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Tag:Kyle Drabek
Posted on: March 3, 2012 8:43 pm
 

Spring primer: Toronto Blue Jays



By Matt Snyder

The 2011 Blue Jays were 81-81, despite blowing an AL-worst 25 saves. So the task heading into the offseason for general manager Alex Anthopolous was pretty clear: Improve the bullpen. And he did, in trading for Sergio Santos and signing Francisco Cordero, among other upgrades. If the Blue Jays can knock off 10-15 of those blown saves and basically play similarly in every other aspect, they'll have a great shot at one of the two wild card spots. And the good news for the Jays is that they appear a bit better in other aspects than last season, like getting a full season from Brett Lawrie, to name one example.

Major additions: RHP Sergio Santos, RHP Francisco Cordero, LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Jason Frasor, OF Ben Francisco, IF Omar Vizquel
Major departures: C Jose Molina, RHP Frank Francisco, RHP Jon Rauch

Probable lineup
1. Yunel Escobar, SS
2. Kelly Johnson, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Adam Lind, 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
7. Colby Rasmus, CF
8. Eric Thames, LF
9. J.P. Arencibia, C

Probable rotation
1. Ricky Romero
2. Brandon Morrow
3. Henderson Alvarez
4. Brett Cecil
5. Dustin McGowan

Kyle Drabek is also in the mix.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Sergio Santos
Set-up: Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen

Important bench players

OF Rajai Davis, OF Ben Francisco, OF Travis Snider, C Jeff Mathis, IF Omar Vizquel

Prospect to watch
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud, one of the players who came over in the Roy Halladay trade, just turned 23 years old and is considered a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. He hit .311/.371/.542 with 21 homers in 114 Double-A games last season. And while Arencibia hit 23 bombs last season, he also had a paltry .219 batting average and .282 on-base percentage. He struck out 133 times while only walking 36. So it's entirely possible he struggles mightily and is replaced by d'Arnaud at some point this season. Or maybe the Jays trade one of them? We'll see, but keep your eye on d'Arnaud's progress. Many believe he's special.

Fantasy sleeper: Henderson Alvarez
"Alvarez wasn't considered a high-profile prospect at this time last year, so understandably, his 10 starts during a late-season trial weren't enough to put him on most Fantasy owners' radars. But consider just how impressive those 10 starts were. Better yet, consider how impressive his final eight were. He pitched at least six innings in each, posting a 3.06 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He also issued only six walks during that stretch. Six. In 53 innings. And this isn't some soft-tosser who took the league by surprise simply by throwing strikes, a la Zach Duke in 2005. Alvarez throws in the mid-90s. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff to go along with a good feel for the strike zone and has already tasted success in the heavy-hitting AL East." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]

Fantasy bust: J.P. Arencibia
"Arencibia was one of five catchers to hit 20-plus homers last year, and he did it as a rookie. But before visions of Mike Piazza start dancing in your heads, keep in mind he was especially old for a rookie, turning 25 before the start of the season. He's 26 now, which means he's already in the thick of his prime, which means what you see with him might be exactly what you get. And it's even worse than it looks. Arencibia hit only .219 in 2011, which is discouraging enough, but when you consider he got worse over the course of the season, hitting .199 over the final four months, you have to wonder if his excessive strikeout rate makes him a sitting duck against major-league pitching." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]

Optimistic outlook
Morrow has a huge breakout campaign, giving the Jays a potent 1-2 punch in the rotation. Alvarez blossoms into a good No. 3 while Drabek realizes his potential and has a huge second half. Lawrie enters stardom early and Rasmus reaches his potential, making the offense even more potent than before. Plus, the new back-end of the bullpen is dominant. That gets the Blue Jays into the 90s in victories and they win a wild card.

Pessimistic outlook
The Jays just didn't do enough to close the gap, as they still aren't good enough to finish ahead of any of the following, at the very least: Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers or Angels. Instead, they're more on the same footing as the Royals and Indians. Thus, it's another fourth-place finish for the Blue Jays, who haven't made the playoffs since 1993.

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Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:59 am
 

Spring position battles: American League East



By Matt Snyder


Here we are for the fifth of six installments of spring positional battles. This one is the mighty AL East, the most polarizing and probably best division in the majors.

Previous spring position battles: AL West | NL West | AL Central | NL Central

New York Yankees
Designated Hitter: Andruw Jones vs. Russell Branyan vs. Free Agent vs. Revolving Door

I still feel like the Yankees will sign either Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez or Hideki Matsui -- any of whom likely nails down this job full-time. But it's undecided as of right now, and wide open. Will Andruw Jones or Russell Branyan hit well enough to justify being the full-time DH? Maybe, or maybe they platoon -- as Jones hits from the right side while Branyan is a lefty. Or maybe the Yankees use bench players like Eduardo Nunez, Bill Hall and Chris Dickerson in the field while using starters like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher at DH a few times a week in order to keep guys healthy and in tip-top shape.

Tampa Bay Rays
No. 4-5 starters: Jeff Niemann vs. Wade Davis vs. Matt Moore vs. Six-man rotation

Talk about a nice "problem" to have. The Rays obviously have David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson as the top three in the rotation. While there isn't a big problem with either Niemann or Davis, it's time to find a place in the rotation for Moore and I'm certain they will. The 22-year-old left-hander was awesome in his limited time in the majors last year, including a stellar outing against the Rangers in Texas for Game 1 of the ALDS. Moore's already received the type of team-friendly contract Evan Longoria got when he was a rookie -- as Moore is signed through 2016 with club options running all the way through 2019. So the question is, do the Rays demote either Niemann or Davis to the bullpen or trade one of them? Niemann would be the trade candidate, as Davis also has a team-friendly contract with club options that take him through 2017. And I doubt this happens, but the Rays could always go with a six-man rotation. Seeing how this plays out will a big spring storyline.

Boston Red Sox
Shortstop: Nick Punto vs. Mike Aviles vs. Jose Iglesias

After trading both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie this offseason, the Red Sox are left with what appears to be Mike Aviles against Nick Punto at short. Punto had a good offensive campaign by his standards last season, when he hit .278 with a .388 on-base percentage. He only had six starts at shortstop, though, and his career numbers don't indicate he's worthy of an everyday gig at shortstop. Aviles also only started six games at short last season, and he only hit .255/.289/.409. He did hit well for the Red Sox, but it was a small 107 plate appearance sample. So the choice between Punto and Aviles is dubious defensively and neither is a good offensive option. Enter Iglesias, the dazzling defensive prospect. He's a dreadful hitter -- his line in Triple-A was .235/.285/.269 last season -- but it's not like Aviles or Punto are going to be confused with Troy Tulowitzki or anything. Maybe the Red Sox just plant Iglesias in the nine-hole and enjoy the exceptional defense?

Corner Outfield spots: Cody Ross vs. Ryan Sweeney vs. Carl Crawford and his health

Crawford is said to be questionable for the start of the season after undergoing minor wrist surgery a few weeks ago. If he's healthy, he starts in left easily while Sweeney and Ross battle it out for the right field job. If Crawford can't start the season, Ross and Sweeney are the corner outfielders, yet still fighting for the right field job for when Crawford returns. At some point, Ryan Kalish will return from offseason shoulder surgery and could eventually fight for playing time in right field as well.

Toronto Blue Jays
Outfield logjam: Colby Rasmus vs. Eric Thames vs. Rajai Davis vs. Travis Snider

We know who mans right field, but these four guys are competing for the other two spots. Thames in left field and Rasmus in center seem the most likely, but Davis will get a shot at either spot and Snider is in the mix for left.

No. 5 starter: Dustin McGowan vs. Kyle Drabek

This may bleed up into the No. 4 starter as well, but I'll give Brett Cecil the nod for now, since he is left-handed. The top three are Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez. So, for now, I'll guess the last spot comes down to McGowan and Drabek. McGowan was once a very promising young arm. He went 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 169 2/3 innings back in 2007, when he was 25. He then made 19 starts before falling injured in 2008 and finally just resurfaced late last season -- two shoulder surgeries and one knee surgery later. Does he have anything left? He was good in 12 minor-league starts in 2011, but had a 6.43 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in the small sample of 21 innings pitched for the Blue Jays. Drabek was a top 30 prospect each of the past two years, according to Baseball America, but he fell flat last season for the Jays. He had a 6.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP and more walks than strikeouts for the big-league club. Even worse, he was knocked around for Triple-A Las Vegas, to the tune of a 7.44 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 75 innings. Walks, again, were an issue with Drabek issuing 41 compared to 45 strikeouts. Prospects Deck McGuire and Drew Hutchison could also figure in the mix eventually, but this feels like Drabek vs. McGowan heading into March.

Baltimore Orioles
The entire pitching staff: Johnny Wholestaff vs. Joe Allstaff

So let's see ... the following pitchers might have a chance at the starting rotation: Zach Britton (very safe bet), Jason Hammel (safe bet), Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland, Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Alfredo Simon and Tommy Hunter. That's quite a mix of pitchers to sift through, but the job isn't overwith yet, because we have to look at the bullpen.

Three pitchers -- Jim Johnson, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg -- will compete for the closer job, with Troy Patton, Pedro Strop and Darren O'Day also being part of the bullpen mix. Of course, guys like Simon, Hunter and Bergesen will get a shot in the bullpen if they miss out on the rotation, too. There are more (Willie Eyre, Armando Galarraga, etc.), but I already named 17 pitchers vying for 12 spots.

We could probably move Simon and Hunter to the bullpen while eliminating Eveland from the starting mix, but that still leaves eight guys in competition. In the bullpen, Johnson seems the best bet to win the closer gig, with Lindstrom and Gregg setting up. Add Strop, Patton, Simon and Hunter and you have your seven. But, again, we've thrown out Eveland and there would still be three extra starters along with O'Day, Eyre et al on the outside looking in.

I'll say one thing: Orioles manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair won't be bored this spring. Maybe frustrated, but definitely not bored.

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 7:36 pm
 

Matt Garza still drawing plenty of interest

Matt Garza

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Teams still looking for a front-line starter have apparently focused in on one guy -- Cubs pitcher Matt Garza.

The 28-year-old right-hander is available as new Cubs brass focuses on rebuilding long term, while Garza's attractive not only because he went 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA for the Cubs last season, but also because he's arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons.

According to several reports, the Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays are interested in Garza. The American League East teams are particularly interested, because Garza has braved baseball's best division as a member of the Rays.

The newest name out there available for the Cubs is Toronto right-hander Kyle Drabek, Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune writes. Drabek was the main piece the Phillies sent to Toronto in exchange for Roy Halladay. Drabek, 24, was 4-5 with a 6.06 in 18 games and 14 starts for the Blue Jays in 2011.

CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reported the Blue Jays and Yankees have the type of pieces the Cubs are coveting for Garza. Word is the asking price for Garza is quite high, which would match what has been given up for the likes of Gio Gonzalez, Mat Latos and Trevor Cahill, although those three are under team control for longer than Garza.

The Cubs, though, don't have to act now. They can hold onto Garza and wait until a team gets more desperate during the season. It would, however, be a bit of a surprise if Garza is still a Cub in August.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: December 9, 2011 9:19 am
 

Homegrown Team: Philadelphia Phillies



By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

The Phillies recently doled out $50 million to Jonathan Papelbon and last year gave Cliff Lee $120 million -- make no mistake, the Phillies are a large-market club using its money to lure top free agents. They've also sent prospects to get Roy Halladay in recent years, so there's been enough talent in the system to lure other teams into making big trades. This team knows what it wants and goes and get it -- by any means necessary. In this exercise, that's not possible. The Phillies, in this hypothetical, aren't the prohibitive favorite they were for the majority of 2011, but they're hardly the Cubs.

Lineup

1. Michael Bourn, CF
2. Jimmy Rollins, SS
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Scott Rolen, 3B
6. Marlon Byrd, LF
7. Domonic Brown, RF
8. Carlos Ruiz, C

Starting Rotation

1. Cole Hamels
2. Gavin Floyd
3. Vance Worley
4. Randy Wolf
5. Brett Myers

Bullpen

Closer - Ryan Madson
Set up - Antonio Bastardo, Alfredo Simon, Brad Ziegler, Michael Stutes, Kyle Kendrick
Long - J.A. Happ

Notable Bench Players

Nick Punto can play a ton of positions, but, well... There's also Pat Burrell and Jason Jaramillo, which may not be deepest bench.

What's Good?

The lineup -- when healthy -- is still pretty darn good. The rotation, while not exactly the historic rotation that the Phillies rolled out in 2011, is nothing to sneeze at and the bullpen is deep and talented. There's a bit to like here in all aspects of the game.

What's Not?

The health question, and age, are huge here. Utley, while still a very good player when he's on the field, he's had a multitude of injuries. Rolen played in just 65 games last season (for the Reds). Brown has yet to establish himself as an everyday player, but he is talented. And then there's the bench, which has Punto to play every position, but not much else. 

Comparison to real 2011

This team may be in the wild card race, but there's no way it finishes 102-60.  That said, there's a chance it could compete for the NL East title (even though I do love the Braves chances in this exercise). The starting pitching isn't as good, but the bullpen has enough arms to keep things close. There's also so depth that's not listed on this roster in guys like Kyle Drabek, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Outman that aren't going to wow you, but certainly help depth-wise and could play a role as a spot starter or in the bullpen in the course of a long season. The Phillies may buy some players, but they've also developed enough to stay competitive.

Next: Chicago White Sox

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:27 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:00 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Toronto Blue Jays

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Toronto Blue Jays
Record: 81-81, 4th place in AL East, 16 games back
Manager: John Farrell
Best hitter: Jose Bautista -- .302/.447/.608, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 105 R
Best pitcher: Ricky Romero -- 15-11, 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 178 K, 225 IP

2011 SEASON RECAP

The Jays played .500 ball pretty much throughout the season. By month, they were one game under .500, two over, three under, four over, two under and two under, respectively. That's the very definition of an average baseball team, but there are mitigating factors. Namely, the Jays are playing in the best division in baseball, trailing the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. If you removed those three teams from the schedule, the Jays went 60-48. So you can argue this is already a very good baseball team caught in the wrong division. Of course, they aren't going to be getting out of the AL East anytime soon, so there's no use in thinking about what could be.

R.I.P. series
The good news is that the 2011 Jays saw lots of reasons for optimism moving forward. The young nucleus is really strong and has the potential to get even better with lots of good talent sitting in the minors. J.P. Arencibia proved a solid catcher and Brett Lawrie is a future star. Meanwhile, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Adam Lind, Yunel Escobar and Eric Thames, among others, are all 28 years old or younger. At 30, Jose Bautista still has several years of his prime left -- and 2011 was huge for the Blue Jays as they discovered 2010 wasn't a fluke for Bautista. He's a legitimate superstar and the face of the franchise, until Lawrie surpasses him in a few years.

2012 AUDIT

They're actually set up to have a legitimate shot at the division. The Yankees are aging and have pitching questions, the Rays have monetary issues, the Orioles aren't close yet and who knows what happens with the Red Sox? The Blue Jays will need steps forward from young players like Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil and either Colby Rasmus or Travis Snider. They also need to shore up the bullpen. The Blue Jays were ninth in the AL in bullpen ERA. Saves and blown saves are flawed stats, but 33 saves against 25 blown saves doesn't bode well in close games. Only the Astros had a worse save percentage in 2011. I'm not necessarily of the opinion that a team has to have one closer and always use him in save situations, because sometimes a three-run lead in the ninth doesn't need maximum protection, but each team should have one reliable guy to shut down the opposition and Toronto lacked that for most of the season.

The good news for the Blue Jays is that they are in position to increase the payroll, reportedly pretty significantly, in the next two seasons. That doesn't mean it's all happening now, but a big splash is coming.

FREE AGENTS

Jose Molina, C
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B/DH ($3.5 million club option)
Shawn Camp, RP
Frank Francisco, RP
Jon Rauch, RP ($3.75 million club option)

OFFSEASON FOCUS
  • It's folly to spend big money on late-inning relievers for the most part. Mariano Rivera is a rare case. Most closers have a short shelf life. Thus, let Casey Janssen be the guy. He had a good season (2.26 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.6 K/9) in 2011 and it's possible he sticks. In front of him, though, the Blue Jays need more. Jesse Litsch has the chance to develop into a good setup man and Joel Carreno showed great promise. If the Blue Jays still see a need to dip outside the organization here, Michael Wuertz and Chad Qualls could work if their respective options aren't picked up. Juan Cruz wasn't great in 2011, but he has good enough stuff to be an option as well. Maybe sign one veteran and plug the rest of the holes from within. It wouldn't be shocking to see the Blue Jays a major player for someone like Heath Bell, it just seems like their money would be best spent elsewhere (we'll get to that).
  • Keep an eye on Adeiny Hechavarria. The 22-year-old shortstop hit .389/.431/.537 in 25 Triple-A games in 2011 after promotion. Whenever he's ready, Yunel Escobar could be traded for more bullpen depth. 
  • By the same token, keep an eye on Travis D'Arnaud. The catching prospect hit .311 with 21 home runs and a .914 OPS in Double-A this season. The Blue Jays need to decide if they want Arencibia or d'Arnaud and eventually trade the other.
  • There's no need to make a big splash with starting pitching just yet. Romero is a clear ace, albeit an underrated one. Morrow is firmly planted in the rotation and Drabek will improve. The rotation can be filled out behind the three for now with some combination of Cecil, Henderson Alvarez and Dustin McGowan. Waiting in the wings are promising prospects Deck McGuire, Drew Hutchinson and Nestor Molina. With the starting pitching free agent class this season a bit underwhelming, the Jays can hold off another year before focusing on how to shore up the rotation -- and by then, maybe everyone pans out and they don't need to. But if they do, next season's free agent class could include the likes of Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and James Shields.
  • Let Encarnacion walk, go with Lind at DH and pursue Prince Fielder. I've said a lot of teams should pursue Fielder in these R.I.P.s, and that's because a lot of teams should pursue him. The Prince sweepstakes are wide open, as there are no real favorites. The Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and Dodgers are likely out for various reasons. And who knows the Cubs' direction. That leaves the possibility open for teams like the Orioles, Nationals and Blue Jays to make a serious run. Can you imagine this Blue Jays offense with Bautista, Fielder and Lawrie together for the foreseeable future? The Blue Jays are really close to seriously competing in the AL East. They are a sleeping giant with tons of young talent on the rise and are ready to start spending some money. This signing would announce their presence with authority to the rest of baseball and take a huge step toward bringing a World Series title back to Canada.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: June 22, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: June 22, 2011 11:34 am
 

Pepper: No rule change needed at 1B

By C. Trent Rosecrans

BASEBALL TODAY: There may not be a more interesting division in baseball than the American League Central. While the surprising Indians lead the Tigers by a game, the White Sox and Twins linger. Can the Twins, now just 6 1/2 games out, continue to get themselves in contention? Will Jake Peavy be able to stay in the White Sox's rotation? NESN.com's Tony Lee joins our own Lauren Shehadi to discuss.

RULE CHANGE NEEDED?: And just yesterday, I was going to make a sarcastic joke that I was surprised I hadn't heard Giants fans complain about safety at first base after the Albert Pujols injury.

For weeks after Buster Posey's injury we heard long discussions about changing the rules for plays at the plate and how the catcher had to be protected. Scott Cousins was vilified and scapegoated. Well, Wilson Betemit was taken off the hook when Cardinals manager Tony La Russa put all the blame on the shoulders of rookie Pete Kozma, even though in both cases the injured player deserves much of the blame for being in a  poor position (and I'm not saying either deserved to be hurt, just that they put themselves in a bad spot and got hurt -- it happens).

Anyway, the New York Times is the first (and only that I've seen) to start up the change-the-rules-at-first-base bandwagon. My response? In a word: no.

LUDWICK ON THE MOVE?: Ryan Ludwick was moved last July from one contender to another -- from St. Louis to San Diego (in a three-team trade that brought Jake Westbrook to St. Louis); he could be on the move again.

The Phillies, Marlins and Reds have all reportedly asked about Ludwick's availability. Ludwick is hitting .255/.322/.393 with a team-high nine home runs this season, but is hitting .279/.324/.419 away from Petco Park.

The Padres could also move some of their relievers, with the Phillies and Cardinals having already checked in on the availability of Chad Qualls and Heath Bell.[FoxSports.com]

SHIPPING HANLEY?: Are the Marlins better off without Hanley Ramirez? Ramirez is in the third year of a six-year, $70 million contract that pays him $46.5 million over the next three years and does not include a no-trade clause. [Palm Beach Post]

MADDON APOLOGIZES: Joe Maddon didn't intentionally pull the wool over the eyes of umpires Monday by not having Sam Fuld face a batter after warming up in the eighth inning, it's just that Bob Davidson was behind the plate, and he didn't know the rule any better than Maddon did. Maddon apologized to the umpires and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. [Tampa Tribune]

FAUSTO FLOUNDERING: One Ohio team has already demoted its opening-day starter to the minors, and the other team may soon be sending its opening-day starter to the bullpen if he doesn't get it together. Cleveland's Fausto Carmona is 4-9 with a 6.17 ERA in 16 starts this season and is 1-6 with a 9.73 ERA over his last seven starts. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

ESCOBAR IMPROVING: Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar has seen his batting average rise nearly 50 points in the last two weeks, and his glove was already playing at a high level. Is the one big-league player the Royals got from the Zack Greinke trade beginning to show why the Royals thought he could be part of their next wave of talent? [Kansas City Star]

HEADED HOME?: The Hanshin Tigers are scouting Hideki Matsui and Kosuke Fukudome if either Japanese player decides to return to Japan after the season. Fukudome would be a better fit for the Tigers, who play in Japan's Central League. Like in MLB, NPB has one league with the DH (the Pacific League) and one without (the Central League). [YakyuBaka.com]

GREEN LIGHT: The Rangers' Craig Gentry is pretty fast. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

RESPECT: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sometimes goes out of his way to tweak the Cubs and Cubs fans, but not when he's talking about the other Chicago team's shortstop, Starlin Castro. Guillen calls Castro "amazing." Guillen gave some encouraging words to Castro after Monday's game, and that meant a lot to the young Cub. [Chicago Sun-Times]

TURNING 20: Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez celebrated the 20th anniversary of his big-league debut Monday. The 39-year-old Rodriguez has 13 Gold Gloves and an MVP since he came up as a 19-year-old with the Rangers. [MLB.com]

NICE PICK: With the Yankees in town, the Cincinnati Enquirer caught up with former Reds first-round pick Chad Mottola, who was taken with the pick before the Yankees took Derek Jeter. Mo Egger of ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati breaks down why Mottola wouldn't have played for the Reds even if they picked him. Hint, his name is Barry Larkin.

ARMS SALE: Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times looks at what the Mariners could get for Jason Vargas or Doug Fister, two guys who are having pretty decent years.

COMPELLING CAMPANA: A great story in The Tennessean about Cubs outfielder Tony Campana. As a kid in Franklin, Tenn., Campana battled Hodgkin's disease and couldn't play baseball, but was still in the dugout with his teammates, cheering them on. His coaches at the time didn't think he'd survive, much less be in the big leagues.

WORTHY CAUSE: There's a petition online to have Vin Scully call one more World Series. Scully hasn't called a World Series on TV since 1988 and is still one of the best. [Yahoo!'s Big League Stew]

CUTTER CUT: The Jays have told recently demoted Kyle Drabek to shelve his cutter for now. The team wanted him concentrating more on his fastball, but he kept going back to the cutter more than the team liked. The Jays hope he gains confidence in his fastball and lessens his reliance on the cutter. [National Post]

NO CHANGE IN POSTING: The posting system for Japanese players coming to the United States won't change, NPB Tracker passes along (since I can't read the original Sanspo report).

GOLDEN GROOMING: You may have missed the Golden Groomer Award, a monthly award given to the baseball player with the best facial hair. The last winner was Reds minor league catcher Corky Miller. [OMGReds.com]

LOGO FUN: Check out this really cool graphic of all the team's cap insignias since 1950 (including batting practice). Hat tip to the fine folks at the UniWatchBlog, which had a cool thing worth reading about spotting baseball fields from the sky.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: June 20, 2011 10:06 am
Edited on: June 20, 2011 4:01 pm
 

On Deck: How about a Zito-Soriano swap?


By C. Trent Rosecrans

BASEBALL TODAY: Is 80-year-old Jack McKeon the answer for the Marlins? MLB.com's Tom Boorstein joins Scott Braun to talk about the Fish, Albert Pujols and more. Click on the video above to hear about it all.

TRADE IDEA: There's an old saying that you don't trade players, you trade contracts. And there are hardly two contracts worse than those belonging to Giants lefty Barry Zito and Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano. Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News suggests those two swap teams -- well, because it wouldn't hurt. Barry Zito would help out the Cubs' awful pitching, while Soriano would help the Gints' offensive worries. Soriano is paid through 2014, while Zito can be bought out before that season. The Giants would end up paying $7.75 million more in the deal, but Soriano is probably that much more valuable than Zito for them, considering the team's pitching depth.

Sure, both players have full no-trade clauses, so there's that, but it could happen. Baggarly notes he's just spitballing and that he hasn't heard anything about this kind of trade -- but it makes some sense. It's not totally unheard of for the Cubs, who made the bad contract swap with the Mariners before the 2010 season sending Milton Bradley to Seattle for Carlos Silva. It's an interesting thought, that's for sure.

MANAGING THROUGH PAIN: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was rushed to a Phoenix hospital Sunday morning where he passed a kidney stone before returning to Chase Field about two hours before the team's 8-2 victory over the Diamondbacks. [Chicago Tribune]

SPEEDY GONZALEZ: Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez legged out a triple Sunday for his 1,000th career hit. It was actually his third triple of the season, two more than Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. "I was telling Jacoby I have more triples than you do. What's going on?" Gonzalez told reporters after the game (via WEEI.com). "He just said, 'Hey, you're faster than me.'" And a better hitter. 

CLEAN PLAYS: Giants fans are sure to disagree, but Yankees catcher Russell Martin said the play in which Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena bowled into him on Saturday clean, and so was the hit that ended the season of Giants catcher Buster Posey. Martin said it's only a dirty play if the catcher is standing in front of the plate and the runner goes out of his way to hit him, which wasn't the case for Posey and the Marlins' Scott Cousins. [MLB.com]

WEBB STRUGGLES: Rangers right-hander Brandon Webb gave up six hits and four runs in two-thirds of an inning at Double-A Frisco on Sunday.

GOOD NEWS FOR Astros: An MRI revealed no structural damage in the elbow of right fielder Hunter Pence, who has a sprain in his left elbow. He is listed as day-to-day, but manager Brad Mills said he is "questionable" for the Astros' upcoming series against the Rangers. [Houston Chronicle]

NATS PLANS UNCHANGED: You may not have noticed the Washington Nationals are one of baseball's hottest teams, winning eight in a row before Sunday's loss and are now just 4 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Wild Card standings. That doesn't change Mike Rizzo's plans for the future. The biggest decision may be whether to deal starter Jason Marquis at the deadline. If the Nats go into another funk before the end of July, they'll likely deal him. [Washington Post]

GOOD IDEA: Orioles reliever Chris Jakubauskas picked up his first big league hit on Sunday and with that came his first play at the plate when third base coach John Russell waved him home on J.J. Hardy's double in the fifth inning. He was out by a mile. "My main thing was don't fall down, because when I hit third my legs got Jello-ey," Jakubauskas told MASNSports.com.

Mets HEALING: David Wright played catch and took ground balls on his knees Sunday and is expected to ride an exercise bike on Monday as he rehabs from a stress fracture in his lower back. He's expected to have more news after an evaluation later this week. Meanwhile, lefty Johan Santana is still long-tossing and hopes to return to the mound later this week. [Star-Ledger and ESPNNewYork.com]

SMOKELESS Rays: Tampa Bay will be wearing the uniform of the Tampa Smokers on July 2 for their yearly Turn Back the Clock game, but when they released the pictures of the jersey, the team isn't staying true to the team's old logo. The Rays are omitting the cigar pictured on the original jersey, which is just a shame. We all know smoking is bad for you, but if you're not going to actually want to show a cigar, you probably should honor a team called the "Smokers." [JoeRaysFan.com]

THE YANKEE STRIPPER: Need a gift idea for the Yankee fan who has everything? Well, how about a photo of a showering Joe DiMaggio?

A photo from a postage shower us up for auction at Lelands.com if you're interested in that sort of thing. [San Francisco Chronicle]

FATHERLY ADVICE: When the Blue Jays demoted Kyle Drabek to Triple-A, he made a call to his dad for some advice. That's a pretty good idea when your dad has 155 career victories and a Cy Young Award on his mantle. [The Canadian Press]

HEFTY BILL: I'm not sure how aware most casual fans are of this unwritten rule of baseball, but when a big league star has a rehab appearance at the minor-league level, the tradition is the big leaguer buys the postgame meal for the team. Zito says his four rehab starts have cost him $4,500. Somehow, I think he can afford it. [San Francisco Chronicle]

ANOTHER GOOD BAUTISTA FEATURE: Last week Jeff Passan of Yahoo! wrote a great feature looking at the backstory of Jose Bautista. This weekend the Toronto Star's Vinay Menon wrote another good look at the guy who may be baseball's best player right now.

ANOTHER FATHER'S DAY STORY: Former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu tells the Toronto Star about his father and grandfather, who were in a Japanese-American internment camp in California during World War II.

HARPER RESTS: Bryce Harper sat out his second consecutive game on Sunday, as the Nationals determined he needed to rest more than play at this point. The Hagerstown Suns had been eliminated from winning the South Atlantic League first-half title, so they gave Harper some time off. Harper finished his first half of professional ball hitting .330/.429/.586 with 14 homers, 45 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 227 at-bats. He will certainly play at the South Atlantic League All-Star Game on Tuesday and may then be promoted to high-Class A Potomac for the start of the second-half of the Carolina League season starting on Thursday. [Washington Post]

BAD TRAVEL DAY: Tacoma Rainers broadcaster Mike Curto has the details on the Triple-A team's rough travel day on Friday that saw the team get to the park at 6:45 p.m. for a game that was scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m.

DOES BASEBALL NEED TO BE CHANGED?: The Los Angeles Times asked various people -- including a filmmaker, an actor, an artist and a physics professor -- about how to improve the game. Some of the suggestions are benign, some ridiculous and few give easy answers. But it's an interesting read, anyway.

VENTURA PAIN-FREE: There have been few baseball injuries as grotesque as the one former White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura suffered in a spring training game against Boston in 1997, when Ventura ran slid into Red Sox catcher Bill Haselman and then Ventura held his leg up with a dangling ankle. Today, he's pain-free after an ankle transplant. [Los Angeles Times]

PINGLESS: If you watched any of the College World Series this weekend, you noticed the ping of aluminum bats has been replaced by more of a thud sound. That's because college baseball changed to bats that perform more like wood this season. The results have been dramatic. [New York Times]

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Posted on: June 14, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2011 3:47 pm
 

Toronto options Drabek, calls for Stewart

By Evan Brunell

DrabekApparently John Farrell read my article about how the Jays need to send Kyle Drabek to Triple-A after stubbornly saying Drabek would stay in the majors.

OK, maybe he didn't. But either way, Drabek is finally headed to Triple-A to work on his command and gain confidence after walking 48 and striking out 52 in 74 2/3 innings with an unsightly 5.70 ERA.

Replacing Drabek is Double-A right-hander Zach Stewart, who was acquired from the Reds two seasons ago in the Scott Rolen trade. A former reliever, Stewart had been converted to starter and will now make his major-league debut after posting a 4.39 ERA in 69 2/3 innings down on the farm. He showed improved command this season as compared to last year, but also saw his strikeout numbers dip, which doesn't help any. Working in his favor is a high batting average on balls in play and a low stranded-baserunner rate, pointing to improved pitching down the line.

The Jays are hoping Stewart can eventually be a solid starter in the rotation and if he replaces Drabek in the rotation, will pitch against his former team of the Reds this Saturday.

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