Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Is Ramon Ready?: Dickerson Dings A's

Players of the Day for Monday, March 15, 2010 American League There was an unfamiliar face on the mound for the Dodgers after Vicente Padilla was scratched from his scheduled start: Ramon Ortiz, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 10 relief appearances in 2007 with Colorado. Attempting to come back as a part of the Dodgers' rotation, Ortiz sparkled in a 4-0 win over the Angels, allowing 4 hits and no runs in 4 complete innings, striking out 5 Angels in the process. Word around camp is that Ortiz could make the squad, possibly in the bullpen, as his main competitor for one open Dodger rotation spot is Russ Ortiz, who has looked solid in two appearances this Spring. In any case, pitching does not seem to be an issue for the Dodgers. It was Ortiz's 3rd appearance this Spring for the Dodgers and his first start. In 9 innings, he has allowed just five hits while fanning 11 without allowing a run. He has only given up two walks. National League It seems that every Spring, there are signs of life for the Cincinnati Reds, and this season is no different. A perennial chaser in the NL Central, the Reds always show great promise that fades as the regular season progresses. In spite of the loom and doom of opening day, the Reds (5-4 in the Grapefruit League) put some talent on display against the Oakland A's on Monday, scoring 10 runs (9 earned) against starter Ben Sheets, who left the game without retiring any of the 10 batters he faced. Cincinnati's Chris Dickerson began the barrage by singling and scoring against Sheets and ended it with a 2-run homer in his second at-bat of the inning. Dickerson eventually finished the game - a 13-5 blowout - 4-for-4 with his two RBI and 3 runs. Dickerson is likely to start the season as the leadoff batter and center fielder for the Reds. In 2008, Dickerson debuted with Cincy, batting .304 in 31 games, and got more playing time in 2009, appearing in 97 games with a .275 batting average. Supposedly, he's battling rookie Drew Stubbs for the starting job, but Stubbs is batting an even .100 this Spring, while Dickerson has upped his average to .429, has the experience edge, and, as a left-handed hitter, may offer better production at the plate. MLB Preview: LA Angels After capturing their third straight AL West crown (and fifth in the past six years), the LA Angels had a pretty quiet off-season. No wonder, as they're pretty well stocked with capable hitters and live arms in the rotation and bullpen. A couple of departures are worth noting. Vladimir Guerrero has exited for Texas, so the Angels will see plenty of him in an L west rival uniform. Closer Brian Fuentes filled in admirably in place of Francisco Rodriguez (traded to Mets in 2009), and he'll have company in the form of Fernando Rodney, acquired via free agency out of Detroit. The rotation lost John Lackey, but picked up Joel Pineiro from St. Louis, who should prove out as a capable replacement. Pineiro was 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA last season for the Cardinals. Pineiro joins a group of solid starters consisting of Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir. The biggest concern for the Angels would be replacing sparkplug Chone Figgins, who goes over to another AAL West opponent, Seattle. As a thrid baseman, Figgins was adequate, though not special. Maicer Izturis will attempt to take over at the hot corner. Filling out the infield are three players who have emerged through the Angels farm system: Eric Aybar at short, Howie Kendrick at second base and Kenrdy Morales at first. All three had breakout years in 2009, especially Morales, who batted .306 with 34 homers and 108 RBI. The power of Morales will be augmented by DH Hideki Matsui, who arrived via free agency from the Yankees, and their trio of outfielders: Juan Rivera, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu, each of whom can go long at any time. Abreu had 15 homers in 2009; Hunter, 22; Rivera, 25. The Angels will have more competition in the division this season as both Seattle and Texas have made moves which should improve their overall play. The Rangers finished 10 games behind the Angels last year. Seattle was 12 back. Winning four straight division titles in any sport is a high achievement, though the Angels would like to do more. They haven't been to the World Series since 2002, the year they won it. Their main source of frustration these past seven years has come from the AL East, in the form of Yankees and Red Sox. At 14-1 in the World Series future book, the Angels would seem to be worth a shot, though even if they survive the challenge from within the division, the Yankees would likely be their opponent for the AL title. Looks like a productive year, but eventually another frustrating one, awaits the Angels.

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