Tag: Will Middlebrooks

Nelson Cruz

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights


Mariners 11, Rangers 10: Nelson Cruz hit two homers, drove in five and knocked in a walkoff single. On the year he’s hitting .354/.404/.854. Which is just a great, early-season small sample size line. Or a somewhat less valuable line than the one Barry Bonds put up over 573 games between 2001 and 2004 (.349/.559/.809).

Tigers 9, White Sox 1: Yoenis Cespedes hit a grand slam and a two-run home run. Not bad for a guy who I, and who everyone else I’ve been around when his name has come up in the past couple of months, always seem to say “oh yeah, he’s on the Tigers now. I forgot.”

Royals 4, Athletics 2: What a sh**show. A third straight day of sh**show, which started on Friday night when A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie slid hard/dirty into second base, hurting Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar. Then, on Saturday, Yordano Ventura hit Lawrie with a 99 MPH fastball. Even? Nah. Yesterday Athletics starter Scott Kazmir hit Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain in the leg with a pitch. Then Royal reliever Kelvim Herrera threw a 100 MPH fastball behind Lawrie, which he claimed — and, to be fair, acted like — was a mistake. Ultimately, like, 58 dudes were ejected and the game was finished by little leaguers bussed in from Overland Park, Kansas. True story.

Nationals 4, Phillies 1: Stephen Strasburg struck out seven, walked two and allowed five hits while pitching into the eighth. The Nats took three of four from a Phillies club that’s gonna help a lot of struggling teams get well this year. Philly has scored 32 runs in 13 games.

Pirates 5, Brewers 2: A three-game sweep. The Brewers are 2-10, which is their worst start in history. When is the first Packers minicamp?

Orioles 8, Red Sox 3: Adam Jones went 4-for-5 with a three-run double and two-run homer, driving in five. He’s hitting .457 on the young season. That puts him on pace to hit . . . um, .457. Hmm. I guess it’s dumb to do the “on pace” thing, eh?

Yankees 5, Rays 3: I guess the Yankees just needed to get back to the Tampa area to right the ship. The sweep here, aided by two-RBI games from Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira. A-Rod doubled, walked twice and scored twice. Hard to believe, but this is the first time the Yankees have swept the Rays in a three or more game series in Tampa in ten years.

Mets 7, Marlins 6: The Mets set a record for Team Its Fans Worry About Most Despite The Fact That It Has Won Eight Games In A Row. Which, given that they keep losing players to injury in these wins, is quite understandable. Travis d’Arnaud broke his hand when he was hit by a pitch and Jerry Blevins was lost to a broken forearm suffered on a comebacker. Still, they’re 10-3 and have won their first seven home games.

Braves 5, Blue Jays 2: Jonny Gomes drove in four — a bases-loaded double and a sacrifice fly — and Shelby Miller pitched six effective innings. Gomes’ double came thanks to a misplay by Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey, who got turned around and tried to leap for the ball, only to fall down. Afterward Pompey said he’d been “playing somewhat scared” all season for fear of making a mistake. That’s . . . not the sort of thing that players should likely be telling the media, even if it’s true, I feel.

Twins 7, Indians 2: Torii Hunter hit a homer and the Twins won their fourth in the last five games. Trevor May allowed one run on four hits in six innings. The Cleveland offense has been horrid lately.

Astros 4, Angels 3: Garrett Richards made his first start since having knee surgery last year and gave up four runs — three earned — on five hits and four walks in five innings. A couple of the runs came as the result of a strikeout which catcher Drew Butera couldn’t handle, followed by a throw to first which went offline. Luis Valbuena homered for the Astros as well and Jose Altuve had three hits.

Padres 5, Cubs 2: Will Middlebrooks and Yangervis Solarte each hit two-run homers and Andrew Cashner allowed two runs, neither earned, in six innings. Jon Lester is 0-2 with a 6.89 ERA after three starts. Good thing six-year deals aren’t judged after three starts. He wasn’t as bad as he’s been, though. He allowed three runs and six hits in five and a third here. He also pulled a Terry Mulholland when a ball he fielded got stuck in the webbing of his glove and he tossed the whole glove to Anthony Rizzo for the out.

Diamondbacks 5, Giants 1: Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run homer and then blew everyone’s mind after the game when he said “any time you can get a win, it’s good.” Chris Owings had a two-run single. A.J. Pollock had three hits, scored twice and made a nice diving catch. Neither of them went all Confucius on us like Goldschmidt did, though.

Dodgers 7, Rockies 0: The Dodgers hit three homers in the sixth inning. Which coincided with the Calcaterra family dinner last night, which I unwisely allowed to take place with the TV on, leading to my kids running away from the table and yelling “Oh my God, ANOTHER one!” while their chicken got cold. Howie Kendrick, Scott Van Slyke and Joc Pederson did the damage here. Brandon McCarthy allowed three hits in six innings, struck out six and walked two.

Cardinals 2, Reds 1: A three game sweep for the Cards, thanks to Adam Wainwright (8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 4K) outdueling Mike Leake. The game took only two hours and two minutes, which has to be a record for an ESPN Sunday night game. Hats off to these clubs for (a) letting us all switch to “Mad Men” earlier than we thought we’d have to; and (b) limiting the amount of things John Kruk and Curt Schilling could say.

Carlos Gonzalez exits game with soreness in surgically-repaired knee

Colorado Rockies Photo Day

This isn’t what you want to hear with the start of the season just one week away. According to AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez was forced to exit last night’s Cactus League game against the Padres after he felt soreness in his surgically-repaired left knee.

Gonzalez, who had season-ending surgery last August, aggravated the knee when he caught a fly ball off the bat of Will Middlebrooks in the third inning. He stayed in for his next at-bat before being removed from the game.

Rockies manager Walt Weiss decided to play it safe, but Gonzalez doesn’t think it’s anything major and said it was “just a little fatigue.” He’ll be re-evaluated today.

Gonzalez has played well this spring, hitting .333 (9-for-27) with three doubles in 11 games. However, keeping him healthy is an ongoing concern for the Rockies. The 29-year-old has averaged just 110 games played over the past four seasons.

2015 Preview: San Diego Padres

A J Preller, Bud Black, Justin Upton, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks, Wil Myers

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The San Diego Padres.

The Big Question: Who are these guys and what have they done with the Padres?

A.J. Preller was hired as the Padres general manager last August and he went into the offseason with a plan. Prior to the winter meetings, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Padres were “aggressively looking for hitters who can help them contend for (the) NL West title immediately.” The report drew some laughs, as it seemed incredibly ambitious and even unrealistic for a team which ranked last in pretty much every major offensive category last season while finishing under .500 for the fourth straight year. We quickly learned that he wasn’t messing around.

The biggest changes came in the outfield, with trades for Justin Upton (from the Braves), Matt Kemp (from the division rival Dodgers), and Wil Myers (in a three-team deal with the Rays and Nationals), but Preller also acquired 2014 All-Star catcher Derek Norris from the Athletics. There’s something to be said for not being loyal to the players you inherit from a previous regime. As a new GM, Preller was uniquely positioned for this rapid and unexpected overhaul. The cherry on top of their offseason was signing James Shields to a four-year, $75 million contract in early February. Joaquin Benoit’s $15.5 million deal was the franchise’s previous record guarantee to a free agent, so this is some uncharted territory we’re dealing with here. The Padres also threw money at some low-risk, high-reward types for their rotation with Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow. Despite all the activity, the Padres’ payroll isn’t going to be much higher than what it was last year. It helps that the Dodgers are paying nearly all of Kemp’s salary for this season.

Pitching was already a strength for the Padres, partially due to their home ballpark, but the addition of Shields makes them even better. He can now slot into the No. 1 spot while Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross all move down a peg. Odrisamer Despaigne held his own during his first season in the majors last year and should do fine as a fifth starter if Morrow and/or Johnson don’t pan out. Outfield defense is a concern, particularly in center field with Myers, but the Padres are hoping that what the trio does on offense offsets the deficiencies in the field.

Who knows if this is going to work out. Kemp is an injury risk and maybe all those innings finally catch up to Shields. Maybe Myers doesn’t bounce back and Upton (an impending free agent) becomes a trade candidate by midseason. But the Padres are trying something here and that’s pretty exciting. It’s always fun to be in San Diego, but even more so right now.

What else is going on?

  • It’s pretty remarkable that the Padres were able to make all of these moves and still managed to keep arguably three of their best prospects, right-hander Matt Wisler, outfielder Hunter Renfroe, and catcher Austin Hedges. I guess you could throw Rymer Liriano into that mix, as well. So they didn’t completely sell out their future this winter. You could also say that they still have the flexibility to make another big move if they really want to go for broke. Cole Hamels, perhaps?
  • My goodness, something has to give with these extra outfielders. The Padres dealt Seth Smith to the Mariners over the winter, but they still have basically their projected starting outfield from a couple of years ago — Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, and Carlos Quentin — under contract. Liriano also saw time at the major league level last year. Quentin could get hurt by the time I finish writing this sentence, but one would think we’ll see a trade soon to clear this logjam.
  • While right-handed sluggers Upton, Kemp, and Myers could put up big numbers in that outfield, the infield is another matter altogether. It’s a glaring weakness. Jedd Gyorko showed some potential during his rookie season in 2013, but he’s coming off a down year and he’s surrounded by the likes of Yonder Alonso, Alexi Amarista, Will Middlebrooks, Yangervis Solarte, Tommy Medica, and Clint Barmes. Not the most inspiring group. Perhaps Alonso or Middlebrooks can surprise, but that would require a leap of faith. This infield would be more interesting if they managed to outbid the Dodgers for Hector Olivera, but that ship has sailed.
  • With the additions of Upton, Kemp, Myers, Shields, and Norris, it’s easy to overlook the work that Preller did with his bullpen. Brandon Maurer came over in the Smith deal with the Mariners while Shawn Kelley was acquired from the Yankees for minor league right-hander Johnny Barbato. Both are intriguing potential late-inning arms. Padres manager Bud Black has a handful of interesting alternatives for the closer role if Benoit goes down at some point. I wouldn’t rule that possibility out, as Benoit will be 38 later this year and dealt with some shoulder issues down the stretch last year.
  • Saying “if he can stay healthy” should be obvious with any pitcher, but that’s especially the case with Cashner. The 28-year-old has flashed frontline potential at times, with a 2.96 ERA across 51 career starts, but he was limited to just 19 starts last season with elbow and shoulder issues and has never thrown more than 175 innings in a season before. This rotation has some questions — even Ross was shut down after a career-high 195 2/3 innings last year due to muscle soreness in his right forearm — but if things break right, they could be one of the best groups in the National League.

Prediction: I think it’s going to be close with the Giants, but what the heck, I’ll drink the offseason Kool-Aid. Second place, NL West and the second Wild Card spot.

Report: Cuban free agent infielder Hector Olivera likely to pick a team by Wednesday

olivera getty

The situation involving Cuban free agent infielder Hector Olivera has taken some interesting turns over the past month or so, with a report that he has potential ulnar collateral ligament damage in his elbow to him bringing on a new agent after he officially hit free agency, but it looks like the process is finally moving toward a resolution…

This confirms a report from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, who heard from Olivera’s agent, Greg Genske, that a deal should happen “soon.” Of course, we’ve heard that before with this situation.

From all accounts, the 29-year-old Olivera is someone who should be able to contribute in the majors right away. He’d most likely be a third baseman with the Dodgers or Padres. Juan Uribe is the current projected starter with Los Angeles while Yangervis Solarte and Will Middlebrooks are competing for the job with San Diego.

The Padres’ offseason moves may not guarantee the playoffs, but they certainly guarantee enthusiasm

San Diego Padres Logo

The Padres had had a busy winter already, but the signing of James Shields last night pushes it toward the ridiculous. If they get Cole Hamels, everyone in San Diego may plotz. Heck, they may plotz anyway after acquiring Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Brandon Morrow Will Middlebrooks, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Maurer Josh Johnson and now Shields. It’s a totally different team than it was last year.

Is it a better team? Almost certainly. Even if Matt Kemp continues to have injury issues and Justin Upton remains the good-but-not-as-good-as-people-thought-he’d-one-day-be player from his early days in Arizona, the offense is improved. If Kemp looks like he did in the second half last year and Wil Myers rebounds to his rookie form, all bets are off. Shields provides them with a near-certain 200+ above average and, occasionally, excellent innings. The team is much stronger than it’s been.

That doesn’t mean Padres fans should start setting aside money for playoff ticket deposits yet, of course. There are a lot of uncertainties here. The new hitters conquering Petco Park is not a given, even if they are healthy. Shields has a lot of miles on the odometer. The Padres were just a 77-win team last year and, as history has shown, making 15-20 game improvements in a single season is not an easy trick. Ask the 2013 Blue Jays and 2012 Marlins how adding a bunch of big pieces in a single offseason can go.

But there is definitely reason for excitement in San Diego. For one thing, all of these additions came at a relatively limited cost. The Padres did not give up any of their top prospects to acquire the talent they got and, even if you include Shields’ deal, none of the financial outlays for the new players are particularly crazy. The future has not been mortgaged for a one-year improvement. Indeed, this could just be a year in which the Padres makes a nice little competitive surge that gets the fan base excited with a more traditional and sustained improvement on the horizon.

And that’s pretty key with this franchise. The fan base excitement. The Padres have had some successful seasons over the years, but they were somewhat isolated and never came by virtue of ownership opening up the safe and truly investing in the team. Before this offseason, their biggest-ever free agent deal was Joaquin Freakin’ Benoit, for crying out loud.

A lot of Padres fans I know — some I met as recently as back in December at the Winter Meetings — would’ve never believed that the team would be as active in the offseason as they have been this year. That Padres brass would do the sorts of things to stir up some excitement and get the Padres faithful to shell out for tickets and merch with the level of enthusiasm they are likely to this spring.

Maybe what the Padres did this winter is not enough to make the playoffs — the Giants and Dodgers aren’t going anywhere any time soon, after all — but they have certainly taken some much needed steps to kick up some excitement in San Diego.