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FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi
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October 1 News and Notes

 

Dipoto close to agreement with D-backs — 4:01 p.m.

Jerry Dipoto, who took over as interim GM for Arizona this season when the organization let go of Josh Byrnes early on, is close to reaching an agreement with the team to stay on in another capacity.

Dipoto was passed up in the team's search for a permanent GM in October in favor of Kevin Towers, but his accomplishments this season while serving in that capacity were strong enough and well respected enough around the league to where many believe he should be a candidate for the Mets job, which will reportedly open up after the season when they release Omar Minaya.

Dipoto is very respected within the Mets organization, having pitched for them during his playing days.

He's expected to take a position in the player development and scouting department for the Diamondbacks.

— Ken Rosenthal

Sept. 30 News and Notes

Blue Jays' Hill feels for Twins' Morneau — 1:04 p.m.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the Blue Jays will be at Target Field tonight, as Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau attempts to increase his baseball activities with the hope of returning during the postseason.

Morneau hasn’t played since July 7 because of a concussion, and Aaron Hill understands what that is like. The Toronto second baseman played only 55 games in 2008 after suffering a concussion that made him feel as if he had a “constant hangover.”

“I’m sure we’ll get together and chit-chat a little, see how he’s doing,” Hill said during an interview in Toronto earlier this week. “From what I’ve read, it’s all similar experiences. You hate to see it. You hate to hear about it. I know how miserable I was. I can only imagine how he’s doing.

“How he explained things – heavy head and dizziness – that’s why I’m curious to see him. He might say how he’s truly feeling, not what he’s saying to the media.”

Even then, it might be impossible for Hill to give Morneau a recommendation, one way or other, on whether he should play.

“I’d love to see him in there, because of what he does for the game and what he does for the Twins,” Hill said. “But from a personal standpoint, I know that’s a tough one. I wasn’t faced with a playoff berth, so it’s tough for me to say what he should do.

“My opinion, and my personal experience, is the best thing was to not push it. But it’s hard to tell a guy that when he’s seeing his team go to the playoffs. … Everyone’s case is different.

“(As players), our whole train of thought is, there’s a problem, you attack it, you deal with it, you get through it. The problem with this is there’s nowhere to point your finger and attack. You sit back and wait. That’s not part of our nature. That’s the hardest thing."

— Jon Paul Morosi

Sept. 29 News and Notes

Lilly no lock to stay in L.A. — 11:18 p.m.

Lawyers gave their closing arguments Wednesday in the divorce trial of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie. A judge will decide within 90 days whether the team belongs to Frank McCourt or is community property.

The delay could stretch into free agency, and already could be hampering the Dodgers’ efforts to re-sign left-hander Ted Lilly.

“I think the Dodgers are interested in signing Ted back. Ted has interest in signing back,” said Lilly’s agent, Larry O’Brien of Full Circle Sports Management.

“I’m just not sure the Dodgers at this point are going to get to a range that will be very easy for us to achieve come December. I’m pretty confident that there’s a minimum three-year deal out there for Ted.”

Lilly, 34, is a combined 9-12 with a 3.71 ERA for the Cubs and Dodgers this season. He is scheduled to pitch the Dodgers’ season finale on Sunday, increasing his total of 186 2/3 innings.

After Cliff Lee, Lilly will be one of the top starting pitchers available in a thin-free agent market. He is coming off a four-year, $40 million deal that included a salary this season of $12 million.

The Dodgers declined to offer salary arbitration to left-hander Randy Wolf last off-season when he was coming off a base salary of $5 million and total earnings of $8 million, including incentives.

Failing to offer Lilly arbitration would cost the Dodgers draft-pick compensation. Lilly currently projects as the final qualifier for Type A status among NL starting pitchers, according to MLBtraderumors.com.

— Ken Rosenthal

Pirates say good-bye to minors managerial star — 10:45 p.m.

This year, Matt Walbeck managed the Double-A Altoona Curve to the Eastern League title.

But the Pittsburgh Pirates have decided not to renew his contract for 2011, major-league sources told FOXSports.com.

“We appreciate Matt’s efforts and wish him the best in his future endeavors, but felt that it was best that we allow him to pursue other opportunities,” general manager Neal Huntington said in an e-mail.

The move came just weeks after Walbeck was named Eastern League Manager of the Year.

Walbeck, who turns 41 next month, is viewed by some in the industry as a future major-league manager. He won three league titles and has a .543 winning percentage in six years as a minor-league manager.

Walbeck spent the 2008 season as the Texas Rangers’ third base coach. He caught in the major leagues from 1993 through 2003, playing for the Cubs, Twins, Tigers, Angels and Phillies.

— Jon Paul Morosi

Sept. 28 News and Notes

Manager changes may lead to coaching changes — 8:22 p.m.

Managerial turnover frequently leads to coaching turnover. A number of well-regarded pitching coaches could become available, depending upon how many changes occur.

Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, for example, must decide whether he wants to work for new manager Don Mattingly.

“The Dodgers want him back and Rick likes Mattingly but he’ll weigh all options — he needs adequate compensation,” said Honeycutt’s agent, Burton Rocks.

The Brewers’ Rick Peterson, Cubs’ Larry Rothschild and the Blue Jays’ Bruce Walton are among the other coaches who could seek — or be forced to seek — new positions.

In each case, the clubs might want to retain the coach, but a new manager might not. Or, the coach might simply prefer to leave.

The Dodgers, according to a club official, have yet to determine which coaches they wish to keep under Mattingly.

Honeycutt’s staffs led the National League in ERA in 2008 and ’09 before dropping to seventh this season.

— Ken Rosenthal

 

Sept. 21 News and Notes

Padres' Hairston done for 2010 - 2:09 p.m.

The Padres got another dose of bad news as they continue to battle in the NL West.

Second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. is done for the season after revealing a fractured right tibia.

He had played with the injury the last two months, thinking it was shin spints. He was out of the lineup after Aug. 27, but returned on Sept. 12.

Recovery will take 4-6 weeks.

-- Ken Rosenthal

Sept. 20 News and Notes

Riggleman likely to be back in D.C. in '11 - 8:52

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is signed through 2011, but a clause in his contract enables the team to dismiss him after this season and pay him only a buyout.

The Nats don't plan to exercise that right, though; Riggleman will remain their manager, according to his agent, Burton Rocks.

“He’s coming back next year,” Rocks said Monday night. “All indications are that there is not going to be a change.”

Rocks said the Nats’ decision is not yet official; the team’s owners are scheduled to meet on Thursday.

Riggleman signed a two-year contract with the Nats last November. His deal includes a club option for 2012.

- Ken Rosenthal

D-Backs to name GM this week – 7:48 p.m.

Barring an unforeseen development, the Diamondbacks will name either Kevin Towers or Jerry DiPoto as their general manager within the next several days, multiple major league sources have told FOXSports.com.

Ownership's said to be torn between their loyalty to DiPoto, an executive with the team since 2006, and the appeal of Towers, who reached the postseason four times in 14 seasons as GM of the San Diego Padres.

Diamondbacks officials have spoken with Towers within the last 48 hours, one source said.

Towers, who was earning almost $2 million annually when the Padres dismissed him last October, would probably be a more expensive hire than DiPoto, who’d never been a GM before assuming the job in Arizona on an interim basis at the beginning of July.

But while many in the industry have believed Towers' salary demands would be a stumbling block, sources now say the Diamondbacks are simply having a difficult time deciding whether they want Towers or DiPoto to lead the organization.

DiPoto's moves have been well-received in the industry, which may explain why the club hasn’t already hired Towers, who has much more executive experience. The performance of right-hander Daniel Hudson, acquired from the White Sox in a package for Edwin Jackson, has been particularly encouraging for the team; he’s 6-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 10 starts.

In addition to DiPoto and Towers, the Diamondbacks have considered De Jon Watson and Logan White, both assistant GMs with the Dodgers, along with Angels scouting director Eddie Bane. While one major league source said Bane has an “outside chance,” it appears that Towers or DiPoto will be running the team by week’s end.

– Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal

Werth being shopped as a center fielder – 3:05 p.m.

Ask Scott Boras about his newest client, Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth, and the first words out of the agent’s mouth are, “He can play center field.”

Werth, a free agent at the end of the season, has made 18 starts in center this season – mostly while Shane Victorino was on the disabled list – and 77 in his career.

Because few center fielders hit like Werth, his marketability will only increase if prospective suitors consider him a viable defender at the position.

“He has the closing speed to play center,” Boras says. “It makes your team so different. Normally you get that production out of a corner outfielder.”

Werth, 31, left the Beverly Hills Sports Council to align with Boras. He leads the Phillies and ranks seventh in the National League with a .902 OPS. He also leads the NL with 4.36 pitches seen per plate appearance.

Some rival executives liken Werth’s free-agent potential to that of left fielder Jason Bay, who signed a four-year, $66 million contract with the Mets last offseason.

Boras sees a fellow client of his, left fielder Matt Holiday, as a better comparison. Holliday signed a seven-year, $120 million free-agent deal with the Cardinals last winter.

“Jason Bay suffered in the marketplace because of a predisposition about his medical condition,” Boras says (Bay had issues with his shoulder and knees). “The Red Sox rejected him, creating questions.

“That (predisposition) did not exist with Holliday. It certainly does not exist with Werth. And (with Bay) you were talking about a left fielder who was definitely not in the class of a Gold Glove outfielder.

“Werth is a totally different type of player. He’s an athlete who can play center field, run, steal bases, be a Gold Glove type outfielder.”

And hit.

“A lot of teams out there need center-field production,” Boras says.

Many in the game assume it'll be difficult for the Phillies to keep Werth, considering the team already has more than $145 million committed to 15 players for 2011.

The Phillies could trade Victorino ($7.5 million) or Raul Ibanez ($12.167 million), particularly if they believed Werth could replace Victorino in center. But they might prefer to make their next long-term investment in shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who’s a free agent after next season.

“We have not in any way ruled out Philadelphia,” Boras says. “No question he plays well there. It’s something you’ve got to look at closely.

“They’re going to win their division four times in a row. Ownership has a lot of business reasons to say this core belongs together a long time.”

– Ken Rosenthal

Baseball Hot Streak

Would Crawford seek a return home to Texas? — 11:00 a.m.

In honor of college football season, Rays clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland puts a special nameplate above each locker, showing the colors and logo of every player’s favorite team.

Among the notable allegiances: Grant Balfour, the Australian reliever, picked the University of Cincinnati; Joaquin Benoit, born in the Dominican Republic, supports the University of Oklahoma.

And Carl Crawford, a Houston native, went with the University of Texas — even though he once committed to play football at rival Nebraska.

Crawford said he likes both schools, but added, “I’m Texas first.”

In a couple months, we may ask whether Crawford will be Texas next – if the Houston Astros or Texas Rangers get involved in the highly anticipated free-agent frenzy.

Crawford still lives in Houston during the offseason. When asked earlier this month if friends there will pressure him to sign with the Astros, Crawford replied, “Nah, man. They know me. They know I’m going to do what I want to do. There’ll be no pressure. They all understand what’s going on. Plus, the Astros are not really winning right now. They want to see me on a team that’s winning.”

The Astros have actually done some winning lately, with a 46-32 record — second-best in the National League — since June 22.

Crawford was reminded that Minute Maid Park has the “Crawford Boxes” — named after Crawford Street — in left field, right behind where Crawford would play.

“They’ve been there for a long time,” he said. “Houston is always a place I’ve loved. I have no complaints about it. We’ll just have to see.”

The Astros would need to move Carlos Lee (and his contract) in order to make room for Crawford. The Rangers, under new ownership, aren’t similarly limited by burdensome contracts.

For the time being, Crawford is focused on the Rays’ postseason push. And Texas, by the way, is a possible playoff opponent.

— Jon Paul Morosi
 

Sept. 17 News and Notes

Ex-Diamondbacks GM meets with Indians brass — 2:45 p.m.

Former Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes was in Cleveland this week, meeting with his former colleagues and friends, Indians GM Mark Shapiro and assistant GM Chris Antonetti.

Shapiro will ascend to team president and Antonetti to GM at the end of this season. Byrnes could serve Antonetti in some capacity, but Shapiro said that Byrnes is "early in the process" of deciding his next move.

"The main reason he came in was the personal relationship that Chris and I have with him," Shapiro said. "I have as much respect for Josh as a baseball executive and as a person as anybody in the game.

"It was a great opportunity to discuss the game globally, our team and his future - all three things. He clearly would make anybody better, including us."

Byrnes, 40, also is expected to be considered for the Mets' GM opening, but it is not clear whether he would want such a position. His tenure in Arizona ended in part due to a conflict with team president Derrick Hall. The Mets could present similar issues; many in baseball are wary of Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon.

Byrnes is in position to be choosy - his contract with the D-backs runs through 2015. He began his baseball career with the Indians in 1994 and served as the team's scouting director in 1998 before moving on to positions with the Rockies and Red Sox.

The Diamondbacks hired him as GM in Nov. 2005 and dismissed him after nearly five years in July

— Ken Rosenthal

Mejia's season over in New York — 1:47 p.m.

The New York Mets say pitcher Jenrry Mejia won't pitch again this season after being diagnosed with a strained right shoulder blade.

The 20-year-old right-hander left in the third inning of Wednesday night's 8-7 win over Pittsburgh, and the team said Thursday an MRI exam revealed a strained rhomboid muscle, which is on the inside border of the shoulder blade and attaches to the spine.

Mejia was 0-4 with a 4.62 ERA. He made 30 relief appearances for New York before going to the minors to get stretched out, then got hurt during his third big league start.

Mejia had a shoulder injury in the minor leagues before, but pitching coach Dan Warthen said Wednesday night's problem was different.

— The Associated Press

Astros acquire pitching prospect from Reds — 10:03 a.m.

The Cincinnati Reds have traded right-hander reliever Enerio Del Rosario to the Houston Astros for cash.

The 24-year-old pitcher appeared in nine games with Cincinnati during the first half of the season, posting a 2.08 ERA without a decision. He spent the rest of the season at Triple-A Louisville, going 4-4 with four saves and a 3.09 ERA in 50 games.

To create room on the 40-man roster, the Astros designated infielder Oswaldo Navarro for assignment on Thursday. Navarro went 1 for 20 during two stints with the Astros this season, batting .271 in 81 games for Triple-A Round Rock with six homers and 37 RBI.

— The Associated Press

Sept. 13 News and Notes

D-Backs looking at Angels' executive for GM post — 3:49 p.m.

Add Angels scouting director Eddie Bane to the list of possibilities for the Diamondbacks’ general manager position.

The D-Backs will interview Bane, major-league sources say, increasing their number of candidates to at least five.

The team also is considering D-Backs interim GM Jerry DiPoto, former Padres GM Kevin Towers and two Dodgers assistant GMs, De Jon Watson and Logan White.

Towers, the most experienced of the group, was earning almost $2 million annually when the Padres dismissed him last October.

The D-Backs are paying former GM Josh Byrnes through 2015, but the difference between the salaries of Towers and a less experienced candidate would amount to about the price of a utility infielder in free agency.

Bane, 58, was a pitcher with the Twins from 1973 to ’76. He became a special assistant to the GM for the Rays from 1999 to 2003 and the Angels' scouting director in ’04.

— Ken Rosenthal

Sept. 9 News and Notes

Big Papi a big fan of Rays closer — 5:53 p.m.

Rafael Soriano has an agent. For the record, he doesn’t have the same agent as David Ortiz, but Big Papi made quite the sales pitch for the Rays’ closer during an interview this week.

Ortiz expects Carl Crawford to sign with the Yankees or Angels. But he thinks the Rays should do all they can to keep Soriano, another prospective free agent.

The Rays acquired Soriano from Atlanta, in one of the best moves by any team last offseason. Tampa Bay only parted with Jesse Chavez, who struggled with the Braves and now pitches for Kansas City.

Soriano, meanwhile, leads the American League with 41 saves.

“That’s the one guy they have to make sure they keep — for the next year, the next five years,” Ortiz said. “You can’t get no better than that. I’m telling you right now, that guy, any team that needs a closer for the next five years should go there.

“He’s got it. He pitches anytime. He’s ready to go. He knows what he’s doing.”

The last notable five-year deal for a relief pitcher didn’t turn out so well. B.J. Ryan signed a $47 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after the 2005 season.

Ryan recorded just 37 saves over the final four years of the contract — and didn’t pitch in the big leagues at all this year.

Jon Paul Morosi

Sept. 7 News and Notes

Longtime scout LaMacchia suffers stroke — 5:44 p.m.

Al LaMacchia, whose baseball career has spanned 71 years, suffered a stroke Saturday night and remained in a coma on Tuesday.

LaMacchia was moved to his San Antonio home on Tuesday, where he will be under hospice care.

LaMacchia, who turned 89 on July 22, pitched professionally from 1939 through 1954 and appeared in 16 big-league games, for the St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators in 1943, 1945 and 1946, making one start. He was 2-2 with a 6.46 ERA. In 14 minor-league seasons he was 159-117 with a 3.71 ERA, including going 21-10 for Wichita Falls of the Border States League in 1952.

LaMacchia moved into scouting in 1956 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He has worked with the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2003, and also spent time with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves (1961-76), Toronto Bolue Jays (1976-96) and Tampa Bay Rays (1996-2003).

— Tracy Ringolsby

Sept. 6 News and Notes

Baldelli back doing what he loves — 7:45 p.m.

During spring training this year, Rocco Baldelli was a special instructor for the Rays.

On Monday night, he was their DH.

Baldelli batted seventh against the Red Sox at Fenway Park — not far from his hometown of Woonsocket, R.I.

In a career that has had its share of heartbreak, this was a night to be cherished.

"A pretty good feeling," he said.

Baldelli was once one of the finest prospects in the game. He starred as a rookie in 2003. Then a series of injuries sidetracked his career, culminating with a diagnosis of mitochondrial disorder in 2008.

Doctors later switched the diagnosis to channelopathy, a different condition related to muscle fatigue. Effectively, it prevents Baldelli from being an everyday player. He doesn't have the energy required to play the outfield full-time.

But his love for the game hasn't diminished. And he can still hit, as evidenced by a pinch-hit home run Sunday in his 2010 debut.

Who knows? He could give Tampa Bay a late-season push from the designated hitter spot, where the Rays have had below-average production all season.

"I like playing," Baldelli said, in explaining why he decided to come back. "I don't know what else I would do. There's nothing better than playing. "It's something I've done for the last 10 years of my life, and it's not something I'm going to let go of easily."

Baldelli prepared for his call-up by playing 23 minor-league games, first in Port Charlotte and then Durham, N.C.

— Jon Paul Morosi

Sept. 1 News and Notes

D-Backs launch search for next GM — 10:10 p.m.

The Arizona Diamondbacks will begin interviewing general manager candidates over the next couple weeks.

And the list of those under consideration is taking shape, even though formal interview requests have yet to be made.

According to major-league sources, the Diamondbacks plan to speak with at least the following six people:

• Jerry Dipoto, Diamondbacks interim GM

• Peter Woodfork, Diamondbacks assistant GM

• Kevin Towers, former Padres GM and current Yankees adviser

• Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees vice president of amateur scouting

• De Jon Watson, Dodgers assistant GM for player development

• Logan White, Dodgers assistant GM for amateur and international scouting

Sources say Dipoto’s superiors were satisfied with the job he did at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, after he took over for the fired Josh Byrnes.

The question is whether ownership sees the interim GM as the best fit for the long term. That was the case last year with the Nationals, who kept Mike Rizzo after interviewing numerous other candidates.

Jon Paul Morosi

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