't have to sit in that room and hear how bad we are. I'm glad we've got it all taken care of, not only for this year, but next year. I don't have to worry about it and just focus on that main goal. And that's getting into October and doing what we did last year, plus one.''

Hosmer said the two-year offer came ''completely out of the blue.''

''I never even thought about two years,'' he said. ''That kind of popped out of nowhere. I thought it was a no-brainer to do that. Not only I get this year, but the next year, I'm very happy about that.''

After hitting 19 home runs as a rookie in 2012 and 17 in 2013, Hosmer's total sagged last season.

''Being a guy in the middle in the lineup, you've got to drive in runs,'' Hosmer said. ''It's not so much home runs, but RBIs.''

NOTES: The Royals will start rookie RHP Aaron Brooks, who went 12-3 with a 3.88 ERA last season with Triple-A Omaha, in the exhibition opener Wednesday against the Rangers. . The Royals have intrasquad games scheduled Sunday and Monday, but rain is in the forecast.

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Now with Blue Jays, Johan Santana aims for another comeback

February 28, 2015

DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) - When Johan Santana walked into the Blue Jays' clubhouse for the first time early Saturday morning, a surprise was waiting inside his locker.

Taped in the upper left hand corner, directly above his blue No. 57 jersey and cap, was a photograph of the celebration from Santana's no-hitter with the New York Mets in June 2012, arguably the finest moment in his baseball career.

''I know exactly who did that,'' Santana said with a smile.

That would be close friend and Toronto backup Josh Thole. He caught the left-hander's 134-pitch gem that night at Citi Field, still the only no-hitter in Mets' history.

For Santana, after two major surgeries on his throwing shoulder and a ruptured Achilles tendon he sustained with Baltimore during extended spring training last June, the picture served as an emotional reminder of his distinguished past.

Two weeks shy of his 36th birthday, it's a place the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner with Minnesota vows to return.

''It would be a great thing to do, to come back and have those kind of days,'' said Santana, who has not pitched in the majors since August 2012. ''I know it was something very special. . Hopefully, I'll be able to come back and wear this uniform on a major league mound and get that feeling again.''

Santana took his first step toward that goal on Thursday, signing a minor league deal with the Blue Jays with the hope of returning to the majors this season. But he knows the journey is just beginning.

''I'm always positive about everything that I do and the way I think,'' Santana said. ''I never gave up. Last year, I was close and everything was good. Unfortunately, something else happened that had nothing to do with my arm. Now, I have to bounce back.''

That may be easier said than done for Santana, once revered by hitters for his devastating changeup and mid-90s fastball.

Due to the severity of his injuries, Santana has been limited to just 21 games since 2010. His velocity has taken a hit as well, reportedly averaging between 86 and 89 mph in his lone appearance during winter ball in his native Venezuela earlier this year. He was then shut down because of shoulder stiffness.

The Blue Jays, however, are confident they will be able to work Santana into their rotation at some point. Though he won't be ready for opening day on April 6, Santana will start a throwing program soon and the team will monitor his progress.

If Santana returns to the majors, he will make the base salary of $2.5 million. He also has an April 28 opt-out clause.

''He's certainly a competitive guy and believes in himself,'' general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. ''We certainly believe there's a lot left. It's just a matter to get him right, get him strong and see how and when he can impact us.''

Santana wants to make the most of his chance.

''As long as my arm is still attached, I'm going to give it a chance,'' he said. ''I know there's going to be a lot of good and bad things out there, but the reality is that I have to do it myself. I'm still doing it. I love what I do. If I'm able to do it, that will be great. But if it doesn't happen, then at least I tried my best.''

NOTES: OF Michael Saunders returned to camp less than a day after having surgery to remove torn cartilage in his left knee. Saunders, who is expected to miss five or six weeks, walked on his own, without crutches or a protective brace, and said he has started mobility and strength exercises. ''This is a great day for me,'' Saunders said. ''I'm going to be ready to go as soon as possible. But that being said, as soon as my knee allows me to.'' . Heavy rain washed out a majority of the team's second full-squad workout. Manager John Gibbons doesn't expect it to be an issue since it's still early. ''We needed it, but there's playing time and we'll get plenty of work when we start playing these games (Tuesday),'' Gibbons said.

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Longoria eyes "bounce-back" year with revamped Rays

February 28, 2015

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) - Evan Longoria trusts the Tampa Bay Rays to get it right, so he has no complaints about the club's winter makeover.

Not that the star third baseman was happy to see the franchise lose manager Joe Maddon and front office executive Andrew Friedman within a 10-day span of October, then watch their successors spend much of the next three months revamping the roster through a series of trades and free agent signings that have filled the clubhouse with new faces.

''It's just really about all the confidence that I have in their ability to put together a good team and just see the bigger picture,'' the three-time AL All-Star said.

''Everybody who's here is looking forward to a new year, just a fresh start and something that's different,'' Longoria added. ''Sometimes things are needed and necessary to kind of keep you on track.''

The Rays' career leader in home runs and RBIs stressed that that's no knock on Maddon, who guided the Rays to four playoffs berths over a six-year span before finishing with Tampa Bay's first losing record since 2007 last season.

The most successful manager in team history opted out of the final year of his contract before signing with the Chicago Cubs. The Rays hired Kevin Cash, who has no previous managerial experience, to succeed the popular Maddon.

''Obviously, he did so many great things for the franchise, and so many great things for me as a player,'' Longoria said. ''But I guess all good things come to an end at some point. I think we're really looking forward to getting to know Kevin as a manager and as a guy.''

Friedman, who put together the rosters Maddon thrived with, left for a similar position with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Matt Silverman, who joined a then-struggling Tampa Bay organization at the same time as Friedman , has taken over as president of baseball operations.

Longoria said he believes in Silverman's ability to keep the franchise moving forward.

Five starters from a year ago, including three-time All-Star Ben Zobrist and 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, were traded this offseason. Infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, outfield prospect Steven Souza, catcher Rene Rivera, designated hitter John Jaso and pitchers Kevin Jepsen, Ernesto Frieri and Burch Smith are among the new arrivals.

''It goes back to the track record of those guys from the beginning,'' Longoria said, alluding to the success of the front office since principal owner Stuart Sternberg took control of the team. ''Pretty much all of the moves they've made have been great for our organization and worked out. I had to put my faith in that.''

The face of the franchise thinks the Rays, who have one of the best pitching rotations in the AL, have a chance to be better than a lot of people suspect.

And he's ready to lead, vowing to ''play better'' after hitting .253 and leading Tampa Bay with 22 homers and 91 RBIs while playing in all 162 games for the first time last season.

What he hopes will be a ''bounce-back'' campaign actually began in November, when he traveled to Japan as part of a MLB all-star team and homered three times in seven games.

''That experience, and just being able to play a little bit more baseball at the end of the year, and just have some good moments over there, kind of sweetened the bitter taste that I had at the end of the year,'' Longoria said. ''It kind of made me more hungry to get back to work and get ready to come back and have a great year for us.''

Cash looks at the numbers Longoria posted last season and thinks it's laughable anyone would suggest he's needs to bounce back.

''It cracks me up when people say rebound. There's 90 percent in baseball that would give a left arm to have those numbers,'' the manager said. ''Evan, he makes us go. There's no doubt about it. There's no doubt he's going to be good.''

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:12 AM
Indians' Kluber rises quickly to become star AL pitcher

February 28, 2015

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) - Corey Kluber was suddenly on a roster of baseball immortality. It was all so surreal, almost overwhelming.

In New York last month to receive his 2014 Cy Young Award, Kluber sat at a dais alongside Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Cal Ripken - heavy-hitting Hall of Famers all. And when John Smoltz, soon to be enshrined in Cooperstown, introduced him to the audience, Kluber realized the enormity of his accomplishments.

His season had indeed been special.

''Yeah, it kind of hit me then,'' the Indians' sublime right-hander said. ''I wasn't aware that all those kind of people would be there. Very cool.''

Cool, too, describes Kluber, who made a spectacular rise during his first full major league season. He tied for the AL lead with 18 wins, posted a 2.44 ERA and struck out 269 - with little fanfare. A year ago, he was in the middle of Cleveland's rotation. Now, he's the staff's ace and just maybe baseball's next big thing.

It's been an amazing ascent for a guy who can still go unrecognized in public during the offseason.

''In Florida, nobody knows who I am,'' said the Jacksonville resident. ''I don't think a lot of people down there watch Indians games.''

Steady and stoic, almost robotic, Kluber became just the fourth pitcher in the past 28 years to win 18 games with a sub-2.50 ERA and at least 260 strikeouts. The others: Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

So, what does he do for an encore?

''I'm not really concerned with trying to duplicate or do anything I did last year,'' he said after some conditioning work in the dry desert air. ''It's a new year, so none of that stuff from last year has any bearing on anything that I do this year or anything we do this year as a team.''

Kluber is the reluctant star, leery of the spotlight and still grappling with new-found celebrity. On Friday, the 28-year-old couldn't play in the Indians' annual charity golf outing with the Cincinnati Reds because he had to attend another photo shoot and autograph session, one of many during this whirlwind offseason.

Ah, the price of fame.

As he packed his uniform, glove and other essentials into a travel bag, Kluber acknowledged some of the attention has made him uncomfortable.

''I wouldn't say I've enjoyed the notoriety,'' he said. ''But it hasn't been intrusive or anything, nothing that has kept me from doing what I wanted to do during the offseason.''

Kluber has built a reputation - and, to an extent, his persona - around a tireless, obsessive work ethic. He's the classic overachiever, the kid who turns in his homework a day earlier than the rest of the class.

To those who don't know him, Kluber comes across as stiff. He's business-like, regimented and so focused on doing his job that he appears more machine than man. Hence, the ''Klubot'' nickname.

''That's my demeanor when I'm on the mound, but if you pay attention when I'm in the dugout or with other guys, I'm not much different than they are,'' he said. ''It's just that when most people see me, it's when I'm pitching. The attention is mostly on you when you're out there pitching, so maybe people kind of group the two together.''

There's another side of Kluber the public doesn't see, but one the Indians know well. He's a jokester.

''He's got a great sense of humor,'' general manager Chris Antonetti said. ''If there's a prank going around in the clubhouse, he's one of the primary suspects.''

Last season, Kluber dressed in a chicken suit during batting practice and he's not averse to playing a practical joke on an unsuspecting teammate.

''He's still quiet when he's in here, but he's a silent assassin,'' said outfielder Ryan Raburn, whose eyes shifted nervously toward Kluber's locker, knowing that if he was overheard there could be retribution. ''If he finds the right opportunity, he'll throw a little jab in there. He's a really good guy.''

He's way beyond good as a pitcher.

Kluber offered a glimpse of his potential in 2013, going 11-5 in 24 starts. Last season, he was dominant nearly every time he took the mound. Kluber went 4-0 in May with 60 strikeouts; reeled off six straight wins from July 6-Aug. 9; and went 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA in his last five outings.

Despite dazzling statistics, Kluber isn't paid like one of baseball's elite pitchers. He'll make a little more than the league minimum salary this season as the Indians control his contract through 2018. In all likelihood, they will try to sign him to an extension, but Antonetti wouldn't confirm if any negotiations are ongoing.

It's safe to assume, though, that the Indians want Kluber to feel rewarded.

''There's not a better guy to believe in,'' Antonetti said.

NOTES: 2B Jason Kipnis is still recovering from surgery to repair a torn finger ligament and manager Terry Francona said it's possible he'll be kept out of the first few exhibition games. ... RHP Trevor Bauer left the Indians' complex wearing a blue wig. He sports one when cheering for his beloved Duke Blue Devils, who played Syracuse on Saturday.

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:13 AM
Hometown boys Molitor, Mauer trying to turn Twins around

February 28, 2015

On a chilly winter afternoon in St. Paul, two St. Paul natives sat down for lunch at a St. Paul restaurant and did what St. Paul guys do - they talked about what it's going to take to fix the Minnesota Twins.

The only thing that separated this conversation from hundreds of others that occur in the restaurant on a daily basis was these two guys could actually do something about it.

Paul Molitor was the newly named Twins manager. Across the table was Joe Mauer, the face of the franchise. Two hometown stars trying to save a franchise that has rarely been lower after four straight seasons of at least 92 losses.

''The more and more I get to know Paul, it seems like we're a lot alike,'' Mauer said. ''We definitely love to compete. We like the challenge of where we're at and where we're trying to get to. I'm excited to have him leading the way and bringing in guys that share that same mentality. I think we both left that lunch excited and anxious about getting the season started.''

Neither would disclose any specifics of the conversation they had over a couple of hours at that lunch in January, but Molitor said he walked out of the meeting encouraged with how his embattled star was preparing for the coming season.

''Overall, I just think he's in a good place and likes the way the team is going,'' Molitor said. ''I don't think we can project what will happen but we were a pretty good offensive team last year and our best player didn't have a very good year. So if he can get back to where he was, it will bode well for us offensively.''

The Twins held their first full-squad workout on Saturday in Fort Myers, Florida, and the two former stars at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, each facing their own questions, are at the center of the hopes for a baseball revival in Minnesota.

Molitor is the Hall of Famer who played the final three seasons of his 20-year career for the Twins. He served on the bench under former Twins managers Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire, but spent most of his time in the organization as a roving instructor in the minor leagues.

He crossed paths with Mauer, the No. 1 overall pick in 2001, often, both while Mauer was coming up through the minor leagues and during spring training.

But Mauer actually met Molitor far earlier in life when Molitor came to speak to kids at a Cretin baseball camp.

''I think that's one of the reasons why I try to use the whole field,'' Mauer said. ''At 9 or 10 years old, I remember hearing him talk about spraying the field starting batting practice, the way he took it. I'm sure at 9 or 10 years old, a lot of that went over the kids' heads. But I was sitting there and looking at it like this is a major league baseball player, and a very good one at that. That's what I wanted to be so I was pretty attentive when he was talking. I don't even know if he knows that, but I remember that for sure.''

With that seed planted, Mauer made himself into one of the best-hitting catchers the game has ever seen. He won three batting titles, an AL MVP award and made six All-Star games before injuries slowed him down.

An eight-year, $182 million contract signed in 2011 brought unprecedented scrutiny on Mauer, and his inability to duplicate those superb early years and the games he's missed due to injury caused fans to question his desire.

''I don't think Joe has ever lost that edge,'' Molitor said. ''I think people try to use that against him because they can't see it and it's not tangible enough for people. But internally I've never doubted that he's tremendously driven to win. He just carries a bit differently and that's why we see such a controlled player and it's served him really well.''

Their lunch conversation was different than the countless they've had over the years, with Mauer really trying to understand how Molitor would approach his new job.

''He's one of the smartest baseball people I've ever been around,'' Mauer said. ''The one thing I've admired about him and liked to watch him is how he prepares for anything. ... He would never leave any stone unturned. The way he goes about preparing for a game is awesome to see. I'm excited to see him do that in a different position.''

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:17 AM
Who's the ace? Red Sox starters want to prove they have many

February 27, 2015

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - Who's the ace?

It's a question the Boston Red Sox have been asked to address since Jon Lester was traded last summer and then signed a $155 million, six-year contract with the Chicago Cubs rather than return to Fenway Park.

''There's only so many times you can ask somebody, `How are you going to do this without an ace of the staff?''' right-hander Clay Buchholz said. ''I think everybody is getting similar answers, `We've all been really good at certain points of our career. Being healthy is the key. If all five of us stay healthy, we're not going to be easy to get past.'''

General manager Ben Cherington acquired right-hander Rick Porcello from Detroit and left-hander Wade Miley from Arizona during the offseason. He also signed former Boston right-hander Justin Masterson, coming off an injury-filled season, to a one-year deal. The trio joins Buchholz and Joe Kelly in the new-look rotation.

All five were middle-of-the-rotation guys.

''We're not concerned about declaring someone an opening-day starter or whatever right now,'' Cherington said. ''We know that by the time we get to April that we'll have five guys in the rotation. We think we'll have enough options where that guy will give us a chance to win a game.''

Manager John Farrell believes it's a solid group.

''I'm not overly concerned some might think we don't have a No. 1,'' he said. ''I think we have five No. 1s.''

Porcello, who turned 26 in December, was a career-best 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA last year.

''I think you have to have five aces,'' Porcello said. ''Each one of us has to have pride in their job.''

The 30-year-old Buchholz was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA two years ago but made just 16 starts last season due to soreness in his neck and right shoulder.

''I think we're going to fly under the radar for the most part, which I think is a good thing,'' he said. ''At some point they're going to say, `They've got their stuff in order and they've got a pretty good staff.''`

The 28-year old Miley went 16-11 in 2012. The next two years he was a combined 18-22.

''I just think it's a little overrated - the whole no ace,'' he said. ''What they did is got five quality guys and got some depth. Whoever is throwing that night needs to be the ace and give the team a chance to win. That's an ace in my mind.''

Kelly, who turns 27 in June, was acquired in a deal that sent John Lackey to St. Louis last summer. He was 6-4 after going 10-5 the previous season.

''I think just wanting to play well and pitch well should motivate us rather than people saying what we don't have,'' Kelly said.

Masterson, 29, came up with the Red Sox and was traded to Cleveland in 2009. He went 14-10 for the Indians in 2013, and Farrell thinks he could be the key.

''A 200-inning starter that was as dominant as any right-hander as recently as two years ago,'' he said. ''In my opinion, the player that can make the biggest impact is him.''

NOTES: Farrell said he has a plan for the starters but wasn't ready to give a hint for opening day. ... The club had a shortened workout Friday because of a charity golf tournament. ... On Saturday, the team takes part in Major League Baseball's mandatory seminar on domestic abuse.

StarDust Bum
03-01-2015, 02:19 AM
Sabathia goes through 3rd pen session

February 27, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - CC Sabathia threw 41 pitches during his third bullpen session at spring training.

The 34-year-old left-hander was hobbled by a degenerative cartilage problem in his right knee last season and didn't pitch after May 10. He had surgery in July.

''No problems,'' Sabathia said Friday. ''Still working on things. My cutter, my changeup.''

Sabathia said he will have another bullpen session before likely advancing to batting practice.

''Try and take it slow,'' Sabathia said. ''Not rush it or overdo it in February.''

Sabathia plans on wearing a knee brace this season and will receive injections and have fluid drained as needed.

The six-time All-Star and 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner made only eight starts last year and finished 3-4 with a career-worst 5.28 ERA. He is 208-119 with a 3.63 ERA in 14 seasons.

Ivan Nova, coming back from right elbow ligament-replacement surgery in April, threw 26 fastballs and appears on track to rejoin the major league team by June.

StarDust Bum
03-03-2015, 04:59 PM
A-Rod: I'll be "a little nervous' in return

March 3, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Alex Rodriguez predicts he'll be ''a little nervous'' when he returns to the field Wednesday for his first game in 17 months following a season-long drug suspension.

The three-time AL MVP, who turns 40 in July, skipped the New York Yankees' spring training opener Tuesday against Philadelphia in Clearwater. He is slated to be a designated hitter for two or three at_bats against the Phillies on Wednesday at Steinbrenner Field.

He says he's ''excited for tomorrow'' and adds: ''I'm not sure how ready, but I'll give it a shot.''

Yankees manager Joe Girardi says of Rodriguez: ''He was caught. He paid his time and now he's back, and he's a Yankee and we're going to cheer for him.''

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Indians sell out home opener in 11 minutes

March 3, 2015

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) - The Indians sold out their April 10 home opener against Detroit in 11 minutes.

The team said Tuesday that Progressive Field, which has been remodeled this winter, will again be packed to capacity for the 22nd straight year for the opener. The ballpark opened in 1994.

The Indians removed several thousand seats in the renovation, which will include the home and away bullpens stacked together beyond the center-field wall. Cleveland drew just 1.4 million fans last season - 29th in in the majors - and the club hopes the changes at the ballpark will help bring more fans downtown.

Cleveland averaged 18,428 fans per game in a ballpark that was once sold out for 455 consecutive games.

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Scherzer will start Nats' spring opener

March 3, 2015

VIERA, Fla. (AP) - Max Scherzer will start the Washington Nationals' spring training opener on Thursday night against the New York Mets.

Nationals manager Matt Williams made the announcement Tuesday, and added Scherzer will be followed by Tanner Roark. Williams did not name a starter for Friday's road game against Atlanta.

Scherzer, who signed a seven-year, $210 million contract with Washington, is expected to throw two innings, or 45 pitches.

The Nationals have one of the top rotations in baseball with Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez The question is, how will Washington line them up.

Williams says Scherzer's ''ready. They're all ready. But there is nothing to read into it, other than he's going to get the ball Thursday and five days later, he'll get it again


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Quintana poised to move into limelight

March 3, 2015

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - White Sox manager Robin venture thinks Jose Quintana just needs a little help in becoming one of the elite pitchers in the American League.

Slotted behind Chris Sale - and now Jeff Samardzija - in the White Sox rotation, Quintana has had some quiet success. With Chicago's offseason lineup changes, Quintana might become a household name, too.

''He doesn't have a lot of wins, he has a lot of no-decisions, but we're in the middle of all the games he pitches,'' White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. ''A lot of times we've had leads late for him that we just couldn't hold on to.''

The low-key, 26-year-old lefty from Colombia had another solid season for Chicago in 2014, finishing with a 3.32 ERA and reaching the 200-inning plateau for the second consecutive year.

The only thing missing is victories. Quintana was 9-11 last season. He's 24-24 in his three-year career with a 3.50 ERA.

Ventura will send Quintana to the mound on Wednesday as the White Sox begin the Cactus League season against their Camelback Ranch partners, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Quintana has improved steadily since joining the rotation upon his call-up from the minors in 2012.

He only gave up 10 homers in 200 1-3 innings last season, especially impressive because he permitted just two homers in 15 starts at U.S. Cellular Field, one of the toughest parks in baseball for a pitcher. Only Los Angeles' Garrett Richards had a lower percentage of homers allowed per nine innings among American League starting pitchers.

''I was able to keep the ball down, and had good location on all my pitches, especially the fastball,'' Quintana said of his improvement.

Catcher Tyler Flowers enjoys working with Quintana.

''We always seem to be on the same page. With the talent he has, the ability to command pitches and change speeds, it makes it even more enjoyable,'' Flowers said. ''He is under the radar for now but we know how good he is and he's still getting better.''

One pitcher who knows all too well about low run support is Samardzija. He's also looking forward to the revamped batting order.

''We're a couple guys who have battled hard and worked hard and are ready to reap the benefits of having a great lineup like we have,'' Samardzija said.

Quintana is excited about additions such as Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera, Samardzija and relief ace David Robertson as the White Sox take aim at moving up in the AL Central.

''It's a new team with a lot of experience,'' Quintana said. ''We got a chance to win the division. Let's do it.''

NOTE: Samardzija threw two innings in an intrasquad game, and he was glad to get back to his normal routine. ''That's the exciting part,'' Samardzija said. ''You never really get the same experience as live games. Good to get out there and my arm feels great. Continue to keep getting stronger and build from here.''


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Middlebrooks to revive career in San Diego

March 3, 2015

PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) - For the first time in more than a year, it doesn't hurt when Will Middlebrooks swings.

Now in San Diego, a healthy Middlebrooks looks to revitalize a career that went from a sure thing at third base in Boston to an injury- and strikeout-filled two years in which he clashed with the Red Sox before being traded.

''It was tough,'' Middlebrooks said Tuesday. ''It was a process of learning what I can play through and what I couldn't. My mentality is if I can go at all, I'm going to try to play. And I feel like that kind of played against me last year.''

While the Red Sox were going through a miserable 2012 season, Middlebrooks was a bright spot. The two-sport star who turned down a football scholarship at Texas A&M drove in 34 runs and hit nine homers in his first 41 big league games. His play led the Red Sox to trade Kevin Youkilis and declare Middlebrooks their starting third baseman.

Middlebrooks was Boston's opening-day starter at third the past two seasons, but he kept losing the job. There were wrist, back, calf, finger and hand injuries. He was shuttled to and from the minors as his average, bat speed and confidence plummeted.

While he won a championship ring in 2013, he lost his starting job and had only two at_bats in the World Series. He was best known for being called for interference that allowed St. Louis to score the winning run in Game 3.

Things got worse last year. He hit just .191 with 70 strikeouts in 215 major league at_bats as he said he rushed to play despite lingering pain in his right hand.

''I learned my lesson. I learned how to take care of myself a little better,'' Middlebrooks said. ''Now I know, but unfortunately I learned the hard way.''

While Middlebrooks was far from 100 percent, the Red Sox wanted to evaluate him over the final months. They also wanted him to play winter ball. Middlebrooks refused.

Boston then signed free agent Pablo Sandoval, and Middlebrooks was quickly traded to the Padres.

''I don't care,'' Middlebrooks said when asked if declining to play winter ball led to his trade. ''My biggest thing was getting healthy. And if I was going to play winter ball and get 100 at_bats and then not be healthy at the beginning of this year, it's kind of pointless. I knew I needed to get healthy.''

Middlebrooks said it wasn't until January that the lingering pain went away. Now he has a chance to rekindle his once-promising career as he competes with Yangervis Solarte for the starting third base job with the new-look Padres.

''It's huge going out knowing I can get my hands through the fastball inside,'' Middlebrooks said. ''I can wait a little bit longer. I don't have to cheat on fastballs to hit them now. That's huge for my game.''

The 26-year-old Middlebrooks will also get some work at first base this spring as a possible way to get his bat in the lineup more.

''His swing is powerful. Lot of power to all fields,'' Padres manager Bud Black said. ''We saw what he did in 2012 before he got injured. . We think where he is age-wise, there's a lot of potential.''

It's been a wild couple of years for Middlebrooks, whose much-publicized relationship with Jenny Dell led to her departure as a Red Sox television reporter before she landed a job at CBS. The two are now engaged as Middlebrooks looks to turn things around 3,000 miles from Boston.

''Everyone goes through injuries. Everyone goes through struggles,'' Middlebrooks said. ''And that was my time.

''I'm in a really good place health-wise right now.''

NOTES: Black said newly acquired OFs Matt Kemp and Justin Upton will play in the Padres' exhibition opener Wednesday against Seattle. LHP Jason Lane will start. . Andrew Cashner starts Thursday against the Mariners. . Black said RHP Casey Kelly (groin) is scheduled to throw a bullpen side session on Friday.

StarDust Bum
03-03-2015, 05:01 PM
Free Agents Signings

March 2, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) -The 115 free agents who have signed, with name, position, former club if different, and contract. The contract information was obtained by The Associated Press from player and management sources:For players with minor league contracts, letter agreements for major league contracts are in parentheses:

BALTIMORE (1) - Re-signed Delmon Young, of, to a $2.25 million, one-year contract.

BOSTON (7) - Re-signed Koji Uehara, rhp, to an $18 million, two-year contract; signed Pablo Sandoval, 3b, San Francisco, to a $95 million, five-year contract; signed Hanley Ramirez, lf, Los Angeles Dodgers, to an $88 million, four-year contract; signed Justin Masterson, rhp, St. Louis, to a $9.5 million, one-year contract; re-signed Craig Breslow, lhp, to a $2 million, one-year contract; signed Felipe Paulino, rhp, Chicago White Sox, to a minor league contract ($925,000); signed Humberto Quintero, c, Seattle, to a minor league contract ($750,000).

CHICAGO (9) - Signed Zach Duke, lhp, Milwaukee, to a $15 million, three-year contract; signed Adam LaRoche, 1b, Washington, to a $25 million, two-year contract; signed David Robertson, rhp, New York Yankees, to a $46 million, four-year contract; signed Melky Cabrera, of, Toronto, to a $42 million, three-year contract; signed Emilio Bonifacio, 2b, Atlanta, to a $4 million, one-year contract; signed Jesse Crain, rhp, Houston, to a minor league contract ($2 million); signed Geovany Soto, c, Oakland, to a minor league contract ($1.5 million); signed Brad Penny, rhp, Miami, to a minor league contract; signed Matt Albers, rhp, Houston, to a minor league contract ($1.5 million).

CLEVELAND (2) - Signed Gavin Floyd, rhp, Atlanta, to a $4 million, one-year contract; signed Scott Downs, lhp, Kansas City, to a minor league contract ($800,000).

DETROIT (4) - Re-signed Victor Martinez, dh, to a $64 million, four-year contract; signed Tom Gorzelanny, lhp, Milwaukee, to a $1 million, one-year contract; re-signed Joel Hanrahan, rhp, to a minor league contract ($1 million); re-signed Joba Chamberlain, rhp, to a $1 million, one-year contract.

HOUSTON (5) - Signed Luke Gregerson, rhp, Oakland, to an $18.5 million, four-year contract; signed Pat Neshek, rhp, St. Louis, to a $12.5 million, two-year contract; signed Jed Lowrie, ss, Oakland, to a $23 million, three-year contract; signed Colby Ramus, of, Toronto, to an $8 million, one-year contract; signed Joe Thatcher, lhp, Los Angeles Angels, to a minor league contract ($1 million).

KANSAS CITY (6) - Re-signed Jason Frasor, rhp, to a $1.8 million, one-year contract; re-signed Luke Hochevar, rhp, to a $10 million, two-year contract; signed Kendrys Morales, dh, Seattle, to a $17 million, two-year contract; signed Alex Rios, of, Toronto, to an $11 million, one-year contract; signed Edinson Volquez, rhp, Pittsburgh, to a $20 million, two-year contract; signed Franklin Morales, lhp, Colorado, to a minor league contract ($1.85 million).

LOS ANGELES (1) - Signed Matt Lindstom, rhp, Chicago White Sox, to a minor league contract ($1 million).

MINNESOTA (3) - Signed Torii Hunter, of, Detroit, to a $10.5 million, one-year contract; signed Ervin Santana, rhp, Atlanta, to a $55 million, four-year contract; signed Tim Stauffer, rhp, San Diego, to a $2.2 million, one-year contract.

NEW YORK (7) - Re-signed Chris Young, of, to a $2.5 million, one-year contract; signed Andrew Miller, lhp, Baltimore, to a $36 million, four-year contract; re-signed Chase Headley, 3b, to a $52 million, four-year contract; re-signed Chris Capuano, lhp, to a $5 million, one-year contract; re-signed Stephen Drew, ss, to a $5 million, one-year contract; signed Scott Baker, rhp, Texas, to a minor league contract ($1.5 million); signed Jared Burton, rhp, Minnesota, to a minor league contract ($2 million).

OAKLAND (1) - Signed Billy Butler, 1b, Kansas City, to a $30 million, three-year contract.

SEATTLE (5) - Signed Nelson Cruz, dh, Baltimore, to a $57 million, four-year contract; re-signed Endy Chavez, of, to a minor league contract ($750,000); re-signed Franklin Gutierrez, of, to a minor league contract; agreed to terms with Rickie Weeks, inf-of, Milwaukee, on a $2 million, one-year contract; signed Joe Saunders, lhp, Baltimore, to a minor league contract ($750,000).

TAMPA BAY (2) - Signed Asdrubal Cabrera, ss, Washington, to a $7.5 million, one-year contract; signed Alexi Casilla, inf, Baltimore, to a minor league contract ($900,000).

TEXAS (5) - Re-signed Colby Lewis, rhp, to a $4 million, one-year contract; signed Kyuji Fujikawa, rhp, Chicago Cubs, to a $1.1 million, one-year contract; signed Ryan Ludwick, of, Cincinnati, to a minor league contract ($1.75 million); signed Nate Schierholtz, of, Washington, to a minor league contract ($1.75 million); signed Jamey Wright, rhp, Los Angeles Dodgers, to a minor league contract ($1 million).

TORONTO (4) - Signed Russell Martin, c, Pittsburgh, to an $82 million, five-year contract; re-signed Munenori Kawasaki, inf, to a minor league contract ($825,000); signed Ramon Santiago, ss, Cincinnati, to a minor league contract ($1.1 million); signed Johan Santana, lhp, Baltimore, to a minor league contract.

---

ARIZONA (1) - Signed Gerald Laird, c, Atlanta, to a minor league contract.

ATLANTA (8) - Signed Jim Johnson, rhp, Detroit, to a $1.6 million, one-year contract; signed Nick Markakis, of, Baltimore, to a $44 million, four-year contract; signed Alberto Callaspo, 3b, Oakland, to a $3 million, one-year contract; signed Jason Grilli, rhp, Los Angeles Angels, to an $8 million, two-year contract; signed A.J. Pierzynski, c, St. Louis, to a $2 million, one-year contract; signed Kelly Johnson, inf, Baltimore, to a minor league contract ($1.5 million); signed Jonny Gomes, of, Oakland, to a $4 million, one-year contract; signed Jose Veras, rhp, Houston, to a minor league contract ($1.6 million).

CHICAGO (5) - Signed Jason Hammel, rhp, Oakland, to a $20 million, two-year contract; signed Jon Lester, lhp, Oakland, to a $155 million, six-year contract; signed Jason Motte, rhp, St. Louis, to a $4.5 million, one-year contract; signed David Ross, c, Boston, to a $5 million, two-year contract; signed Chris Denorfia, of, Seattle, to a $2.6 million, one-year contract.

CINCINNATI (3) - Signed Paul Maholm, lhp, Los Angeles Dodgers, to a minor league contract; signed Burke Badenhop, rhp, Boston, to a $2.5 million, one-year contract; signed Kevin Gregg, rhp, Miami, to a minor league contract ($1.5 million).

COLORADO (2) - Signed Nick Hundley, c, Baltimore, to a $6.25 million, two-year contract; signed Kyle Kendrick, rhp, Philadelphia, to a $5.5 million, one-year contract.

HOUSTON (1) - Signed Roberto Hernandez, rhp, Los Angeles Dodgers, to a minor league contract ($1.25 million).

LOS ANGELES (4) - Signed Brandon McCarthy, rhp, New York Yankees, to a $48 million, four-year contract; signed Brett Anderson, lhp, Colorado, to a $10 million, one-year contract; signed Dustin McGowan, rhp, Toronto, to a $507,500, one-year contract; signed Mike Adams, rhp, Philadelphia, to a minor league contract.

MIAMI (4) - Signed Michael Morse, of, San Francisco, to a $16 million, two-year contract; signed Nick Masset, rhp, Colorado, to a minor league contract ($1 million); signed Ichiro Suzuki, of, New York Yankees, to a $2 million, one-year contract; re-signed Reed Johnson, of, to a minor league contract ($1.25 million).

MILWAUKEE (1) - Signed Neal Cotts, lhp, Texas, to a $3 million, one-year contract; agreed to terms with RHP Chris Perez on a minor league contract ($1.5 million).

NEW YORK (1) - Signed Michael Cuddyer, of, Colorado, to a $21 million, two-year contract.

PHILADELPHIA (2) - Signed Aaron Harang, rhp, Atlanta, to a $5 million, one-year contract; signed Chad Billingsley, rhp, Los Angeles Dodgers, to a $1.5 million, one-year contract.

PITTSBURGH (2) - Signed A.J. Burnett, rhp, Philadelphia, to an $8.5 million, one-year contract; re-signed Francisco Liriano, lhp, to a $39 million, three-year contract.

ST. LOUIS (3) - Signed Matt Belisle, rhp, Colorado, to a $3.5 million, one-year contract; signed Mark Reynolds, 1b, Milwaukee, to a $2 million, one-year contract; signed Carlos Villanueva, rhp, Chicago Cubs, to a minor league contract ($2 million).

SAN DIEGO (5) - Signed Clint Barmes, ss, Pittsburgh, to a $1.5 million, one-year contract; signed Brandon Morrow, rhp, Toronto, to a $2.5 million, one-year contract; re-signed Josh Johnson, rhp, to a $1 million, one-year contract; signed Wil Nieves, c, Philadelphia, to a minor league contract ($850,000); signed James Shields, rhp, Kansas City, to a $75 million, four-year contract.

SAN FRANCISCO (4) - Re-signed Sergio Romo, rhp, to a $15 million, two-year contract; re-signed Jake Peavy, rhp, to a $24 million, two-year contract; signed Nori Aoki, of, Kansas City, to a $4.7 million, one-year contract; re-signed Ryan Vogelsong, rhp, to a $4 million, one-year contract.

WASHINGTON (2) - Signed Max Scherzer, rhp, Detroit, to a $210 million, seven-year contract; signed Casey Janssen, rhp, Toronto, to a $5 million, one-year contract.

---

HIROSHIMA (1) - Signed Hiroki Kuroda, rhp, New York Yankees, to a 330 million yen ($2,737,00), one-year contract.

---

FUKUOKA (1) - Signed Daisuke Matsuzaka, rhp, New York Mets, to a 460 million yen, one-year contract ($3,844,000), one-year contract.

ORIX (1) - Signed Hiroyuki Nakajima, ss, Oakland, to a three-year contract (2015 salary 405 million yen ($3.384,000)).

---

LG TWINS (1) - Signed Jack Hannahan, 3b, Cincinnati, to a $1 million, one-year contract.

StarDust Bum
03-03-2015, 05:04 PM
Nats 2B Uggla again seeing ball well

March 2, 2015

VIERA, Fla. (AP) - Dan Uggla was actually relieved last year to hear a doctor tell him he was ''really messed up.''

That happened last August when Uggla visited Dr. Robert Donatelli in Las Vegas and discovered there was a way to correct the faulty vision that had plagued him since the 2012 season.

Now at 34, the three-time All-Star is in Washington's camp as a nonroster player, hoping to jump-start his career.

''The good thing for me is I don't have to worry about how are my eyes,'' he said. ''I can just go out and play and see what happens.''

From 2006-2013, Uggla was one of the most dangerous middle infielders in baseball, hitting 231 home runs during stints with Miami and Atlanta. But late in the 2012 season, the second baseman started having problems seeing the ball.

The trouble continued into the 2013 season, when he hit 22 home runs but batted just .179.

Then came 2014 when Uggla hit bottom. He had just two home runs and batted .149 with 46 strikeouts in 141 plate appearances with the Braves and the San Francisco Giants.

Though Uggla admitted he got into some bad habits, his biggest issue was being able to pick up the ball, especially on breaking pitches.

''I couldn't see the spin on the ball,'' he said. ''I would see it out of the hand, and then kind of lose it a little bit and then I'd pick it back up again. It just wasn't crisp like it normally was.''

Released by the Giants last Aug. 7, he went back to his home in Georgia to regroup. He never considered retirement.

Uggla's former Atlanta teammate, Marquis Grissom, helped put him in touch with Donatelli, who had previously worked to correct Grissom's own vision problems.

As it turned out, Uggla had 20-15 vision when his head was still, but 20-100 vision when his head was moving. It was caused by an inner ear imbalance, possibly the result of concussions. Uggla was hit in the head in 2012 while playing in Miami, and again in spring training of 2013 against the Yankees.

''I went out there hoping there would be something wrong that he could fix. He told me I was really messed up,'' he said. ''In my situation, I was happy to hear that.''

To correct the problem, Uggla went through a series of exercises, including jumping on a trampoline while blindfolded.

''There were tons of different exercises,'' he said. ''A lot of blindfolded stuff, a lot of tracking stuff with your eyes.''

Once Uggla's vision started improving, all he needed was a team that would give him a chance. He found it in Washington where he had a relationship with both general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Matt Williams from their days in Arizona, where Uggla was an 11th-round pick in 2001.

The NL East champion Nationals acquired Yunel Escobar from Oakland in the offseason to play second base. Washington also has Danny Espinosa, a better defensive player than Uggla.

Earlier this spring, Rizzo said Uggla would have to be the best second baseman in camp to make the roster. On Sunday, Williams said he has liked what he's seen from Uggla, but added, ''he's got to play well, like everybody else.''

That's fine with Uggla.

''I'm here for competition,'' he said. ''I'm here to see what happens and try to help this team any way I can. I'm excited about it. It reminds me of when I was a rookie, trying to win a job. It's going to be a fun spring training and whatever happens, happens.''

StarDust Bum
03-04-2015, 01:23 PM
MLB ( ALL OPINONS )


Wednesday, March 4

Game Score Status Pick Amount

Detroit - 1:05 PM ET Baltimore -121 500
Baltimore -

NY Mets - 1:05 PM ET Atlanta -127 500
Atlanta -

Philadelphia - 1:05 PM ET NY Yankees -128 500
NY Yankees -

Toronto - 1:05 PM ET Pittsburgh -128 500
Pittsburgh -

Chi. White Sox - 3:05 PM ET LA Dodgers -116 500
LA Dodgers -

Cincinnati - 3:05 PM ET Cleveland -121 500
Cleveland -

Kansas City - 3:05 PM ET Kansas City +107 500
Texas -

Oakland - 3:05 PM ET Oakland +103 500
San Francisco -

San Diego - 3:05 PM ET San Diego +108 500
Seattle -

Arizona - 3:10 PM ET Colorado -115 500
Colorado -

StarDust Bum
03-05-2015, 01:57 AM
MLB

Thursday, March 5

Game Score Status Pick Amount

Atlanta - 1:05 PM ET Atlanta +111 500
Detroit -

NY Yankees - 1:05 PM ET Pittsburgh -127 500
Pittsburgh -

Philadelphia - 1:05 PM ET Houston -125 500
Houston -

St. Louis - 1:05 PM ET St. Louis +114 500
Miami -

Cleveland - 3:05 PM ET Cleveland +107 500
Cincinnati -

LA Dodgers - 3:05 PM ET Chi. White Sox -120 500
Chi. White Sox -

Milwaukee - 3:05 PM ET LA Angels -121 500
LA Angels -

San Diego - 3:05 PM ET San Diego +105 500
Seattle -

Texas - 3:05 PM ET Kansas City -126 500
Kansas City -

Colorado - 3:10 PM ET Colorado +110 500
Arizona -

NY Mets - 5:05 PM ET Washington -127 500
Washington -

Boston - 7:05 PM ET Boston -102 500
Minnesota -

StarDust Bum
03-05-2015, 11:32 AM
American League East preview: Plenty of value in competitive division <br />
<br />
The American League East is projected to feature one of the tightest division races in baseball in 2015. No fewer than four...

StarDust Bum
03-13-2015, 11:53 AM
National League West betting preview: Can the Dodgers get it done?

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorites in the National League West despite the defending World Series champs, the San Francisco Giants, and an improved San Diego Padres team in the mix. Is this the season the Dodgers' talent-rich roster finally figures it out and lives up to expectations?

Arizona Diamondbacks (2014: 64-98, -3160 Units, 74-82-6 O/U)

Division odds:
Season win total: 72.5

Why bet the Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt is a real good hitter and Mark Trumbo can be one as well. Addison Reed has put together back-to-back solid seasons at closer. They have a decent bench filled with veterans who can help mentor the younger players.

Why not bet the Diamondbacks: Their rotation lacks an ace and is filled with mediocre starters. Josh Collmenter pitched well last year, but his awkward motion has now been seen repeatedly by everyone in the division. Rubby De La Rosa and Jeremy Hellickson come over from the American League and will now have to pitch in a very hitter friendly ballpark.

Season win total pick: Under 72.5 wins

Colorado Rockies (2014: 66-96, -2790 Units, 79-70-13 O/U)

Division odds:
Season win total: 71.5

Why bet the Rockies: The lineup returns pretty much intact and if Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon can stay healthy, the Rockies will roll offensively. Justin Morneau and Nolan Arenado are solid pieces as well. The rotation has talent at the top with Jhoulys Chacin and lefty Jorge De La Rosa who pitches especially well at Coors Field.

Why not bet the Rockies: LaTroy Hawkins is at closer and might regress after just three blown saves last season. The rest of the rotation is questionable with Tyler Matzek, Jordan Lyles, Eddie Butler and others vying for positions. Carlos Gonzalez is injury prone and missed 92 games last year. The team needs to put up better offensive numbers away from home.

Season win total pick: Over 71.5 wins

Los Angeles Dodgers (2014: 94-68, +1005 Units, 83-70-9 O/U)

Division odds:
Season win total: 92.5

Why bet the Dodgers: They feature the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, and he's backed by an incredible staff. Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu are very nice complementary pieces. They added Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick to an already strong offensive lineup. Relief pitcher Kenley Jansen converted 44 of his 49 save opportunities last year and the bullpen is filled with live arms.

Why not bet the Dodgers: Yasiel Puig hit only five home runs in his last 132 games and his attitude could be an issue, especially if he or the team hits a rough patch this year. Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson vie for the back end of the pitching rotation and neither inspires much confidence. The catcher position needs an upgrade between AJ Ellis and Yasmani Grandal.

Season win total pick: Over 92.5 wins

San Diego Padres (2014, 77-85, -905 Units, 61-95-6 O/U)

Division odds:
Season win total: 84.5

Why bet the Padres: San Diego opened up the check book and added James Shields to a strong pitching rotation which already has fireballers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Ian Kennedy and Brandon Morrow are solid starters as well. The offensive lineup got an infusion of talent with Wil Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. Joaquin Benoit and solid middle relievers make up one of the best bullpens in the league.

Why not bet the Padres: San Diego's bench is weak and is comprised of several players that struggled last season. Wil Myers and Yonder Alonso are injury prone and have consistently missed games during their careers. The Padres appear improved this season, but they still need to prove it on the field where San Diego has won 77 games or less in six of their past seven seasons.

Season win total pick: Under 84.5 wins

San Francisco Giants (2014: 88-74, +802 Units, 76-76-10 O/U)

Division odds:
Season win total: 83.5

Why bet the Giants: They are the defending World Series champions and they have a solid pitching rotation with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy and more. The bullpen is back intact and is one of the best in the league. The offensive lineup has Hunter Pence and Buster Posey in the middle and both are coming off very good seasons.

Why not bet the Giants: Age is becoming an issue with four regular pitchers at least 35 years or older. The team needs more offensive punch to help Pence and Posey in the lineup. The team missed the playoffs following their other two recent World Series titles, so a regression is possible this year.

Season win total pick: Over 83.5

StarDust Bum
03-16-2015, 03:17 PM
American League Central preview: White Sox join the party for division title

Detroit Tigers (2014: 90-72, -380 units, 84-72-2 O/U)

Division odds: 9/4
Season win total: 84.5

Why bet the Tigers: Their lineup is just as imposing as ever. Even if there are a couple of holes, as long as Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are around to anchor the order, it will put up big numbers. I strong believe the Tigers won the deal that sent Rick Porcello to the Red Sox in exchange for slugger Yoenis Cespedes.

Why not bet the Tigers: Will their pitching staff hold up its end of the bargain? Losing Max Scherzer hurts. Their bullpen will likely face a heavy workload and isn’t exactly dripping with talented arms. There’s going to be an awful lot of pressure on the offense to produce, which it will, but getting involved in slugfest after slugfest could be a recipe for disaster.

Season win total pick: Under 84.5


Chicago White Sox (73-89, -148 units, 80-75-7 O/U)

Division odds: 9/4
Season win total: 81.5

Why bet the White Sox: The White Sox didn’t sit idle in the offseason, acquiring the likes of Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche to add to a lineup that appears poised to bust out in 2015. Of course, it’s Chicago’s starting rotation that shows the most promise. Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija make up as good of a 1-2 punch as you’ll find in baseball. The emergence of Jose Quintana last year makes the future that much brighter.

Why not bet the White Sox: The secret is already out. Most bettors are anticipating major progress from the White Sox this season. If they’re able to get off to a strong start, the value could be quickly sucked out of the equation. The back-end of Chicago’s rotation is a question mark and the reality is, Sale, Samardzija and Quintana aren’t going to win every start.

Season win total pick: Under 81.5


Cleveland Indians (85-77, +126 units, 76-83-3 O/U)

Division odds: 12/5
Season win total: 84.5

Why bet the Indians: The young core that led the Tribe’s resurgence in 2014 remains intact entering the new campaign. If last year’s numbers hold up and Brandon Moss is able to make an immediate impact, Cleveland should be in contention all season long. The Indians batting order is sneaky-good from top-to-bottom and this is a team that could fly beneath the radar of most bettors’ once again providing substantial value.

Why not bet the Indians: We have to anticipate at least some regression from last year’s breakout performers such as Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes. The same goes for surprise A.L. Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. How much regression we see (if any at all) will determine how far the Tribe can go and whether they’re worth laying your hard-earned money on.

Season win total pick: Over 84.5


Minnesota Twins (70-92, -654 units, 87-69-6 O/U)

Division odds: 18/1
Season win total: 71.5

Why bet the Twins: It would be easy for the opposition to overlook the Twins every time they take the field. Most have Minnesota pegged as one of the A.L.’s worst teams in 2015 but there’s no dominant team in the Central and that could help the Twinkies exceed expectations. They did make small upgrades in a number of areas during the offseason and it won’t take much to improve on last year’s results.

Why not bet the Twins: The offense will be inconsistent while the young pitching staff needs a lot more seasoning before it can start progressing. There are still considerable growing pains to endure in Minnesota, even after a campaign that saw the Twins fail in struggle in virtually every department. Patience may pay off for Twins fans, but for bettors, this team can only be considered a spot play.

Season win total pick: Over 71.5


Kansas City Royals (89-73, +317 units, 73-81-8)

Division odds: 9/2
Season win total: 80.5

Why bet the Royals: They did win the A.L. Pennant last year and return plenty of talent from that club. Everyone is expecting regression from Kansas City in 2015, as you can tell by the below .500 season win total most books are dangling. That could potentially open up serious value backing what remains a quality team in a manageable division.

Why not bet the Royals: There were a number of changes made in the offseason and few of them figure to improve the Royals net results. There was a lot of luck involved in last year’s run to the World Series. How will this club, which isn’t exactly used to success, respond to being the hunted rather than the hunters? One thing’s for sure, the departure of James Shields leaves a gaping hole at the top of the starting rotation.

Season win total pick: Under 80.5

StarDust Bum
03-22-2015, 11:24 AM
American League West preview: Can Astros compete? <br />
<br />
Oakland Athletics (88-74, -16.14 units, 77-76-9 O/U) <br />
<br />
Odds to win division: +454 <br />
Season win total: 81.5 <br />
<br />
Why bet the Athletics: It's easy to...

StarDust Bum
03-22-2015, 11:25 AM
National League Central preview: Cards favored in most balanced division

Chicago Cubs (2014: 73-89, -450 units, 82-72-7 O/U)

Division odds: 11/4
Season win total: 83

Why bet the Cubs: There is momentum surrounding Chicago after a solid offseason. Jon Lester heads up an improving rotation with Jake Arrieta who was a surprise last year. Hector Rondon had a 0.62 ERA in the second half of last season. Anthony Rizzo has found his stroke and he will be solid in the middle of this offensive lineup.

Why not bet the Cubs: The rest of the rotation is weak with Travis Wood, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks most likely filling things out. The majority of the bullpen is still hard to trust and the offensive lineup is extremely young. Javier Baez struck out 225 times last year in the majors and minors combined.

Season win total pick: Under 83 wins


Cincinnati Reds (2014: 76-86, -1050 units, 71-85-6 O/U)

Division odds: 15/1
Season win total: 77.5

Why bet the Reds: Johnny Cueto is an ace and he is the second best pitcher in the league after Clayton Kershaw. Cueto is backed by veteran starters Homer Bailey and Mike Leake. Aroldis Chapman can be a dominant pitcher as well. Joey Votto and Billy Hamilton make up a solid offensive lineup that can hit.

Why not bet the Reds: The majority of the bullpen is shaky with limited depth. The bench is young and lacking in talent. Can Jay Bruce bounce back from some career lows last year?

Season win total pick: Over 77.5 wins


Milwaukee Brewers (2014: 82-80, -721 units, 75-83-5 O/U)

Division odds: 12/1
Season win total: 78.5

Why bet the Brewers: Ryan Braun returns for another season and he appears to be 100 percent ready. The former MVP has the potential to be a dominant hitter in the middle of this lineup. Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Yovani Gallardo provide a strong top three in the pitching rotation. Wily Peralta and Mike Fiers have also shown flashes of brilliance during their young careers.

Why not bet the Brewers: The bullpen is shaky as Jonathan Broxton is untrustworthy and the pitchers behind him are very young with few quality options available. Aramis Ramirez is getting older and his effectiveness going forward is questionable. Health has been an issue with Adam Lind as well.

Season win total pick: Under 78.5 wins


Pittsburgh Pirates (2014: 88-74, +597 units, 74-79-9 O/U)

Division odds: 5/2
Season win total: 84.5

Why bet the Pirates: AJ Burnett is back with his former team and he joins Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and others in a solid pitching rotation. Andrew McCutchen continues to be one of the best hitters and overall players in the league. The bullpen is underrated as a unit and Mark Melancon had a fantastic 0.92 WHIP the past two seasons.

Why not bet the Pirates: The lineup is prone to struggle around McCutchen. Russell Martin was a big loss in the clubhouse and Francisco Cervelli is unlikely to replace him. There are new names in the bullpen that must compliment current veterans. Expectations are high in Pittsburgh this year, but the Pirates must still battle in the most balanced and competitive division in the league.

Season win total pick: Over 84.5 wins


St. Louis Cardinals (2014: 90-72, +207 units, 73-82-7 O/U)

Division odds: 6/5
Season win total: 87.5

Why bet the Cardinals: A veteran team that contains experienced players that have won in this division. The bench picked up Mark Reynolds who will be a productive role player. Jason Heyward plays good defense which improves the outfield. The pitching rotation is solid with strong starters and relievers.

Why not bet the Cardinals: Adam Wainwright's health has been an issue in the past and he missed some games last year. John Lackey is aging and he has pitched over 2,000 innings during his career. The Cardinals are favored to win this division, but all four teams behind them are capable of winning as well. This is the deepest and most balanced division in the league.

Season win total pick: Over 87.5 wins

StarDust Bum
03-27-2015, 01:15 AM
AL West Betting Preview

March 26, 2015


AL East AL Central AL West
Projected Order of Finish

Seattle Mariners - Predicted Record: 93-69

When the Mariners made their huge splash last offseason in nabbing Robinson Cano, most people weren’t sure if that was the piece that would catapult them into relevancy again. After all, they were owners of four consecutive losing seasons.

Well, as it turned out, Cano, along with a fabulous starting pitching staff, ended up being the proper equation in Seattle, as not only did the Mariners record their first winning season since 2009, but they also just narrowly missed out on the playoffs, surviving until the final day of the regular season. And there’s a good chance they’ll build off of that considering their latest monumental signing this past winter.

Not content with their offense, Seattle lured in premium slugger Nelson Cruz, the top power hitter on the market, to be their new cleanup man, giving Seattle’s its best homerun hitter arguably since the Ken Griffey Jr. days. They also added Seth Smith, who is solid at the plate. Combining those two with what’s already in place should provide the Mariners with more than enough run support. Aside from Cano, the M’s also have to be excited about Kyle Seager, who broke out in a big way last season, so much so that he was rewarded with his first career berth on the All Star team. In addition, Mike Zunino established himself as dependable power source, and if he can just improve his average, he’ll be one of baseball’s best offensive catchers. You can’t forget about Austin Jackson also, as he’s one of the most underrated leadoff men in the game.

As improved as the offense may be, it still may not even be the main strength of this Mariners ballclub. That’s because there’s a truly superb rotation in Seattle, and it’s only going to get better as their youngsters continue to progress. Everyone already knows about “The King” Felix Hernandez, and most are aware by now of Hisashi Iwakuma, but it’s actually the guys in place beyond them that might ignite a potential playoff push. For instance, in his first full season in the bigs, James Paxton (A top-three sleeper of this author last year, remember) was simply marvelous, and in fact, posted the third-lowest ERA in Major League history for a starter in the first 14 starts of his career! It’s scary he might not even be the best pitching prospect the Mariners have, a title that might belong to Taijuan Walker, the dominant prospect who figures to get a lot of work in this season. And don’t forget about sophomore Roenis Elias, who was very impressive as a rookie. Seattle also signed the underrated J.A. Happ, a terrific option to have for the back-end. With Fernando Rodney closing games still, this is a pretty complete team, and thus, one that will be a serious contender in ’15.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Predicted Record: 87-75

A lot more times than not, when you finish with the best record in baseball during the regular season, that indicates you’re about to make at least some sort of run in the playoffs. That was certainly not the case for the Angels a year ago, as they finished with the best record at 98-64, but floundered very abruptly in the Divisional Series, getting swept by the Royals in a very lackluster performance despite being decisive favorites in that series.

Even so, it’s likely that the Angels will be one of the top AL contenders throughout the upcoming campaign. For starters, they have the best player in baseball today, Mike Trout, who collected his first MVP award last season, which might actually end up being the first of several for the 23-year-old. Former MVP Albert Pujols still resides in this lineup as well, and while he’s not “The Machine” that he used to be, he’s still a really tremendous hitter that anyone would love to have. Josh Hamilton is another player with an MVP accolade on his resume, and while he’s shown signs of decline, Hambone is someone still capable of raking, if he stays on the field. That can be a big “if”, however. With a decent supporting cast consisting of David Freese, Kole Calhoun, and newcomer Matt Joyce, the Angels should have their usual ample amount of runs.

On the pitching side, Anaheim isn’t as much a sure thing, as their two veteran starters, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, were beginning to show their older age a bit in 2014. At the same time, they’re generally two reliable innings-eaters that stay healthy and can be counted on for mostly quality pitching. In any case, the outlook of the Angels’ starting pitching may mostly lean on budding star Garrett Richards, who broke out in a big way last year before enduring a season-ending injury in August. Prior to that, he was enjoying a Cy Young-caliber season. Matt Shoemaker also surprised people as a rookie, albeit in a lesser fashion than Richards, but he’s someone that came out of nowhere and proved he can be dependable every time he toes the rubber. It’s too bad Tyler Skaggs is out for the year due to Tommy John surgery, otherwise this might be a pretty complete rotation.

Interestingly, it was a trade involving their bullpen before last year’s trade deadline that really helped springboard the Angels into their very desirable position atop the league. Anaheim acquired terrific closer Huston Street from the Padres, a very critical move considering the inconsistency of their late-inning relievers, especially former closer Ernesto Frieri, but the arrival of Street changed all of that. With Joe Smith setting him up, and a fine group of middle relievers, the Angels boast a strong bullpen overall. Looking up and down this roster, there is some really standout talent, and combined with extra motivation after last year’s depressing ending, they absolutely will be a top contender.

Oakland Athletics - Predicted Record: 80-82

Alleged mastermind general manager Billy Beane gets a lot of credit for his pioneering tactics – and most likely, too much credit, considering he’s won a grand total of one playoff series in his 17 years on the job – but last year, his performance with the Athletics easily ranks up there as one of the most atrocious in history.

After all, Beane’s A’s were flying high, coasting through the rugged AL West and possessing one of the best records in baseball leading up to the trade deadline. Then, for whatever inexplicable reason, Beane decided to blow everything up, leading to a woeful collapse that culminated in a disastrous loss to the Royals in the AL Wild Card play-in game. Can they get back on their perch with a mostly new-look roster in 2015?

If there’s one thing Beane does right, it’s putting together a standout pitching staff, which he has done once again for the upcoming slate. Sonny Gray is the ace in Oakland with a future as bright as any other starter in the American League, while residing behind him in the No. 2 slot is Scott Kazmir, who is coming off another marvelous campaign since returning to the big leagues in 2013. Beyond them, though, is what could be most instrumental in determining the Athletics’ outlook. Jesse Hahn was acquired from the Padres in a trade after a very promising rookie season, while Drew Pomeranz was mostly excellent in 2014 before a freak injury cut his season short. Plus, let’s not forget about Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, two already-proven youngsters that are scheduled to return around midseason. The Athletics also own an outstanding bullpen, with Sean Doolittle as the closer and Ryan Cook and newcomer Tyler Clippard setting him up, making it a scary proposition if you fall behind this club after six innings.

Regarding their batting order, the A’s did even more refurnishing than with their pitching. Say goodbye to regulars Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, and Jed Lowrie, not to mention Yoenis Cespedes, their top power hitter who they curiously dealt at the deadline last season. But in the process, Oakland is welcoming a trio of quality bats in Billy Butler, Brett Lawrie, and Ben Zobrist, all of whom having accomplished success before. While Butler and Zobrist are the more trusted players to produce, Lawrie still has severely untapped potential because of seemingly annual injuries, so if he can stay healthy, that would make a significant difference. Meanwhile, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick are the two main returning stalwarts in this lineup. Overall, the A’s are pretty finely-rounded ballclub. The ceiling is high, and as long as Beane doesn’t botch it like last season, there’s a solid chance he collects his second career playoff series victory – and maybe more.

Texas Rangers - Predicted Record: 77-85

No team in baseball last year had more injuries than the Rangers, who were so decimated in 2014 that they actually set a Major League record for most players used in a single season -- a mark they actually accomplished with a full month left in the year. Not only that, they saw beloved longtime manager Ron Washington depart late in the year for personal reasons. It was just disastrous all around for Texas, who endured their worst season since 1985, but with most of their guys back healthy, there is potential to be one of the surprise teams of ’15 under new manager Jeff Banister.

In 2014, the Rangers were basically doomed early on, as their two big offseason acquisitions, Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, could never get out of first gear. Fielder managed to last only 42 games before needing to undergo season-ending neck surgery, while Choo was banged up all year and needed a season-ending surgery of his own later on. In addition, the Rangers also lost designated hitter Mitch Moreland for most of ‘14 due to an ankle operation. However, all three of those impact bats will be back healthy, and combined with mainstays Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus, there’s no reason this lineup can’t score in bunches again like the Rangers of old. It’s disappointing that top prospect Jurickson Profar will miss his second consecutive season, but his replacement at second base, Rougned Odor, proved last year that he’s capable of filling in serviceably.

As bad as their health was on the offensive side of the ball last year, it may have been even worse for their pitching staff. Derek Holland was injured before the campaign even began and missed all but the final month of the season. Yu Darvish was enjoying another terrific campaign until being shut down prematurely due to elbow inflammation. If that’s not enough, Martin Perez fell victim to Tommy John surgery early on, while Matt Harrison lasted all of four starts before his previous back injury flared up again. They’ve already received horrific news that Darvish will be out the entire season and beyond due to Tommy John, but at least they’ll have Holland from the beginning this time around, while Perez and Harrison should be back by the summer months. The Rangers also wisely traded for Yovani Gallardo, who has been one of the most stable pitchers in baseball over the past handful of years, but beyond them, the rotation is shaky.

The bullpen looks to be decent, as closer Neftali Feliz made a successful return last season from -- what else? -- Tommy John. At the end of the day, it all comes down to health. They already lost Darvish, but if the rest of the team can just stay on the field and contribute their normal output, the Rangers can definitely bounce back.

Houston Astros - Predicted Record: 75-87

It’s been a long, treacherous road of misery for Astros fans in recent years. There’s no other way to put it more bluntly. Prior to last season, Houston had etched together three consecutive 100-loss seasons – the first three such seasons in the 53-year history of the franchise! – but finally, it appears like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s because last year, the Astros accomplished their first 70-win season since 2010, and some might say they even looked better than their final record, as the club got out to a horrid start gravitating towards the bottom of the AL West very quickly. Instead of the usual ending, though, the Astros concluded the season with a very respectable second half, providing hope that this is indeed the year they can get back over .500.

When you look at Houston’s roster in its entirety, you’ll note that some of their youngsters have really come into their own as everyday Major League players. Jose Altuve, for one, has been an absolute machine at the plate, actually leading all of baseball in hits and batting average last season, despite being one of the smallest players in baseball. As unbelievable as he’s been, Altuve might not even be their best player, a title that should belong to highly-touted prospect George Springer sooner than later. In his first taste of big league action in 2014, Springer was dominating opposing pitching with ease, before an untimely injury limited him to just 78 games as a rookie. So, that’s two significant pieces to build off of, and combined with their legitimate power threat Chris Carter, a former All Star behind the plate in Jason Castro, and established newcomers Evan Gattis, Jed Lowrie, and Colby Rasmus, Houston will easily have its most imposing lineup in years.

Meanwhile, the Astros’ starting pitching doesn’t look nearly as promising on paper, but it still might be enough to aid them in being competitive all year long. Scott Feldman is still the ace of the staff, and while most don’t view him as that type of pitcher, the fact remains that he’s put up more-than-decent numbers throughout his tenure in Houston. Their two brightest pitchers, however, are probably Dallas Keuchel and Colin McHugh, both of whom emerged out of nowhere last year in a big way and flourished. Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock have also demonstrated the ability that they can enjoy similar break-outs. The key, however, might exist within the Astros’ bullpen, which has been mostly dreadful over the past few years. For 2015, though, they finally addressed it, adding hard-throwing Luke Gregerson to be the new closer, and Pat Neshek to join Chad Qualls as the club’s primary set-up men. Believe it or not, the Astros are finally on their way back up, and while most people might believe they’re still a year away from being serious contenders, they’ll definitely challenge for .500.

StarDust Bum
03-27-2015, 01:16 AM
AL Central Betting Preview

March 26, 2015


AL East AL Central AL West
Projected Order of Finish

Detroit Tigers - Predicted Record: 88-74

Owners of four straight division titles, the Tigers figure to be the favorite to come out of the AL Central once again, but it won’t be easy, especially since it was the rival Royals -- the team they staved off at the end of last season to secure the division -- who prevailed with the American League pennant in 2014.

Even so, Detroit boasts their usual strong roster on both sides of the ball and will certainly be motivated after how last year anticlimactically came to an end when they were swept by Baltimore in the ALDS. At the same time, they also made some notable changes that could largely determine how far they go.

Looking at the Tigers’ pitching staff, there’s instantly one glaring omission: Max Scherzer, who won an AL Cy Young for Detroit in 2013, is gone. He’s moved on to the Nationals after being a free agent, but the club is confident that David Price, whom they acquired at the trade deadline last season, can take over as the new ace. Just as imperative is how former ace Justin Verlander will perform after a disappointing campaign, and in the bigger picture, he just hasn’t been the same pitcher the past couple of years. Another regular no longer on this pitching staff is Rick Porcello, but the club thinks free agent signee Alfredo Simon can provide the same numbers, if not better, after his breakout 2014. The wild card in all this might be Anibal Sanchez, who did miss considerable time last year, but when he was on the mound, he mostly looked like his normal self.

Offense has always been a strength for the Tigers, and not just because they have the guy who has long been considered the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera. They oversaw a remarkable breakout from Victor Martinez, who put up MVP-caliber numbers last season. Victor wasn’t the only Martinez to break out within this vaunted Tigers lineup, as J.D. Martinez also exploded out of nowhere in cementing his status as legitimate power source. As scary as it sounds, their lineup may be even better this year with the addition of Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes, whom they acquired from Boston in the Porcello deal. Oh, and of course you can’t forget about Ian Kinsler, one of the better leadoff men in the game.

Detroit’s bullpen isn’t particularly strong, as closer Joe Nathan showed signs of a decline. They did pick up Joakim Soria, though, as insurance, and also feature Bruce Rondon, who has potential to close at some point down the road. As usual, the Tigers look built to make another postseason push, but with their division foes mostly improved, it won’t be as easy as in years’ past.

Chicago White Sox - Predicted Record: 85-77

Although they have not made the playoffs since 2008, the White Sox are gearing up for what has the makings of being a very promising season. While they’ve only recorded two winning seasons over that span, the talent that Chicago has put together absolutely has them in the conversation to win the AL Central as early as this season.

When you’re analyzing a roster, the first thing you glance at is the team’s main foundation, and in that regard, the White Sox appear like they can go toe-to-toe with anyone. One of the main supporting reasons for that has everything to do with their reigning AL Rookie of the Year winner, Jose Abreu, who took the league by storm last year in amassing one of the most eye-opening freshman campaigns in recent memory. It’s obvious that he can continue to be one of the best sluggers in baseball if he just stays on his path, giving the White Sox a lot of hope as far as fielding an offense that can put crooked numbers on the scoreboard on any given night.

It’s not just Abreu, though, as Chicago will probably be more than satisfied with their investments in free agents Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera this past offseason. Furthermore, Adam Eaton and Alexei Ramirez have developed soundly into above-average everyday players, with potential to keep on growing, while Avisail Garcia is someone that could end up being a nice commodity in their outfield.

Another main piece of this club’s core exists within their starting pitching staff, that of course being ace Chris Sale, who has been nothing short of fabulous since joining the rotation a few years ago. At the same time, he’s proven to be one of the most consistently dominant starters in the American League. This year, he will now have free agent signee Jeff Samardzija right behind him, giving the White Sox a terrific 1-2 punch to lean on every five days. While the rest of their starting pitching could be better, it’s also not too bad, as Jose Quintana has established himself as a more-than-acceptable mid-rotation pitcher. The key, however, could be Chicago’s bullpen, which was horrendous a year ago in regularly blowing games. Luckily, their heavy offseason spending netted them a very reliable closer in David Robertson, who excelled last year in his first opportunity finishing games. As long as they can establish a bridge that is able to get him the ball consistently in the ninth, the White Sox will have everything they need to stay afloat, and perhaps make their postseason return. The foundation is absolutely a desirable one.

Cleveland Indians - Predicted Record: 78-84

Since landing in Cleveland two years ago, manager Terry Francona has done a wonderful job in transforming the Indians back into a respectable franchise. Prior to his arrival, the Indians had endured five consecutive non-winning seasons, but the former Red Sox skipper has produced the complete opposite in his two campaigns since, including an unlikely postseason berth in ’13.

Nowadays, a trip to the playoffs isn’t so improbable, as the Indians sport a talented roster that should keep them competitive all year long. Usually, it’s the offense that typically does the heavy lifting for the Tribe, but in 2015, it could be the starting pitching who paces them to potential success. That’s because Cleveland’s rotation boasts the presence of last year’s AL Cy Young Corey Kluber, who, despite being one of the most surprising winners in the history of the award, has suddenly solidified himself as a top strikeout artist who can win in bunches.

The Indians will hope Kluber can maintain his awesome pitching, but for this team to go anywhere, they’re going to need the rest of this young rotation to live up to their high potential. For instance, Carlos Carrasco has flashed signs of greatness, including for an extensive stretch in the second half of last year, so if he’s able to pick up where he left off, Cleveland will have a very nice No. 2 hurler on their staff. Danny Salazar is another strong example of a youngster who has displayed incredible potential, flirting with ace-like status since coming up two years ago, and if he can just provide consistency, he has the tools to be a really dominant starter. Trevor Bauer is another notable example of someone who oozes promise.

Offensively, Cleveland looks like they have a lot of punch. Michael Brantley, for one, enjoyed an MVP-caliber campaign out of nowhere a year ago and appears to be a good bet to continue his accelerated progression as one of the AL’s most dynamic outfielders. The Indians gave him some quality company in the outfield with the addition of slugger Brandon Moss, while Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes are coming off years in which they registered career-highs in homeruns and runs batted in. Although Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis greatly disappointed last season, they were all limited by injury, and as long as they can stay healthy, this will be a lineup that features a very high ceiling.

Cleveland has a solid bullpen, just as they usually do, and it will be interesting to see how the emerging Cody Allen does in his first full year as the closer. If he contributes anything similar to his 2014 showing, the Indians will gladly take it. And if that’s the case, combined with nice balance on both sides of the ball, Francona might be bringing his team back into the playoffs.

Minnesota Twins - Predicted Record: 75-87

Despite a fourth consecutive losing season, and their third appearance in the AL Central basement over that span, 2014 may have actually been a bit of an encouraging year for the Twins. After all, they did reach 70 wins for the first time since 2010, while overseeing the emergence of several key youngsters that could end up being very influential as their future takes shape.

When the season opens up, Minnesota will be doing so under a new manager for the first time in 14 years, as the club fired Ron Gardenhire. They’ll now be under the leadership of first-time manager and former Twins great Paul Molitor, who will have quite the challenge in bringing this club back up to respectability.

While a 70-win campaign is certainly undesirable for any team, it was still important in evaluating the significant pieces for the Twins’ future and providing them with important experience. For instance, Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas were two rookies last year who displayed a lot of promise and could end up being valuable cogs in the Minnesota lineup for an extended time. Furthermore, Brian Dozier continued his evolution as a potential upper echelon Major League second baseman, while Oswaldo Arcia proved in his second season that he can be a legitimate home run threat every time he’s in the lineup. However, if the Twins want to make some serious noise offensively, they’re going to need former AL MVP Joe Mauer to stay healthy and hit like he used to. Interestingly, the Twins also brought back veteran Torii Hunter into the fold.

Believe it or not, Minnesota’s pitching actually may have a lot of potential, consisting of a fairly high ceiling. Phil Hughes is the one who stuck out most from last year’s group after a terrific showing in his first season in Minnesota, and will look to build off that. To join him atop the rotation, the Twins signed Ervin Santana, who has been very steady the past several years. Behind them, it’s Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Gibson, and Tommy Milone, three guys that have all had success in the recent past. Gibson is especially intriguing, having shown flashes of being an ace-caliber pitcher, considering the number of dominant outings he’s racked up. If he can put it all together, he’s a serious upper-rotation starter.

The Twins’ bullpen isn’t really filled with depth but it does have one of the better closers in the league over the past couple of years, Glen Perkins. As long as they get it to him, they’re in nice shape. While Minnesota is being pegged by most people to finish in last once again, the potential to surprise is certainly there, and they are definitely closer to being a winning franchise again. Maybe this is the year the transformation begins.

Kansas City Royals - Predicted Record: 74-88

After one of the most improbable runs to the World Series last season, what will the Royals do for an encore? Baseball fans are still in shock over what transpired a year ago, as Kansas City not only got hot late in the campaign to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985, but they also relentlessly mowed through the competition from there on out, sweeping the Angels and Orioles on their way to the Fall Classic. Unfortunately, their Cinderella story did not feature a fairytale ending, as they ultimately fell in seven games to the eventual world champion Giants.

Even so, Kansas City received a significant jolt like no other, with legitimate hope that their team can become a regular contender on a yearly basis. Their pitching would certainly attest to that, as despite losing ace James Shields through free agency, youngster Yordano Ventura proved last year he’s capable of assuming that role leading the staff. Furthermore, Danny Duffy also looked terrific and proved he can be a dependable cog in the Royals’ rotation if he manages to stay healthy, which was a big issue for the left-hander in prior years. Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie stepped up last year, and if both veterans can continue along with that similar output, Kansas City will be in tremendous shape. The x-factors on this staff, however, could be free agent acquisitions Edinson Volquez and Kris Medlen. Volquez was solid again last year, while Medlen is currently hurt, but has the potential to make a considerable impact upon his return later in the campaign.

As good as their starting pitching was last season, the Royals’ mains strength undoubtedly was their bullpen, which has been the case for a few years now. Greg Holland further established himself as one of the elite closers in baseball, while Wade Davis was the No. 1 set-up man in the game in 2014. Kelvin Herrera and Jason Frasor are also nice arms to have when trying to hand a lead to your closer, and as scary as it sounds, this unit might be even better when Luke Hochevar returns from injury.

The Royals’ lineup isn’t as intimidating, but they consistently came up with timely hitting, and might be even better in ’15. Despite losing Billy Butler, the Royals believe they have a garnered a similar replacement in the form of Kendrys Morales. In addition, they also signed Alex Rios, who can still be useful on both offense and defense. Combined with usual mainstays Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and Lorenzo Cain, the Royals can still hold their own offensively. Plus, if Mike Moustakas could maintain any sort of consistency, KC will have an upper echelon third baseman on their hands. Overall, this is a group similar to last year, and thus, they’ll make a hard-fought effort in defending their AL pennant.

StarDust Bum
03-27-2015, 01:18 AM
AL East Betting Preview

March 26, 2015

Projected Order of Finish

New York Yankees - Predicted Record: 91-71

First it was Mariano Rivera in 2013. Then it was “The Captain” Derek Jeter last year. In each of the last two seasons, the Yankees -- and the entire baseball world, really -- have bid an emotional goodbye to two all-time greats that will always live through the annals of baseball history.

Ironically, those two seasons were the first time since the early-90’s in which the Yankees missed the playoffs in back-to-back campaigns. Now, without two of their treasured heroes, they’ll be seeking a return to postseason glory, something actually very much possible as they usher in a new era of Yankee Baseball.

While some people might argue that the past two years have involved major distractions to deal with, not to mention the hoopla surrounding the controversial Alex Rodriguez, the fact remains that this is a team that was severely hampered by injuries in each season. On offense, the Yankees were without the services of Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, two of their big free agent signings going into last year, for quite awhile, but both will be healthy at the start. Mark Teixeira also missed considerable time, and the club didn’t have A-Rod for the entire season because of his suspension. However, all of those guys are now available, and combined with the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, this can still be a dangerous offense to contend with. Meanwhile, the Yankees will attempt to replace Jeter with Didi Gregorious, and while no one is expecting him to fill his shoes, there is potential in the former Diamondbacks shortstop.

The Yankees were also injury-ravaged on the pitching front as well. In fact, they only had one starter record more than 20 starts last year, that being Hiroki Kuroda, and he’s since departed to Japan. Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Ivan Nova all missed significant portions of the 2014 season, but the first three now have a clean bill of health entering the new campaign, while Nova will return around midseason. In the meantime, the Yankees acquired the intriguing Nathan Eovaldi to take his place, and that’s someone who has displayed enormous potential in the recent past, being one of the hardest throwers in baseball. The key, however, will rely on two things: One, if Tanaka returns to the dominant form he was in last year, the Yankees have themselves a legitimate ace. And two, Sabathia, their former ace, needs to at least be a quality innings-eater again. The bullpen looks sound, with the additions of Andrew Miller, David Carpenter, and Justin Wilson looking like an enticing trio in getting the ball to new closer Dellin Betances. Overall, though, it boils down to health: If they can avoid the injury bug, this looks like a playoff-bound roster.

Toronto Blue Jays - Predicted Record: 86-76

Nobody in any sport wants to own the longest playoff drought at any point in time. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, that’s exactly the predicament they find themselves in entering the new campaign, having not advanced to the postseason since their memorable World Series triumph in 1993.

Some people might argue that aforementioned streak of futility would’ve ended last year, had Edwin Encarnacion not endured a lengthy injury that kept him off the field for more than a month. Around that time, the Blue Jays were actually in first place in the AL East, just as they had been in the prior months, and were firing on all cylinders. But once Encarnacion landed on the disabled list, their grasp on first evaporated and they ultimately never recovered.

Luckily, Toronto still sports much of the same roster and if they can keep their impact players on the field, there’s no question they’ll at least be competitive. Encarnacion is back, along with fellow bopper Jose Bautista to comprise one of the most potent pairs in the middle of any batting order. Jose Reyes returns, too, at the top of the lineup, and proved last year he’s still one of the best leadoff men around. The club also added two potentially key pieces in Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson. Considering how injury-prone former third baseman Brett Lawrie was, if Donaldson can avoid injury and provide his usual pop, that would be huge. Overall, the Blue Jays should continue being one of the higher-scoring teams in the AL.

Concerning their pitching, the Blue Jays already suffered a devastating blow when they lost brilliant youngster Marcus Stroman -- their ace of the future -- to a season-ending injury, but just might have enough depth to navigate through those tough lineups they have to face regularly within the division. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle are the two veteran arms that pace this rotation and are always a good bet to log 200-plus innings. Young Drew Hutchison, meanwhile, flourished in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery and will be heavily relied upon in order for the team to take the next step forward. The club also acquired Marco Estrada, who showed some consistency during his Milwaukee days, and prospects Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez both have potential to contribute right away. The bullpen no longer has Casey Janssen, but Brett Cecil can be more than serviceable if he’s the team’s new closer. Just like last season, the outlook of the Blue Jays will be tied to whether or not they can keep their top players healthy.

Baltimore Orioles - Predicted Record: 82-80

While “these O’s ain’t Royal” a year ago, that shouldn’t take away from the tremendous success the Orioles experienced in 2014, as they won the division crown and reached the ALCS, two feats they had not accomplished since 1997. Although they ultimately got swept by Kansas City, the foundation is firmly in place for the Orioles to make another serious run at an American League pennant under defending AL Manager of the Year Buck Showalter.

That’s why Baltimore barely made any changes this past offseason. They possess a relatively young roster that is dynamic and has already established its standing, and in fact, they’re actually getting two of their core players back after missing them for a combined 216 games last season.

Manny Machado is one of those names coming back after missing more than half of ’14, including the playoffs. He’ll reassume his position at the hot corner, contributing stellar defense and hitting in the process. The other is Matt Wieters, seeking to continue his reputation as of the most complete catchers in baseball. The Orioles, of course, also still boast their leader, Adam Jones, who has already developed into one of the best all-around outfielders in the league, and its top power source Chris Davis. The club absolutely needs Davis to pick his average up again, however. The one change Baltimore did make was let longtime Oriole Nick Markakis walk through free agency, and replaced him with Travis Snyder in the outfield.

Just like with their offense, Baltimore kept their pitching rotation the same after a really solid year collectively. The Orioles’ front four of Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Miguel Gonzalez all were very consistent throughout the 2014 campaign, en route to each finishing with a very nice statline overall. The fifth slot is still up in the air, as Showalter will choose between Ubaldo Jimenez and Kevin Gausman. Jimenez has mostly been in decline mode ever since, ironically, leaving Colorado, and struggled again for the O’s last year, while Gausman is a former top prospect and was actually beginning to harness his potential towards the tail-end of last season. If this group picks up where they left off, Baltimore would gladly take that.

Unsurprisingly, the Orioles also kept most of their bullpen intact, too. Zach Britton was very impressive when given the chance to close and will handle those responsibilities once again in 2015, and he’ll still have the likes of Tommy Hunter, Darren O’Day, and Brian Matusz setting him up in the ninth. The Orioles truly do have a nice foundation in place and it should lead them to continued success.

Boston Red Sox - Predicted Record: 78-74

It’s probably certain that no other team in professional sports the past handful of years has experienced a rollercoaster of ups-and-downs comparable to that endured by the Red Sox.

It began in 2011, also known as the season of beer and chicken in the clubhouse, when Boston went from being one of the best teams in baseball, to collapsing in historic fashion and not even qualifying for the postseason. The following year was a last-place finish, before winning it all in 2013. Then they returned to the AL East basement a season ago. Wait, what?

So does that mean the Red Sox are in for a major high again in the upcoming campaign? Based on their impactful activity in free agency, there’s a fine chance that does indeed occur. Boston collected two of the biggest prizes the offseason had to offer -- Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez -- in bolstering their lineup. They join the usual Red Sox mainstays, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, and combined with the returns of Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, this is more than a formidable lineup that should have no problem registering run support, which was actually an uncharacteristic issue for the club’s downfall last year.

Pitching, on the other hand, may be what holds the Red Sox back from playoff aspirations. While they did make some improvements, such as trading for established starters Rick Porcello and Wade Miley, those two are far from guarantees to put up favorable numbers. And they represent what might be best about this rotation. On the other end of the spectrum, the Red Sox are relying on Clay Buchholz to be one of the staff leaders after dropping off dramatically last season. Speaking of regressions, you can’t do it better than Justin Masterson, who went from being a legitimate upper-rotation starter in Cleveland as recent as a couple years ago, to being left off of St. Louis’ postseason roster in 2014 because he was so bad. And there’s also Joe Kelly, who has looked good at times, but is more of a complementary piece. Simply put, Boston’s starting pitching is not in great shape. At least they still have a quality bullpen, led by former ALCS MVP Koji Uehara closing games and standout set-up man Edward Mujica. However, what good is an effective relief core if you can’t get many leads to them? If the Red Sox can just get consistent pitching from their starters, they’ll be a major player again, but that’s quite a concerning “if” to worry about.

Tampa Bay Rays - Predicted Record: 71-91

Midway through last season, the Rays said goodbye to their most decorated player in franchise history, when they dealt away David Price. This past offseason, they bid farewell to beloved longtime manager Joe Maddon, who oversaw Tampa Bay’s emergence from perennial laughingstock to intriguing contender while guiding the club through the past nine seasons.

Yes, life begins anew in Tampa, as the organization will usher in a brand new era for Rays baseball in 2015. Kevin Cash, despite a lack of experience, was brought in to be the team’s new manager and will have quite the test in his debut campaign, as he’ll be tasked with keeping the Rays afloat in the unforgiving AL East.

When it comes to their pitching, Cash actually may have enough strong arms to compete with the behemoths of the American League. Even without Price, there are actually some guys here capable of stepping up and filling his shoes. Chris Archer is one of those names that sticks out after an impressive 2014, seemingly exhibiting all the tools to be an ace much sooner than later. The same could be said for Alex Cobb, who has been delightful for the Rays since coming up with them a few years ago. Furthermore, one of the players the Rays garnered for their former southpaw ace, Drew Smyly, pitched beautifully after coming over from Detroit and if he continues that this year, look out. Jake Odorizzi also flashed some promise a year ago, and you certainly can’t forget about Matt Moore, who will be back from Tommy John by midseason. Moore actually was once their ace of the future and could reassume that role upon his return.

While the Rays possess quality starting pitching, their lineup doesn’t really offer as much punch. Outside of usual mainstays Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings, there just isn’t much to be excited about. For instance, James Loney and Asdrubal Cabrera are being relied upon to be key cogs in this batting order, despite being past their prime. Newcomer Rene Rivera has never been a regular starting catcher. And outside of Jennings, the rest of the outfield is pretty much suspect. Nick Franklin does have intriguing potential, though. It’s a shame, too, because the pitching rotation has enormous potential, while the bullpen should be steady, too, with Jake McGee, Brad Boxberger, and Grant Balfour. But with an offense very much behind that of their division foes in the hard-hitting AL East, run production will be their undoing.