Author: Matthew Pouliot

Zack Wheeler

Top prospect Zack Wheeler sidelined by oblique strain

7 Comments

The Mets scratched right-hander Zack Wheeler from his scheduled outing Wednesday because of a strained oblique suffered while hitting in the cage.

Wheeler didn’t believe the injury was serious, saying he hopes to make his next start. The Mets, though, figure to be extra cautious with the 22-year-old, who rates among the game’s top five pitching prospects. Wheeler is already locked in to starting the season in Triple-A, so there’s no reason to take any chances and have him risk a setback.

Wheeler was due to make his first spring start today after throwing two scoreless innings out of the pen Saturday against the Nationals. He was a bit wild in that one, but he topped out at 97 mph.  Had he pitched against the Cardinals today, Wheeler would have had a chance to face Carlos Beltran, the star the Mets gave up to acquire Wheeler from the Giants in 2011.

New York’s wannabe cannibal cop was Mike Baxter’s high school teammate

Mike Baxter
16 Comments

Mike Baxter and Gilberto Valle combined to man the left side of New York City high school Archbishop Molloy’s infield in 2002. One went on to play outfield for the New York Mets. The other has been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping after online chats indicated his desire to cook and eat women.

The connection between the two was first revealed a few months back, but Baxter got asked about it today and issued a no comment.

NYMag.com points out that the 2002 squad featuring Baxter at shortstop and Valle at third won the NYC title and was ranked No. 3 in the East region by USA TODAY.

Valle, a six-year member of the NYPD, is on trial in New York. An FBI agent testified Tuesday on Valle’s reported plans, which included roasting a girl’s arm on a barbecue and “longing for the day i cram a chloroform soaked rag in her face.”

In a surprise twist, the Marlins still own Josh’s Booty

Jeffrey Loria
30 Comments

If you watched the MLB Network’s recent reality show, you know that former LSU quarterback Josh Booty is in Diamondbacks camp, having become “The Next Knuckler.”

However, it turns out that should Booty stun the baseball world and actually impress enough with his knuckleball to continue his career, he’ll do so as a Marlin.

FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports that Booty remains Marlins property since he retired, instead of getting released, when he left baseball to go play football 14 years ago.

Before spending two years at LSU and getting drafted by the Seahawks, Booty was a first-round pick of the Marlins in 1994, going fifth overall. Despite poor minor league results — he was a lifetime .198/.256/.356 hitter in five seasons — he appeared in the majors with the Marlins each year from 1996-98, going 7-for-26 with four RBI. He retired in Jan. 1999 to go play football.

Since Booty was on the retired list, the Marlins retained his rights for the duration of his absence from baseball. Now that he’s back, they’ll have the right to reclaim him at the end of spring training, should they wish to. Rosenthal reports that the Diamondbacks, the Marlins and MLB reached a resolution last week to let Booty carry on in Diamondbacks camp for now. It’s not expected that the 37-year-old right-hander will become a serious threat to return to the majors, but one never can tell with knuckleballers.

Despite poor results, Tim Lincecum happy with spring debut

Tim Lincecum
11 Comments

Tim Lincecum gave up three runs and failed to make it through his two scheduled innings Tuesday against the Dodgers, but he was pleased following his first start of the spring.

CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly has the quotes:

“It’s a good sign,” Lincecum said, “when you feel the ball’s coming out of your hand better than the year before.”

Lincecum struggled with his delivery last spring and didn’t have his usual velocity or command, problems that lingered all season long.

“Last spring it was trying to make something out of nothing,” Lincecum said. “I didn’t have the strength or the mechanics to sustain anything. Now the question isn’t whether I’m going to throw strikes. It’s where I’m going to throw strikes.”

According to Baggarly, Lincecum was throwing 92-93 mph in the first inning today and 89-92 mph in the second. Lincecum generally worked at 89-92 mph last year.

After Lincecum’s successful relief stint in the playoffs last year, some suggested the Giants might be better off keeping him in the bullpen. However, GM Brian Sabean and company certainly weren’t thinking that way. Beyond their top five starters, the Giants have perhaps the worst rotation depth of any big-league team, with Yusmeiro Petit or Chad Gaudin probably ranking as the sixth starter of the moment.

Chad Cordero touches 91 mph in return appearance

Chad Cordero
2 Comments

Back on a big-league mound after a nearly two-year absence, Chad Cordero gave up a home run but retired three of the four Mariners he faced in his Angels debut Monday.

Both MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby and USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale had pieces on him and his trials today.

Cordero’s minor league deal, signed earlier this month, didn’t include an invitation to major league camp, but he was brought over to get an inning in today with the Angels’ top hurlers not pitching yet.

“He was like 40 pounds lighter, so I didn’t recognize him,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “But once he got on the mound, you could tell it was him.”

Cordero pitched at 89-91 mph today, said GM Jerry DiPoto. That’s actually right where he was before hurting his shoulder in 2008; according to Fangraphs data, his average fastball ranged between 89 and 90 mph every year from 2003-07.

The soon-to-be 31-year-old Cordero isn’t a candidate to make the Angels out of spring training, but he hopes to contribute later on this season.

“This reminds me how much I missed it,” Cordero told Nightengale. “I hated it when I was released. If I have to pitch in A-ball, Double-A to get here, I’ll do it. I’ll be a mop-up guy if I have to. I want to be here because I love this game so much.”

Cordero, a 2003 first-round pick, saved 47 games for the Nationals as a 23-year-old in 2005. He racked up 128 saves in total before turning 26. However, he’s made just 15 appearances since 2008 (six then, nine in 2010) because of shoulder issues. He’s also making his way back from a tragedy after losing his 11-month-old to sudden infant death syndrome in 2010.