Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Night Links

Mets shortstop Jose Reyes took batting practice for the first time on Monday, but his status for Opening Day hasn't yet been determined.

Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt, who received an injection in his back, is expected to start on Opening Day.

Marlins ace Josh Johnson is also expected to be ready to make his Opening Day start.

Royals first baseman Billy Butler said, “No personal goals. It’s team goals. Win the American League Central. Make some noise and show our organization is moving in the right (direction). If we do that, my individual goals will all be there because we’ll be where we want to be.”

When asked about his 20-20 potential, Pittsburgh's Garrett Jones said, "I think it's possible."

The Toronto Blue Jays have released outfielder Joey Gathright.

For ceremonial first pitches, Barack Obama will throw out the first pitch in Philadelphia while Roger Staubach will throw out the first pitch in Arlington.

Pirates manager John Russell plans to hit the pitcher 8th in the Pirates' lineup.

As expected, Ryan Perry earned a roster spot in the Tigers' bullpen.

Marlon Byrd said of Milton Bradley: ''I want him to be him. In Texas, he didn't smile. He put up ungodly numbers. He has to be himself. That's the only thing he can do. That's the only way he can play. I want to see him do it, 162 all-out, because he has MVP material.''

Orioles reliever Koji Uehara will start the season on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.

Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello had a strong outing against the Blue Jays.

Felipe Paulino has a shot at winning the Astros' fifth starter spot in the rotation.

Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore said, "Whatever soreness or pain I've had has been minimal. I recovered from the next day. Going into this last week of spring training, I feel strong like I'll be ready to go for the season."

Reds pitcher Homer Bailey allowed five runs on five hits in five innings against the Dodgers single-A team.

Royals pitcher Gil Meche threw 127 pitches in a simulated game and didn't feel any soreness.

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira was hit by a pitch on his elbow, but X-rays weren't required as it's only a bruise.

Pujols says he feels great

For anyone concerned about the back of Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, don't be.

After hitting the ball hard yesterday off Mets' pitcher Mike Pelfrey (then again, who didn't hit Pelfrey hard?), Pujols was pleased with his swing and said "... if the season were to start tomorrow, I'd be ready to go," per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"I think if there is a good time to test (the back) it's right here and in the next three or four days," said Pujols. "I feel great. I don't think this is going to be an issue. If this would be an issue it would have flared up ... again. Long innings, long games — it's stuff like that. That's what I look at, and I feel really good."

In the obvious statement of the day, Pujols should be the top overall pick in fantasy drafts regardless of format.

And through nine MLB seasons, Pujols has never hit lower than .314 (2002), less than 32 home runs (2007) or has he driven in less than 103 runs (2007) in any season. And twice (including last year) he stole 16 bases.

Ryan Madson on the 9th: "Just treat it as another inning"

Phillies (temporary) closer Ryan Madson can be a source for a cheap saves early in the season.

Madson will serve as the team's closer while Brad Lidge remains in Clearwater at the start of the season.

Athough he struggled in that role in 2009 by converting only 10 of 16 opportunities, last year's experience should help him this year.

At least, that's Madson's (and Lidge's) view.

"Just treat it as another inning," Madson said. "I got into a little bit of a groove and got my confidence and realized that. So if I can just start that way, get that feeling that I had at the end of the year last year and just treat it like another inning, go out for each hitter and have fun with it, everything will be fine."

"We all know [Madson's] stuff is as good as anybody's among the late-inning guys. And I think for him, the experience of last year will go a long way for him this year," Lidge said. "I thought he did fine for his first year getting in there. He probably learned a lot about how the ninth inning is a little different from the eighth inning. And now that he knows that, and with his stuff, I think he's going to do an excellent job. I mean, he's really capable of being a great closer."

In six spring appearances, Madson has saved one game while posting an ERA of 6.00 and WHIP of 1.50 in six innings pitched.

Ricky Nolasco lowers spring ERA to 1.78

Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco retired the first 16 Astro batters he faced yesterday and only allowed one hit (a single) in 7 1/3 innings.

According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, however, Nolasco was "very upset" about allowing his first walk of the spring.

"You don't want to end a day like that -- ever,'' Nolasco said. "It's not acceptable."

"It's frustrating, especially being 0-2 to that guy. I don't care how many walks I have, or don't have. In that situation, it's the absolutely worst way to do it. He was completely overmatched there, and I didn't do my job and let him back in the count. That just can't happen.''

This spring, Nolasco is now 3-0 with an ERA of 1.78 and a K/BB ratio of 21.0.

"The biggest thing I learned as far as pitching is to throw strikes, not walk guys. It just makes your job a million times easier. It's something I've learned and thought about since maybe I was 12."

Despite a horrible start to 2009, Nolasco was 11-4 with an ERA of 3.82 since June. In those 141 1/3 innings, Nolasco struck out 158 batters.

With his strong spring performance, Nolasco is poised for a big season.

Matt Cain gets contract extension

The San Francisco Giants have agreed to extensions with three pitchers: starter Matt Cain, closer Brian Wilson and set-up man Jeremy Affeldt, per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

"We have cost certainty and the fans have the comfort of knowing these guys are going to be in Giants uniforms helping us win games," said Giants general manager Brian Sabean.

Before the extension, Cain would have become a free agent in 2012. Now, he will earn $15 million that season as a Giant.

In addition, ace Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez won't become free agents until after the 2013 season.

"When you see a group of pitchers stay together like that "... it builds us all up," said Cain, per Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. "I feel we all share the leadership every time we go out there and pitch."

Cain had a career year last season posting a 14-8 record, 171 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.89.

That said, part of his success was due to (an improvement in his) luck. Cain's 2009 BABIP was .268, which was the fourth-lowest in the Majors, according to Meanwhile, his BABIP in 2008 was .304.

Comparing 2009 to 2008, Cain actually had a worse K/9 rate (7.69 in 2008 to 7.07 in 2009) and HR/9 rate (0.79 in 2008 to 0.91 in 2009) last season.

Per, Cain's average draft position (ADP) is 89.17, which makes him the 20th starter off fantasy draft boards, which makes him a good value.