Joey Votto homers

Baker expects Votto to handle MVP treatment well

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Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker thinks that Joey Votto, fresh off winning the NL MVP award, will begin to be treated like great MVPs of the past by opposing pitchers.

Baker, speaking on Saturday at spring training camp in Goodyear, Ariz., said he noticed some special treatment from pitchers last season, when Votto hit .324 with 37 home runs and a 1.024 OPS.

“You saw last year how they started pitching him tougher and started pitching around him,” said Baker, who guided the Reds to their first playoff appearance in 15 seasons. “It’s the same thing Albert (Pujols) has been going through for seven, eight years now. I saw Barry Bonds go through it.”

Baker said it would be key for whoever hits in the clean-up spot behind Votto – a group that could include Scott Rolen, Johnny Gomes, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips – to play well to keep pitchers from ducking Votto.

“I remember when I was a kid, 22 years old, I was hitting behind Hank Aaron,” Baker said. “Hank told me ‘No. 1, don’t strike out when they do that. No. 2 try to keep the ball off the ground because they want you to hit into a double play. And just get some singles and doubles and you’ll stop them from pitching around me so much.’”

Baker said that Votto, a patient hitter who walked 91 times in 2010, was well equipped to handle the situation.

“For a young player he has a very good idea of what he’s trying to do, and an even better idea of what they’re trying to do to him. … When is a guy throwing me bait? Is he afraid of me? That’s the one thing I know about Barry Bonds, he could recognize fear quick as anything. He was like that dog that’s barking at that postman. That dog recognizes fear.”

Seeing as how Votto hit zero infield popups while compiling his monster 2010 season, there should be plenty of fear around the NL this season.

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Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.