Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Beckett Holds Cards Hitless; Carter Homers Twice in 9th for Mets

Players of the Day for Monday, March 8, 2010 American League Josh Beckett tuned up nicely in Boston's 7-6 win over the St. louis Cardinals on Monday, tossing three hitless innings to start the game, striking out 3. After Beckett's stint, Bostn pitchers held the Cardinals hitless into the 7th, but then allowed S. Louis to strike for a run in the 7th, 2 in the 8th and 3 more in the 9th, but Che-Shuan Lin drove in Josh Reddick in the bottom of the 9th with the winning run. A two-time all-star (2007, 2009) and world Series MVP, it's surprising that Beckett has never won a Cy Young award, though he's consistently in the conversation, so he bears close scrutiny this season, which may turn out to be among his best. Beckett's notched double-digit wins in each of the last five seasons, and last year was 4th in the AL with 17 wins, 6th in strikeouts (199) and 9th in innings pitched (212.1). National League The Mets scored 8 runs off Florida pitchers in the 9th inning to bust open a close game and win going away, 11-2. Outfielder Chris Carter, acquired from the Red sox in the deal that sent reliever Billy Wagner to Boston last year, bashed a pair of bombs in the inning to lead the assault. Carter began the inning with a solo shot, then followed it up with a three-run blast, making the most of his brief appearance. Carter is another of what seems to be an endless supply of outfielders the Mets are looking at. A product of Stanford, Carter has performed well in each of his two prior Spring Training outings, but couldn't break into the bigs except for very brief stints in each of the last two seasons.
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MLB Preview: Minnesota Twins The Twins capped a memorable season in 2009 by chasing down the Tigers and beating them in a one-game playoff to capture the Central Division. That turned out to be the last regular season game played at the Metrodome and also the last Minnesota win, as the Twins were thumped by the Yankees in a 3-game sweep. The Twins will move into new digs in 2009, opening Target Field at the start of the 2010 season. The outdoor stadium has roughly the same dimensions as the old Metrodome, minus the baggie in right field. It will accommodate significantly fewer patrons, with seating capacity 39,504. The Metrodome could hold over 55,000. Changing the venue from indoor to outdoor will have some effect on Minnesota's games, especially in the infield, where the high hops and quick artificial surface will give way to natural grass. The change should help the capable Twins infielders, though they hardly need it. Changing temperatures will be the biggest adjustment players will have to make, as the outdoors in Minnesota in early April and late September are usually a bit chilly. Minnesota will have essentially the same starting five that finished last season, and it's a very capable bunch, led by Scott Baker and Carl Pavano. Nick Blackburn and Keven Slowey are young and improving, but questions still surround Francisco Liriano, who, if healthy, could be Minnesota's top starter. In the field, Minnesota will once again be one of the best fielding teams in the league. They've bolstered the lineup with the addition of Orlando Hudson at 2nd base and J.J. Hardy (who had a down year last season with Milwaukee) at short. Those two are a major upgrade from last year, when Alexi Casilla flopped at second and shortstop Nick Punto was steady in the field but underwhelming at the plate. First baseman Justin Morneau will continue to bat in the cleanup position. Over the past four seasons, Morneau has been the complete power hitter, driving in more than 100 runs in each season and clubbing 34, 31, 23 and 30 home runs over that span. Filling out the infield is 3rd baseman Brendan Harris, and 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer will continue his sparkling career from behind the plate as well as beside it. Mauer led the league with a .365 batting average, his third batting title, and, batting in front of Morneau, is guaranteed to see plenty of hittable pitches. The outfield of Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Denard Span is better than adequate, especially Span, who has the speed and bat to become one of baseball's best center fielders. In his first full season in the bigs last year, Span batten .311 and stole 23 bases. Expect the batting average to remain high and the steals head higher. This is a very serious team that has no weaknesses except possibly that they're a little light in the power department, but DH Jason Kubel could change that. Kubel has improved his HR and RBI totals in each of the last three seasons. In 2009, he batted an even .300 with 28 dingers and 103 RBI. Along with Detroit and Chicago, Minnesota should be competitive in the division and are the favorites to win it. The pitching will have to do better, however, if they are to advance through the playoffs. The future book has them down as a 30-1 shot to win the World Series. With a new stadium and a couple of key additions, that's worth consideration.

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