Friday, March 26, 2010

Tulowitzki Goes Deep; 3-0 Bergesen Blanks Yanks

Players of the Day for Thursday, March 25, 2010 American League After their 2009 last-place finish in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles would like to show some improvement, and one of the ways they plan on doing so is with better starting pitching, so they have to be pleased with the progress of 24-year-old Brad Bergesen, who picked up win #3 in an 8-0 shellacking of the NY Yankees on Thursday. Bergesen shut down the Yankees on 3 hits over 5 2/3 innings, walking two and fanning a pair. It was his longest stint of the Spring and easily his best outing. He had previously allowed 6 earning runs over 8 2/3 innings. In 2009, he went 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 19 starts with the O's. National League If there's a player who epitomizes the mindset of the Colorado Rockies, it's shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Notable for slow starts and strong finishes, Tulo is the kind of player who can light a fire under an entire organization with his gritty determination and gutsy, never-say-die attitude. The Rockies have treated their fans to some of the best September drama in the league over the past few years, but, if Tulowitzki's Spring is any indication, NL West teams better be ready for a battle right from opening day. Tulowitzki banged his 3rd home run of exhibition season - a three-run blast - as part of a 7-run Rockies outburst in Thursday's 10-6 win over Cincinnati. He also singled in four at-bats, raisng his batting average to a healthy .353. In 2009, Tulowitzki pounded 32 homers and 92 RBI, most of it after the all star break. The way he's going this Spring, opposing pitchers may be tired of seeing him at the plate by June. MLB Preview: Houston Astros Since 2004, when they picked up, then let go of Carlos Beltran, the Houston Astros haven't done much in terms of post-season excitement. The following season, they won the NL wild card and advanced to the World Series, only tobe humbled by the White Sox in a four-game sweep. Since then, Houston's seasons have ended around the last days of September with the end of the regular season. Following a 74-88 finish in 2009, the Astros have reason for optimism in what is shaping up as a competitive division. It all begins with a starting rotation that has the opportunity to be excellent. Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodríguez, Brett Myers, Bud Norris and Brian Moehler are likely to make up a starting five that looks solid against the rest of the league. Oswalt, coming off an unusual season in which he started 30 games but only went 8-6, looks to improve on his career marks of 137-70 with a 3.23 ERA. By his third or fourth start, he'll reach a milestone - 1500 strikeouts, but more importantly, he should continue as one of the most consistent performers in the majors. Rodriguez comes off a 14-12 season with a 3.02 ERA. With any kind of run support, Rodriguez could have won 18 or more. Mohler is still seeking to reclaim lost form, Myers arrives from Philly, and Norris could be a surprise, coming off a August-September rookie stint in 2009 that produced 6 wins and 3 losses. The Astros bullpen could also produce some positives. With Alberto Arias out with a shoulder injury, righties Sammy Gervacio, Casey Daigle and Wilton Lopez are competing for open spots. Matt Lindstrom looks to be the closer, after converting 15 of 17 opportunities into saves for Florida last season. Pitching ought to be a mainstay for Houston, because the bats aren't all that special. Left fielder Carlos Lee and first baseman Lance Berkman are true power hitters, though right fielder Hunter Pence has surprised many with 25 dingers in each of the past two seasons. Center field belongs to budding superstar Michael Bourne, who had a banner year in '09, swiping 61 bases and scoring 97 runs. After those four, though, there's quite a production fall-off. Second baseman Kazuo Matsui, shortstop Tommy Manzella, third baseman Pedro Feliz (from Philly), and catcher Humberto Quintero will provide better defense than offense. Like most teams in the NL Central, the Astros are far from a finished product, but they should be improved, especially if Arias comes back healthy and youngsters Pence and Bourne continue to improve. Pegged at 75-1 to win the fall classic seems a pretty fair price for a team that could reach the playoffs, and, with a trade or two, could try for the franchise's first championship.

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