- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Buster Posey was circumspect in talking with our Pedro Gomez on Friday, and sounded cautiously confident about how his ankle will respond as he returns to full-time catching duties. "There is never a good time for an
injury but since it happened in May, I will be ready for Opening Day," he said.
Posey is OK with watching replays of himself getting steamrolled by Scott Cousins, he said. "I have seen the video of the injury enough where it doesn't bother me. I saw Stephen Drew's injury and I cringe, but watching my injury doesn't bother me."
Both Drew and Posey are coming back from devastating ankle injuries, the kind that might have ended their careers if they had occurred at the time of spit-and-dirt medicine of the 1930s. But time seems to be on Posey's side, because his injury happened earlier in the 2011 season.
Drew was hurt two months after Posey, and it's very possible that he won't be ready at the outset of the season. Posey's position carries its own separate challenges and risks for a player coming back from the kind of leg injury that he suffered, but in some respects, Drew will face greater hurdles. He must break quickly on ground balls to be effective, and must get to the second-base bag deftly and get out of the way of oncoming runners. Doing agility drills and running in a straight line during his rehabilitation is one thing, but playing strong defense at shortstop -- which has been Drew's forte -- is something different altogether.
So the Diamondbacks intend to monitor him and make their assessments. They have John McDonald signed and ready to step in and provide superlative defense, and Willie Bloomquist showed that he, too, can play the position. But Arizona made the playoffs last year and its expectations are high, and it holds a mutual option on Drew for 2013, for $10 million. If the Diamondbacks determine, at any point, that Drew is not going to be an effective player this season, they could search for more permanent solutions than McDonald or Bloomquist in the open market.
Drew's comeback will be as closely monitored as those of Posey and Justin Morneau, and is as crucial to his team.
Posey's bat tops the list of concerns for the Giants, writes Henry Schulman.
• Major League Baseball is trying to draw more black players to college baseball with its endorsement of the Urban Invitational, writes David Barron.
• This is really, really dumb, and way too much effort to be politically correct: The gun is being dropped from the Colt .45s throwback jerseys the Astros will wear. I hope they change that decision.
Burnett to Pirates
• In the end, I think the Pirates will get the better part of the A.J. Burnett deal, because the Yankees are selling low on a talented pitcher whose time in New York had to come to an end. Scouts love the arm of Diego Moreno, with his average fastball of 96 mph, but there are questions about his maturity, and there's no telling whether Exicardo Cayones is going to sniff the big leagues. Burnett, on the other hand, will give the Pirates 200 innings a year, and it figures he will be much more effective as he shifts from facing the monster lineups of the AL East to pitching in the popgun NL Central.
And while Burnett essentially became persona non grata in New York because of his performance, my own feeling -- shared by many in the Yankees' organization -- is that he handled his situation professionally. He tried to get better, he worked to get better, he wanted to win, he was accountable, but it just didn't happen for him, and over time, his starts became a public hanging. His situation really isn't that much different than that of Carl Pavano, who didn't perform in New York but was always hurt when he said he was hurt, and then went on and threw well after leaving the Yankees.
The Pirates and Yankees finished weeks of haggling, writes Rob Biertempfel and Dejan Kovacevic.
By the way: The most active team in pursuit of Burnett in the last few days, other than the Pirates, was the Philadelphia Phillies. I'm assuming they would have had to move Joe Blanton's salary to make this happen, but it could have made sense for them, and I'd bet that Roy Halladay would have fully endorsed this kind of move after teaming with Burnett in Toronto. The acquisition of Burnett would have helped provide some cover for them in 2013 if they are unable to re-sign Cole Hamels, which is going to be a major challenge.
From Ben Keeperman of ESPN Stats & Info, everything you'd like to know about Burnett and his recent history:
• NEXT LEVEL: Burnett's undoing in New York may be due to his fastball. Opposing batters swung and missed at just 12.1 percent of Burnett's fastballs the past three seasons, compared to a 39.4 swing-and-miss percentage against his off-speed pitches.
• NEXT LEVEL: There have been 77 pitchers to throw 500 pitches at least 95 mph over the past three seasons. Of those pitchers, Burnett had the third-worst swing-and-miss percentage (behind only Alfredo Simon and Brandon League).
• Burnett has pitched at least 185 innings in each of the past four seasons, something only seven other AL pitchers have done. He should help a Pirates staff that in 2011 got just 923 1/3 IP from its starters, the second-fewest in MLB and fewest in the NL.
• Burnett struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings last year, which ranked 10th among AL qualified pitchers. He should help a Pirates rotation that last year had the worst strikeout rate in the majors (5.6).
• Burnett leaves New York as one of the worst pitchers ever to wear pinstripes. Among Yankees who threw at least 500 innings for the team, Burnett has the second-highest ERA (4.79), second-highest HR per 9 innings (1.25), second-most wild pitches (58), fifth-worst OPS allowed (.783) and eighth-worst WHIP (1.45).
• Using FanGraphs' WAR-Value tool, we can take a rough look at what sort of return on investment the Yankees received from Burnett:
2011 salary: $16.5M; 2011 value: $6.7M
2010 salary: $16.5M; 2011 value: $5.6M
2009 salary: $16.5M; 2011 value: $15.9M
Total salary: $49.5M; total value: $28.2M
• Why would the Pirates want Burnett, the guy who has posted ERAs north of 5.00 in each of the last two seasons? Burnett's underlying statistics suggest a pitcher with something left to give, as his Expected Fielding Independent Pitching was a very respectable 3.86 (56th in MLB, as opposed to his 92nd-ranked ERA).
• Burnett will be leaving a team that has not had a losing record since 1992 and joining a team that has not had a winning record since 1992. The Yankees' steak of 19 straight winning seasons is the second-longest in MLB history, while the Pirates' streak of 19 straight losing seasons is the longest in MLB history (and the longest in the history of the four major sports).
• Scott Kazmir threw for about 10 scouts in Houston on Friday. One of them clocked him at 86 mph consistently, touching 89 mph; another had him at 88-89 mph consistently, touching 91. Either way, it's improvement for Kazmir, who was throwing 84-85 mph last season with the Angels.
• Oakland has continued to have conversations with the Rangers about Koji Uehara, and with free-agent reliever Mike Gonzalez. Other teams perceive that the Rangers want to get out from under the $4 million they owe Uehara for this year. This would allow the Rangers to either sign Gonzalez, whom they like, or save the money for a pursuit of Roy Oswalt, as Evan Grant writes.
• Parking lots and renovations are key elements of the bidding for the Dodgers, writes Bill Shaikin.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. It's negotiation time for the Phillies and Cole Hamels, writes Jim Salisbury.
5. Ryan Braun's status is still unsettled.
8. The Orioles were encouraged by Zach Britton's throwing session, writes Eduardo Encina.
• Old friend Jay Schrieber looks back at the time of Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez for the Mets.
• The Blue Jays blew it with their TV deal, writes Bruce Dowbiggin.
• Bobby Valentine is ready to get to work, writes Scott Lauber.
• The Royals open camp, amid optimism.
• The Tigers are in a class by themselves in the AL Central, writes Paul Hoynes.
• Lakeland's storied history includes far more than baseball, writes Lynn Henning.
• Oakland's biggest question continues to be its stadium situation, writes Susan Slusser.
• Greg Walker is already having an impact on the Braves, writes Carroll Rogers.
• This year will begin an exciting new era for Washington baseball, writes Thomas Boswell.
• The Phillies have some instability in left field, writes Matt Gelb.
• Vanderbilt baseball lost its first game.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Buster Olney writes that Arizona's Stephen Drew might face an even tougher road back than Buster Posey, as it won't be easy for Drew to regain the agility necessary to be an effective defensive shortstop. Arizona will be keeping an eye on Drew's recovery.