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Nats looking out for Strasburg or themselves?

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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Stephen Strasburg was the No. 1 pick in last year’s amateur draft. Mike Leake was the eighth overall selection.

So, why is Leake in the Reds’ rotation while Strasburg — the game’s most ballyhooed pitching prospect — is merely at Double A?

POLL

  • How many strikeouts will Stephen Strasburg have in the majors this year?
    • 50 or fewer
    • 51-100
    • 101-150
    • 151-200
    • More than 200

The answer almost certainly includes the words “Super” and “Two,” but allow Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo to explain:

“I’m not an expert on Mike Leake. I’m somewhat of an authority on Stephen Strasburg,” Rizzo says. “Mike Leake has nothing to do with what we do with Stephen.

“I saw Leake at Arizona State a bunch of times. He’s a terrific young pitcher. But he’s more of a finesse guy. Strasburg is more of a power guy. That comes into play.

“There are a lot of things a young power pitcher has to learn: How to read swings, how to make adjustments on the mound, how to react when they can’t get their breaking ball over, how to control the running game.”

Strasburg is 2-0 with a 0.73 ERA in three starts for Double A Harrisburg, but the Nats wanted him to learn to pitch every fifth day, as opposed to his once-a-week regimen at San Diego State. They also wanted him to slow down his delivery in the stretch without losing velocity.

So far, so good on both fronts.

In 12-1/3 innings, Strasburg has struck out 17 and walked three. His time is 1.15 to 1.25 seconds to the plate out of the stretch, Rizzo says. He was one second or below in spring training.

Leake, meanwhile, is 1-0 with a 3.92 ERA in his three starts, averaging nearly seven innings per outing. The Reds, by including him on their Opening Day roster, obviously were not concerned about delaying his free agency and eligibility for salary arbitration.

A team can postpone a player’s free agency for one year by keeping him in the minors for at least 20 days — and his arbitration eligibility for one year by keeping him down for about seven weeks.

Clearly, the “Super Two” rule — which awards an extra year of arbitration to two-year players in the top 17 percent of their service class — needs to be abolished in the next collective-bargaining agreement.

Rizzo, whose background is in scouting, is not wrong to be patient with Strasburg — teams too often rush young pitchers to the majors before they are properly developed.

On the other hand, teams too often restrict the promotions of the game’s top young talents, preferring to wait until after the cutoff date for “Super Two” eligibility.

The Nats, by holding off on Strasburg until June, will save a significant amount of money on him long-term. But they could be making money off him right now; their attendance surely would be higher for his home starts.

Oh, and they also could be winning more games.

Suzuki to Boston? Not so fast


Sure the Red Sox would love to trade for the A’s Kurt Suzuki, just as they would have loved to have signed the TwinsJoe Mauer.

But, difficult as it is for some fans of the Red Sox and Yankees to accept, their favorite teams do not always get the players they desire.

Suzuki, 26, is different from Mauer — his team does not have a deal for a new ballpark, and might not get one. If the A’s are unable to move to San Jose, there is little doubt that they will continue their cycle of trading players once they begin to earn big money.

Suzuki would fit that description: He becomes eligible for salary arbitration at the end of this season. The A’s are deep in catchers with Josh Donaldson at Triple A Sacramento and Max Stassi at Class A Kane County.

So, why won’t Suzuki be in Boston by July 31?

Because A’s general manager Billy Beane would want an even better package for Suzuki, who is under club control for three-plus seasons, than the Red Sox traded for Victor Martinez, who was under control for one-plus.

The Sox parted with pitchers Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price for Martinez, and they actually had leverage over the Indians, who needed to clear payroll.

They would possess no such leverage over the A’s.

Suzuki is a better all-around player and more valuable asset than Martinez was last July. The A’s are capable of carrying him through his early years of arbitration. At least for the moment, they lead the AL West.

The Red Sox will need to target other catchers.

Young catching: The Yankees' edge


As the Red Sox attempt to sort out their catching, the Yankees are bursting with young talent at the position.

Francisco Cervelli, 24, could be a regular for many clubs. The Yankees project that he will start between 40 and 60 games as Jorge Posada’s backup this season.

Jesus Montero, one of the game’s top hitting prospects, is in Triple A at age 20. While he is off to a slow start offensively, Yankees manager Joe Girardi says Montero could hit in the majors right now and made significant strides defensively from spring training 2009 to 2010.

Austin Romine, the Yankees’ catcher at Double A, is perhaps the more likely successor to Posada, given the possibility that Montero could end up as a designated hitter.

Girardi also mentioned Single A Gulf Coast League catcher J.R. Murphy, the Yankees’ second-round pick last year; and Single A Charleston catcher Kyle Higashioka, a seventh-round pick in 2008.

He did not mention Gary Sanchez, a 17-year-old catcher from the Dominican Republic, who has yet to make his professional debut.

The Yankees have spent $7.35 million on six highly touted amateur catchers since 2006, according to Baseball America.

The Red Sox are high on three of their own young catchers – Tim Federowicz, Luis Exposito and Mark Wagner.

None ranks among their top 20 prospects according to BA.

Yankees' Logan: yet another weapon


As if the Yankees need more help, club officials are excited about left-handed reliever Boone Logan, the second player they acquired in the Javier Vazquez trade.

Logan, who throws 91-94 mph, is benefiting from a mechanical adjustment that pitching coach Dave Eiland suggested in spring training.

Eiland asked Logan to lift his leg higher in his delivery and throw from more of a downhill plane, enabling his arm to get out front.

Logan noticed an immediate difference — his four-seam fastball started moving in on left-handed hitters instead of tailing back over the plate. His changeup returned, and his slider gained late movement.

To think, Logan was not originally part of the Vazquez deal; the Yankees wanted another player if they were going to part with outfielder Melky Cabrera, left-hander Mike Dunn and right-hander Arodys Vizcaino.

Logan says he was asleep when a friend called to inform him that he had been traded.

“Cool,” Logan recalls telling his friend. “I’ll call you later.”

He didn’t even ask his friend which team had acquired him. He just went back to sleep.

Looking for good wood


Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said on Friday that so many people were giving struggling third baseman Brandon Wood advice, “His computer is about ready to blow up.”

Wood looked better over the weekend, but one member of the Angels says his swing is too long, “not major-league caliber.” Hatcher believes Wood’s problem is more mental than mechanical. He told Wood he wants him to stop being tentative and start being aggressive.

“Take your best swings,” Hatcher said. “If you make outs, be dangerous.”

Angels manager Mike Scioscia, interviewed last week by Cal Ripken Jr. on Sirius/XM, says that the Hall of Famer told him to inform Wood of how he began his Rookie of the Year season in 1982. Ripken went 3-for-5 on Opening Day, then suffered through a 4-for-55 slump.

Some more historical comfort for Wood: Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt batted .196 in his first full season, 1973.

Jack Z's Kotchman connection


The Mariners are among the many clubs that could pursue a trade for the PadresAdrian Gonzalez. But at the moment, they’re pretty happy with their own first baseman, Casey Kotchman.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, previously the Brewers’ scouting director, nearly drafted Kotchman with the 12th overall pick in 2001. Zduriencik took right-hander Mike Jones instead, and Kotchman went to the Angels at No. 13.

“The debate was, ‘Do you take Mike Jones or do you take Casey Kotchman?’” Zduriencik recalls. “We ended up taking Mike Jones. He was a 6-foot-5 pitcher. Until he got to Double A and started getting hurt, he looked like he would be the right pick.”

Zduriencik compensated by drafting an even more promising first baseman, Prince Fielder, with the seventh overall pick the following year. The GM finally acquired Kotchman in January, getting him from the Red Sox for utility man Bill Hall, a player to be named and cash.

“I always thought Casey would be a pretty good offensive player,” Zduriencik says. “I thought back then he would be a pure raw power guy. Now he’s got power, but he’s a line-drive guy, a guy who might start to lift some balls.

“It wouldn’t surprise me this year if he hits 20. It wouldn’t surprise me if down the road he hit 25.”

Kotchman, 27, has three homers thus far, and his .557 slugging percentage is second on the Mariners only to center fielder Franklin Gutierrez. His defense makes him an asset even when he is slumping.

A neccessity at Petco: firemen on call


One thing new Padres GM Jed Hoyer has noticed about playing at Petco Park: Your bullpen had better deep.

“You can’t have a three-man bullpen playing in Petco,” Hoyer says. “You’re not going to blow too many teams out. If your 4-5-6 guys aren’t good, you’re going to struggle.”

Hoyer, previously the Red Sox assistant GM, recalls games at Fenway in which the Sox won by big scores, enabling them to use their bullpen judiciously.

The Padres do not feature as powerful an offense, but their bullpen is impressive. Right-handers Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson and Heath Bell form an effective late-inning tag team, and righties Tim Stauffer and Edwin Mujica also have been impressive.

The Twins explored trades for a closer after losing Joe Nathan for the season, but never had a formal discussion with the Padres about Bell.

A veritable walkathon for Houston


Think it was embarrassing when the Pirates were outscored 36-1 by the Brewers?

The sorry Buccos did something nearly as impossible Sunday, issuing eight walks to the notoriously undisciplined Astros.

The perpetrators, Pirates right-handers Charlie Morton and Brian Bass and lefty Brian Burres, ought to be put on double-secret probation or something.

The Astros entered Sunday with only 22 walks in 17 games. Their big breakthrough enabled them to extend their lead over the majors’ individual walk leader.

That would be Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who has a mere 20.

Around the horn

• Reds manager Dusty Baker asked management about a contract extension, according to a major-league source, but evidently the team is not yet ready to decide upon his future.

Baker, in the last year of his deal, could be replaced if the Reds continue to flounder.

• Before getting too excited about the White Sox’s Andruw Jones, let’s see him sustain his hot start over a full season.

Jones had an even higher OPS through a comparable number of plate appearances last season, but wound up hitting .214/.323/.459 for the Rangers.

• The Angels admire not only Hideki Matsui’s clutch hitting, but also his sense of humor.

When Matsui flies out to the warning track, he often will return to the dugout and say, “Home run in Yankee Stadium.” Other times, he will poke fun at himself, saying, “No pop.”

On a more serious note, Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher says, “We’re just so amazed at how good he really is.”

• The big question about Brewers third baseman Casey McGeehee is whether he was a one-year wonder or late bloomer. The early returns lean strongly toward the latter.

Brewers GM Doug Melvin says McGeehee could follow the same type of career arc as Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake, who did not play regularly until he was 29.

McGeehee is 27.

• And finally, former Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley had perhaps the best description of the late Rockies’ president, Keli McGregor:

“When you looked at him, the first thing that came to mind is that he should be wearing a cape. He looked like Superman. He acted like Superman.”

Wiley was a member of the Rockies’ front office in 1999 and 2006-07.


Tagged: Mike Dunn, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Indians, Brewers, Twins, Yankees, Athletics, Mariners, Reds, Dodgers, Nationals, Pirates, Padres, Casey Blake, Andruw Jones, Victor Martinez, Joe Nathan, Bill Hall, Joe Mauer, Casey Kotchman, Mike Adams, Tim Stauffer, Prince Fielder, Boone Logan, Brandon Wood, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Leake

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