Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wellemeyer Blanks Rockies; Rios Off to Great Start for Sox

Players of the Day for Friday, March 12, 2010 American League Alex Rios went from Toronto to the White Sox in late August of last season, but didn't really measure up to expectations as the Sox finished well behind detroit and minnesota in the Al Central division. 2010 may be a different experience for Rios, who is off to a solid start in Spring training. In Friday's 10-7 win over the Angels, Rios doubled and smacked his second home run of Spring, drove in a pair of runs and scored twice, while Jake Peavy was proving his mettle with 3 scoreless innings to start the game. Rios should provide a solid bat wherever he is placed in the lineup and his defense will be critical in center field. Not noted as a power hitter, he could blossom this season, as he's reaching the pinnacle of his career at age 29, plus, he's an imposing figure at the plate, standing 6'5". National League Since they are somewhat offensively-challenged, the San Francisco Giants will likely depend upon great starting pitching in order to stay competitive in the NL West. If the Giants can get some quality innings out of Todd Wellemeyer, that would be a huge boost, since they already have capable arms in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito. In Friday's 9-2 win over Colorado, Wellemeyer got his first victory of the Spring with four scoreless innings to start the game. Allowing just two hits, the 6'3" righty didn't record any strikeouts, but he also didn't walk a batter, displaying excellent control of all his pitches and good mound presence. The Giants are Wellemeyer's 5th team (Florida, Cubs, KC, St. Louis), and, with a career mark of 29-29, 2010 looks to be his break-out or break-down season. If it's the former, the Giants should remain in the divisional hunt into the final weeks. So far this Spring, the Giants have shown some grit, with a 7-1 record in the Cactus League. MLB Preview: Oakland A's Oakland faded badly in the second half of the season, ending up in last place in the AL West, 22 games behind the Angels. It's been a long time since the A's have done much of anything, and the merits of Billy-ball and Sabremetrics are under increasing scrutiny as the team has floundered and the stands have emptied. The A's like to snatch up players which other teams cast off, picking up potential stars via the waiver wire and drafting relative unknowns. It hasn't been going too well of late. They've only been to the post-season once since 2003, and even though they beat the Twins 3 games to none in the 2006 ALDS - their first series win since 1990 - 2009 marked their worst season since 1998. Some of the A's issues can be traced to the emergence of the Angels as a powerhouse franchise in the division, but mostly, it has to do with fielding a sub-par product through the long MLB season. It seems that second-rate prospects turn out to be just that and a solid team needs at least a smattering of star power to succeed. Peering up and down the A's starting lineup, there's only one recognizable name, that being Jack Cust, and he's a DH. while Cust is generally reliable for 20-30 homers in a season, his .239 career batting average dulls his star. Second baseman Mark Ellis could probably start in other cities, but after that, there's not much in the way of offensive punch. That's surely going to hurt, since the pitching staff is led by Ben Sheets and a list of no-names with a combined W-L record of 63-67, most of that belonging to #4 starter, Justin Duchscherer. Oakland will get some quality starts from their staff, but the middle relief is questionable. They may have struck gold with 2nd year closer Andrew Bailey, who converted 26 of 30 save opportunities in his rookie year. Unfortunately, he isn't likely to get the ball very often with the A's and could become serious trade bait come August. The A's don't have much of a shot of winning the division as the Angels and Rangers appear the teams to beat in the West. even Seattle has made moves that could put them in the hunt. The 125-1 odds in the future book are probably overly optimistic.

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