Sunday, February 21, 2010
Spring Training Blog: Feb. 21 PIRATES TO BE CAREFUL WITH MAHOLM (3:25 p.m. ET)
The Pittsburgh Pirates plan to be more careful with pitcher Paul Maholm this season.
Maholm went 8-9 with a 4.44 ERA last year, not what the Pirates expected from their ace.
But there were times, pitching coach Joe Kerrigan said, when Maholm insisted on taking his regular turn in the rotation despite a sore left knee and illness. Kerrigan went along, and Maholm paid the price with awful outings.
"This guy pitched with a whole bunch of injuries last year," Kerrigan said. "Some of it was our fault. There were a couple of times when we shouldn't have let him pitch with that knee."
"But he'll convince you -- he'll lie to you. He's a real good liar. We're going to have to be more forceful, I think, if we see that knee swell up a little bit. We've got to be smarter. We've got to be stubborn about it," he said.
-- The Associated PressPITCHING DEPTH A PLUS IN OAKLAND (2:52 p.m. ET)
The A's currently expect Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson to slot in as the top four starters in the rotation. That leaves Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Vin Mazzaro to compete for the fifth spot.
Cahill, one of Oakland's top prospects, posted a 10-13 record with a 4.63 ERA in 32 starts last season. The A's want him to work on his slider and improve his performance against left-handed hitters, who batted .286 against him with a .558 slugging percentage in 2009.
It's possible that one of the losers in the fifth starter derby will assume a long relief role, but manager Bob Geren isn't thinking that far ahead.
"Right now I'm just going to treat them all like starters and stretch them out and see how the next few weeks progress,'' Geren said.
-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.comLIRIANO'S SLIDER IS BACK? (2:47 p.m. ET)
In his first three seasons after Tommy John surgery, Minnesota Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano lost touch with his slider, once one of the most feared and unhittable pitches in the big leagues.
In his fourth offseason since the procedure, Liriano was finally able to rear back and let it fly. For the first time in a long time, the bite was in the slider and not in his elbow.
While pitching in winter ball in his native Dominican this offseason, Liriano started to feel like the All-Star power pitcher he was in 2006, not the wayward youngster of the past three seasons who looked lost without his favorite pitch. He went 3-1 with a 0.49 ERA in seven postseason appearances for Leones del Escogido, including a one-hit, 10-strikeout, five-inning masterpiece in the championship game.
As the Twins' pitchers and catchers report for spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., the team and Liriano hope his winter ball performance was a sign of things to come.
"You just have to wait and see how he carries it up to here," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's one thing pitching down there and it's another thing pitching up here. But the reports are that he's really throwing the ball well. He could be one of those ace in the holes if he can come back and bounce back, keep his arm up and the ball down."
-- The Associated PressVAZQUEZ HAS FIRST BULLPEN SESSION (2:33 p.m. ET)
Yankees right-hander Javier Vazquez threw 35 pitches during his first spring training bullpen session Sunday.
Vazquez was acquired in an offseason trade with Atlanta to be the fourth starter behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte.
"The first time out, I feel OK," Vazquez said.
Vazquez had pitched off a mound several times -- the last being a week and a half ago -- at home in Puerto Rico. After working 219 1/3 innings last season, the Yankees had originally planned to keep him off the mound until Wednesday.
Jorge Posada caught Vazquez. The pair were Yankees teammates in 2004.
-- The Associated PressOSWALT SETS GOALS FOR 2010 REBOUND (12:03 p.m. ET) Roy Oswalt will be counting innings more than victories this season.
The Houston Astros' ace said on Sunday that if he can make 35 starts and reach 200 innings, he'll have a successful season.
Oswalt is coming off the most frustrating year of his career, when he went 8-6 and set a dubious franchise record with 16 no-decisions. He strained his lower back in July, then sat out the last two weeks of the season with a bulging disk.
The 32-year-old Oswalt says his back is healed and he's been reinvigorated by new manager Brad Mills and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg.
Oswalt is confident he can put up numbers like he did when he won 20 games in 2004 and '05, and helped Houston reach unprecedented postseason success.
-- The Associated PressROGERS TO VISIT TIGERS CAMP AS INSTRUCTOR (11:17 a.m. ET)
Former Detroit Tigers left-hander Kenny Rogers is returning to spring training as a special pitching instructor.
Rogers spent the last three years of his 20-year career with the Tigers, leading them to an American League pennant in 2006. He'll be working with the Tigers at their spring training facility in Lakeland, Fla., on March 2-5, the team said.
Another former Tigers great will not be at camp, however. Lou Whittaker, who has been a special instructor at spring training since his 1995 retirement, will not be reprising that role this spring.
-- ESPN.com news servicesPOSADA LOOKING FORWARD TO CATCHING BURNETT (11:06 a.m. ET) Jorge Posada says he never took it personally when he was benched for A.J. Burnett's four postseason starts. And now that a new season has begun, the veteran Yankees catcher is looking forward to catching Burnett again, saying he enjoys that Burnett brings the same intensity to the game that Roger Clemens did, the New York Daily News reported.
"Last year I really got up when he pitched. You can't be passive back there," Posada said, according to the report. "His stuff is so good, he's electrifying. It's a real challenge, but it's fun. It's unfortunate what happened last season, but I'm looking forward to catching him again. I really am."
During the 2009 playoffs, Jose Molina started on days Burnett pitched, as Burnett seemed to pitch better when Molina was behind the plate. Now Molina is with the Blue Jays.
"I wasn't happy to sit down [during the playoffs]," Posada said, according to the report. "But you look back and you see we won, it makes it easier to accept. I know A.J. didn't ask for it, and he expressed that, so it's not as if we have a problem.
"Joe [Girardi] felt he and Jose had a good connection, and I don't blame him. You want to win. Looking ahead now, there's nothing to be addressed."
-- ESPN.com news servicesDUCHSCHERER FIGHTING BACK SORENESS (10:40 a.m. ET)
Athletics starter Justin Duchscherer says he's feeling great mentally after getting treatment for what he described as a mental breakdown last season, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But his body is not cooperating as spring training begins.
Duchscherer says he has an irritated SI joint -- the joint connecting the base of the spine to the hip bones -- and has had three cortisone shots to fight the irritation, including one last week, the Chronicle reported. But the right-hander also said the issue is minor and that there's a simple fix that would keep him off the field only a few days.
A's manager Bob Geren said Duchscherer, who is penciled in as the A's No. 2 starter, had lingering back soreness after throwing on Friday and will be re-evaluated on Sunday, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
"He's had it off and on for a week or two," Geren said, according to the Mercury News. "He felt good [Friday]. He threw a 20-pitch bullpen. But he woke up this morning, and it was a little bit stiff."
-- ESPN.com news services