Monday, March 1, 2010
Spring Training Blog: March 1 SNYDER BATTLES FOR JOB (7:32 p.m. ET) Chris Snyder is still with the team that tried so hard to trade him, and he finds himself in an uphill fight for playing time.
The Arizona Diamondbacks catcher says he was fine with the purported deal last fall that would have sent him to the Toronto Blue Jays.
He called it "a new opportunity." But the trade, reportedly for one-time Diamondback Lyle Overbay, fell through. So Snyder remains with Arizona and must compete for playing time with Miguel Montero, the man who replaced him when he was injured last season.
Manager A.J. Hinch says Montero is ahead of Snyder in training camp but he expects both to be big contributors this season.
-- The Associated PressVICTORINO HAS SORE SHOULDER (6:42 p.m. ET) Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino is nursing a sore shoulder and could miss Thursday's exhibition game against Florida State, the Philadelphia Daily News reported on Monday.
Victorino took batting practice on Sunday but was held out of throwing drills as a precaution.
"He's got a little soreness," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said, according to the newspaper. "He had it when he first came in to camp. Right now, we don't want to throw him in our drills -- cutoffs and relays and infield. We'll take it easy on him for a few days and make sure he's alright. That's kind of typical when you come into spring training and first start out. It can happen from sleeping on your arm, or anything, really."
-- ESPN.com news servicesPORCELLO GETS NOD (6:40 p.m. ET) A year ago, Rick Porcello was considered by some too young to make the Detroit Tigers' pitching staff.
After leading American League rookies in wins last season, Porcello was named as the starting pitcher for Detroit's home opener April 9 against the Cleveland Indians.
"It's an honor, seeing how big the home opener was in Detroit last year," said Porcello, who won 14 games as a 20-year-old rookie in 2009. "Fans were coming out early and tailgating. It's obviously a pretty big deal. I remember how exciting it was and what the buzz was like with the crowd there for opening day. So I'm excited to be pitching in it."
A week ago, manager Jim Leyland chose 19-game winner Justin Verlander for the season opener at Kansas City on April 5. Max Scherzer, who came from Arizona in a December trade, will pitch the second game at Kansas City on April 7.
"I want Scherzer to get his first start under his belt on the road, and I don't know who the other two starters are," Leyland said. "You could pencil about four or five names in right now for the third game, and for the fifth game."
Jeremy Bonderman, Armando Galarraga, Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis and Eddie Bonine are in competition for two spots in the rotation as the Tigers prepare to open their exhibition schedule Tuesday against Florida Southern College. Porcello's first spring start is scheduled against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.
-- The Associated PressSTULTS KICKS OFF PITCHING COMPETITION (6:36 p.m. ET) Dodgers pitchers will begin their battle for the open fifth spot in the rotation three days before the official spring training game schedule begins.
Left-hander Eric Stults will pitch for the Dodgers on Tuesday in a B game against the Chicago White Sox, kicking off what figures to be one of the more interesting competitions of camp.
Stults also has been the named the starter in Saturday's second spring game.
Stults' confidence already was high, but now he will enter the outing after receiving instruction Monday from Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.
Stults was among a handful of pitchers who had a one-on-one session with Koufax. Josh Lindblom, Jon Link, Scot Elbert and Chad Billingsley also worked with the former Dodgers pitcher, who threw four no-hitters over a 12-year career, one of which was a perfect game.
"He does a great job relating to players," Stults said of Koufax. "I don't know if part of it is because he has that aura or awe about him. He's somebody that is special in the game of baseball. But he does have a way of communicating that you understand."
Stults is expected to pitch just one inning Tuesday and then go two innings against the White Sox on Saturday. But make no mistake, after struggling with a sprained left thumb last season and then working on the mental side of the game over the winter, Stults finally feels like it's showtime.
-- The Associated PressPOSEY LOOKING TO CATCH ON (5:24 p.m. ET) San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy knows a good catcher when he sees one. He spent parts of nine seasons as a catcher in the major leagues.
And he has no doubts about the future of Buster Posey.
"He's a complete guy," Bochy said Monday. "He can handle the bat, and has a strong arm behind the plate. He's an intelligent kid who knows what he's doing back there. He gets better and better. It's a matter of time before he's a front-line catcher in the major leagues."
The time probably will go much slower than the 23-year-old Posey would like.
Gerald Demp Posey III was the fifth overall pick by the Giants in the 2008 draft and won just about every award imaginable in college baseball at Florida State, including the Golden Spikes Award (top overall player) and the Johnny Bench Award (top catcher).
Posey played in 10 minor league games in 2008 and 115 in 2009, hitting a combined .327 with 19 home runs and 86 RBIs.
He got called up to the big club on Sept. 2 when veteran starter Bengie Molina suffered an injury. Posey played in seven games and started four after the team dropped from contention in the NL West. After the season, he got more work with the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.
That probably wasn't quite enough experience to land him a spot on the 25-man roster when the Giants break camp at the end of March. He knows he likely will begin the season back at Triple-A Fresno, where he can play every day instead of riding the big league bench.
Posey's timetable of reaching the majors might have been accelerated had Molina, 35, gone to another club as a free agent over the winter. But Molina decided to return to the Giants, signing a one-year deal.
"The competitor in me wants to help the big club win, but if I do start at Fresno, I'm going to do everything I can to improve and get back up here," Posey said.
-- The Associated PressREYES LOOKING HEALTHY AT METS CAMP (4:24 p.m. ET) Mets manager Jerry Manuel let loose one of his loud chuckles. Yes, Jose Reyes did look healthy during New York's intrasquad game.
Reyes hit the first pitch he saw Monday for a two-run triple in his first game-like setting since he was sidelined for most of last season by an injured right leg.
"I just feel happy that I made it to third base with no problem, at that time," a grinning Reyes said. "But like I said, there's nothing to worry about. I feel good. No pain, pain-free. I feel good to be playing the game again."
Reyes, who has been a leadoff hitter for most of his career, batted third during the scrimmage. Manuel is toying with the move while All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran is expected to miss the start of the season following right knee surgery.
The Mets also got an encouraging outing from Jonathon Niese, who is coming back after tearing his right hamstring last year. The left-hander struck out the side in the first and worked around a one-out walk during a scoreless second.
"It's a good feeling to face hitters in a game situation. It's been awhile," said Niese, who is trying to win the No. 5 spot in New York's rotation. "It's good to get off to a good start."
-- The Associated PressA BRAND-NEW YOU (2:07 p.m. ET) Twins outfielder Delmon Young has a new attitude and a new body this spring.
He is far more personable and engaging, something that began developing the second half of last year when he become more comfortable with the way the Twins do things -- and because the Twins showed him how much they wanted him.
"He is a great teammate," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "He is a pleasure to be around."
Young says he has gone from 239 pounds at the end of last year to 207 this spring.
"I want to return the days of 2006," he said, referring to his rookie year, when he could run, and really play defense.
-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The MagazineCARDINALS' FREESE LOOKS TO PUT ARREST BEHIND HIM (1:55 p.m. ET) The St. Louis Cardinals are pleased with the way David Freese has handled his personal issues.
Freese was arrested in December outside of St. Louis on a drunken-driving charge. He apologized and is still slotted to be the team's third baseman this season.
"Obviously we were very unhappy with what happened," general manager John Mozeliak said Monday. "The very next day I met with him in my office and we talked about it. I made sure he understood dealing with the alcohol problem and dealing with the legal side was more important than baseball.
"If he could do all that then there wouldn't be any disciplinary actions. And that's what he's done."
Freese, 26, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.23, nearly three times Missouri's legal limit of 0.08, when he was arrested on Dec. 12 in Maryland Heights. He immediately entered the team's employee assistance program and said he has not had a drink since.
The case still is pending.
"It was poor judgment on my part," said Freese. "But God puts things in front of you for a reason. I've definitely learned from it. I've got a great opportunity in front of me that a lot of kids would dream of having."
-- The Associated PressAGENT: METS NOT ONLY TEAM LOOKING AT BEIMEL (11:50 a.m. ET) With Kelvim Escobar hurting and unlikely to make the opening day roster, the Mets are reportedly interested in free-agent reliever Joe Beimel. But they might not be alone in pursuit of the left-hander.
Beimel's agent, Joe Sroba, told 1050 ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand that the Mets are not the only team interested in the set-up man, but declined to name the other teams. "It is not a one-horse race," Sroba said.
Escobar, who had been penciled in as the Mets' set-up man for Francisco Rodriguez, has not been able to throw off a mound yet this spring. To fill that gap, the team has been auditioning pitchers including Ryota Igarashi, Bobby Parnell, Sean Green and Fernando Nieve.
Last year, Beimel was 1-6 with a 3.58 ERA with the Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies.
A year ago, Beimel didn't sign until March 18.
-- ESPN.com news servicesA GOLDEN MOMENT FOR MORNEAU (10:26 a.m. ET) Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who is Canadian, was all smiles Monday morning after Canada won the gold medal in hockey Sunday night. He watched the 3-2 overtime win over the United States with Twins minor league outfielder Rene Tosoni, who also is Canadian.
Morneau was a good hockey goalie growing up. "I had to make a decision," he said. "I made the right decision playing baseball. But I'll always love hockey. It's a great game. And it's a great team game."
Morneau said he is good friends with a number of players on the Canadian Olympic team, including Brenden Morrow.
"I texted four guys after the game," Morneau said. "They texted me back. They didn't have to do that with all that was going on."
-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The MagazineMARINERS TAKING IT EASY WITH HERNANDEZ, LEE (9:19 a.m. ET) The Mariners know they have a potent one-two punch in starting pitchers Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. And they're not going to rush either man during spring training.
Hernandez, for example, skipped an expected bullpen session on Sunday, playing long toss instead, and later told a reporter "I'm fine," cutting off an anticipated question about his health.
Manager Don Wakamatsu explained why the team is holding the reins tightly on both pitchers.
"The first bullpen Felix threw this spring, it looked like he was throwing 100 mph, and that's exactly what we didn't want," Wakamatsu said, according to the Tacoma News and Tribune. "We're trying to limit the innings Felix and Cliff throw this spring, and the intensity with which they throw early on.
"They're both competitive guys. You put Felix on the mound, he's going to go hard. So we're not putting him on the mound as much right now," Wakamatsu said, according to the report.
"I'm fine physically, but I throw when they tell me to throw," Lee said, according to the report. "They've got a plan and I'm good with it. I've played catch, I've played long toss. My arm feels great."
-- ESPN.com news servicesMURPHY COMES TO METS CAMP PREPARED (9:06 a.m. ET) Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy had his struggles in the field and at the plate in 2009. He committed 10 errors in 101 games at first, including a flubbed grounder that handed a win to Atlanta in September. He slumped to .234 in June before hitting .282 the rest of the way.
But now that he's sure of his spot in the lineup, Murphy changed his offseason workout routine to prepare for the job. He also got some fielding lessons from 11-time Gold Glove first baseman Keith Hernandez right before spring training started.
"Keith was great. He added a lot of things to first base I hadn't ever really thought of, some things to work on," Murphy said. "The biggest thing I thought was just getting to know your other infielders."
Murphy impressed the Mets with his progress when he was the only position player to attend a team minicamp in January, and has looked more comfortable in the field since regular camp started.
"The goal in New York is to win, so it's not just the way I play first base or how I can play compared to some of the other guys that come through -- some great players," Murphy said. "At the end of the day I've got to find a way to help this team win."
-- ESPN.com news services