<
>
Insider

Ten spring sensations

4/3/2010

Ten players who had great spring trainings, in no particular order:

1. Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds: He was told Friday that he has made the Reds' season-opening rotation, and he will be the first player since Darren Dreifort in 1994 to pitch in the majors without touching the minor leagues.

2. Kyle Blanks, San Diego Padres: "He has basically shown everybody that he is going to be a good player in the big leagues," a rival GM said. Blanks improved his physical condition and is moving better, and has come in and hammered the ball -- 12 extra-base hits, with an OPS of more than 1.200.

3. C.J. Wilson, Texas Rangers: He pitched himself into a starting job with the team by not letting anybody get on base -- only 22 hits and walks combined over his 25 innings. He has never thrown more than 73.2 innings in any given season, so there will be questions lingering about whether he can do this over a full season. But a year ago, did anybody have Scott Feldman pegged as a Cy Young candidate?

4. Ricky Nolasco, Florida Marlins: His assignment to the minors in the middle of last season seems like a mere blip now, because scouts are extremely impressed with how he is pitching and how he is attacking the strike zone. He handed out exactly one walk in 25.1 innings this spring.

5. Michael Young, Texas Rangers: The Rangers might not have Ian Kinsler to start the season and they have other distractions as well, but Young is the Texas metronome; he has hit .426 this spring. The season is starting and he is ready to hit again.

6. Fausto Carmona, Cleveland Indians: The numbers speak for themselves: 26 innings, two walks, only 15 hits and four runs allowed, for a 1.38 ERA.

7. Tyler Colvin, Cubs: He wasn't even really in the conversation at the outset of spring training, but he played himself into consideration by hitting .468 in 77 at-bats. The number that probably concerns the Cubs: zero walks in spring training. But he's a left-handed hitter, and the Cubs need left-handed hitting. Because of the play of Colvin and others, the Cubs' regulars might not be regulars for long, Gordon Wittenmyer writes.

8. Sean Rodriguez, Rays: The second baseman, acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade with the Angels, walked into spring training and elbowed his way into a starting job with one of the best teams in baseball by hitting .460. Some rival evaluators do not think this is a fluke. "He is a good player," one American League East executive said this week.

9. Matt Garza, Rays: He worked on his command in the spring, Joe Smith writes, and appears to be poised to take his performance to the next level -- which Tampa Bay needs. The Red Sox have Jon Lester and Josh Beckett to anchor their rotation, and the Yankees have CC Sabathia; Garza has the ability to be that kind of pitcher.

10. Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves: You might have heard of him, and if you haven't, you will be hearing a whole lot about him over the next 15 years or so. His spring numbers to date: a .435 on-base percentage and a .316 batting average, with five extra-base hits.

The most incredible baseball-related story I've read in a long time

Mediators are brought in to resolve fantasy league disputes, Sarah Talalay writes.

Rockies problem

Jeff Francis has a sore arm and will start the season on the disabled list, Jim Armstrong writes. It's a body blow for Colorado.

The battle for jobs

1. Jon Rauch will open the season as the Twins' closer, Ron Gardenhire announced.

2. Mark Grudzielanek is back in the big leagues.

3. The Giants' roster is set, Henry Schulman writes. Buster Posey was sent to Triple-A, writes Andrew Baggarly.

4. Brandon Morrow won the No. 4 spot in the Jays' rotation.

5. The Nationals picked a No. 5 starter, sort of, Adam Kilgore writes.

6. The Mets will open the season with a first-base platoon, Andy Martino writes.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Scott Feldman got a contract extension, Anthony Andro writes.

2. Brendan Ryan likes hitting in the No. 2 spot.

3. The Royals bought a pitcher.

4. Julio Lugo expects to play, writes Jeff Zrebiec.

5. Victor Martinez continues to play out his contract situation.

6. Francisco Rodriguez is expected to rejoin the Mets on Sunday.

Dings and dents

1. Spoke with some scouts who think that if J.P. Howell does not bounce back from his shoulder problem and the Rays are in need of a reliever late in the season as they push for a playoff spot, they will have an internal solution. "It wouldn't surprise me if they moved David Price into the bullpen later in the year and called up [Jeremy] Hellickson," one evaluator said. "Price could give them a lot of what Howell gave them out of the bullpen, and Hellickson has a chance to be pretty good."

We'll see.

2. Jason LaRue says he's ready to go.

3. Luke Hochevar says he's OK after getting dinged.

4. Mike Aviles says he's ready to go.

5. Carlos Guillen says he's ready to go.

6. Ted Lilly will begin his minor league rehab assignment Friday.

7. Scott Cousins could get the call if Cody Ross isn't OK to start the season.

8. Brian Roberts is ready to go, writes Peter Schmuck.

9. The Yankees have a laundry list of injured guys, including Nick Johnson and Jorge Posada, Anthony McCarron writes.

One thing to remember about Johnson's history: Injuries initially classified as day-to-day have turned into something more serious. Of course Johnson is hurt, writes Joel Sherman.

Friday's games

1. Max Scherzer had a good outing. To me, he is a scale-tipper for the Tigers: If he's really good, they could win this division. If he doesn't pitch well, they'll have a hard time winning this division.

2. Brett Anderson was The Man, again, Scott Ostler writes.

3. The Giants' bats were cooled.

4. Clay Buchholz had a strong finish to his spring training, Brian MacPherson writes.

5. Cole Hamels got knocked around, Ray Parillo writes.

From The Mailbag

    Do you think Carlos Gonzalez will be a better leadoff [hitter] than Rajai Davis? Do you think the Rockies' lineup reminds you of a AL lineup? One more, do you think the Rockies can win 90-plus games?

    -- Vern

    Denver

Vern: Yes, I think Gonzalez will have a better season than Davis, who has had a rough spring. I picked the Rockies to win the World Series -- but, as noted above, the season is not starting well for them, with the injury to Jeff Francis.

Other stuff

• Some sad news about Miguel Cuellar, as Mike Klingaman writes. Cuellar's legacy won't be defined by his final days, writes George Diaz.

• The Rangers are hitting their stride as they depart Arizona, writes Jeff Wilson.

• The Twins played in Target Field for the first time, and they felt at home, writes La Velle Neal. The Twins can be proud of their park, writes Patrick Reusse. There was a lot of fresh air for fans. The players had a sense of wonder, writes Tom Powers.

Can't wait to see the place.

Manny Ramirez has been very business-like this spring, Dylan Hernandez writes.

• The Angels are hoping Brandon Wood provides some pop this season, writes Ben Bolch.

• Every year, Ron Cook expects the worst from the Pirates.

• Tom Gage is picking the Tigers to win the AL Central.

• Geoff Baker is picking the Mariners to finish in third place.

Brett Myers' feels like he's ready to meet a 200-inning challenge this season.

• Kevin Baxter picks the Mariners to win the division.

Aaron Hill and Adam Lind will lead the Jays, writes Mike Rutsey.

• Bob Elliott has the story of how Astros manager Brad Mills wound up in the diary of his mom.

• Young guys and old guys are fired up to make the Seattle roster, writes Larry LaRue.

Andruw Jones is better than a backup, writes Guy Curtright.

• The Padres will try to run this year.

Dan Haren is taking care of business, writes Nick Piecoro.

Carlos Gomez hopes to play a big role in the Brewers' offense.

• Dick Enberg is very excited to work the Padres' games this season.

Rob Johnson has had a long and painful journey back to the big leagues this year, writes Steve Kelley.

Marcus Giles pleaded guilty to a charge of assaulting his wife.

• Keri Hilson is going to sing the national anthem Sunday -- if she can remember the words, writes Mark Shanahan.

Alex Rodriguez says he didn't get performance-enhancing drugs from Canadian doctor Anthony Galea, writes Michael Schmidt.

And today will be better than yesterday.