Sunday, March 14, 2010
Perez Guns Down Tigers; Posada Always at the Ready
Players of the Day for Saturday, March 13, 2010 American League Some players just come pre-wrapped, ready to play, like the Yankees' Jorge Posada, who rapped three singles, drove in two runs and score one himself in NY's 5-3 win over the Orioles. Posada will turn 39 in August, but he's having the Spring of somebody half his age, batting .375 in six games this season. A rarity, Posada has been with the Yankees his entire career, since playing a single game with New York in 1995. His numbers are not earth-shaking, though he is on track to record his 1000th RBI this season. He ended 2009 with 964. National League Oliver Perez worked four hitless innings, allowing just two baserunners via walks, as he battled Detroit's Matt Scherzer (4 innings, 1 hit, 5 Ks) though the start of the an eventual 9-1 Mets triumph. After joining the Mets in August, 2006, and posting a 1-3 record, Perez turned things around, going 15-10 in 2007 and 10-7 in 2008 before being injured and starting just 14 games in 2009 with a 3-4 record. Injuries decimated the Mets in 2009, affecting not just the pitching staff, but regulars as well. If Perez is fully recuperated along with 6 or 7 other key teammates, the Mets pose a considerable challenge to the Phillies in the AL East. Thus far, health has not been an issue in the Mets' training camp. MLB Preview: Seattle Mariners Through a slew of trades and acquisitions during the off-season, the Seattle Mariners hope to have made the moves that will make them a contender in the AL West rather than an interested observer. A late 2009 fade left Seattle helplessly in third place, watching as the Angels romped home for their third straight divisional title. Gone are some of Seattle's stand-byes from the previous 4-5 years: 3rd baseman Adrian Beltre went to the Red Sox; 1st baseman/DH Russell Branyan (and his 100+ annual strikeout total) was shipped to Cleveland, and catcher Kenji Johjima retired from MLB and then signed a deal in Japan. Those moves made way for Chone Figgins (from the Angels) to take over at 3rd, Kasey Kotchman (from Boston) to set up at first, and either Rob Johnson or Josh Bard (free agent from San Diego) to handle duties behind the plate. Whoever emerges as the go-to catcher, he'll have plenty with which to work. The Mariners picked up a blue-chipper in Cliff Lee, who left the Phillies after a short stint in 2009 after being traded from Cleveland. He'll be the #1 or #2 starter depending on whether Felix Hernandez continues to progress or suffers setbacks. Hernandez broke out in 2009, going 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA and 217 strikeouts in 238 innings. Entering his sixth season - all in a Seattle uniform - Hernandez is on track to vie for the Cy Young award. The remaining starters - Ian Snell, Nick Hill and Ryan Rowland-Smith - are a mixed bag, with Snell being the most promising, but the rotation could receive a significant boost is Erik Bedard can return to the form he displayed with the O's before coming to Seattle. Beset by injuries, Bedard had major shoulder surgery in August and is still on the recovery path. Should he come back healthy - even by mid-season - the Mariners should be in a position to contend down the stretch. All of these positives convinced Ken Griffey Jr. to delay retirement another year. Griff, a certain Hall of Famer, still has some swat in his swing. He knocked 19 round-trippers and drove in 57 runs in just 387 at-bats last season. He will be the every day DH. Leading off will be another perennial all-star, Ichiro Suzuki, who will remain the right fielder, flanked by Franklin Gutierrez (.284, 18, 90) in center and the emotional Milton Bradley (acquired in a trade from the Cubs) in left. The offense won't be overpowering, but at least more than adequate. Defensively, the Mariners may have the best outfield trio in the division. Defense will also be solid up the middle with Jack Wilson at short and Jose Lopez at second base. The defense will be important for the relief staff which also looks to be excellent. Projected closer David Aardsma will be preceded in games by Brandon League, Mark Lowe, Shawn Kelley and Josh Fields, all players with closer potential and experience in hold situations. It looks like an up year for the Mariners, which would put them squarely in the AL West mix after going 85-77 last year. That was the 7th-best record in the league, and, even though they finished in 3rd place in their division, they were only two games behind Texas. Making the post-season may require winning the division, however, as both the Angels and Rangers appear solid and a slew of other teams - the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, White Sox and Tigers - are all eyeing either division crowns or the coveted wild card. Seattle's dropped from 125-1 down to 50-1 in the World Series future book, and might even be a bit of an overlay at that price. Winning the division is not out of the question, while the wild card could come up aces for the pitching-rich Mariners.