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?

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.