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Quick Pitches: Feliz Cumpleanos Neftali Feliz! Here’s the Rangers Closer Role


What I’m Reading

• The Rangers are sticking with Neftali Feliz, Frank Francisco, and their two-closer system for the time being. Good. Because these situations alway pan out favorably.

• Twinjury update: Joe Mauer received some good news about his bruised heel , but J.J. Hardy will be missing a few games with a sore wrist .

• Not quite an “Ankiel-ian” transformation, per se, but the Royals’ mandated switch of Alex Gordon to the outfield is a sign of things to come.

• The Braves currently employ a guy with one of the coolest baseball names around—Jair Jurrjens. Unfortunately, due to several nagging injuries his next start has been pushed back to Saturday . And thanks to a pesky abductor muscle, Yunel Escobar has been placed on the 15-day DL .

• To semi-quote George Costanza, “He’s back, BABY!” Yes, Kevin Millar is back . And not just with any old team. Millar has re-signed (yes, he’s played there before) with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Yup.


What I Think About It


Rangers’ Closers

The Rangers’ closer job has Feliz’s name written all over it. But right now, in manager Ron Washington’s eyes, the 22-year-old isn’t ready to take on the position full-time.

“He’s young, and he’s got to learn how to do this. At some point he’s going to learn about himself. He’s doing something he’s never done before,” Washington said, according to the Dallas Morning News.

In the meantime, Feliz will share duties with Francisco who, despite a recent string of six straight scoreless appearances, has surrendered nine earned runs in just over 11 innings of work this season.

I know plenty of Rangers fans.

None of them are confident or satisfied with Francisco touching the ninth inning.

Feliz hasn’t been untouchable this season, but his electric arsenal, once honed, will drive hitters crazy.

But until then, he has to share crunch time outs with Frankie, which I’d think would have to make for some awkward interactions.

I wouldn’t dare think of what would happen if Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard shared the role.

It wouldn’t be pretty .



Believe it or not, this whole foot injury business might end up with Joe Mauer raking in one “heel” of a profit.

I should probably stop using that joke.

It’s all good news for the Twins right now.

They’re still winning despite Joe’s absence.

Mauer isn’t as hurt as he could have been, had it been a bone bruise instead of a soft tissue bruise.

He’s in talks with Nike about a special, more cushioned pair of cleats designed to aide him in his return, which will be totally marketable to kids for the organization.

And J.J. Hardy played the hero last night. Luckily, Hardy didn’t break his wrist sliding into third on his ninth-inning triple.

But he’s still out today and likely for a few more games, which Minnesota will probably still win.

Main point, though?

2010 just feels like the Twins’ year.


Alex Gordon

And here I was thinking I was done talking about Alex Gordon for the rest of the year.

First off, I’d like everyone to check out his Facebook page again.

He’s up to 15 fans now and I have inside information that I am solely responsible for his sudden boost in popularity.

You’re welcome, Alex.

Now, it’ll be interesting to see how he fares as an outfielder. As long as he is coordinated enough to catch fly balls and throw them back to the infield, I believe this could work.

Since his struggles were mainly offensive, I think Gordon has gotten to the point where he doesn’t know what to do in order to remedy his glaring bat issues.

Luckily, he’ll be concentrating mainly on learning a new position and figuring out the best way to make himself useful to the organization.

It’s inexplicable, but sometimes parts of a player’s game come back to them when they least expect it, or when they are distracted by another challenge—such as a position change.

I’m not saying it’s likely, as his MLB ship may have sailed right around the time the Royals drafted him, but I can’t rule it out.

That being said, the influx of major league talent is rapidly increasing with scouts now using a global comb to find the best talent.

Look for players increasing their versatility in the coming decade.  This way, they can avoid situations where moving to another position out of necessity could be a career ending move.


Jair Jurrjens/Yunel Escobar

Jurrjens might be getting exactly what he needs: A step back to getting healthy, and getting over some minor nuisances that have kept him from staying consistent.

It’s only a few days of extra rest, but as a fellow sore-hammy patient (from the 30 minute walk I took yesterday), I know these situations are no fun.

Although Atlanta sits in last place in the NL East, the luxury of early-May is that nobody is really “out of the running” in any division—yet.

They have the time to give him a few days and let him cope before his start on Saturday.

Unfortunately for Yunel Escobar, his recovery time will require a DL stint.

But—in the meantime, replacement Omar Infante has produced, and this might give Escobar a chance to clear his head and focus on struggles at the plate.


Kevin Millar

I fully expect this kind of press conference to take place once the mainstream media picks up wind of Millar’s continued career.

I don’t think Millar will ever be back in the majors as a player. But seriously, wouldn’t he make the greatest bench coach?

Now that he’s a member of the prestigious Independent League, he can go one of two ways. He can play for a year, realize that it’s time, and retire into the sunset.

Or he can go the “Ricky Henderson Way.”

Thankfully, I think Millar knows better than to teeter back and forth on retirement for the better part of a decade.

I do, however, fully expect him to dress like this .


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MLB Quick Pitches: Deciding the Worth of The Cardinals’ Albert Pujols

What I’m Reading

The parallels between Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard continue, as Howard’s recent contract extension is bound to influence the market for Pujols’ cash-in day.

That must be one deep bruise. In addition to the past two games, the ailing Joe Mauer is expected to sit for this week’s Tigers series as well.

And just like that, Alex Gordon is headed back to the minors . Well, I have to say I did see this coming .

Gotta watch out for those nagging abductor injuries. They’ll get ya. Just like they got Yunel Escobar.

Chalk another one up in the win column for “White and Nerdy”. For the time being, the 39-year old pile of awesomeness known as Craig Counsell is holding down the starting SS spot in the Brewers’ lineup.


What I Think About It


When Braves manager Bobby Cox “joked” about Pujols being worth $50 million a year if Ryan Howard received $25 million, the notion that he might be right couldn’t be immediately dismissed.

Pujols’ contributions to the St. Louis organization are unmatched.

Coinciding with a slew of astronomical statistics, his tangible evidence includes a unanimous Rookie of the Year, three MVPs, including five top ten finishes in the six years he hasn’t won an MVP, and a World Series title.

That all adds up to a lot of worth.

But the question is: how much?

Any team would gladly dish out $50 million a year if a title was guaranteed for every season over the course of the contract, but this is baseball and no such guarantee could ever be made.

His contract is likely up at the end of 2011, as St. Louis will undoubtedly pick up his club option for next year.

So the journey begins to find out the exact number that Pujols will be receiving from the Cards.

Thanks to Howard, we have a jump-off point of $25 million and a cap of $50 million, courtesy of Bobby Cox.

I am proud to officially announce on behalf of Mr. Jose Alberto Pujols that he will be signing a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals worth between $25 and $50 million.

Ok Al, I’m ready for my cut of the check now.

In reality, I expect it to touch the $31 to $34 million mark, likely pushing Alex Rodriguez out of his “highest paid player in baseball” title.


Joe Mauer

Now, this is no Joe Nathan situation, but the Twins are playing it safe with Joe Mauer’s soft heel.

Luckily, a DL stint isn’t going to happen.

When asked if there was a chance Mauer could end up on the disabled list, manager Ron Gardenhire said according to the Star Tribune, “No not at all. It’s a situation where if you try to get him out there too quick, then this thing will never heal. We just don’t want that to be the case. You’ve got to give this a couple extra days here, so that’s why we brought in another catcher.”

Excellent decision making. The Twins currently sit in first place in the A.L. Central with a favorable 16-9 record.

After locking up the division in 2009 despite not having Mauer for the entire month of April, they’ll be able to manage without him for a few games, assuming that this is all this is.

To me, it seems that this is an even stronger Minnesota team than last year, so once Mauer returns and keeps up his reigning MVP-like pace, they’ll cruise to another division title.

Also, a World Series title.

Yes, I did just drop my Series prediction on May 3 in the near-bottom paragraph of a Mauer injury tidbit.


Alex Gordon

This right here is the “official” Alex Gordon fan page on Facebook.

He literally has 14 fans.


At least the city of Kansas City won’t be too broken up about his demotion.

The best part about this is: “If you have a passion for Alex Gordon, sign up and we’ll let you know when we’re ready for your help.”

The coalition for Alex Gordon to become a real pro ballplayer has now become a community outreach.

Now for a segment I’d like to call “Things Alex Gordon Can Do for His Fans”:

He could sign autographs for all of his fans and not get the slightest hand cramp.

He could purchase an entire row of seats at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the Omaha Royals, label it “Gordon’s Group” and have all of his fans sit together to see him play.

He could even take all of his fans out to dinner and push two tables together so they can sit as a group.

You get the point.

In 12 games this season, Gordon is hitting .194.

There’s always hope he’ll regain whatever it was that got him drafted second overall in 2005, but my doubts about him grow rapidly.


Yunel Escobar

I don’t even know what an abductor is, but it scares the heck out of me.

It does, however, sound like a part of my body that I don’t want to screw up, especially now that it might send Yunel Escobar to the disabled list.

He’s still day-to-day right now but a DL stint has not been ruled out.

Despite some early struggles to open 2010, Escobar is quietly developing into a solid young shortstop bound to turn some heads as we head into this new decade of baseball.

The Braves just won three straight without him after taking a turn for the worse by losing nine in a row.                       

Also, for those that failed Anatomy and Physiology in high school like I did back in the day, here’s your lesson Monday.

It has always been tough for me to take Craig Counsell seriously.

For starters, anyone that holds a bat like this generally doesn’t fare well in the sporting world and might even be a little tapped in the head.

But Craig proves me wrong here.

While his career hasn’t been spectacular, the point remains that Counsell has still had a career.

He’s been hanging around the National League scene since 1995, carrying adjectives like “skinny,” “lanky”, and “out-of-place” with him wherever he goes.

But he has produced consistently enough to remain a staple in many “eighth spot in the order” situations over the past fifteen years and is surprising many this season up in Milwaukee.

“Our focus is still developing (Alcides) Escobar into an everyday player,” manager Ken Macha said according to the Journal Sentinel. “With that said, it’s an extreme luxury to have a player of this caliber go out there in Escobar’s place.”

Unless he keeps hitting the cover off the ball, Counsell likely won’t remain the starter, but it’s still an accomplishment for a player that many have written off as washed-up.

**** I’d like to issue a “Get Well Soon” message to 2004 ALCS hero Dave Roberts, recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.


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