Could La Russa end up with Dodgers?
There’s just one problem with Tony La Russa becoming a key decision-maker for the Los Angeles Dodgers if Steve Cohen succeeds in buying the club.
La Russa is such a strong personality, his presence might diminish the Dodgers’ chances of hiring one of the top current general managers, according to rival executives.
Cohen, one of four finalists to buy the Dodgers from Frank McCourt, reportedly has talked with La Russa about joining the team in an executive position. Though the exact role they discussed is unclear, it’s doubtful La Russa would serve as a mere figurehead.
The next owner of the club could retain GM Ned Colletti and give him the chance to operate with a payroll greater than $90 million, the Dodgers’ figure this season. But if the owner wants his own man, an incoming GM might balk at working for La Russa, who has zero front-office experience.
All of this is speculation; the bidding is not nearly complete. But, as rival execs see it, a GM such as the Tampa Bay Rays’ Andrew Friedman or Arizona Diamondbacks’ Kevin Towers likely would not leave their current situations for limited autonomy in L.A.
Rockies’ Guthrie: Questions are fair
I couldn’t find a spot in my recent column about the Colorado Rockies to include some interesting quotes from right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, whom the team acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in early February.
Guthrie, 32, was not at all offended when I remarked that some people wonder if he will succeed with a contender after pitching for five straight losing clubs in Baltimore.
“Fans can ask any question they want, have every doubt in the world. Until someone shows it, there’s no answer,” Guthrie said.
Yet, Guthrie is undaunted.
“I always tell people, ‘You want to feel pressure? Then go into a major-league camp with no options left having been claimed off waivers and knowing you’ve got to show someone something to make the team.’” Guthrie said. “There isn’t more pressure you can have than having a potential career at stake.”
Guthrie was in that position in 2007, when he was out of options and released by the Indians. The Orioles claimed him, at a time when he had made only one major-league start.
“I’ve always felt if you’re prepared and confident in what you’ve done, you’re not going to feel pressure, regardless of whether your team is expected to win or not,” Guthrie said.
“I enjoy pitching in important games. The only comparison you can come up with from my times in Baltimore are the Opening Days. The most exciting games were the Opening Day games and maybe games in big venues against the Red Sox, in an important game for them.
“Outside of that, it’s hard to say how someone is going to react. But pitch well or pitch not, I don’t think it’s going to be dictated by whether the team is in the race. If I pitch well, it’s going to be because I’m prepared. If I don’t, it’s going to be because I’m not executing pitches.”
Why, Billy, why?
Rival executives still find it curious that the Oakland Athletics traded right-hander Trevor Cahill, who is under a club-friendly contract through 2015 and possibly ’16.
“Billy must have known something,” one exec says, referring to Athletics GM Billy Beane.
Chances are, Beane was just seeing the same thing that advanced metrics portrayed — that Cahill’s breakthrough in 2010 stemmed largely from his freakishly low .237 opponents’ batting average on balls in play.
When Cahill’s BABIP last season increased to .306 last season, his performance suffered accordingly; his ERA-plus was below league-average.
Cahill struggles against lefties and, because of the movement of his sinker, occasionally struggles to throw strikes. His walk rate last season was the third-highest in the American League.
Which is not to say that the Arizona Diamondbacks made a poor decision to acquire Cahill, who is still only 24.
Cahill is a proven 200-inning pitcher who should benefit from moving to the National League, if not from his move from the Oakland Coliseum to hitter-friendly Chase Field.
Here comes Cowgill!
Right-hander Jarrod Parker was the biggest prize in the Athletics’ package for Cahill, but outfielder Collin Cowgill has made such a huge impression, manager Bob Melvin already is saying that he will make the club.
“He’s a fiery player, real aggressive, always in your hair,” Melvin says of Cowgill, who is 5-foot-10, 185 pounds. “This guy, even though we have a wealth of outfielders, has played his way onto the team.”
Cowgill, 25, reached base 11 consecutive times before his streak ended Friday. Melvin says he is an above-average defender at all three outfield positions, and teammate Jonny Gomes compares him to two other small players, Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner.
“To not cross the line of that small-man syndrome, where they say something and people listen vs. ‘there goes that little guy his running mouth’ . . . I don’t know how they earn that respect,” Gomes says. “It’s up to them, how they carry themselves. He’s in that category.”
Another small player, infielder Eric Sogard, also is making a strong impression with the A’s. Sogard, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, appeared in 27 games last season, and Melvin says with the experience, he came to camp “a different guy.”
Gomes calls Sogard, “Harry Potter.” Sogard wears glasses off the field and is “super soft-spoken,” Gomes says.
And while on the subject of height …
The Cincinnati Reds’ pitching staff is straight out of the Land of the Giants, and that’s just not the observation of a certain 5-foot-4-1/2, bow-tie wearin’ fool.
Newly acquired left-hander Sean Marshall, who is 6-foot-7, noticed the phenomenon, too.
Andrew Brackman is 6-10, Logan Ondrusek 6-8, Ryan Madson and Mat Latos 6-6. Aroldis Chapman and Nick Masset are 6-4.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said at the start of spring training that Bobby Abreu could get 400 plate appearances, but that possibility looks increasingly remote with Kendrys Morales on track to be the team’s Opening Day designated hitter.
Abreu, in the view of some teammates, is partly to blame for his current predicament — he gained weight and lost his ability to play the outfield.
Torii Hunter, by contrast, dropped 17 pounds during the offseason so he could remain agile — and Hunter was a far better outfielder than Abreu to begin with.
Abreu is 38; Hunter turns 37 in July. If Abreu weren’t guaranteed $9 million this season, he likely would be in the same position as the defensively challenged Vladimir Guerrero and Johnny Damon — unemployed.
Around the horn
• A rival executive says of Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie, “He is going to be an absolute monster.
“If you tell me he will hit .310 with 38 homers, I would not be shocked. I wouldn’t be surprised at anything he did this year.”
• It would be an understatement to say that Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore is disappointed that he underwent back surgery and likely will be out until July.
“He’s crushed,” Indians manager Manny Acta says. “He goes in around 12:30 to get treatment after most of the guys are already on the field (for a 1 p.m. game).
“It’s hard. He feels bad. He doesn’t want to be around. He doesn’t want to be in the way.”
• San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher, raves about the Giants’ depth at his old position, saying, “it’s the best young catching corps I’ve ever seen.”
That group, of course, starts with Buster Posey, who turns 25 on March 27. But Bochy also mentioned Hector Sanchez, 22; Andrew Susac, who turns 22 on Thursday; and Tommy Joseph, 20.
Joseph, the Giants’ second-round pick in 2009, is the team’s No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America. Susac, the club’s second-round pick in ’11, is No. 6. And Sanchez, who made his major-league debut last season, is No. 10.
• Red Sox left-hander Andrew Miller threw 97 to 98 mph with a power curveball Friday, prompting a scout who was in attendance to talk excitedly about the possibility of Miller dominating in a middle-inning role.
The same scout also is bullish on right-hander Daniel Bard as a starter, even though Bard’s change in roles continues to spark debate among scouts and executives.
“Maybe he can be Justin Verlander,” the scout says. “You can’t teach that velocity.”
• Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis appears headed for stardom. Acta calls him a combination of the Red Sox’s Pedroia and Philadelphia Phillies’ Chase Utley.
“He reminds me of those guys,” Acta says of Kipnis, who, like Utley, is a left-handed hitter. “He hangs in good against left-handers. He’s not intimidated by the level by any means.
“He’s going to hit. And he has enough athleticism to become an above-average second baseman.”
• When I asked the Angels’ Mark Trumbo if he is becoming comfortable at third base, he replied, “more comfortable.”
“I’m asking a lot of questions, looking in (to the dugout), trying to figure out if I’m in the right spot. With guys who are bunters . . . when to play up, when not to play up, depending upon the count and how many outs there are.”
• The Cubs signed Cuban left-hander Gerardo Concepcion to a five-year contract to help offset their lack of starting-pitching depth.
Concepcion, 20, throws 91-92 mph, shows a good feel for pitching and won the Cuban National Series Rookie of the Year Award last season.
The Cubs are encouraged by the performances of two of their less prominent right-handers this spring — Jeff Samardzija, 27, and Chris Volstad, 25.
• And finally, a scout says of Miami Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez, “He’s locked in like it’s July.”