Posted on: February 25, 2009 1:06 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2009 6:20 pm

Spring training opener

FORT LAUDERDALE -- The Orioles open the spring season against the Mets, Wednesday, Feb. 25. A few random observations:

-- Luis Castillo is leading off. Forget the talk the Mets will do that with him during the season, moving Jose B. Reyes to the third spot. It is ridiculous talk. Think about it: If you are the Mets -- a three-time choker down the stretch -- what story do you want the mass media to write on Day 1 of full-squad workouts? The choker story? Or one about one of the best leadoff men in baseball hitting third? A stroke of genius by Jerry Manuel. In fact, Lou Piniella did the same thing with the choking Cubs. Hey, welcome back to baseball, Cubbies. Oh, and by the way, Alfonso Soriano might hit third. It sure took the emphasis off the end of the previous season, right?

-- Brad Hennessey, former Giants starter/reliever, started for the Orioles. He is a candidate for the rotation and his veteran status gives him a chance. I would hardly touch him in deeper AL-only leagues, though.

-- There's the first pitch... strike one. Baseball season is under way.

... oh, and another weak groundout for No. 8 hitter Castillo.

-- Daniel Murphy, hitting No. 2, drew a walk. He has a well-documented, sound approach at the plate. He has sleeper written all over him. Look at his high Class A numbers and compare them to that of David Wright. Now, Murphy doesn't have superstar stature in the future, but there are signs of a possible hidden diamond in the rough.

-- Angel Pagan hit third. He singled. Remember that guy? He is one of the stars of last spring before a shoulder injury ended his season early. He looks much thicker, less built to run. It looks like he will need another great spring to make the team, but it is hard to see that happening. I wouldn't touch him even in deep NL-only leagues right now.

-- Ryan Freel led off against Mets reliever Sean Green -- acquired in the J.J. Putz deal. Freel is going to be a platoon outfielder and super utility man. It makes him intriguing in AL-only Rotisserie formats. Freel did his thing, beating out an infield hit. He stole second and scored on the next pitch on a single to center by Ty Wigginton. Freel and Wiggy are going to be two great bench players for the O's and deeper AL-only leagues this season. Freel can steal 20-plus bases for Rotisserie owners. Wiggy can hit 15-plus bombs. Both should get 400 at-bats, starting about half of the team's games.

-- Green left in the middle of the first with a blister problem. Lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano replaced him in the first and pitched the second.

-- There was a Fernando Martinez sighting. He was hitting ninth as the DH, dealing with a sore elbow from winter ball. He struck out with the bases loaded on a ball in the dirt by lefty Chris Waters. It's telling. F-Mart needs more of a Murphy approach at the plate, quit swinging at junk, and he needs to hit lefties better. He solves those two problems, he could be an impact player for the Mets and deeper Fantasy leagues by the end of 2009 at the age of 20.

-- Luis Castillo can't get out of his own way. He singled home two runs with the bases loaded, slashing one to right between second and first. He then proceded to get picked off first on the play as right fielder Luis Montanez hit the cutoff man.

-- OK, Pagan beat out and infield hit. He can still move, even though he looks thicker in his bottom half. Last year, he was a bit more wiry and sprinter-like. Strength helps, too, I guess.

-- Ryan Church, he of the multiple concussions, goosed one to center for a double, scoring Pagan. That ball was ripped. Church can really smoke it when he is healthy. Remember, he was one of the Mets MVPs before Yunel Escobar kneed him in the head, costing him much of the summer and ruining his breakthrough season. That swing drew a quick, loud crowd reaction as it soared over Adam Jones' head. That was a mean drive. Church just might be back. I will try to catch up with him later.

-- A day after saying he would "steal 30-40 bases, why not?" -- Jones stole a base in his first attempt in spring training. He made it without a throw. It takes more than athletic ability to steal bases. It takes timing and knowledge of the pitchers and catchers. Jones had the timing part down perfectly. We don't see his optimistic numbers, but 20 is apparently possible. Look at Nick Markakis' jump from Year 1 (2) to Year 2 (18). Jones could go from 10 to 20. If you add his added muscle and increased power potential, Jones is a big-time sleeper in all formats, especially Rotisserie leagues. Jones looked real good scoring from second on an RBI single to left.

-- Two sharp singles to left by Nick Evans. He is a nice consolation in NL-only leagues if you miss out on Murphy, but we think Evans begins the year in Triple-A. He should be up at some point and he has a chance to serve as the right-handed portion of a platoon with Church or Murphy.

-- Jones, by the way, said gold glove for him this year, taking one from Torii Hunter. He put his glove where his mouth is, diving for a bloop off Jose Valentin's bat. That was a nice play. Dangerous for Game 1 of spring training, but a nice play.

-- Fernando Martinez... hard single to right. Don't throw that 20-year-old fastballs. He can rip.

-- Oh, that Luis Castllo fellow... two-run double over the head of Luke Scott in left -- opposite field off the righty. That's four RBI. And that's why Mr. Scott will be the primary DH this season. He played that one like someone on my slow-pitch softball team. We give up doubles and triples like they are candy on Halloween.

The postgame quotebook:

Luis Castillo: "I've got to get off to a good start. I know they want me to get off to a good start."

Mets manager Jerry Manuel on Luis Castillo: "That is exactly what Luis needed. We talked about getting him off to a good start. That was appropriate for him."

Manuel on motivating Castillo and Ryan Church coming into spring: "I should challenge other folks, now, too. It is exactly what you wanted to see from them."

O's manager Dave Trembley on catalyst Ryan Freel's head-first style: "It will be hard to control Ryan Freel."

Ryan Church on his concussion issues: "There were no affects today and there haven't been (this spring)."


Posted on: August 4, 2008 10:13 am

Fast Eddie ...

Eddie Kunz is the hottest name in Fantasy right now.

The Mets' closer of the future could be the closer of the week, because Billy Wagner looks headed for the 15-day DL. Even if Wagner's elbow MRI comes out fine, the Mets seem inclined to get the struggling closer some rest.

Why would the Mets trust Kunz in such a large role immediately? Because no one in their bullpen can get an out right now. Aaron Heilman stinks. Duaner Sanchez can reach 90 mph and is meat. Joe Smith is in a funk. Pedro Feliciano and Scott Schoenweis are situational lefties. Carlos Muniz is just not ready.

Kunz throws in the mid-90s and is a supremely confident closer prospect. But look out, the Fantasy Week 19 Stockwatch on Monday night will list Kunz as a sell now -- as in get him and sell high immediately.


PS ... anyone know that weak 80s movie about fast cars that had Fast Eddie in it? Obscure reference, but I wonder if anyone else remembers that flick.

Posted on: July 28, 2008 10:12 am

Maine event Monday night

Going to the Marlins-Mets game tonight. Should be good drama, but also another chance to look at the pitcher I called a 20-game winner this spring, John Maine.

I might have sounded crazy predicting a five-victory jump for the third-year right-hander, but his stuff in spring training looked better than anyone these eyes saw. Far better than Johan Santana's. Santana really doesn't blow people away anymore.

Maine came out of the gate throwing 97 mph, but struggling a bit with his command. He is a streaky pitcher -- remember the first half of 2007 and his final start of that year? -- so perhaps he can be a horse down the stretch.

I have traded for him in many leagues. Ross Devonport got me on a deal June 1. Rick Ankiel and Justin Duchscherer for John Maine. I had OF and pitching depth and figured I would "upgrade" Duchscherer to Maine. Whoopsy!

Maine is my pick to be better here on out, obviously, but throwing in Ankiel was just too much. Devonport is stalking me in the Fantasy Magazine league from third place, while I am a 1/2-point out of first now. Without that deal, I might have been leading things.

Posted on: March 31, 2008 4:58 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2008 6:37 pm

Opening day blog II

MIAMI -- Johan Santana was perfect through three before giving up a two-run homer to Josh Willingham. Hanley Ramirez had walked to snap a perfect game and two outs later the Hammer ended the no-hit bid with a 369-foot shot to left.

Santana gave up 33 homers last year, only the recently retired Woody Williams (35) and Santana's Minnesota replacement, Livan Hernandez (34), gave up more.

The Mets have not had a no-hitter in their history. The Marlins have three: Al Leiter, A.J. Burnett and Anibal Sanchez. Two of those are former Mets.

-- The Mets got to Hendrickson in the fourth, scoring six runs. Beltran led off with his second double in two at-bats, Delgado followed with a walk and the aforementioned sparkplug Angel Pagan drove in the first run on a double down the left-field line. Manager Willie Randolph showed confidence in the Moises Alou fill-in, not asking him to bunt with first and second and no outs.

Ryan Church, a lefty was on deck, so perhaps he had less confidence in the fellow newbie Church. Church singled in Delgado for the game's second run. Jose Reyes drove in a run on a single and David Wright had a bases-clearing three-run double to make it 6-0.

-- Wright was Bill James' choice to be the No. 1 player he was start a team with. Hitting third in this lineup, Wright could be on the verge of 120 RBI and an MVP campaign. After his bad April a year ago, Wright was arguably the best player in baseball the final five months of the season. If you throw out A-Rod's hit April a year ago, Wright was the No. 1 player in Fantasy.

-- Marlins No. 5 starter, Ricky Nolasco, who won't pitch until that spot comes up in the rotation April 12, came on for Hendrickson in the sixth. He gave up a Reyes single with two outs but got out of the inning when Matt Treanor threw the MLB steals leader out. Reyes looked safe on the replay.

-- Wright hit a second double in the seventh and Mets fans in South Florida already have started the "M-V-P" chants. He was thrown out trying to steal third a few batters later.


Posted on: March 31, 2008 4:41 pm

Opening day blog

MIAMI -- Mark Hendrickson, perhaps one of the worst opening-day starters in baseball, strikes out Jose Reyes to start the season. Quite a difference between the Marlins, who I ranked No. 30 -- dead last -- in my presason power rankings, and the Mets, the preseason No. 1.

Hendrickson vs. Johan Santana was reason No. 1 of 100s.

It should be an entertaining game, regardless of Santana's debut. The Marlins are the team that eliminated the Mets on the final weekend and day of last season, beating up Tom Glavine and handing the division to the Phillies.

That day Hanley Ramirez said something to the effect of ... uh ... Forget the Mets. Let's kick their seat cushions. The Mets posted that on the clubhouse wall with a note: "Someone has to pay."

Perhaps they meant opening day 2008 with Johan Santana up.


Posted on: March 31, 2008 2:13 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2008 5:54 pm

Slinging it

MIAMI -- Usually my game visiting ends in spring training, but I will make a more concerted effort to avoid the TV watching at home and actually go see baseball live. Today it's Johan Santana's debut vs. the Mets.

In a related story, I have been turned on the wonder that is the Slingbox. I am now able to watch my home TV -- including DirecTV's Extra Innings -- on my laptop and, get this, my cell phone!

Ah the wonders of technology.

I highly recommend getting a Slingbox connected to your home TV if you have a router, high-speed internet connnection, a reliable laptop with wireless access and a 3G cell phone that works with the Slingbox Mobile technology.

Watching a ballgame on your cell phone is a surreal experience I have enjoyed over the weekend and will all season. (My cell phone is the BlackJack. See Slingbox's website for the other recommended Windows Mobile phones).


Posted on: March 28, 2008 1:38 pm
Edited on: March 28, 2008 3:12 pm

Farewell to the Fort? O's play Mets in finale

FORT LAUDERDALE -- This could be the last game for the Orioles here and not just for the year -- ever. With the Dodgers leaving Florida for the desert, Dodgertown figures to become O-town.

-- Daniel Cabrera vs. Orlando Hernandez. El Duque was supposed to have scrapped his high-leg kick, but in the windup it doesn't look any different. He does a quick slide-step from the stretch, though. And it looks he gets nothing on the ball in terms of velocity.

-- The Mets have most of their regulars here today, including Carlos Delgado who hasn't aged gracefully, Fantasy-wise. He has one of the biggest hitter weaknesses in baseball now -- the inside fastball. Bust him on the hands, which required surgery a couple of winters ago, and you can get him out. I wanted to see him turn on an inside pitch vs. the hard-throwing Cabrera. Late once and then went down swinging on a hard one inside. Ew. It was far too easy to get him out. That has to be scary for his Fantasy owners. Everyone knows Delgado's bat speed is down and he cannot get around on the inside heat. Watch that early this season to see if it comes around.

-- Brady Clark almost took off third-base coach Juan Samuel's head on a foul liner into the O's bench area. Then Cabrera buzzed Clark up and in on the next pitch. No correlation of events, but Mets fans have to still have a distaste in their mouths for the Mets deal to get Samuel back in the late '80s. The Mets gave up Lenny Dykstra and got a washed up ex-Phillie.

-- It will be interesting if El Duque decides to protect Triple-A outfielder Clark by buzzing an O's player. Getting hit by an 80 mph El Duque fastball is quite different than a 95 mph Cabrera offering.

-- OUCH! Reyes got one right in the back of the shoulder from Cabrera. This is going to get interesting.

-- Cabrera has no idea where it's going. That has to be discomforting in the batter's box.

-- Reyes got up and went to first. The Mets organization had its breath held for 45 seconds there. Reyes is the most valuable Met. Without him down the stretch last year -- September was his worst month in his career -- the Mets fizzled. Without Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran matter much less.

-- El Duque most certainly will have to plunk an Oriole now. They might wait until Nick Markakis comes up. You can buzz Clark, but popping Reyes in the back of the throwing arm was just uncalled for. If it wasn't the always wild Cabrera, you would figure that was clearly on purpose.

-- No HBP in a second scoreless inning of work by El Duque. He was aided by a nice-looking double play by Luis Castillo and Jose Reyes. The Mets are built real, real strong up the middle defensively. Reyes, Castillo, Schneider and Beltran could all win Gold Gloves. David Wright already won one last year at third, despite 20-plus errors. Mets pitchers are intriguing enough, but that is some defense and a pitchers park to back them. Schneider is also an elite game-caller, too, and pitching coach Rick Peterson and his .230 line/blind bullpen sessions approach is one of the best of the business.

-- Wright, who singled in the third but was erased by a Beltran DP grounder, came to the bench and sat down next to hitting coach Howard Johnson. The Mets' two best third basemen in franchise history shared their thoughts on hitting. Oh, to be a fly on their cap during that conversation.

-- Ryan Church, who was had an awful spring, lost control of the bat (two different bats, actually) on consecutive pitches from Cabrera. Those were painful souvenirs for the fans behind the O's first-base dugout. The bats wound up almost exactly the same spot. Church has pop but his bad spring has to be a concern for the Mets who gave up the immensely talent Lastings Milledge to get him and Schneider. Church will have a lot of pressure to at least perform on Milledge's level the next three years.

-- Adam Jones ripped a good-looking double to left off El Duque in the third. A streaky talent who could be a Fantasy star by the second half.

-- Wow, Reyes is amazing. He caught an overhead bloop, spun and fired to Castillo for a 6-4 DP on Jones. El Duque had second and third and no outs but that defense up the middle could have bailed him out again. Roberts slashed an opposite-field double to left to score a run.

-- Haha. I almost called that one. Markakis' first at-bat since the Reyes beaning, El Duque spun him around on an inside pitch. Could have been trying to nail him. Second pitch, same thing. He wound up leveling the count at 2-2. Markakis hit a potential three-run homer just foul. Had El Duque been able to throw more than low-80s, Markakis would have hit that one fair. El Duque is crafty. He got Markakis to pop out to center to end the inning.

-- Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose. He stole second with his trademark head first slide. He is hard on his body, but a bigger, stronger physique could help him stay healthy and strong through the whole year. Oh, and there goes Reyes again. Stole third without a throw. Amazin' Met.

-- Luke Scott has played left field like a DH this spring. Friday he dropped two easy fly balls. The second he didn't get an error on because he threw to third for a 7-5 force out. Scott drops flies and hasn't showed much of an arm. Good thing he has a nice OPS bat and 20-homer potential because he is playing like a Triple-A guy.

-- Cabrera had bases loaded and no outs and got another chance to work on his "damage control." He allowed just the one run on Scott's dropped fly. Reyes might not have tried to score on that short popup and Cabrera had a shot at getting out of it altogether.

-- El Duque's work is done after five effective innings. He scattered four hits and was aided by the two double plays. He looks ready to open the season as the Mets' No. 5 starter, albeit an unspectacular one you should not trust. He will be a five-inning pitcher to start the season. Manager Willie Randolph said the Mets will open the first week with a No. 5 starter, but I will wait until his speaks after the game before updating our Probable Pitchers report. El Duque working in Week 1 against the Braves means Pedro Martinez won't be a two-start pitcher now.

-- Mike Pelfrey, with the No. 5 starter's spot lost, came on in the sixth and walked Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora. Randolph had to come out of the dugout to talk to him. Bad news. Consider Pelfrey nothing more than a Triple-A starter at this point, albeit a promising one who could wind up getting starts for a top contender by year's end -- or whenever El Duque or Pedro Martinez need a DL stint.


Posted on: March 24, 2008 1:02 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2008 3:23 pm

Meet the Mets

FORT LAUDERDALE -- John Maine former struggling O's prospect vs. Adam Loewen current O's prospect looking to establish himself. The top three in the Mets lineup is opening day quality -- Jose B. Reyes, Luis Castillo and David Wright. Like always the O's have their No. 1 lineup going at home.

-- Jose Reyes and David Wright both look beefed up this spring. They are still growing. At their age, I guess I should not be surprised.

-- Castillo smacked a double to left center and then looked as if he hobbled into second. He really doesn't look like he is running that well. If you are counting on 20 steals from him at this point... forget it. He is coming off knee surgery, got a late start in camp and clearly doesn't look 100 percent. To top off his bad-kneed jaunt to second, he was picked off second on a Wright lineout to first.

Castillo was a guy who could be a 20-plus steals threat with the running Mets -- Willie Randolph is a manager from the 80s era that favored the steal -- but his legs have gotten old the past few years. And surgery looks like it didn't help any.

-- Reyes made a highlight-reel stab of a Brian Roberts grounder up the middle, spun and fired a pea to nail a speedy runner by three steps. That was impressive. Reyes has a cannon arm. He probably can throw in the mid-90s.

-- Maine blew away Nick Markakis to end a 1-2-3 first. Maine was a 15-game winner in his first full season. This year, 20 wins wouldn't be out of the question. Toss in 200 Ks, too. He could finish the year in the top 10 of Fantasy aces. Sign him up in the middle rounds.

-- OK, so Maine was outstanding all told today. A third-year starting pitcher who can compete on the level of anyone this season. He had 20-win stuff today, albeit against the lowly O's lineup.

-- Fernando Tatis walked past me before warming up. He is now no bigger than I. Hm. Strange. He used to be a lot bigger, I thought. He of the two grand slams in one innings -- poor Chan Ho Park. I guess we shouldn't feel bad for Park. The Rangers still paid him a bazillion dollars.

-- Ryan Church is here today. He of the 40-plus double in old RFK. He has always had a nice OPS bat and his doubles can become homers in Shea. He has always hit well there. He is a fairly big guy. Not as stocky/bulky as a David Wright... but his shoulders and stature are a bit bigger.

Church moves fairly well for a big guy ... better than what Castillo moved like on his double. But Church did ground into a DP in the second.

In the top of the third, Church sat down next to hitting coach Howard Johnson. They were having an inning-long conversation. HoJo is a good tutor for him. He knows a little bit about turning doubles into homers.


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