Matthew Pouliot

Mike Moustakas

Royals set lineup has a disastrous debut

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Despite facing a very tough left-hander in Chris Sale, the Royals had Mike Moustakas batting cleanup today. Why? Because Ned Yost wants a set lineup. Pay no attention to those splits behind the curtain.

That set lineup:

LF Alex Gordon
SS Alcides Escobar
DH Billy Butler
3B Moustakas
C Salvador Perez
1B Eric Hosmer
CF Lorenzo Cain
RF Jeff Francoeur
2B Chris Getz

The problem here is that while it’s a fine lineup for Yost to use against righties, it makes zero sense to stick Moustakas in the cleanup spot against lefties. The 24-year-old is a career .233/.283/.349 hitter versus southpaws. Francoeur, for all of his faults, is a .289/.341/.479 hitter against lefties. Common sense would dictate that he and Perez, in either order, would be the Royals’ No. 4 and 5 hitters against lefties.

That’s not part of Yost’s strategy, though. In Monday’s opener, Escobar and Butler both reached safely twice apiece. Moustakas had six men on base over the course of his four at-bats and went hitless, striking out twice. Francoeur, on the other hand, singled twice out of the eighth spot. Unable to put their hits together, the Royals lost 1-0. For that, Yost deserves some of the blame.

April Fools! A.J. Burnett victim of exploding rosin bag gag

A.J. Burnett
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Even before taking the loss to the Cubs, A.J. Burnett got dusted in Monday’s game:

Burnett recovered from the traumatic incident to strike out 10 in 5 2/3 innings. However, he did give up all of the Cubs’ runs in the Pirates’ 3-1 defeat.

That’s just Hunter being Hunter

Hunter Pence
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For those of us who miss Manny Ramirez’s antics on the field, we do have an awkward sort of replacement in Hunter Pence patrolling right field for the Giants.

Here’s Pence today giving the Dodgers’ Mark Ellis a double when he lost a flyball on the sun.

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And here is Pence with Matt Kemp up a minute later. Spot the difference?

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Fortunately, Matt Cain was able to pitch around the non-error. He and Clayton Kershaw are locked in a scoreless duel in the seventh.

Red Sox storm into first place, beat Yankees 8-2

Jackie Bradley Jr.
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Jumping all over CC Sabathia, the Red Sox racked up 13 hits and eight walks to beat the Yankees 8-2 in Monday’s opener.

A typical Red Sox-Yankees game, it finished about an hour and a half later than the Nationals’ 2-0 win over the Marlins, which also started at 1:05 p.m. EDT.

The Red Sox scored four times off Sabathia in the second, leading the Yankees to get the bullpen active. Sabathia was able to stay in and hold the Red Sox scoreless through the fifth, but the Red Sox got to both David Phelps and Joba Chamberlain out of the pen. Jacoby Ellsbury and Jose Iglesias collected three hits apiece for Boston, though none of Iglesias’s singles left the infield. 11 of Boston’s 13 hits were singles.

Jackie Bradley Jr., making his major league debut after a terrific spring, walked three times, scored twice, knocked in a run on a groundout and made a fantastic catch in left field to rob Robinson Cano of a double in the third.

While the Bombers got little going offensively today, their bigger concern has to be Sabathia’s diminished velocity. He was typically around 90 mph with his fastball, and he was forced to rely more on breaking balls and changeups as a result. It makes one wonder if he was going through his dead-arm period a bit later than most. The Yankees were protective of Sabathia this spring after October surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow.

Besides the patience displayed by the bottom half of the lineup, the Red Sox had to be most encouraged about the showing of their pen today. Jon Lester left after striking out seven in five innings, and Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa and Joel Hanrahan combined to give up just one hit the rest of the way.

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UPDATE: Rangers, Elvis Andrus reach an agreement on a $120 million extension

Elvis Andrus
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UPDATEJon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the deal is done.

2:42 AM: Despite the presence of Jurickson Profar waiting in the wings, the Rangers have decided to lock up Elvis Andrus to an eight-year, $120 million deal, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman.

Rosenthal reports that the contract would supersede Andrus’ current deal, which will pay him $11.25 million total for 2013-14, essentially making this a six-year, $109 million extension. Heyman, on the other hand, says the eight-year, $120 million extension will kick in after his current deal, locking up Andrus for the next 10 years.

It’s actually a pretty big difference, in that Rosenthal has Andrus making $18.2 million per year for six years, while Heyman’s extension would be for $15 million per year for eight years. I’m going to guess that Heyman has it right; the latter deal would seem to me to be more palatable to the Rangers.

Obviously, the Rangers’ hope here is that the 24-year-old Andrus will continue to improve at the plate, as well he should. The four-year veteran established new highs in average (.286), OBP (.349) and slugging (.378) last year. He was also perfectly solid in 2011, hitting .279/.347/.361. One of the AL’s best defensive shortstops, he’s worth $15 million per year at the moment. Of course, his range figures to decline with age, but his bat should make up for it in his late-20s and he should still last as a shortstop well into his 30s.

As for Profar, this now makes him the Rangers’ second baseman of the future, which puts Ian Kinsler’s role in question. The Rangers could trade Kinsler this summer if they fall out of contention, but it’s more likely that they’ll shift him to first base or an outfield corner and keep him around for 2014 and beyond. He’s in the first year of a five-year, $75 million contract.

Andrus would have been eligible for free agency for the first time after 2014. Because of Profar’s presence, he had been mentioned in trade rumors, most notably in the Justin Upton talks with Arizona. The Rangers, though, never appeared interested in moving him.