Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fausto Foils D-Backs; Wolf Howls at Rangers

Players of the Day for Saturday, March 27, 2010 American League Cleveland fans continue to get excited about the prospects for Fausto Carmona as the regular season approaches. In what is likely to be his final tune-up before the real starts a week from now, Carmona shut out the Arizona Diamondbacks on 3 hits over 7 innings of work, allowing 3 hits, striking out 3 without walking a batter. Cleveland scored single runs in the 1st and 6th innings for the 2-0 victory. Carmona has had the kind of Spring that inspires confidence. In 20 innings, spanning 4 appearances - each of them longer than the previous one - he's allow just 8 hits and one earned run, for a microscopic ERA of 0.45. Carmona went 5-12 last season, but appears to be on the verge of sending 2009 down the memory hole and re-emerging as one of the AL's top hurlers. National League Even though he'd had 3 strong starts during the pre-season, Randy Wolf entered Saturday's contest with the Rangers still seeking his first win of the Spring. Coming over to the Brewers after an 11-9 season with the Dodgers, Wolf probably thought he'd get more run support from the Brewers, but it hadn't quite worked out that way, so Wolf took matters into his own hands and shut out the Rangers' power-laden lineup for 6 innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while piling up 7 Ks. The Brewer bats responded - to a degree - scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the 6th and adding another in the 8th for a 3-1 win, and Wolf's lone decision of the exhibition season. Wolf should bolster the Milwaukee rotation when the regular season begins. He tossed 214 innings last season, so he's durable, and this Spring has allowed just 2 runs over 16 innings. MLB Preview: Milwaukee Brewers Disappointed with a 3rd place finish in the NL Central and an 80-82 record, the Milwaukee Brewers are looking to get off to a fast start in the division and wind up in the playoffs come October. All the elements are in place for the Brewers to make a serious run at a division title, though they'll likely face stiff opposition from the Cardinals, Cubs and Astros. The starting rotation appears to be set, with a veteran crew of Yovani Gallardo, Doug Davis, Randy Wolf, Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan. Gallordo is the youngest, but possibly their best starter, heading into the 2010 season. He was up and down in 2009, with a 13-12 record, but the 3.73 ERA was promising, as were the 204 Ks in 185 innings. Davis and Wolf were picked up during the off-season, from Arizona and the Dodgers, respectively, and should provide plenty of quality starts, taking some of the pressure off the bullpen. Said bullpen is anchored by 42-year-old closer Trevor Hoffman, who converted 37 of 41 save opportunities last season and doesn't seem to be slowing down, despite his age. Middle relief will be doled out to Todd Coffey, LaTroy Hawkins, Mitch Stetter, Carlos Villanueva and Claudio Vargas, with Hawkins pegged as the set-up man. Consistency on offense was an issue for the Brew-crew in 2009, with plenty of high-quality stats, but poor run production which cost the Brewers a good number of games. Relying on Prince Fielder (.299, 46, 141 in 2009) alone didn't cut it last season and won't this year, either. That's one of the reasons the Brewers went after - and got - center fielder Carlos Gomez from Minnesota, who will be flanked by dependable Ryan Braun in right and Corey Hart in left. The infield will be bolstered by 3rd baseman Casey McGehee, who displayed enough power as a rookie - 16 homers and 66 RBI in 116 games - to bat behind Fielder in the lineup. Shortstop J.J. Hardy went over to the Twins in the deal for Gomez, as the Brewers feel confident that rookie Alcides Escobar can fill that role on an everyday basis. He hit .304 last season in 34 games with the Brewers and is a solid defensive player with plenty of upside as a base-swiper and solid hitter. He might fit into the leadoff or #2 slot in the lineup. Escobar earned a slew of minor league awards over the past three seasons and is from Venezuela, the country that mines great shortstops. Ricky weeks returns at second base after playing in just 37 games last season. Healthy again, Weeks will provide good defense, along with Escobar, up the middle. He has an average bat, but some power. Behind the plate is veteran Greg Zaun. At 38, Zaun is the only regular over 27, but the youthful Brewers can depend on him for clubhouse leadership and solid handling of the pitching staff. Milwaukee is Zaun's 9th different team on his 16-season MLB odyssey. Milwaukee looks to be cranked up for opening day and a run at post-season glory. Las Vegas has them as a 50-1 shot to win it all, which seems like good odds. If everything falls into place for the Brewers, they could make a run.

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