Monday, March 15, 2010

Upton Tearing It Up in Spring; Slowey Perfect Over Three

Players of the Day for Sunday, March 14, 2010 American League Despite the possibility that closer Joe Nathan could be lost for the season, the Minnesota Twins are optimistic about their prospects in 2010, mostly because they have some very live, young arms in their starting rotation. One of those youngsters is Kevin Slowey, who got his second start of the Spring facing Boston on Sunday. The Twins lost the game, 6-4, but it certainly wasn't Slowey's fault, as the 6'3" righty held Boston batters hitless over the first three innings of the game, striking out four. Slowey sat after that, leaving his Spring marks at 8 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs and 8 Ks. In three seasons with the Twins, Slowey is 26-14, with a 4.39 ERA. He only pitched 90 innings in 2009, compiling a 10-3 record before going on the DL in July. Later, he had bone chips removed from his right wrist, but looks to be fully recovered, a very positive sign for Twins fans. National League If the Diamondbacks are going to improve from last year's last-place finish in the NL West, one of the players that will make a difference is Justin Upton. On Sunday, Upton got his swing into a groove against Texas pitching, helping the D-Backs down the Rangers, 9-3. Upton banged out his 3rd homer of the Spring, added a couple of singles, drove in three runs and score three times, boosting his pre-season totals to .367, 3 homers and 13 RBI in 8 games. The Arizona right fielder is just 22, but is expected to have a banner year. Last season, he hit an even .300, knocked 26 home runs and drove in 86 runs in 138 games. If his Summer is anything like his Spring, expect to see Justin Upton in the All-Star game. MLB Preview: Texas Rangers For the better part of the 2009 season, the Texas Rangers were chasing the LA Angels for the AL West title. They never got there, as the Angels got hot in September while the Rangers faded. Their finish at 87-75 was only good enough for second place in the division, 10 games back and well short of the wild card, but the Rangers signed Vlaimir Guerrero away from LA and hope to capture the division in 2010. As usual, Texas will have plenty of offense. Along with Guerrero, who will DH most nights, the Rangers boast a lineup chock full of dangerous hitters. Along with Guerrero, there are 6 position players capable of hitting 20 or more home runs. In the infield, 1st baseman Chris Davis, 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler and 3rd baseman Michael Young each did it in 2009. Kinsler was second on the team with 31, behind outfielder Nelson Cruz (33), who returns along with a healthy Josh Hamilton and David Murphy, who knocked 17 out of parks in 2009. Throw in rookie Julio Bourbon, who is fighting for a starting outfield job and the Rangers appear to have a bona fide murderers row for a lineup. Unless injuries decimate their starting players, the Rangers should lead the league in homers and RBI, as well as pitchers who don't want to face them. Shortstop Elvis Andrus provides plenty of speed at the top of the lineup. He swiped 33 bases as a rookie in 2009, being caught only 6 times. Pitching is the area in which the Rangers hope to improve. Kevin Millwood went to Baltimore, but Texas grabbed Rich Harden, who will likely be the #1 starter. Scott Feldman (17-8) and Tommy Hunter (9-6) each had solid seasons in 2009. Brandon McCarthy is expected to fill out the rotation. Frank Francisco took over the closer role in 2009, and converted 25 of 29 save chances. He will be the closer to start the year, but the Rangers have other options should he falter early on, including Neftali Feliz and Chris Ray. With a glut of power and a respectable pitching staff, the winter future book odds of 30-1 that the Rangers win the World Series, may be a worthwhile wager.

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