Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tampa Trio Blanks Red Sox; Harris Triples, Homers for Nats

Players of the Day for Tuesday, March 16, 2010 American League Now, if Tampa pitchers can do this during the regular season, they'll be in the race. Dan Wheeler shut out the Boston Red Sox for an inning, working between four shutout innings by both starter Wade Davis and finisher, Andy Sonnanstine. All together, the trio combined for 9 scoreless innings, 4 hits and 10 Ks in a 7-0 win. Davis (left), who projects to be the Rays' fifth starter, allowed 3 hits and a walk, fanning five. Wheeler worked the 5th, didn't allow a hit, walked one and struck out 2. Sonnanstine (right) mopped up, so to speak, hurling four quality innings: 1 hit, no walks, 3 Ks. Tampa has been impressive during the Spring, leading the Grapefruit League with a 10-3 record. Atlanta is second, at 9-5 National League The Washington Nationals normally don't have much to cheer about, but every now and then, Willie Harris provides some excitement, like he did in Tuesday's 12-3 romp over the Marlins, cranking out his first home run of the Spring to go with a triple and 4 RBI. The 2-for-4 effort improved Harris' batting average to .333, which is probably a high-water mark. In the past two seasons with the Nationals, Harris has batted .251 and .235, numbers which fit snugly around his career average of .246. The win was just Washington's 2nd in 13 tries, placing the Nats in a position they're used to: last place in the Grapefruit League. 2010 is already shaping up to be another long summer in our nation's capitol. MLB Preview: NY Mets The Mets suffered through one of the worst seasons in their history, and there have been some bad ones, though few can compare to the injury-riddled campaign of 2009 that left the NY franchise 23 games behind the division-leading Phillies, their 4th place, 70-92 finish the worst since 2003. Besides injuries to their top sluggers, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, base-stealing specialist Jose Reyes, also their leadoff hitter, played in just 36 games, spending most of the season nursing a hamstring injury. The pitching staff was spotty, as Oliver Perez suffered through a knee injury most of the season, and other starters and relievers made frequent visits to the DL. With the new year come new hopes and some new faces, but the same issues are already cropping up again. Beltran, who returned to the lineup in September of last year, needed more surgery and will miss at least the first month of 2010. Delgado has undergone a second hip surgery that will sideline him until at least June. He is a free agent and retirement is also a possibility. Reyes has been diagnosed with a hyperactive thyroid, will miss the first month of the season at least, and his return will depend on his physical condition, which, at present, isn't very good. The good news is that the Mets signed Jason Bay away from Boston. He'll play left field and should be able to pick up where Delgado left off. Jeff Francoeur, who arrived mid-season from Atlanta, had a pretty fair year in '09, will play right field and has a solid bat. He batted .311, with 10 homers and 41 RBI in 75 games last season. Rod Barajas (from Toronto) will be a regular behind the plate. He hit 19 homers for the Blue Jays last season. Until Beltran returns healthy, center field is in good hands with Angel Pagan, who hit .306 in 88 games last season. His 14 steals were also promising. Alex Cora will man short until Reyes returns, with Luis Castillo at second. The corners will be manned by David Wright at third and Daniel Murphy at first. That pair were among the few who played virtually all of last season, but Wright suffered a power outage in '09, hitting just 10 round-trippers after banging out 33 in '08. Pitching appears to be a strength. Starters Johan Santana, John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez are all healthy and can usually give 6 to 8 strong innings. Kelvim Escobar was supposed to be the set-up man for Francisco Rodriguez - one of the best closers in the game - but he's been having shoulder issues, so the fifth starter and much of the bullpen remains unsettled. If Bay and Wright produce, and Reyes and Beltran come back early enough, the Mets may have a fighting chance in the division, though the Phillies are the team to beat and the Marlins and Braves will be competitive. At 20-1 to win the World Series, the Mets don't look like a championship squad, but they should at least improve over last year and finish above .500.

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