Lance Berkman says Bud Selig “extorted” new Astros’ owner into moving team to AL

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Lance Berkman used a pretty loaded word earlier today to describe how MLB commissioner Bud Selig convinced new Astros’ owner Jim Crane to move the team to the American League West. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, the former Astro said Selig “extorted” Crane into switching leagues as a precondition of ownership.

Berkman hasn’t conveyed his feelings personally to the commissioner, but said he would if given the opportunity.

“If he called me, I would tell him,” Berkman said. “I think that’s exactly what it was. To tell [Crane], ‘We’re going to hold the sale of the team up until you guys agreed to switch’? It just happened that the Astros were being sold at an optimal time for that to happen.”

Crane received a price reduction from $680 million to $615 million on the sale by agreeing to the switch, which will put 15 teams in each league beginning in 2013. While he admitted to Crasnick that he probably would have preferred to keep the franchise in the National League, he called it a “good deal for baseball” and a “good deal for our owners.”

“Lance can say what Lance wants to say,” Crane said. “He has great ties to the Astros and was a great player there for years. We certainly understand that he’s opinionated, but I wouldn’t use that strong a term. I think it was just a business deal that got renegotiated.”

Extortion is a probably a little extreme, but there’s little doubt that Crane was strong-armed into switching leagues. But I don’t expect him to complain given the sweet discount he ended up getting. Something tells me Berkman will get that conversation with Selig, though.

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.