|ESPN.com: Baseball||[Print without images]|
|Tim Lincecum is a proud owner of a World Series ring, but isn't a fan of expanding the postseason.|
• One more expanded-playoffs tidbit and we'll move on: One concept baseball had kicked around if it opted for a best-of-three wild-card round was giving the wild-card team with the best record a choice: Play the first two games at home or the last two at home.
But as our buddy Buster Olney mentioned this week, it's doubtful owners would approve any best-of-three format that didn't guarantee each team a home game. If that's so un-American, though, is it OK to mention the Packers just won the Super Bowl without ever playing a home game? And there were no revolts in the streets of Green Bay that we noticed.
• Kevin Millwood can opt out of his minor league deal with the Yankees on Sunday night if he isn't elevated to the big leagues. And that could be a tough call for a Yankees team still trying to hang onto as much pitching inventory as it can collect.
Scouts covering the Yankees system continue to report that Millwood "doesn't look very good," despite a 2-0 record and 1.29 ERA in two minor league starts. His fastball has averaged 85 miles per hour. His strikeout-walk ratio is just 6-to-5 in 14 innings. And it's tough to argue he's an upgrade on either Freddy Garcia or Bartolo Colon -- for now. But Ivan Nova (1-2, 7.63) could be another story. So Nova's two starts this week, the second of which happens to be set for Sunday afternoon, could determine his own fate -- and Millwood's.
• With so many teams looking for catching, the return of Jesus Flores -- and the Nationals' organization-wide catching depth -- has other clubs zeroing in on Washington's system. But what those clubs are finding is that, after missing nearly all of the last two seasons after labrum surgery, Flores just isn't ready.
"I think he's movable eventually, but it's going to take a while," said one scout. "He's just lost so much time. I liked him a lot before he got hurt. And if he gets his arm strength back, he's movable. But he's not there yet. It might take the whole year. But even if he does, he'll be 27, so he's still movable, considering the lack of catching in baseball."
• Maybe it's just coincidence that of the nine times Mariano Rivera has blown back-to-back save opportunities, five of them have come in April. But there's another theory out there: He doesn't get nearly enough work in spring training. The Yankees love to let Rivera move along at his own pace every spring. But you have to go back five springs to find a year in which Rivera pitched more than seven innings over an entire spring training. His totals this spring: five appearances, just 18 batters faced. True, it's more if you add in live batting practice and minor league exhibitions. But "nothing," says one longtime baseball man, "resembles game situations, other than the game."
• The folks in the Brewers' front office who just signed Ryan Braun to that five-year, $105 million extension have had the privilege to watch him play his entire career. But the guy who manages him, Ron Roenicke, just arrived this year. And he's discovered Braun is even a better player than he realized.
"I knew how good he was, but until you see a guy every day, you don't ever really know," Roenicke told Rumblings. "The more you watch him, the more different things you see he can do at the plate. He can take a good fastball away and drive it out. If they hang a breaking ball, he just doesn't miss it. He's got such great plate discipline and coverage, because he can hit every pitch."
And one more thing Braun can do? Run. "He can really run," Roenicke said. "When he goes, he really turns it on. He's surprised me. He'll hit a routine ground ball to shortstop and [run to first so hard] the umpire has to make a decision on whether he's safe or out. First time I saw that, I said, 'Wow.'"
• But as great a player as Braun may be now, at age 27, it's a whole separate question whether he'll be worth the $21 million a year his deal will average between ages 32 and 36. According to the FanGraphs value calculator that we mentioned last week, only once in his first four seasons was his free-agent value estimated at $21 million or above. That was 2009, and he was 25 then, not 35. So it's probably a stretch to think the Brewers will be getting their money's worth in 2020.
• The legend of Sam Fuld just keeps on growing in Tampa Bay. But you won't hear the Cubs second-guessing themselves for adding him to the package in the Matt Garza deal.
Remember, the oft-injured Fuld was a left-handed-hitting outfielder who was out of options and stuck behind two other left-handed-hitting outfielders (Kosuke Fukudome and Tyler Colvin) on the depth chart. So the Cubs were almost certainly going to have to move Fuld someplace sometime before Opening Day. When Tampa Bay offered them Fernando Perez, a switch-hitter who could play center field, the pieces fit, and they had themselves a deal.
"Neither side pushed for either guy," said one source familiar with the discussions. "It was just one of those deals where two teams helped each other out."
• One scout on the Padres, a team that has scored fewer runs all season (68) than the Cardinals scored on one road trip (73): "You know in football they've got the prevent defense? They've got a prevent offense. They can't score."
• Finally, no matter what happens in the Mets' world over the next two months, one baseball man says they have no choice but to hold onto Carlos Beltran as long as possible. Why? "Because the last thing they need to do," he said, "is give people a reason to think they need his $17 million [salary] to pay the bills."
1. How unbelievable is this? Josh Johnson still hasn't given up a hit in the first three innings of any game this year. (Opponents are 0-for-45, with 20 strikeouts, before the fourth inning.) He's the only pitcher in the past 60 years to do that over the first five starts of any season, according to our favorite streak guru, Trent McCotter. And he's just the third pitcher to run up an 0-for-45 streak over the first three innings of any stretch of consecutive starts in any of those years. The others: Sid Fernandez in August-September 1990, and Larry Christensen in July-August 1975.
2. Another Josh Johnson classic, courtesy of dulcet Marlins voice Glenn Geffner and the baseball-reference.com Play Index: Since 1919, just two pitchers have kicked off a season with at least five straight starts of six-plus innings with no more than four hits allowed. One was Nolan Ryan, in his first six starts of 1971. The other: Josh Johnson.
3. Believe it or not, Chris Carpenter has started five games for the Cardinals this year, and they've lost all five. Back in 2005, they lost seven games he started all season. And it took them seven seasons, and 159 starts, after he joined the Cardinals before they ever lost more than three of his starts in a row.
4. Remember when the Phillies used to have the scariest lineup in the National League? They're now the only team in baseball with zero homers out of the No. 3 and No. 5 slots in their lineup. And their backup catcher, Brian Schneider, has almost as many home runs (two, in 16 at-bats) as their 3-4-5 hitters combined (three, in 258 at-bats).
5. Saturday's Pirates-Brewers game in Pittsburgh started an hour and 10 minutes late because of a rain delay. So what's so astounding about that? It never rained -- not a drop. That's what.
Sure is amazing how much Twitter hilarity emanates from Milwaukee these days, especially when you have birds of prey soaring around the yard. If you haven't checked out the tweets of @MillerParkHawk, here's a sample of what you're missing:
• As Brewers closer John Axford stalked into Sunday's hawk-laden game with the Astros:
I can only hope that Axford strikes as much fear into the 'stros as I do. #caw
• And then the unsuspecting Reds arrived in town Monday:
In regards to the Reds, their hats were white before I got a hold of them. #furyfromthesky
Finally, this just in from the always-entertaining Chicago parody site, theheckler.com, after the Cubs became the first team in history to start a season by going 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10:
CUBS FIND WAY TO WIN AND LOSE SAME GAME RECORD NOW 10.5-10.5Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy. Follow Jayson Stark on Twitter: @jaysonst