Reds lead the way in stupid Opening Day lineups

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dusty baker hillman.jpgIt’s usually about putting your best foot forward when it comes to setting a lineup on Opening Day. Dusty Baker, though, decided to lead with his head up his ass.
The Reds played both their fourth and fifth outfielders Monday, with Chris Dickerson leading off and Laynce Nix in the seventh spot.
The choice to bench Drew Stubbs was especially baffling. Not to knock Dickerson’s glove, but Stubbs is clearly superior defensively. Plus, he hit .300/.354/.700 with five homers in 60 at-bats this spring. To top it all off, he was essentially named the starter going into the exhibition season. Dickerson got off to a hot start last month, but he finished at a modest .288/.327/.462, while Stubbs entered the day about as hot as any NL hitter.
One could justify playing Dickerson, but in left, not in center. He does, after all, offer a lot more defensively than Jonny Gomes, something that’s pretty important with Aaron Harang on the mound. But Gomes wasn’t the starter either, even though all he did was hit .267/.338/.541 for the Reds last season and slug five homers in 55 at-bats this spring. Instead, Nix, who was lucky to make the team over Wladimir Balentien, got the call. Nix hit .239/.291/.476 for the Reds last year, boosting his career line to .236/.277/.421. Baker knows that he’ll never have to worry about him clogging up the bases.
For what it’s worth, the Reds ended up losing 11-6. Dickerson went 1-for-5 in the leadoff spot. Nix was 1-for-2 before Stubbs replaced him and went 2-for-2 with an RBI.
Some other odd choices:
*Dodgers manager Joe Torre must have been too preoccupied to notice that the Pirates were starting a lefty in Zach Duke today. Matt Kemp, who merely torched southpaws for a .362/.429/.616 line last year, hit fifth ahead of James Loney. If there was ever a situation that called for pitching around a guy, that’s it. Kemp was originally slated to bat second this year, but Russell Martin was in that spot today.
Also, the Dodgers this winter signed three bench players who essentially remain in the league because of their performance against left-handers: Reed Johnson, Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll. Not one started today, though. That’s not necessarily the wrong strategy. But if the Dodgers didn’t want to platoon anywhere, then they chose the wrong batch of reserves.
*The Mets had Alex Cora lead off and Mike Jacobs bat cleanup. I think this one has been better covered elsewhere, but someday soon, they’re going to lose a game with Jacobs at the plate in the ninth and Jason Bay waiting on deck for a chance that never comes.
*With Alberto Callaspo still nursing a minor oblique injury, the Royals had Willie Bloomquist starting at third base and batting sixth. The sad thing is that you can almost justify batting him sixth, when the spots below him were occupied by Yuniesky Betancourt, Jason Kendall and Chris Getz. But why not go to Mike Aviles instead?

CC Sabathia: getting in shape and ready for baseball

sabathia getty
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CC Sabatha made headlines in October when he abruptly left the Yankees to go into alcohol rehab. After a month there he came back and gave interviews about his decision and his battle with the bottle and then disappeared into the offseason the way most players do.

He emerged the other day and spoke with the New York Daily News’ Mark Feinsand and says that he’s ready for baseball once again. Indeed, in some ways he’s more ready now than he usually is by mid February. He’s been throwing bullpen sessions for the past three weeks — he normally waits until he gets to Tamps — and he says his troublesome knee is feeling good.

 

Sabathia will turn 36 during the season. In 2015 he was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA in 29 starts and posted his lowest strikeout rate in a decade. Late in the season, however, with the help of a knee brace, he was at his most effective in some time. He won’t need to return to 2008 form in order to help the Yankees this season, but he will need to look more like he did in September if he is to help the Yankees to the playoffs.

Jacob deGrom open to extension with Mets

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom talks during media day for the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.

While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.

“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’

It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.

DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.

Royals, Mike Moustakas avoid arbitration with two-year deal

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas celebrates after hitting an RBI single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Seriesagainst the Toronto Blue Jays  on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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The Royals and third baseman Mike Moustakas have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $14.3 million deal, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

The deal, which was initially discussed last month, buys out Moustakas’ final two years of arbitration. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it’s believed he’ll make $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.7 million in 2017.

The 27-year-old Moustakas posted an underwhelming .668 OPS over his first four seasons in the majors, but he enjoyed a big postseason in 2014 before breaking out last season by batting .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.