Cardinals sign Carlos Beltran to two-year, $26M contract

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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals agreed Thursday to a two-year, $26 million contract with free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran. The deal includes a no-trade clause.

Beltran batted .300 with a .910 OPS, 22 home runs and 84 RBI in 142 games this past year between the Mets and Giants, and should help St. Louis cope somewhat with the loss of slugger Albert Pujols.

The 34-year-old Beltran will open the 2012 campaign as the Cardinals’ starting right fielder, but could slide over to center once postseason hero Allen Craig recovers from his November knee surgery. It’s a nice get for the Redbirds, who should have a plenty productive lineup if health is on their side in 2012. Here’s how the batting order might shake out on Opening Day:

SS Rafael Furcal
RF Carlos Beltran
1B Lance Berkman
LF Matt Holliday
3B David Freese
C Yadier Molina
2B Daniel Descalso
CF Jon Jay

With Adam Wainwright returning and Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook rounding out the rotation, the Cards should have no trouble staying competitive in year one without Albert.

Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

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You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.