Author Archive

Ricky Nolasco Signing Just First Step for Minnesota Twins in Rotation Rebuild

The Minnesota Twins took a step toward improving their miserable starting rotation on Wednesday when they agreed to a deal with free agent Ricky Nolasco.

Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish broke the news first, with Jon Heyman of CBS Sports confirming the report:

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports broke the terms of the deal:

Signing Nolasco is a great move by the Twins, as he is coming off an impressive 2013 campaign during which he went 13-11 with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP.

Nolasco also finished the season strong, going 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP after being traded from the Miami Marlins to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After such an impressive showing in 2013, Nolasco was among the top free agents this offseason, ranking eighth among available starting pitchers prior to his signing, according to CBS Sports.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Twins are interested in bolstering their starting rotation after the way they’ve struggled over the past few years.

The Twins have been among the worst three teams in terms of ERA in each of the past three seasons, due in large part to the inefficiency of their starting pitchers.

As you can see from the table above, the Twins have been at or near the bottom of the AL Central for the past three years largely because of their woeful pitching staff.

The 5.26 ERA among starters was the worst in MLB last season—even worse than the Houston Astros. The next-worst ERA by starters was 4.81 by the Toronto Blue Jays, an incredible 0.45 better than that of Minnesota.

In fact, the last time the Twins had a decent pitching staff was in 2010, when Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano led the starting rotation and Jesse Crain and closer Jon Rauch highlighted the bullpen.

Unfortunately, signing Nolasco isn’t nearly enough to save the Twins starting rotation. If the team hopes to have a decent starting five next season, it will need at least two more starters.

To its credit, Minnesota has certainly been sniffing around and checking out the market.

The team has been linked with Bronson Arroyo, but it has yet to make him an offer:

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also connected the team with Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, Scott Feldman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and its own Mike Pelfrey.

In addition, Darren Wolfson of said the team is interested in Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka but called Tanaka an “extreme long-shot.”

The Twins know they need pitchers and have a long wish list, but is it possible for the worst starting rotation in baseball to turn things around enough to become serviceable in 2014?

As of now, the Twins have Kevin Correia and Samuel Deduno as their best starting pitchers alongside Nolasco. Correia and Deduno are both back-end starters who shouldn’t be higher than fourth and fifth in the team’s rotation if it wants to be solid next season.

The team can also hope and pray that Vance Worley returns to his 2011 form, when he went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA and finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting for the Philadelphia Phillies. However, it can’t rely too much on a guy who went 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA in 2013.

If the Twins are going to be good, they’re going to have to sign at least two of the pitchers they’re targeting right now.

Minnesota simply doesn’t have the money to sign Santana or Jimenez and pick up another decent free agent this offseason, which limits its choices.

One creative way for the team to bolster its rotation might be to sign former New York Yankee Phil Hughes.

Hughes is coming off a few bad years in a row with the Yankees, but a big reason he has been unsuccessful in New York is his tendency to surrender home runs.

Over the past two years, Hughes has given up 59 home runs, but 39 of those home runs have come in the launching pad known as Yankee Stadium.

It’s no surprise Hughes has struggled against power hitters, considering he has pitched in the stadium that had the most home runs of any ballpark in 2012.

Minnesota could be a much more welcoming place for Hughes.

According to ESPN Home Run Tracker, Target Field had the second-fewest home runs of any AL stadium this past season. It is a much more pitcher-friendly park than Yankee Stadium, and Hughes could be able to recapture some of his old magic there.

Signing Hughes to a short-term contract would also leave the door open for the Twins to make a major signing for the other pitcher they need.

With some financial wiggle room after giving Hughes a cheap contract, the Twins would be able to make a play for a guy such as Garza, who has had success pitching in Minnesota in the past.

Adding Garza and Hughes to a rotation with Nolasco, Correia and Deduno could potentially give the Twins a middle-of-the-pack rotation, which would be a huge improvement.

However, we have to keep in mind that there’s a chance Hughes doesn’t bounce back in Minnesota and Garza continues to struggle in the AL, as he did with the Texas Rangers in the latter half of 2013 (4-5, 4.38 ERA, -0.1 WAR).

Realistically, the Twins are going to need a few years to fix their starting rotation—and part of their rebuilding process will need to come from within the organization.

According to Baseball Prospectus, five of the Twins’ top nine prospects are pitchers. The team is going to have to hope that Alex Meyer (Double-A), Kohl Stewart (rookie ball), Jose Berrios (Single-A), Lewis Thorpe (Rk) and Felix Jorge (Rk) all continue to develop and that two or three of them turn out to be solid pitchers in the majors.

However, the Twins will have to wait a few years for these guys to start making a difference. Three of them are still in rookie ball, and Meyer is the only one in Double-A or higher.

With so much rebuilding to do and their prospects still a few years away, it would be unfair to expect the Twins to fix their rotation issues by the time the 2014 season rolls around.

In all likelihood, the Twins won’t have a top-tier starting rotation for at least another three years. But that won’t stop them from trying to add a few more guys like Nolasco for the time being.

It’s going to be a long rebuilding process for the Twins, but this signing is a step in the right direction. Minnesota fans can only hope the team continues to build on its latest move.

Read more MLB news on

Ranking the 10 Biggest Starting Pitching Comeback Candidates in MLB FA Market

Every year there are players on the MLB free agency market that qualify as comeback players, and many of them are starting pitchers.

This year is no different, as the offseason brings with it 10 pitchers who need big bounce-back seasons.

Whether their comeback is needed because of injuries, poor performance or a leave from the game, these guys need a good 2014 season to get their careers back on track.

Let’s take a look at the 10 biggest comeback players among starting pitchers this offseason.

*Note: Players are ordered with the biggest risk at No. 10 and the smallest risk being No. 1.

Begin Slideshow

Edwin Encarnacion Clubs Two Homers in Same Inning in Toronto Blue Jays’ 12-6 Win

Edwin Encarnacion showed just how much power he has when he blasted a pair of home runs in the seventh inning against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Encarnacion became just the eighth player to hit two home runs in one inning in the past decade, as he helped lift the Toronto Blue Jays to a 12-6 comeback win. He was the first player to do so for the Blue Jays in 20 years.

Encarnacion led off the seventh for the Blue Jays, and he took Houston reliever Paul Clemens deep on a home run to left field. Adam Lind would then also blast a home run, giving the Blue Jays back-to-back home runs to tie the game at six.

The Blue Jays were just getting started.

Toronto would go on to score two more runs on two hits, two walks and a hit batter before Encarnacion came back to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.

Encarnacion now faced Hector Ambriz, who was the third pitcher of the inning for the Astros. Ambriz had already retired Jose Bautista and was looking to close the door and leave the score at 8-6, but Encarnacion had other plans.

After working the count full, Encarnacion took the sixth pitch of the at-bat on a ride, ripping a hard line drive over the fence for a grand slam.

Encarnacion became the first player this year to smack two home runs in the same inning, hitting his 27th and 28th home runs of the season. He finished 3-for-4 on the day with five RBI and a walk.

The Blue Jays would go on to win the game 12-6, thanks in large part to Encarnacion‘s incredible day. The team is 47-55 this year, and is in last place in the AL East, sitting 13.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox for first place.

Encarnacion‘s big inning was the highlight of the day, and Blue Jays fans got their money’s worth at this game.

Read more MLB news on

Grading Alfonso Soriano’s Return to the New York Yankees

Alfonso Soriano made his return to New York Friday, as he played for the Yankees for the first time since 2003.

After being traded from the Chicago Cubs, Soriano received a hero’s welcome at Yankee Stadium. Fans were hysterical that he found his way back to The Bronx almost a decade after he left, and they let him know with this ovation.

Soriano wasn’t just greeted by fans, however, as GM Brian Cashman had only good things to say about him during a press conference in which he addressed the acquisition of the veteran outfielder.

The team desperately needed a right-handed power hitter like Soriano, as he has been knocking the ball out of the park more than the entire Yankees team as of late.

The Yankees were sure glad that Soriano brought his bat back to New York, and Derek Jeter was among Soriano’s former teammates to welcome him back.

Soriano would play left field and bat cleanup for the Yanks in his 2013 debut with the team. It was the first time he ever started in the cleanup spot for the team, which shows how badly New York needed a power hitter.

It was an emotional return for Soriano, but the team didn’t bring him back merely to appease the fans, so let’s check out how he performed on the field.


Contact: C+

The good news is that Soriano made contact and put the ball in play in all five of his at-bats on Friday.

The bad news is that it was never solid contact, and he didn’t record a hit because of it.

Soriano flew out to right and center field, and he grounded out three times. He did reach first base on a fielder’s choice in the eighth inning and came around to score, but he didn’t record a hit. He also grounded into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded in the ninth, beating out the throw to avoid ending the game, but also hurting the rally.

While he didn’t strike out, Soriano didn’t find any holes in the defense, which is why his grade is lower than Yankees fans were hoping for.


Power: C

Soriano was brought in for his power, but he failed to show it off on Friday.

On his two flyouts, Soriano didn’t exactly rouse the crowd by hitting it to the warning track, instead hitting two nondescript fly balls that were easily caught.

Even worse were his groundouts, which were not sharp by any means and didn’t have a chance to leave the infield.

We’re still waiting to see Soriano get ahold of a pitch, and when he does, we’ll see his power at work.


Fielding: A+

Soriano was as close to perfect in the field as it’s physically possible to be.

Not only did Soriano make every routine play and play the ball off the wall well, but he made a pair of spectacular plays as well.

Soriano made a fantastic grab in foul territory in left field, and he also threw out Wil Myers, who was trying to extend a single to a double.

Soriano impressed with both his arm and his glove, and he was as good a fielding left fielder as anyone on Friday.


Overall: B-

While Soriano’s performance at the plate was abysmal, that doesn’t completely define his game.

He made his mark on the field, and while it would’ve been nice to see him get his first hit as a Yankee in 2013, this critique can’t be based solely on his struggles at the plate.

Soriano was still an improvement over Vernon Wells in the field, and his batting prowess will be sure to follow.

Read more MLB news on

How the Francisco Rodriguez to Orioles Trade Impacts AL East Race

The Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a deal that will send Francisco Rodriguez to Baltimore in exchange for INF Nick Delmonico.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported the trade that will ship arguably the best closer on the trading block to the AL East contender.

The best division in baseball just got even better after this trade, as the Orioles picked up a top-shelf reliever in K-Rod who has been spectacular this season. Rodriguez has an ERA of 1.09 and a WHIP of 1.05 in 25 appearances this season. He’s also 10-for-10 in save opportunities.

K-Rod is the type of reliever who has the potential to completely change a playoff race, and the O’s are hoping he will do just that.

Baltimore sits in third place in the AL East, 2.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox. The division is incredibly close, as four teams are above .500.

Here’s how the standings in the AL East through Monday’s games:

Place Team W L PCT GB
1 Boston Red Sox 60 41 .594
2 Tampa Bay Rays 59 41 .590 .5
3 Baltimore Orioles 57 43 .570 2.5
4 New York Yankees 52 47 .525 7
5 Toronto Blue Jays 45 53 .459 13.5

With so many teams bunched up and the Orioles having 29 games left against divisional rivals (including the final 20 games of the season), acquiring K-Rod could prove to be the difference in the AL East.

By adding Rodriguez, the Orioles add a talented arm in the bullpen, and he will be used primarily as a setup man for closer Jim Johnson.

However, if Johnson struggles, K-Rod can also be plugged in as the closer, as he has a ton of experience in that role.

Johnson hasn’t had an easy 2013. After not allowing an earned run in his first 11 appearances, he posted an ERA of 9.75 in the month of May, blowing four saves and converting only seven.

While Johnson has picked it up as of late, he has also blown two saves in his last 10 appearances, and is up to six blown saves on the year.

The team is going to stick with Johnson for now, however, but if he struggles anymore, he could be replaced.

Having a guy who can maintain a lead through the eighth inning effectively is a huge help. The Orioles now have seven guys with an ERA below 4.00 in the bullpen. That kind of depth will take pressure off of the struggling starting rotation.

The team’s starters haven’t been as good as expected this season, with the team’s best pitcher being Wei-Yin Chen, who has made just 10 starts all year.

While Miguel Gonzalez has also been solid with an ERA of 3.34, guys like Chris Tillman, Jason Hammel and the rest of the starters have been sub-par, which is why the team ranks 28th in the MLB in ERA at 4.30.

With two legitimate closers on the team, opponents will have to beat the O’s in the first seven innings of games, as K-Rod and Johnson will shut the door after that.

The biggest weakness Baltimore has had all season has been pitching, which is why the team sits in third place in its own division despite ranking third in baseball in runs scored. While the team wasn’t able to improve its biggest need (starting pitching) because of a scarce market, the team did the next best thing by adding to its bullpen.

We know that this move makes the Orioles much better, but the question remains as to whether or not this will be enough to shake things up in the AL East.

The O’s have been unable to capitalize on the offense Chris Davis and Manny Machado have been providing because of their pitching.

With K-Rod in the pen, that will change because he can help shut the door against opponents earlier.

Baltimore ranks 27th in MLB in runs allowed in the seventh inning of games because of its starters. Now the starters will only be asked to go six innings before the team’s many bullpen arms take over. As a result, Baltimore can expect to win more games.

This little boost is all the team needs to hop over the Rays and contend with the Red Sox for first place in the AL East.

If these two teams continue to play at this high level and are not ailed by the injury bug, the division will likely come down to the final series of the season, in which Baltimore will host Boston.

If the division does come down to the final three games, the Orioles have the edge, as they are 29-20 at home and are 5-2 versus the Red Sox this season.

Read more MLB news on

Brandon Barnes and the Most Unlikely Players to Hit for Cycle in Past 20 Years

Brandon Barnes of the Houston Astros is known more for his work with the glove than his hitting prowess, but the 27-year-old center fielder hit for the cycle on Friday night against the Seattle Mariners.

Barnes is one of the least likely players to hit for the cycle in history, as hitting a single, a double, a triple and a home run in the same game requires so many different tools.

However, Barnes managed to pull off the feat, along with a few other unlikely candidates over the years.

If guys like Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Babe Ruth never hit for the cycle, how did these guys do it?

Begin Slideshow

Watch Yasiel Puig and Nick Markakis Both Flash Leather with Great Grabs

Yasiel Puig and Nick Markakis put on a fielding clinic Friday night.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles didn’t play each other, but these two stars made their cases to be featured on ESPN’s “Web Gems” segment at almost the same time.

Puig is no stranger to highlight reels—he seems to make at least one incredible play every night. On Friday, that play came in right field.

Puig ran about a mile in a split second to track down a ball in foul territory and make a tough grab against the wall to end Anthony Rendon’s at-bat.

If you lost Puig and the ball because the cameraman did, here’s a sideview:

Wondering how pitcher Paco Rodriguez reacted? Wonder no more:

Needless to say, the Dodgers were impressed.

This came just five innings after Puig made one of the best throws of his career to double up Bryce Harper, who was trying to advance to third on a fly out to right. However, the third-base umpire botched the call and called Harper safe.

Replays clearly show that Harper was out, however, and that Puig’s throw from clear across the field was right on the money.

If Puig’s sensational fielding wasn’t enough for you, Markakis came back and made a highlight-reel catch of his own.

The O’s outfielder robbed a home run against the Texas Rangers in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Markakis reached well over the wall to rob Adrian Beltre of his 22nd home run of the season. He was pretty excited about it.

You would’ve never known that that was his first HR robbery based on that play alone. Markakis wasn’t done, either. He got the job done for the Orioles at the plate, too.

If you love defense, then Friday night was like Christmas in July for you, as we saw some truly spectacular plays being made in the outfield.


Read more MLB news on

3 Creative Ways Ruben Amaro Can Fix Broken Phillies Bullpen

The Philadelphia Phillies suffered another setback on their way to winning the 2013 NL East crown, as relievers Mike Adams and Jeremy Horst are both done for the year.

According to Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer (via NBC Sports), Adams and Horst are both going to miss the remainder of the season.

Mike Adams did not respond to the conservative treatment for numerous tears in his shoulder. He will likely undergo surgery that could sideline him for the beginning of 2014. Adams is owed $7 million next season.

Lefthander Jeremy Horst’s season is likely over. Soreness in his elbow recurred during a rehab stint at triple-A Lehigh Valley. He visited noted orthopedist James Andrews for a second opinion and was injected with a platelet-rich plasma shot. He will not throw for at least six weeks.

These recent injuries come while Michael Stutes is still on the disabled list with a shoulder problem.

The Phillies now have a very weak bullpen after losing three key pieces, and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will have to get creative in order to fix the issue and work around expensive contracts like Ryan Howard’s.

Assuming that the Phillies are buyers at the deadline, here’s how Amaro can rebuild the bullpen.


Acquiring Jim Henderson and Brandon Kintzler

The Milwaukee Brewers have relievers, and they are looking to deal them.

According to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford are both on the trading block. However, both of those guys are too expensive for the Phillies, and Amaro would have to give up serious prospects and have the Brewers eat some of the salary to acquire them.

There are cheaper options in Milwaukee, however, as the 30-year-old Henderson and the 28-year-old Kintzler are making a combined $983,000 this season.

The problem with this trade is that both Henderson and Kintzler are under team control until 2018 or later. The Brewers are not going to part with these guys easily, but the fact that they have such small salaries could entice Amaro into giving up high-level prospects to acquire them.

This won’t be a cheap trade. Elite prospects will have to be dealt in order to get this done, and even then, it still might not happen. However, this is exactly the move a desperate Philadelphia team could try to make if it runs out of options.


Cutting a Deal With the Marlins

It’s never easy to trade between divisional rivals, but the Miami Marlins have become such a joke that they should be trying to build for the future at all costs.

The Marlins have plenty of bullpen talent with minimal salaries (since they can’t afford to pay anyone well), which will certainly interest the Phillies.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has listed Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn and Ryan Webb as those who could be on the move. Amaro will likely inquire about all three of these guys, and depending on the prospects the Marlins are interested in, one or two could be headed to Philly.

None of those guys are free agents before 2016, however, which could drive up the price.

Another guy that could be dealt is Chad Qualls, who is making $1 million this year and is only under team control through 2014. His price could be much lower, and the Phillies wouldn’t mind bringing him back.


Trading for Nate Jones and Addison Reed

The Phillies don’t have the money and prospects to put together a package for the Chicago White Sox‘s top relievers like Jesse Crain, but the team can go after cheaper guys.

Nate Jones and Addison Reed are on the trading block, and Jon Heyman reported that everyone other than Chris Sale and Paul Konerko is available for the ChiSox.

Jones and Reed are owed a combined $1.3 million this year, which is cheap enough to interest Amaro. However, they are both under team control until 2018, which is long enough that Chicago will ask for some talented prospects.

The asking price won’t be cheap, but at this point, Amaro needs to do something. If he isn’t selling, then Jones and Reed might be his best bet.

Read more MLB news on

Yasiel Puig Makes Ridiculous Throw, Gets Robbed by Bad Call

Yasiel Puig needed less than two innings to make headlines again after the All-Star break.

The Los Angeles Dodgers traveled to Washington to take on the Nationals, and Puig showed off that howitzer of an arm once again.

Puig gunned down Nationals superstar and 20-year-old phenom Bryce Harper for a double play in the bottom of the second inning…or did he?

Yes and no.

Yes, the throw beat Harper and he was out. No, he wasn’t called out.

The third base umpire botched the call, as replay clearly shows that Puig’s throw beat Harper and he was tagged out before sliding into third.

Even with Harper being called safe and eventually scoring, the big news here is that Puig made another unbelievable throw in right field. He threw a bullet that was right on the money and made tagging Harper out easier than any third baseman could hope for.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Puig make an exceptional throw. Heck, in his MLB debut, he threw from just in front of the warning track in right to first base for a double play that ended the game.

Puig also threw out Andrelton Simmons, who tried to make it from first to third on a single to right, with one of the best throws of the year.

Puig added another highlight to his resume on Friday in his first game after being snubbed from the All-Star Game (a game in which the NL only managed three hits).

It was impressive to see one young phenom gunning down another, especially with this coming just hours after Jason Reid of The Washington Post compared Puig to Harper in a favorable light.

It was unlucky for Puig that the ump made the incorrect call, but there’s no denying he made a heck of a throw to nail Harper—even if it didn’t count.

Read more MLB news on

Cleveland Indians Hotel Pseudonyms Accidentally Leaked in Minnesota

The Cleveland Indians picked the wrong hotel for their stay in Minnesota.

The hotel accidentally sent the guest list to the wrong person, according to Mike Oz of Yahoo! Sports, detailing the room of every player on the team.

Naturally, the guest list was spread around the Internet faster than a Ubaldo Jimenez fastball.

What’s most concerning about this story is the long list of players who apparently aren’t staying with the Indians. Guys like Nick Swisher, Justin Masterson, Michael Bourn, Jason Giambi, Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds don’t appear on the guest list.

The Indians appear to have found replacements for these guys, though.

It looks like Jake Taylor isn’t content to simply play catcher for the Indians in the movie Major League and will try his hand at playing in the MLB for real. Who would have thought Tar Zann would leave the jungle to play ball? And I’m sure nobody is complaining that Carmen Electra and J. Lo are apparently traveling with the team.

Also making the trip with the Indians, according to the list, are Denzel Washington, Mr. Romeo, Dick Tracy, Shania Twain and Jed Clampett.

The hotel couldn’t have accidentally released a better guest list, as the Indians clearly had a bit of fun with the names they used.

These pseudonyms are hilarious, and now we want to know who came up with what?

Was Tar Zann actually Nick Swisher? Was Carmen Electra just Carlos Santana? Was Jake Taylor really Jason Giambi in disguise?

As funny as it is to see these names, I’d be one of many fans who would actually come out to see these people play. Just saying.

Read more MLB news on

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress