Time to Get Down to Business.
less than two weeks to go before Opening Day and the World Baseball Classic in
the history books, the time is here. Yes, it's time to get down to business.
Time for managers to start naming Opening Day pitchers. Time for those fifth-man
battles to surge. Time for pitchers to begin tossing more than three or four
innings. And time for those precious starting spots that are still up for grabs
the latest and greatest news from around the National League as teams prepare to
embark on the 162-game journey of excitement, anxiety, and bliss known to the
baseball faithful as the regular season:
- Shortstop Craig Counsell marked his return to the D'Backs after a
hiatus with a shoulder injury. He went 1 for 4 in his first day of action and
even scored a run. In his second day of action, the veteran put forth a two-hit,
three-RBI performance. And on a bright note for the Diamondbacks, first baseman
Conor Jackson connected for two long balls in Wednesday's game, his first
two of the spring.
- Outfielder Jeff Francoeur has only played four games this spring, but
he has already launched three home runs and driven in eight RBI. Teammate
Kyle Davies has looked equally as impressive on the mound. In four
starts, Davies has posted a 0.64 ERA having only given up one earned run in 14.0
– Despite the setback with his knee, Kerry Wood is progressing nicely, and is
reportedly targeting to be back in the Cubs rotation sometime in late April.
Derrek Lee, who hasn't played since bruising his shoulder in the World
Baseball Classic on March 12 was back in the Cubs lineup on Thurday. Lee got
plunked in his sore shoulder, doubled, and scored two
- Those of you who have enjoyed watching Wily Mo Pena the past few years
in the NL couldn't have been happy to see the prized young outfielder was traded
to the Boston Red Sox for Bronson Arroyo. In return for Pena, the
Reds got a potential number one pitcher, though Arroyo is probably more of a
number three man in a deeper rotation. The Reds also added a third catcher to
their roster, trading pitcher Bobby Basham to
for David Ross. Besides the transactional news, it's hard not to notice
Edwin Encarnacion's hitting display this spring - the third baseman is
batting .468 through 15 games with 6 home runs and 18 RBI.
- Remember that Clint Barmes guy? Yeah, you know the one who was tearing
up the league in his rookie season last year prior to succumbing to a fluke
injury. Well, he's back this year, but spring training has not been kind to him.
Barmes continues to struggle batting .235 through 14 games, and he's yet to
drive in a run. Though most of the starting pitching staff has been struggling
this spring as much as Barmes, Jason Jennings remains a bright spot in
the rotation holding a 3.86 ERA and posting a 3-0 record through four
- All year long you might feel like the construction workers in the hit movie
Major League when looking at the Marlins lineup, but you'll rest easy
seeing Miguel Cabrera's name pop up. Now that the WBC is over, Cabrera is
back with his team, and he hit his first long ball of the spring on Tuesday.
It's a shame Cabrera isn't going to have more talent around him this year, but
if you have to build a team around someone, this phenom is not a bad
- First baseman Jeff Bagwell left Tuesday's game early with soreness in
his shoulder, so stay tuned as that insurance saga continues. As for Brandon Backe, the miked-up starting pitcher might have shined on the big stage once
again last October, but he continues his non-limelight struggles this spring
with an ugly 7.79 ERA through four starts, which also includes 9 walks and 3
- Derek Lowe continues his spring dominance. The starting pitcher tossed
six strong innings Sunday allowing just four hits and his first run this spring.
Recovering closer Eric Gagne continues to look sharp - he's only given up
two hits in four scoreless innings of work. And how about Bill Mueller?
The St. Louis
native and new Dodgers third baseman is enjoying his return to the land of no
designated hitters. Mueller is hitting .387 this spring and even has three
dingers to his name.
- With Ben Sheets still ailing, Doug Davis is going to get the
call as the club's Opening Day starter. Closer Derrick Turnbow has had a
rocky start this spring. In six appearances, he's given up runs in three of
them, including an ugly five-run outing last week Thursday where Turnbow could
only muster a single out.
- Closer Billy Wagner has a sore finger on his pitching hand and has been
temporarily "shut down" by the club. Starting pitcher Victor Zambrano
looked solid in his first spring start Tuesday tossing five innings and giving
up just one run.
- With David Bell continuing to work in the minors bidding his return
from back injuries, Abraham Nunez and Alex Gonzalez continue to
duke it out for time at third base. There isn't a clear favorite to get the
majority of the time at the hot corner, but that's nothing new for Nunez who did
it all last season in St.
In Bobby Abreu's first week of spring training action, the slugger is 7
for 17, including a solo home run.
- Still no word on the Buccos' plans for Craig Wilson, who still doesn't
figure to be in the starting line-up. He's a heck of a hitter no matter how many
times he might strike out, and there is a chance he could be traded, so keep an
eye on him as well. Pitcher Ian Snell started two games this past week.
In his first game he tossed four innings of two-hit, shutout ball, but in his
second start, he followed that strong outing with a 4.1-inning, four-run flop
that included two long balls.
– You'll have to wait a while before you'll see the much-hyped Anthony Reyes
in the Cardinals starting rotation. Reyes will kickoff the 2006 season in
the minors and Sidney Ponson will be the Cards' fifth starter. And for those
still curious about Scott Rolen's return in 2006, he's batting .308 this
spring; however, only one of his eight hits are of the multi-base
- Scott Linebrink, who has shined out of the Padres pen getting games to
Trevor Hoffman, continues to struggle this spring. In his last outing, he
walked a batter and surrendered three runs on three hits, recording just two
outs. Josh Barfield continues to put pressure on Mark Bellhorn in
the battle for the second base position. In 32 at-bats Barfield is hitting .469
with 8 two-baggers, one triple, and one home run. Bellhorn has had 30 at-bats of
his own, yet has managed just a .200 batting average, with five doubles and one
home run. Imagine that, Bellhorn hits it deep or doesn't hit it at
- Most news out of the Giants camp is really pretty blah. Matt Morris has
given up 10 runs in three starts and 15.0 innings of work. Steve Finley
has looked like his old veteran self, batting a solid .444 this spring. Maybe
that's why the biggest non-Barry Bonds story this week emerging from the Giants
spring training home involved Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash taking
batting practice and shagging balls with the club after joining them as Randy
- After a week of much discussion, Alfonso Soriano finally agreed to play
left field for the Nationals. You have to wonder what Soriano was thinking
putting up a fight. After all, he's playing on a squad where the clubhouse
leader, Jose Vidro, is a three-time All-Star second
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