Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish impresses in his first major league action


Months of anticipation of Yu Darvish’s debut led up to less than a half hour of baseball action, but it was exciting baseball action all the same. The tale of the tape: two innings, 36 pitches, 26 strikes, no runs, a couple of hits, three strikeouts, a spiffy defensive play and the beginning of what’s bound to be a fabulous career.

My first impression of Darvish: he’s tall. We knew he was tall, but after seeing a half inning of Jeff Suppan before him, he looked all the taller. He also throws hard. We knew he threw hard, but after seeing a half inning of Jeff Suppan before him, he looked like he threw all the harder. And, at least according to these uneducated eyes, he had offspeed and breaking stuff that should be illegal.

Not that it was perfect: he gave up two doubles. One, by Orlando Hudson, was not very hard hit. The other, by Will Venable, was tattooed and probably would have been a homer if not for the very tall wall in center field here at the Peoria Sports Complex.  Venable was erased a couple batters later, however, when James Darnell chopped one in front of the plate, Darvish reached up tall — did I mention he was tall? — stabbed it, fired to his catcher and caught Venable in between third and home.  Greg Maddux, who has been working with Darvish in Rangers camp as a special assistant and made that play hundreds of times in his career, is likely to be proud.

Apart from that: three strikeouts: Cameron Maybin to lead off, Carlos Quentin to end the first and then John Baker to end the second.  Quention and Baker looked confused at the offspeed stuff. Baker looked practically lost. He may have well as had a piano leg with him.

And a final note that tells us that Darvish is a different guy altogether. Strike two to Baker was a hard foul back that just cleared the screen behind the plate and made the concourse just to the third base side. A man dove for the ball, dropping what was in his hands, and laid out full on the concrete to pick up the souvenir.  The man who dove: a credentialed Japanese photographer. The thing he dropped: a very expensive-looking camera.

You don’t do that for just anyone. But you do it for Yu.

Angels sign outfielder Rafael Ortega to one-year contract

Rafael Ortega
AP Photo/John Bazemore
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According to the official Twitter account of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the club has agreed to terms on a one-year major league contract with outfielder Rafael Ortega.

It’s worth the MLB minimum, which should be a little north of $507,000 in 2016.

Ortega was once considered a top prospect in the Rockies’ minor league system, but he has made only six total plate appearances at the big league level since signing out of Venezuela in 2008. The 24-year-old batted .286/.367/.378 with two home runs and 17 stolen bases in 131 games this past season for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis.

He’ll be in the running for an Opening Day roster spot next spring in Angels camp.

Report: Ben Zobrist’s price tag is currently four years, $60 million

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Ben Zobrist will turn 35 years old early next summer, but that doesn’t seem to be putting too much of a dent in his free agent value.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the “sense among interested teams” is that Zobrist’s price is currently hovering around four years, $60 million and it “may go higher.”

There was a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on Sunday stating that the Mets have made Zobrist their “No. 1” offseason target, and over a dozen other clubs have linked to him since the World Series ended. That’s the kind of attention you command when you can both hit — Zobrist posted an .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 2015 — and also cover a range of positions defensively.

He makes sense for just about any club looking to contend in the coming seasons.

Wilin Rosario elects to become free agent

Wilin Rosario
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
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Wilin Rosario was designated for assignment by the Rockies late last month. Now, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com, the 26-year-old former National League Rookie of the Year vote-getter has elected to become a free agent.

Rosario is a bad defensive catcher and wasn’t much better when the Rockies tried him at first base, but he should draw some interest from American League teams looking for a bench bat and part-time DH.

Rosario slugged 28 home runs for the Rockies in 2012 and he’s averaged 26 home runs for every 162 games over the course of his five-year major league career.

He boasts a .319/.356/.604 career batting line against left-handed pitching.

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson

As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger. There is also a second player headed to Baltimore in the deal.

This feels like an admission from the O’s that they’re not going to be able to re-sign Chris Davis, who is said to be looking for more than $150 million in free agency.

Clevenger was out of options and the Orioles have both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph coming back at the catcher position. Wieters was due to become a free agent but accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Baltimore last month.

Trumbo has always been a low-OBP guy and he rates as a poor defender everywhere he has played, but the 29-year-old has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBI for every 162 games in his six-year major league career. Camden Yards is a much better place than Safeco Field for him to show that power.