Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sean Rodriguez Leads Rays Past Yanks; Escobar's 3 Doubles Lift Braves

Players of the Day for Friday, March 5, 2010 American League When the Yankees and Rays got together for an exhibition game in Tampa on Friday, there were two players on the field named Rodriguez. One was the well-known A-Rod; the other was an Angels cast-off, Sean Rodriguez, who is not related to his more famous namesake, but is playing like him (in fact, better than him). A-Rod went 0-for-2 as the Yankees dropped a 12-7 decision to the Rays, much of the carnage - a lot of it against Joba Chamberlain (1 1/3, 3 hits, 3 walks, 5 earned runs) - leveled by the Rays was courtesy of that other Rodriguez guy, Sean, who is listed as a second baseman, but played left field and is batting .833 with 17 total bases in three games this season with 3 homers and 5 RBI. All he did on Friday was double, triple and homer, drive in two runs and score twice. He fell a single short of hitting for the cycle. If he keeps hitting well, Rodriguez, who was acquired to back up Ben Zobrist at second, might just end up taking the position for himself or playing right field with some time as a DH. Spending most of last year in triple-A, the 24-year-old smacked 30 homers and drove in 98 runs. National League In three seasons with the Braves, Yunel Escobar has established himself as a steady hitter and a capable fielder. Coming into 2010, he's carting along a .301 lifetime batting average after hitting .299 with 14 homers and 76 RBI in 2009. In his first game this Spring, he was hitless, then had one hit against the Mets on Wednesday, but really hit his stride after a day off. On Friday, as the Braves were whipping the Nationals, 11-8, Escobar stepped up three times and scorched three doubles, driving in a pair of runs and scoring two. He appears ready for the regular season, one in which he may produce all-star numbers. MLB Preview: Toronto Blue Jays Roy Halladay is gone and so are any hopes of competing in the rugged AL East. The Blue Jays wouldn't pay one of the best pitchers in the game what he desired, so off to Philly he went. Instead, the Jays have pretty much mortgaged their future on center fielder Vernon Wells, who appears to be vastly overpaid after batting .260 with 16 homers and 60 RBI in 2009. His hefty contract is certain to keep him in a Blue Jay uniform for a good number of seasons and keep the Toronto franchise scraping along the bottom of the American League. Some hopeful signs emerged from left fielder Adam Lind (.305, 35, 114 in 2009), but besides him and first baseman Lyle Overbay, there's a serious power shortage North of the border. The Jays finished 2009 with a record of 75-87, 28 games behind the first-place Yankees, and the front office hasn't made enough moves to signal that they're ready to tangle with anybody in the division. Finishing at .500 in 2010 would be a major accomplishment what with all the trades and defections. Not only are the Jays one of the weakest-hitting squads in either league, their pitching staff is manned by a bunch of no-name guys like Ricky Romero, David Purcey, Scott Richmond and Brad Mills. Let's revise that previous statement: staying out of last place would be a major achievement in 2010. Expect the Blue jays to lose at least 95 games this season. Las Vegas has them as 125-1 to win the World Series, and that seems like a bit short. Making them 500-1 might be closer to their true odds, but it still won't produce more than 70 wins this season. Get ready for major attendance shortfalls in Toronto and calls to move the team to the Carolinas.

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