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Buzz: Latest news from around the horn

FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi
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OFFSEASON | SPRING TRAINING | APRIL

 

May 30 News and Notes

Willis likely isn't finished — 4:05 p.m.

We know that the Tigers will be on the hook for all but a fraction of the $12 million owed to Dontrelle Willis this season.

The only question is what happens next, after his contract was designated for assignment.

Despite his inconsistent performance in Detroit – 1-2, 4.98 ERA in nine games this year – he will probably have value as a fifth starter in the National League.

So will teams wait, expecting that the Tigers will find no takers for Willis and release him?

Or will they attempt to negotiate a trade, by offering to kick in a little extra money or a minor leaguer in order to get to the front of the line?

Right now, Willis doesn’t have much control over the situation. His statistics in Detroit – 2-8, 6.86 ERA, 101 innings in three seasons – will do the talking for now.

Willis’ contract doesn’t include a no-trade clause, according to a major league source.

But if the Tigers release him, Willis will be free to seek employment on his own. One friend of his said Sunday that the left-hander “would love to play on the West Coast.” The Diamondbacks are Willis’ first choice right now, the friend said.

It’s likely that Arizona will at least check into the possibility of acquiring him. The Diamondbacks aren’t in a position to dismiss any pitching alternatives, given the state of their staff. Their team ERA of 5.95 is the worst in the majors. Brandon Webb hasn’t pitched this season, and ace Dan Haren has struggled lately.

The Dodgers’ need for starting pitching isn’t as great as it once was, given the performance of rookies John Ely and Carlos Monasterios.

Willis is best suited for the NL, in part because of his tendency to pitch around power hitters. (He averaged nearly one walk per inning during his time with the Tigers.) Willis, who has a career .232 batting average, also enjoys hitting. — Jon Paul Morosi
 

 

 

 

May 29 News and Notes

Dodgers decline comment on Padilla incident — 4:01 p.m.

Los Angeles Dodgers right-handed pitcher Vicente Padilla was involved in an "incident" at the team hotel, which resulted in Denver police being called to the hotel shortly before 4 a.m.

Baseball Hot Streak

Dodgers officials said they are aware of the incident but will not comment on a pending legal issue. Denver police initially planed a Saturday afternoon news conference to discuss the matter, but after the complaintant rescinded accusations the news conference was canceled.

Padilla is on the disabled list, but traveling with the Dodgers who beat Colorado 5-4 in the first game of a three-game weekend series Friday night. Padilla threw a simulated game at Coors Field on Saturday afternoon.

— Tracy Ringolsby

 

May 28 News and Notes

 

Sources: Dempster deferral will help Cubs sign Nady — 5:30 p.m.

The Cubs, thanks to right-hander Ryan Dempster, gained payroll flexibility in the offseason for the signing of free-agent outfielder Xavier Nady.


Dempster agreed to defer $3 million of his $12.5 million salary for 2010 at little or no interest, according to major-league sources. Nady signed with the Cubs in January for $3.3 million.


Dempster and Cubs the reached agreement on the concept during the offseason, sources said. The two sides finalized the details and signed the document only recently.


The Cubs will pay the money back to Dempster in three $1 million installments, payable by Feb. 2011, Feb. 2012 and Feb. 2013.


Dempster, 33, is signed for $13.5 million next season and holds a $14 million player option for 2012. — Ken Rosenthal

 

May 27 News and Notes

 

Phillies would likely listen if Indians are in the mood to deal — 9:43 a.m.

The Indians are not yet active on the trade market. They are not under orders from ownership to dump payroll. But they still could sell off several potential free agents before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

Baseball Hot Streak

Closer Kerry Wood, earning $10.5 million, is the player the Indians would most like to move, according to major-league sources.

The team is less inclined to trade right-hander Jake Westbrook, who is earning $11 million. And though clubs already are showing interest in first baseman Russell Branyan, he cannot be traded without his permission before June 15 after joining the Indians as a free agent last winter.

Westbrook, 32, has spent virtually his entire major-league career with the Indians. The team might want to keep him, and believes the chances of re-signing Westbrook as a free agent would diminish if he were traded, one source said.

The Phillies are among the clubs that could show interest in Westbrook. They likely will be aggressive for a piece they deem important, sources said, but their actual need will depend upon which of their injured pitchers – left-handed starter J.A. Happ, setup man Ryan Madson, closer Brad Lidge – make the strongest recoveries from injuries. Thus, the Phillies also could pursue Wood.

Westbrook, 2-3 with a 4.78 ERA, missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2008. His command has been inconsistent, but he is healthy and figures to improve in the latter months of the season.

The Indians’ $61 million Opening Day payroll was the seventh lowest in the majors, reducing the need for an outright selloff. The team is willing to include cash in a trade to land better prospects, just as it did in the Casey Blake-for-Carlos Santana deal in ’08. The high salaries of Wood and Westbrook increase the likelihood of such exchanges.

Left fielder Austin Kearns, third baseman Jhonny Peralta, second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and backup catcher Mike Redmond are among the other Indians in the final years of their contracts. — Ken Rosenthal

 

May 26 News and Notes

 

Why Cliff Lee will make trading Roy Oswalt more difficult — 3:23 p.m.

The potential availability of Mariners left-hander Cliff Lee – both on the trade market and in free agency – figures to inhibit the Astros’ efforts to trade right-hander Roy Oswalt.

Lee, who turns 32 on Aug. 30, is a year younger than Oswalt and a better pitcher since the start of 2008. He also is signed to a more attractive contract, adding to his appeal if the Mariners decide to trade him.

Any team that landed Lee would be obligated only for the rest of his $9 million salary this season. Oswalt, meanwhile, is due the rest of his $15 million salary for 2010, $16 million in ‘11 and a $2 million buyout in ’12.

So, Lee complicates things for the Astros in two ways.

The Yankees are among the teams that would prefer to wait for Lee to become a free agent than part with prospects for Oswalt, according to industry sources.

Lee’s affordability for this season, meanwhile, likely would result in more teams pursuing him than Oswalt before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

Industry sources express doubt that Astros owner Drayton McLane would include money in an Oswalt package. But the usual high-revenue suspects could absorb Lee’s contract, and even mid-revenue clubs such as the Reds realistically could enter the mix.

What’s more, both AL and NL clubs could pursue Lee, knowing that he has succeeded in both leagues. Oswalt has spent his entire career in the more pitcher-friendly NL; some AL clubs might be reluctant to gamble on him making a smooth transition.

Even Lee’s pending free agency might be an inducement to a trade. Teams could recoup the prospects they lost in the deal by offering Lee salary arbitration, thus gaining two high draft picks as compensation.

With Oswalt, you just get Oswalt – at an inflated rate.

Few high-revenue teams will want to lock into such a pitcher, particularly one who has a history of back trouble.

The Mets and Dodgers, two teams operating under apparent payroll restrictions, might not even be in position to take on Oswalt at mid-season. But perhaps they could bid for Lee or entertain an Oswalt deal if their financial outlooks improved this winter.

To trade Oswalt, all the Astros will need is one overheated suitor. But for one reason or another, the majority of those suitors might be preoccupied with Cliff Lee. — Ken Rosenthal

May 25 News and Notes

 

Are Cubs looking to trade Gorzelanny? — 11:52 p.m.

If Tom Gorzelanny is going to be the odd man out of the Cubs’ rotation once Carlos Zambrano returns — as one industry source predicted Tuesday — then his start against the Dodgers on Wednesday will be crucial indeed.

It could be the prelude to a trade. Gorzelanny has been more effective as a starter than a reliever in his career, although his sample size in the bullpen is very small. That raises a simple question: If the Cubs bump Gorzelanny from the rotation, won’t they be better off trading him for a reliever than sending him to the bullpen?

Enough teams need starting pitching that one of them would surely part with a credible bullpen arm in order to acquire Gorzelanny. And the Cubs could stand to upgrade their late-inning relief. (Yes, even after signing Bobby Howry.)

So, think of the teams that have surfaced in the Roy Oswalt speculation that also have some bullpen depth — the Tigers, Twins, Mets, Rangers and Dodgers. On the surface, at least, those clubs would have reason to speak with the Cubs if they decide to make Gorzelanny available.

At this point, it doesn’t appear that any serious talks are ongoing. And let's be honest: It doesn't make much sense to trade a 27-year-old left-handed starter … who is earning $800,000 this year, won't be eligible to file for free agency until 2013 and has very good numbers (2-4, 3.09 ERA, eight starts).

“He’s throwing a lot of quality pitches — more than I’ve ever seen him have,” said one scout who has seen Gorzelanny recently. “He’s adding and subtracting with his fastball. He’s working the slider in deep to right-handed hitters. He’s looked good.”

Of note: Gorzelanny departed early from his last start, after being hit by a line drive on the left ring finger.

— Jon Paul Morosi  

Brewers' top Triple-A starter may use opt-out clause — 9:41 p.m.

The Brewers entered Tuesday with a 5.10 rotation ERA, second-worst in the National League. Unless their pitching improves soon, they will become an afterthought in the NL Central.

Meanwhile, the organization could be on the verge of losing some of its depth: Kameron Loe, the best starter at Triple-A Nashville this season, has a June 5 opt-out clause in his minor-league contract, one source told FOXSports.com.

If Loe isn’t in the majors by that date, he can ask for his release. The right-hander is 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA in nine starts this season. Loe, 28, last pitched in the majors two seasons ago. He is 19-23 with a 4.77 ERA in 107 big-league games, all with the Texas Rangers.

— Jon Paul Morosi

 

May 24 News and Notes


O's manager seriously in need of relief — 3:57 p.m.

 

The Orioles are judging manager Dave Trembley on results, but not giving him much of a bullpen to work with.

 

Trembley essentially managed short-handed when the Orioles lost two of three to the Nationals over the weekend.

Right-hander Koji Uehara was unavailable after throwing 30 pitches Wednesday, and has since been diagnosed with an elbow strain.

Right-hander Jason Berken threw 74 pitches in Texas on Thursday, all but removing him consideration for the Washington series.

Infielder Scott Moore replaced left-hander Alberto Castillo on the roster Friday, bringing the Orioles back down to 12 pitchers as they began inter-league play.

That was the only change in the bullpen that the Orioles made, even after righty Matt Albers threw 35 pitches Friday night.

 

Cla Meredith, pitching Sunday for the fourth time in five days after closer Alfredo Simon departed with an injured left hamstring, allowed a game-winning homer to the Nats’ Josh Willingham.

The Baltimore Sun speculated that Trembley could be fired Monday, but the team made no such move, perhaps because it lacks an obvious internal replacement.

The Orioles, despite losing seven of their past nine games, are 12-15 since their 2-16 start.

Memo to the O’s: The next manager will need an actual bullpen, too.

— Ken Rosenthal

 

Oswalt's former skipper speculates about pitcher's future — 1:30 p.m.

Phil Garner doesn’t work in baseball anymore. He didn’t learn that Roy Oswalt’s agent had requested a trade until two days after the news broke.

 

In fact, Garner said he hasn’t had a conversation with Oswalt since his firing as the Houston manager three seasons ago.

But it’s safe to say that Garner knows a lot about the man who pitched his 2005 team to the only pennant in franchise history.

So, what does Garner think about the request made by Oswalt’s agent to the Astros?

“I don’t know that it surprises me, with the way the Astros are playing now,” Garner, who still lives in Houston, said Monday morning. “Roy wants to win. He’s toward the end of his career.

“I think Lance (Berkman) said something similar a couple months ago. It’s a sign of the times. When a club starts struggling, guys look at alternative possibilities. … I didn’t get the impression he was demanding anything.

“I’m a fan, so I’d hate to see him go. But I understand if it makes sense for the Astros to go out and get a couple younger players.”

Oswalt has a full no-trade clause, giving him great influence on where he goes. His contract — $15 million this year, $16 million next year — could further limit the pool of interested clubs, depending on how much money the Astros are willing to eat.

 

Oswalt, a Mississippi native, didn’t rule out the possibility of playing in a big market when asked by FOXSports.com during spring training. But Garner is among those who believe he would prefer to play close to his home in Weir, Miss.

“I never talked to him about it,” Garner said, “but I would imagine his preference would be to stay closer to home.”

Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, St. Louis and Tampa Bay are within roughly 700 miles of Weir and have teams with winning records.

Among the other topics Garner addressed during the telephone interview:

• On whether Oswalt would prefer to stay in the National League: “That’s a good question. I don’t know that. He loves to hit, so he may have a problem with (going to the American League).”

• On Oswalt’s relationship with White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy: “That might be a factor. He really wanted to get Jake down in Houston. That would be important to Roy. I could see (Oswalt having interest in Chicago).”

• On Oswalt’s ties to Dodgers backup catcher Brad Ausmus, who is currently on the disabled list: “He and Ausmus are close. I tend to believe Roy pitches best when he’s pitching to someone he’s comfortable with. I know Brad had back surgery, but he’ll probably be available later in the season. He may be a drawing card for Roy.”

• On how effective Oswalt would be if he changed leagues: “I don’t think his ERA would be the same in the AL as the NL, simply because it’s a tougher league to pitch in. You pitch the last three guys differently in the NL ... He’d still be a good pitcher, though. He’d be in the upper echelon of pitchers.”

• On whether he might get back into managing: “Well, never say never. My phone’s not ringing off the hook. I’m enjoying my life at this point. There hasn’t been anything that has come my way. I haven’t pursued anything other than the Astros last year.”

— Jon Paul Morosi

 


May 21 News and Notes

Sources: Red Sox-Rockies talks about catcher faded — 3:19 p.m.

The Red Sox made a recent inquiry on Rockies Triple A catcher Chris Iannetta, but the talks quickly faded, according to major-league sources.

The Sox routinely check in on on every available player who might suit their needs. Iannetta, 27, certainly qualifies; the team needs a long-term solution at catcher, as well as possible help this season.

The Rockies, though, wanted “premium” talent in their initial request for Iannetta, sources said, and that ended — for now — any chance of the discussions going forward.

The Red Sox are not necessarily in a rush to add a catcher. Such a move would require Victor Martinez to serve more as a DH, and the Sox already have two players in that role, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell.

The team also has had more success recently throwing out opposing base stealers, nailing five of 15 in the last 20 games after going 1-for-39 in the first 22.

Iannetta would qualify as a defensive upgrade, though the Sox — initially — likely would keep him at Triple A.

The Rockies’ demotion of Iannetta just months after awarding him a three-year, $8.35 million contract extension remains a source of curiosity to rival executives.

While Iannetta was batting .133/.235/.333 when the Rockies made the move on April 27, he had appeared in only eight games and made only 34 plate appearances.

His numbers at Triple A are far more robust — .362/.449/.741 — but the Rockies are riding Miguel Olivo, who has eight home runs and an .864 OPS.

Olivo’s backup, Paul Phillips, has only 12 at-bats since joining the team. — Ken Rosenthal

May 20 News and Notes

Minor-league pitcher gaining major-league attention — 11:00 p.m.

The name may not grab your attention, but baseball insiders are assuredly talking about him.

Chris Resop.

He is, for all practical purposes, a journeyman relief pitcher. He has a 3-3 record and 5.61 ERA over 57 big-league appearances from 2005 through 2008.

But look at what the 27-year-old has done this year as a starter: He’s 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 48 2/3 innings at Triple-A Gwinnett County in the Braves organization, including another quality start on Thursday.

Given the number of teams dealing with inconsistent rotations, he will probably be scouted heavily in the weeks to come.

And there is more to his story than two good months in the minors: Resop’s minor-league contract with Atlanta has an intriguing out clause, sources say.

If the right-hander isn’t on Atlanta’s 25-man roster by June 15, Resop can ask the Braves to inform the other 29 teams that he is available. Interested clubs will then have 72 hours to respond, if they are willing to bring him to the majors immediately.

If one club is willing, Resop will become property of that team.

If multiple clubs are interested, the Braves will make the ultimate decision as to where he goes.

Think of it as going through waivers … unofficially.

It’s a situation worth watching – as long as Resop continues to pitch well. — Jon Paul Morosi

Mets shopping Castillo again; Rockies interested? — 6 p.m.

There are certain phrases I have programmed into my laptop for easy recall. One of them is, “Mets shopping Luis Castillo.”

The Mets are again expressing a willingness to trade Castillo, according to major-league sources. Among the teams they’ve contacted: the Rockies, who are not satisfied with utility man Melvin Mora as their backup second baseman.

Castillo, 35, is not considered one of the Mets’ bigger problems, even though his .640 OPS entering Thursday’s play was the 13th-lowest in the National League. His contract, however, remains a source of frustration to the club: Castillo is guaranteed $6 million this season and $6 million in 2011.

A team such as the Rockies likely would require the Mets to pay almost all of that money in any deal. But the Mets could be motivated to move Castillo for another reason as well: A desire to play Daniel Murphy at second base.

Murphy, recovering from a knee ligament sprain, currently is playing in extended spring training. The Mets reportedly want to turn him into a super utility man. Murphy, however, did not fare well when he played second in the Arizona Fall League in 2008 — Ken Rosenthal

Brewers GM: Gamel move not related to Fielder — 5:59 p.m.

Mat Gamel will play some first base during his minor-league rehabilitation assignment, which is set to begin tonight.

But that doesn’t mean we can start churning the Prince Fielder Rumor Mill.

The slugging Fielder is set to become a free agent after next season. The Brewers’ slow start to the season (15-25 entering Thursday) promises to invite trade speculation.

So how are we to interpret the fact that Gamel, primarily a third baseman, is now going to spend some time at Fielder’s position while rehabbing at Class A Brevard County?

“The only reason is to get him at-bats,” general manager Doug Melvin explained to FOXSports.com. “This way, he doesn’t take all the playing time away from the third baseman.

“He’s going to spend some time DH-ing, too. When he’s playing over at first base, he also doesn’t have to throw as much. And because the problem (a muscle tear) was in his shoulder, we didn’t want him throwing from third every day.

“So, you will see him at first base. But don’t read into it that it’s because of Prince.”

Still, the 24-year-old’s place in the Brewers’ plans is a subject worth pondering.

Casey McGehee has established himself as a rising star at third base. He ranks second in the National League with 37 RBIs – and should soon overtake the injured Andre Ethier in that category.

McGehee, 27, won’t be eligible for major-league free agency until after the 2014 season. Fielder, 26, could be gone much sooner than that.

So, even if there is no hint of a Fielder trade right now, a short-term assignment for Gamel could foreshadow an eventual change in his career.

Melvin added that the outfield is a possible destination for Gamel in the long term. He batted .242 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 148 big-league plate appearances last year. — Jon Paul Morosi

Sources: Burrell wants to return to NL — 1:41 p.m.

Pat Burrell might fit best in the American League but wants to return to the NL, according to major-league sources.

The Padres have “sniffed around” around on Burrell, who cleared waivers Wednesday and became a free agent, one source said.

Any team that signs Burrell would owe him only the pro-rated portion of the minimum salary. The Rays are responsible for the remainder of his $9 million guarantee this season.

The question with Burrell is whether he can still play outfield. The Rays used him almost exclusively as a designated hitter after signing him as a free agent prior to the 2009 season. Burrell played left field for the Phillies from 2000 to ’08

The Padres have a growing need for an outfielder. Scott Hairston is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, while Kyle Blanks – in the middle of a 6-for-59, 32-strikeout slump – has a right-elbow problem.

Burrell’s right-handed power also could benefit the Padres, whose right-handed hitters rank next-to-last in the NL in slugging percentage.

Then again, Burrell batted only .218/.311/.361 in 572 plate appearances with the Rays over the past two seasons.

The sudden availability of Burrell for the minimum salary further reduces the chances of free agent Jermaine Dye receiving an acceptable offer to continue his career. — Ken Rosenthal

 

May 18 News and Notes


Towers thrilled to be scouting again — 8 p.m.

Kevin Towers has gone back to his roots.

Towers, the Padres’ former general manager, is now a special assignment scout with the Yankees, scouting amateurs in preparation for the June draft.

His focus is his area of expertise – pitching.

“I never understood why (amateur scouts) were the lowest paid-guys in the game,” Towers says. “They’re probably the most important guys in the game. And they’re out there on their own.

“It all starts there (at the amateur level). Not that I would have forgotten. But I realize when I’m out there amongst them, traveling amongst them, how difficult it is.”

I called Towers on Tuesday because an executive with another club, noting that the Padres lead the majors in ERA, asked me, “What is the secret behind San Diego’s pitching? Who is responsible for their success?”

When I posed the question to Towers, who was replaced by Jed Hoyer at the end of last season, he said the credit belonged to a variety of people with the Padres.

Among them:

• Van Smith, pro scout.

Towers says Smith is “tremendous” with pitching and recalls him lobbying for reliever Luke Gregerson in the Khalil Greene trade with the Cardinals. Former major leaguer John VanderWal, another Padres scout, also saw Gregerson and liked him.

• Bill Bryk, pro scout, special assistant to the GM.

Bryk liked reliever Edward Mujica in the spring of 2009 and recommended that the Padres trade for him, sensing that Mujica would not make the Indians’ staff.

• Mike Couchee, minor-league pitching coordinator.

Towers specifically mentions Couchee’s work with Wade LeBlanc, Tim Stauffer and Mat Latos, all of whom have enjoyed success in the majors this season.

• Darren Ballsley, pitching coach, and Darrel Akerfelds, bullpen coach and former major-league pitcher.

“When I hear Greg Maddux say Ballsley and Akerfelds are two of the best pitching guys that he has had in his career, that holds weight,” Towers says.

“They’re low-key. You don’t hear much about them. But guys love them. I never had a pitcher who didn’t learn something or get better around those guys.”

• Bud Black, manager and former major-league pitcher.

“Buddy knows how to put them in the roles and areas that they can have success once they get to the big leagues,” Towers says.

And those are just a few of the names, Towers says. There are others.

Towers, of course, declines to cite his own role in building the Padres’ staff. As you might imagine, he is greatly enjoying his work with the Yankees.

“I would be lying if I said that working for the New York Yankees wasn’t awesome,” Towers says. “When they lose a game, I’m like shocked: ‘What, are you kidding me?’ That’s the mentality over there. They expect to win every night.”

With that, Towers’ other phone rings.

“I’ve got to grab this call,” he says. “There’s an amateur pitcher I’ve got to see, and I’ve got to find out if he’s throwing.” — Ken Rosenthal



May 16 News and Notes



Tigers shake up lineup — 1:10 a.m.

The Tigers beat the Red Sox, 7-6, in 12 innings on Saturday night — and then shook up their team.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland told reporters that veteran Carlos Guillen will become the team’s second baseman once he returns from a strained left hamstring. That could happen before the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the Tigers sent their Opening Day second baseman, Scott Sizemore, to Triple-A Toledo.

They also demoted the pitcher who started their second game of the season: right-hander Max Scherzer, one of the key players acquired in the three-team December blockbuster. Scherzer will attempt to address his mechanical issues in Toledo. He was a dismal 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA over his last four starts.

Right-hander Armando Galarraga is coming up from Toledo to start Sunday’s game against Boston. Infielder Danny Worth will also be added to the big-league roster; he will presumably serve as a utility man, at least until Guillen returns.

Guillen’s move to the infield is closely tied to two developments: Sizemore’s struggles (.206 batting average), along with the emergence of rookie outfielder Brennan Boesch, who is hitting .388 after a 4-for-6 performance on Saturday.

If Guillen can handle second base, manager Jim Leyland will be able to keep Boesch’s left-handed bat in the lineup without sitting stars Magglio Ordonez or Johnny Damon. (Guillen had been the Tigers’ primary designated hitter before getting injured while running the bases in Anaheim.)

Boesch came up from the minors to replace the injured Guillen in late April and has been too productive to be sent back. The Tigers have yearned for a left-handed power hitter like Boesch, who has produced 19 RBIs in 18 games.

In a sign of Leyland’s confidence in the rookie, the manager put Boesch in Saturday’s lineup — as the No. 5 hitter, no less — against Jon Lester, one of the tougher left-handed starters in baseball.

Guillen took ground balls at second base and shortstop on Saturday and has progressed well recently, according to team head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. He could begin a rehabilitation assignment within the next week.

Guillen has switched positions numerous times since 2007 — from shortstop to first base, from first base to third base, from third base to left field, and, more recently, from left field to designated hitter. Now, it looks like he will play second base in the big leagues for the first time since 1999. He has only played the position in a total of 12 major-league games, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Worth, a second-round pick from Pepperdine in 2007, has never played in the big leagues. He is hitting .274 at Toledo and is regarded as a defense-first player. Scherzer wasn’t the only struggling pitcher in the Tigers’ rotation.

Dontrelle Willis had a horrible outing Saturday, walking seven batters and allowing four earned runs in 3-1/3 innings. Unless his control improves, Willis might not be long for the Detroit rotation, either.

— Jon Paul Morosi


Street's return to Rockies may be delayed — 12:30 a.m.

Rockies closer Huston Street, out since the season started because of right arm fatigue, was on a schedule to rejoin the Rockies after their upcoming road trip.

The plan is open to revision, after Street's second rehab appearance for Double-A Tulsa on Saturday night. Street came out of the game after throwing only five pitches in the Drillers 1-0 victory at Arkansas. Street struck out Carlos Colmenares on three pitches, and then fell behind 2-0 to Abel Nieves.

At that point there was an "injury delay,'' according to the official play-by-play. Al Albuquerque then came into pitch and walked Nieves. No additional information on the extent of the injury was available.

Street made his Tulsa debut with a shutout inning Thursday. He was supposed to work Saturday, and then next week had a two-inning stint and back-to-back appearances at Triple A Colorado Springs next week on his schedule.

All of that will be reevaluated once the extent of the injury that forced him out of Saturdays' game is known.

— Tracy Ringolsby

May 14 News and Notes


Uecker to join MLB on FOX broadcast - 7:41 p.m.

Bob Uecker won’t be in his beloved front row on Saturday. He will be in an even better place – in homes all across America.

The longtime Brewers radio broadcaster, recovering from heart surgery, will join the MLB on FOX telecast during the fourth inning of the Brewers-Phillies game from Milwaukee.

Uecker, if he feels strong enough, will visit with FOX announcers Tom McCarthy and Mark Grace in a broadcast booth at Miller Park. Otherwise, he will join the broadcast by phone.

Uecker, 75, held a news conference Friday at Miller Park, just two weeks after undergoing his six-hour heart procedure. His doctor, Jim Kleczka, said that in the best-case scenario, Uecker could return to the booth for the Brewers in six weeks. — Ken Rosenthal
 

May 13 News and Notes


Washburn in no hurry to return to the mound — 2:20 p.m.

Jarrod Washburn isn’t going to sign with a major league team anytime soon.

And the possibility exists that he won’t pitch at all this season.

Washburn, the 35-year-old left-hander, might be the most attractive pitcher among the still-unsigned free agents. He demonstrated in the first half last year that he can be dominant in the American League when healthy.

He has said that he’s healthy after off-season knee surgery. But his desire to pitch remains in doubt.

When asked by FOXSports.com if he still plans to pitch this year, he said via e-mail Thursday: “Never say never, but I am very happy at home with my family.”

Washburn has previously indicated that he preferred to pitch for the Mariners, Twins or Brewers. Of that group, Milwaukee could still benefit from the addition of an experienced starter.

The Tigers, Red Sox, Reds and Dodgers may look for rotation upgrades if their starting staffs don’t improve over the next month or so. But the trade market doesn’t typically begin taking shape until June.

-- Jon Paul Morosi


Rockies pitcher Francis has strong rehab start — 12:45 a.m.

Left-hander Jeff Francis is coming off a strong rehab assignment start at Double A Tulsa on Tuesday.

It was his third start on his rehab assignment. It is not out of the question that the Rockies could decide to activate Francis and put him in the rotation in Sunday's series finale against Washington.

Francis missed the 2009 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He had a solid spring, but in his final exhibition start developed a soreness under his left arm pit and opened the season on the disabled list.

One thing is certain — rookie Jhoulys Chacin has earned his spot in the rotation. Chacin has won his first two starts and hasn't allowed a run in 15-1/3 innings. He makes third third start for the Rockies on Thursday in the series opener against Washington.

— Tracy Ringolsby



May 12 News and Notes



Add Swisher to the list of Yankees' walking wounded — 11:45 p.m.

The Yankees, as usual, have one of the best records in baseball: 22-11, after splitting a doubleheader with the Tigers on Wednesday.

But they are also dealing with a number of nagging injuries. And on a night when closer Mariano Rivera made his first appearance of the month, right fielder Nick Swisher exited early because of a sore left biceps muscle.

Manager Joe Girardi said Swisher is "day-to-day." But given the cold, wet conditions in Detroit and quick turnaround for the scheduled 1 p.m. start, it doesn't seem too likely that Swisher will play Thursday.

"He said it's been bothering him a little bit," Girardi said. "I just became aware of it today. He's a little sore."

Swisher described it as "a little tug" that he first felt a couple weeks ago. He said he's never experienced anything like it before.

"I feel fine," he said. "I'm moving around right now. But we'll come in tomorrow, get here early, get some treatment, see how it feels. I'm not the type of guy that likes to come out of games."

Swisher has been one of the Yankees' most consistent hitters this season, with a .297 batting average, seven home runs and 24 RBIs. Swisher said he felt tightness in the muscle when he was swinging, but not throwing from the outfield.

The Yankees have two everyday players on the disabled list, Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson, along with relievers Alfredo Aceves and Chan Ho Park. Andy Pettitte missed his last start due to left elbow inflammation.

Rivera recently dealt with soreness in an oblique muscle but didn't require a stay on the DL.

— Jon Paul Morosi


Rays may have choice to make regarding Blalock — 8:42 p.m.

Would the Rays keep Hank Blalock over Pat Burrell?

Club officials could face such a decision in a matter of days. Blalock’s agent, Scott Boras, indicated to the St. Petersburg Times on Tuesday that Blalock would activate the out clause in his Triple A contract within a week.

The Rays could prevent such a move by promoting Blalock to their major league roster; otherwise, he could become a free agent and sign with another club. A trade would be a third possibility, though potential suitors might prefer to gamble on Blalock becoming a free agent instead.

For the Rays, the decision would not be clear-cut. Burrell, 33, is earning $9 million this season, and the Rays would owe him that money even if they released him. The team surely would be reluctant to swallow the rest of the contract, particularly when Burrell is performing well as the Rays’ DH against right-handed pitching.

Burrell, a right-handed hitter, was batting .276/.364/.466 against righties entering Wednesday night’s play. Willy Aybar, a switch-hitter, is the Rays’ DH against left-handers.

Could Blalock, a left-handed hitter, do better than Burrell against righties?

Maybe – he is batting .366/.425/.535 at Triple A. But that line is not necessarily an indicator of how Blalock might hit in the majors. Blalock, 29, has a high batting average on balls in play, an indication of good luck.

Also, in the words of Giants general manager Brian Sabean, “Triple A baseball isn’t very good. Especially from a pitching standpoint,” Sabean recently told the San Jose Mercury-News when asked when the Giants might promote their top prospect, catcher Buster Posey.

“Anybody who can pitch is in the big leagues.” Blalock, though, would offer the Rays greater positional flexibility than Burrell — he is playing third base at Triple A and also can play first, while Burrell is serving strictly as a DH.

— Ken Rosenthal


May 10 News and Notes


Royals have trade chips — 10:00 a.m.

The hitter the Royals would like to trade most is designated hitter Jose Guillen, but they also figure to draw significant interest in outfielders David DeJesus and Scott Podsednik before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

DeJesus, earning $4.7 million with a $6 million club option for 2011, might be too pricey to command the kind of return the Royals would desire.

Podsednik, earning $1.65 million, is less expensive, but the Royals might try to retain him on a $2 million club option on him for ’11.

While Podsednik, 34, can void the option if he reaches 525 plate appearances, another option for the two sides would be to negotiate a new contract.
-- Ken Rosenthal



May 9 News and Notes


Gonzalez to miss three for Rockies — 5:17 p.m.

Right fielder Carlos Gonzalez will miss the Rockies’ next three games. Gonzalez flew Sunday from Los Angeles, where the Rockies were wrapping up a three-game series against the Dodgers, to his native Venezuela. Gonzalez was informed Saturday night that an uncle, who manager Jim Tracy said was a father-like mentor to Gonzalez, had died.

The Rockies were checking into the possibility of placing Gonzalez on the bereavement list because he will be gone for three days, but were awaiting word from Major League Baseball.

The Rockies will activate right fielder Brad Hawpe from the disabled list for Monday's series opener against Philadelphia at Coors Field. If the request is granted for Gonzalez the Rockies can delay sending a player to the minors to make roster space until Gonzalez rejoins the team.

In addition to Hawpe being activated on Monday, closer Huston Street will be at Coors Field to throw a bullpen session after which he will be sent out on a rehab assignment. Greg Reynolds made his rehab debut on Saturday at High-A Modesto and allowed an unearned run in five innings. Taylor Buchholz, in his second rehab appearance, pitched a shutout inning in relief of Reynolds and picked up the win in the 2-1 Modesto victory.

Left-hander Jeff Francis makes his rehab start for Double-A Tulsa on Tuesday, and Jason Hammel, coming off a 113-pitch effort in his rehab start for Triple-A Colorado Springs on Friday, is expected to rejoin the Rockies rotation for Wednesday's series finale against Philadelphia. He will start in place of Esmil Rogers, called up when Hammel was placed on the disabled list with a strained groin.

Meanwhile, Jhouyls Chaci has pitched his way into a permanent spot in the Rockies rotation after working 14 1/3 scoreless innings in starts at San Francisco and Los Angeles.  — Tracy Ringolsby
 


May 8 News and Notes



Pirates' Meek making an impact in bullpen — 2:26 p.m.

In my recent column on the Pirates’ rebuilding effort, I neglected to mention one acquisition that has paid big dividends at relatively little cost: the Rule 5 selection of right-hander Evan Meek, who may be one of the more underrated late-inning relievers in the National League.

The Pirates added Meek following the 2007 season, and he’s improved steadily since then. Even after taking a hard-luck loss Friday night, he has a 0.95 ERA in 14 appearances this season.

It appears that he has a resilient arm, too: Entering Saturday, he ranked fifth in the majors with 19 relief innings.

Meek, who turns 27 next week, had pitched in the Minnesota, San Diego and Tampa Bay organizations prior to joining the Pirates.

— Jon Paul Morosi



May 6 News and Notes



Astros GM not upset by Berkman's comments — 6:30 p.m.

Astros general manager Ed Wade said his phone rang about an hour after his team’s 4-2 victory over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night.

First baseman Lance Berkman was on the line, seeking to give perspective on what he had just told the Houston Chronicle – that he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause if the Astros did not recover.

“I told him, ‘Don’t worry about it, players have every right to make whatever comments they want to the media. Focus on showing up and winning tomorrow,’” Wade recalled Thursday afternoon.

“We need Lance to not be hitting .220 or whatever. The same with (Carlos) Lee and (Hunter) Pence. Take advantage of the pitching we’ve had and get back into this thing.

“His quotes are timely because they just came out, but they aren’t timely as far as I’m concerned. We’re trying to be the best club we can be.”

Berkman, 34, is signed for $14.5 million this season with a $15 million club option for 2011. He is married with four children, deeply rooted in the Houston area.

Astros owner Drayton McLane loathes trading off veterans and quitting on seasons. Some with the club believe that Berkman might be employing reverse psychology, trying to pressure the Astros to pick up his option.

The Astros entered Thursday 9-18, eight games back in the NL Central. Berkman, who missed the Astros’ first 12 games while recovering from left-knee surgery, had a batting/on-base/slugging line of .213/.327/.404, with two home runs in 47 at-bats.

“If it was me and I was running the show here, if we didn't make a great comeback like we did in '05 and be sort of around .500 by the All-Star break, I'd try to trade every veteran I could to reload,” Berkman told the Chronicle.

“That's the quickest way you're going to be able to reload and get it going in the right direction. As a player, if they came to me and said, ‘Hey, we've got a deal to go to a contender,’ I'd take it. Heck, it's only a three- or four-month deal. It's not like I'm signing on for 10 years with another team.”

Asked if he was surprised to learn of Berkman’s comments, Wade said, “Sure. We had a walkoff win last night, guys were happy, jumping around and all that. Then I got his phone call. It was the first indication I had that he had talked to the Chronicle.

“I was surprised but not upset. I’m not taking a reactionary position on it whatsoever.” — Ken Rosenthal

Source: Marlins owner 'very unhappy' with team — 3:24 p.m.

In my “Full Count” video Saturday, I said to keep an eye on the Marlins.

Make that a close eye.

Owner Jeffrey Loria is “very unhappy” with the team’s play, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking.

And if Loria is unhappy, manager Fredi Gonzalez could be in jeopardy.

Loria left Gonzalez dangling for two days at the end of last season before deciding to bring him back for 2010.

Then, at the start of spring training, Loria said, “I expect us to make the playoffs. We’ve got all the ammunition we need.”

The Marlins, 13-14, began Thursday only three games out in the NL East. But they had lost two straight to the Giants and seven of 10 overall.

Loria, according to ESPN.com, spoke with former Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine about a job near the end of last season.

Valentine is the type of big name that Loria covets, but rather than meet the salary desires of a high-profile manager, he might prefer to spend on players instead.

The Marlins likely will need bullpen help before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. — Ken Rosenthal




May 5 News and Notes


Nationals putting a quality pitching staff together  — 5:15 a.m.

The Nationals’ future is bright. And it’s closer than people think.

By the second half of this season, the Nats figure to upgrade at least one-third of their pitching staff.

The promotion of right-hander Stephen Strasburg, expected in early June, will be only the start.

Strasburg, who will make his first at Triple A on Friday, likely will arrive in tandem with righty Drew Storen, the team’s other first-round pick last year.

What Strasburg could mean to the rotation, Storen could mean to the bullpen. And the Nats also could benefit from the returns of four injured pitchers - right-handers Ross Detwiler, Jason Marquis, Chien-Ming Wang and Jordan Zimmermann.

Detwiler, coming off hip surgery, should be ready first. Zimmermann, coming off Tommy John surgery, will be handled with particular care. All, including Wang, are under control for next season.

Setbacks probably are inevitable for one or more of those pitchers, but Detwiler and Marquis are reasonably good bets to contribute in the second half along with Strasburg.

The addition of Storen, meanwhile, will give the Nats a potentially dynamic late-inning relief corps. Closer Matt Capps leads the majors with 11 saves in 11 opportunities. Setup man Tyler Clippard, who has increased his velocity from 88-89 mph to 91-92 since last season, has allowed one earned run in 19 2/3 innings.

Can the Nats remain in contention? Maybe not. But the Phillies’ injuries, Braves’ struggles and Marlins’ and Mets’ inconsistencies could create an unexpected opening.

The Nats might not barge through right away. But they will be ready soon.

-Ken Rosenthal



May 4 News and Notes



Jays catcher learning the do's and don'ts of no-hitter protocol — 3:51 p.m.

Slowly but surely, John Buck is learning the etiquette of catching a no-hitter.

In his first month with the Blue Jays, Buck has caught three near no-nos — and, for good measure, also hit three home runs in a game.

His latest flirtation with history occurred Monday night, when Jays left-hander Brett Cecil pitched 6-2/3 no-hit innings.

Buck also was behind the plate when righty Shaun Marcum went 6-1/3 no-hit innings on Opening Day and when lefty Ricky Romero took a no-no into the eighth on April 13.

The Romero game marked the start of Buck’s education.

“I’m not really a superstitious guy,” he says. “Just after the seventh inning, going into the eighth, I talked to Papi (pitching coach Bruce Walton) and asked him, 'How many pitches do I have? Do I need to push my pitcher?' He looked at me like I was crazy. I thought, ‘Why are you looking me like that?’ Then I looked up and saw zeros across the board. I said, ‘Damn!’”

Buck says he was simply locked in on the hitters. “I’ve got a little pea brain,” he explains, chuckling. “I can only process so much.” But seriously . . . “My superstitious thing is not breaking my routine,” Buck says. “I always go over the hitters from the previous inning (with the pitcher), talk about a couple of pitches may have been overthrown, what we want to do on the next guy.”

And so it was Monday night, when Cecil took a perfect game into the seventh inning. “I kind of noticed I was the only one sitting by him, talking to him,” Buck says. “But once we got to the seventh, it was in my mind.”

Cecil lost the perfect game when he walked Grady Sizemore with one out in the seventh. He then walked Shin-Soo Choo and struck out Austin Kearns before Jhonny Peralta ended the no-hitter with a single.

The failed no-hit bid actually marked the Jays’ fourth such close call of the season — Jose Molina was the Jays’ catcher when righty Brandon Morrow pitched 5-1/3 no-hit innings on April 19.

“If I stick to the plan, I trust it will work out on its own,” Buck says. “You can’t will something like that to happen. “It’s so special. You’ve got to have a little bit of luck on your side and some divine intervention where the stars are aligned.”

Buck keeps coming close.

— Ken Rosenthal


May 3 News and Notes



 Changes pay dividends for Arizona's Johnson — 11:11 p.m.

When I asked Diamondbacks second baseman Kelly Johnson what he was doing differently this season, he initially replied, “I’ve been trying not to get into it too much, just because of the baseball gods.”

Fair enough, considering that the gods spanked Johnson when he was with the Braves last season, leaving him with a right-wrist injury and .692 OPS. But Johnson changed teams, changed his approach, changed just about everything. Say hello to a most unlikely National League Player of the Month for April.

Johnson, 28, said he got into bad habits last season, staying back so much on his back leg, he practically planted into the ground. He spent seemingly the entire winter in the batting cage, focusing on hitting to all fields.

“I don’t try to pull anything in batting practice,” said Johnson, a left-handed hitter who has two of his nine home runs to left field, three to center and four to right, according to STATS LLC.

“I try to go from the right-center field gap over to the left-field line. I saw (former Braves teammate) Chipper (Jones) do that for years. It never really made sense to me. I never quite understood it. It just helps you stay on the ball (longer).”

Johnson praised his new hitting coach, the D-backs’ Jack Howell, while making a point not to criticize his previous one, the Braves’ Terry Pendleton. He said the D-backs’ hitters meet every day to talk about the opposing starting pitcher, prompting him to study more video.

His revival includes one other critical element as well.

Johnson, who signed a one-year, $2.35 million deal with the Diamondbacks after the Braves declined to offer him a contract in December, said “the biggest piece” for him was a mental adjustment.

“I’ve always been very hard on myself,” he said. “I’d do it in the middle of at-bats. If I fouled off a pitch I thought I should hammer, I’d think, ‘Why didn’t I hit that?’ Then I would do something to hit that pitch. But how many times was I going to get that pitch again?

“It seems so easy, but you’re hitting, sometimes you get caught up in it. You’ve got to chill out, say, ‘All right, the next pitch, what is it?’ It sounds so silly. But for me, it’s something I needed to work on. I put a lot of focus, time and energy into being prepared, ready to hit.”

It all came together for him in April, but the season is long, the game humbling. Not once during our conversation did Johnson hint that he had it all figured out. He knows better than to get carried away with his early success, lest the baseball gods strike him down again.

— Ken Rosenthal

Tagged: Orioles, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Royals, Brewers, Twins, Yankees, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers, Blue Jays, Braves, Cubs, Reds, Astros, Dodgers, Nationals, Mets, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, Padres, Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Rays, Melvin Mora, Jason Varitek, Jose Molina, Jon Garland, Carlos Lee, Jake Westbrook, Jim Thome, Ted Lilly, Carlos Guillen, Scott Podsednik, Francisco Cordero, Jason Marquis, Mark DeRosa, Kerry Wood, Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Vladimir Guerrero, Vicente Padilla, Pat Burrell, Joe Beimel, Mark Kotsay, Brad Penny, Ryan Dempster, Jack Cust, Jayson Werth, Victor Martinez, Austin Kearns, Carlos Zambrano, Nick Johnson, Brad Lidge, Aaron Harang, Marcus Thames, Jake Peavy, Cliff Lee, Xavier Nady, Mark Teixeira, Darnell McDonald, Hideki Matsui, Adrian Gonzalez, John Buck, Scott Hairston, Dontrelle Willis, Jhonny Peralta, Miguel Cabrera, Dan Haren, David DeJesus, Grady Sizemore, Brad Hawpe, Corey Hart, Jeff Francis, Chris Snyder, Jason Kubel, Nick Swisher, Ryan Howard, Joe Blanton, Huston Street, Tim Stauffer, Prince Fielder, Kelly Johnson, Tom Gorzelanny, Matt Capps, Chad Billingsley, Jason Hammel, Jon Lester, Carlos Marmol, Matt Albers, Chris Iannetta, Scott Moore, Miguel Montero, Adam Lind, Tim Lincecum, Franklin Morales, Carlos Gonzalez, Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, Ross Detwiler, Evan Meek, Clayton Kershaw, Greg Reynolds, Max Scherzer, Alberto Castillo, Daniel Murphy, Casey McGehee, Brett Cecil, Jason Berken, Esmil Rogers, Scott Sizemore, Drew Storen, Jason Heyward

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