Mark Kotsay in center field: that was an interesting choice

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When the lineups came out yesterday and Mark Kotsay was listed as the Brewers’ starting center fielder, well, let’s just say that the Internet did not approve.

Yes, Nyjer Morgan was struggling and yes Kotsay has had some success against Chris Carpenter in a tiny sample size. But really? The same Mark Kotsay who played ten games in center field this year and hadn’t been a regular at that position in five years? Hurm. Carlos Gomez seemed like the more obvious choice to fill in for Morgan, especially in what figured to be a low-scoring game with two aces taking the hill. Defense kind of matters in such situations.

And the move seemed disastrous in the first inning, as Kotsay was doubled off second base by Jon Jay, killing what could have been a big inning. Jay and Kotsay teamed up in the home half of the first too, with Jay lacing one to center field and Kotsay diving for — but missing — the ball. That allowed Rafael Furcal to score from second.  Jay scored on Albert Pujols’ subsequent ground rule double. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that either Morgan or Gomez reach that ball.

The damage was mitigated somewhat when Kotsay led off the third with a first-pitch homer off Carpenter, making it a 4-3 game. Then, in the fifth, Kotsay’s heads-up base running allowed him to reach second base after drawing a walk, but that also opened up a base for the Cardinals to walk Prince Fielder and then Rickie Weeks struck out, stranding Kotsay.

The homer was nice, of course, but that first inning could have been very different had Carlos Gomez been playing center field. And given that all four of the Cardinals runs came in that first inning, it was pretty much the ballgame.  It all adds up to a decision that, if the Brewers don’t advance to the World Series, Ron Roenicke will be thinking about all winter long.

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.