Marlins, Omar Infante working on contract extension

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Reinstalled as a regular for the first time since 2005, Omar Infante has spent most of the season as a pretty big disappointment for the Marlins.  Like Dan Uggla, the second baseman he was traded for over the winter, Infante got off to a horrible start, as the 2010 All-Star for the Braves hit just .251/.293/.309 during the first half.

Infante, though, has been an excellent regular since, batting .337/.379/.515 in 169 at-bats.  And now the Marlins want to keep him as they open their new ballpark next year, possibly in a multiyear deal, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports.

The 29-year-old Infante is making $2.5 million this year after having his club option picked up.  He’ll probably be looking to a raise to $4 million or so in order to agree to terms now.

Infante, though, does want to remain with the Marlins.  After years as a utilityman, he’s been allowed to find a home at second base in Miami.  Even though Infante has plenty of experience at shortstop, third base and the outfield — all places where the Marlins have been unsettled at times this year — Infante hasn’t played a game at any position other than second.

Infante isn’t as bad as he was in the first half or as good as he’s playing right now.  He’s an average regular at second base still in his prime, so a multiyear deal wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  At the same time, given that there’s always going to be cheap second basemen kicking around, it’s debatable whether the thrifty Marlins would be smart to commit something like $8 million to him for two years.  They’re already spending $45 million on five players next year, so Infante only makes sense if they’re willing to commit to a $70+ million payroll for 2012.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.