Brewers lose catchers Gregg Zaun to surgery and Angel Salome to the outfield

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Milwaukee essentially lost a pair of catchers yesterday, with 39-year-old veteran Gregg Zaun deciding to undergo season-ending (and perhaps career-threatening) shoulder surgery and 24-year-old prospect Angel Salome requesting a move to the outfield.
Zaun has remained productive well past the point most catchers flame out, hitting .265 with a .743 OPS in 28 games this season while getting on base above a .340 clip for the seventh straight year, but he’ll be 40 before the start of next season and had modest arm strength even before the surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Zaun admitted yesterday that the Brewers would probably be smart to choose a $250,000 buyout over a $2.25 million on him for next year and said he’s uncertain about trying to play a 17th season. “I’d like to prove to myself that I can still play, so an injury won’t be the thing that ends my career.”
Salome was once considered the Brewers’ catcher of the future, but his hitting declined following a breakout 2008 season at Double-A and his defense was never considered a strong point. He also left the Triple-A team early this season for the birth of a child and later took an extended leave, telling the Brewers he was “struggling mentally” and “not mentally prepared to play.”
Now he’s a 5-foot-7 corner outfielder without much speed and with a .759 OPS in 87 games at Triple-A, and the Brewers have demoted him to Single-A to get comfortable at the new position. “Certainly, his path to the big leagues is a lot less cluttered as a catcher,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “But this is what he says he wants to do, so we’re going to give it a try and see what happens.”

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.