Five managers on the hot seat

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1. Eric Wedge (Indians) – The Indians might have been more justified in
firing Wedge a month ago, before injuries to Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal
Cabrera, Aaron Laffey and Anthony Reyes gave the team a better excuse
for its poor record. The Indians have been underperforming all along,
though. They’re nine games under .500 even though they’ve scored just
nine fewer runs than their opponents over the course of the year
(308-317). Wedge was too slow to try to put a better defensive team on
the field, and he deserves some of the blame for the bullpen woes. It’s
time for a change.

2. Manny Acta (Nationals) – Acta won’t survive into 2010 if the
Nationals amass baseball’s worst record for the second year in a row.
He’ll be lucky to make it into August unless his team puts together a
winning streak soon. Acta seems more open to new ideas than most and
has shown a willingness to experiment, but he’s done a poor job of
handling what’s been baseball’s worst pitching staff.

3. Cecil Cooper (Astros) – I don’t think the Astros are
underachieving at 25-30 one-third of the way through the season, but GM
Ed Wade and owner Drayton McLane likely disagree. Cooper’s status has
been the subject of speculation since almost the beginning of the
season, and he actually seems a little safer now than he did a month
ago, as the Astros have been winning recently. I still think he’s
likely to go if the Astros don’t move up from last place in the NL
Central to at least fourth by the All-Star break.

4. Trey Hillman (Royals) – The Royals’ surprisingly strong start
raised expectations and thus may have hurt Hillman’s case for sticking
around. Kansas City always figured to be a 75-win team, but that might
not fly after an April in which an AL Central title looked like a
legitimate goal. Hillman’s faults are obvious: he does as poor of a job
of running a bullpen as any manager in baseball and he pays little
attention to platoon advantages on offense or defense. I don’t see him
landing another major league managerial job once the Royals let him go.

5. Bud Black (Padres) – Truly a pleasant surprise, San Diego is just
four games under .500 despite possessing what looked like baseball’s
weakest collection of talent at the beginning of the year. Only the
Nationals and Orioles have worse run differentials than the Padres, who
have scored 221 runs and given up 271. That Black has coaxed the team
to a 26-30 record is quite an achievement. Still, Black is managing a
team that is expected to eventually have a new owner in Jeff Moorad.
CEO Sandy Alderson is gone, and it seems likely that more changes will
come after the year. Black will likely survive the season, but if the
Padres opt to go in a different direction at GM over the winter, then
they may bring in a new manager as well.

Others – Fredi Gonzalez has my vote for baseball’s worst manager,
but the Marlins won’t want to have to pay two managers at once again. …
Jerry Manuel’s Mets are playing better lately, so he should be safe
unless his mouth gets him in trouble. … A’s manager Bob Geren has
plenty of support from good friend Billy Beane and can’t be blamed for
assembling baseball’s most injury-prone team.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally¬†asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.