Monday, March 22, 2010

Baker Mows Down Rays; Denorfia May Fit Into Padres' Plans

Players of the Day for Sunday, March 21, 2010 American League Minnesota is shaping up for another run at the AL Central, which they stole last season from Detroit in a one-game playoff. On the minds of many a Minnesotan is how well the young arms in their rotation will fare, but they needn't worry about Scott Baker, who looks like he's ready for opening day after shutting out the Rays for five innings, allowing just one hit and a walk, fanning three. The Twins didn't really need as powerful a performance as they got from Baker, as they scored 5 runs in the first inning and were up 9-0 after four en route to a 12-3 win. In four starts this Spring, Baker is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA. Last season, Baker was a bulwark for the Twins, completing 200 innings and posting a record of 15-9. National League San Diego desperately needs some hitting, though you wouldn't know it from the way they manhandled the Rangers Sunday, knocking them around to the tune of a 14-5 beating. Within the 16-hit attack was one Chris Denorfia, released by the A's, invited to attend the Padres Spring training and signed to a minor league contract, with three hits in five at-bats, one a triple, plus three RBI, 2 runs scored and his 4th stolen base of the Spring. Hitting a respectable .385, Denorfia is battling a handful of players for outfield positions with the Padres, but he has one great advantage: he is equally at home be it in right, center or left. Also, his speed makes him a leadoff candidate in the batting order. With a .278 lifetime average in 100 major league games, Denorfia could fit right into San Diego's lineup and provide some timely hitting and a burst of speed from time to time. MLB Preview: Atlanta Braves The Braves have fallen on lean times of late, as Florida and especially the Phillies seem to have taken the NL East as their own. In 2005, the Braves won the division, but since then have finished 3rd, 3rd, 4th and 3rd, but this year may have put together a squad that can challenge in the division again. As usual, the Braves will have plenty of live arms in their rotation. Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson provide a nice balance of youth and experience, and should keep opposing hitters guessing, particularly if Lowe comes around big. The fifth spot in the rotation still looks to be up for grabs, but Atlanta has some options, especially in their farm system. The bullpen should be solid in the late innings, with Takashi Saito or Kenshin Kawakami setting up closer Billy Wagner. Around the horn, the infield of Troy Glaus, Omar Infante, Yunel Escobar and Chipper Jones should be solid defensively and capable of providing quality offense at the plate. Escobar continues to develop into an exceptional hitter, with his home runs and RBI increasing each of the last three seasons. Glaus and Jones should provide some power, though less than other clubs, but the Braves have a real treat in Brian McCann behind the plate. He's averaged over 20 home runs and 90 RBI over the past three seasons. In the outfield, Nate McLouth fit nicely into center field after arriving from Pittsburgh last season. He has all the tools, and could be on the verge of a breakout season. Flanking him are Matt Diaz in right and Melky Cabrera - from the Yankees, via free agency - in left. This is a good, young outfield, an area not necessarily of strength, but one where there are few worries. If everything falls into place for Atlanta, they could be back in the playoffs for the first time in five years, which might make the oddsmakers in Vegas look prescient as they have them pegged at a mere 12-1 to win the World Series.

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