Saturday, April 3, 2010

Vizquel Still Getting It Done; Sanchez Sharp for SF

Players of the Day for Saturday, April 3, 2010 American League In a career that has spanned 4 decades, Omar Vizquel has seen his share of winners and losers, but one thing's for sure, this guy falls in the former category. Now with the White Sox - just his 5th team as he enters his 22nd season - Vizquel isn't going to be in the lineup every night, but when he is, the Sox can rest assured that his defense will be sound and his at-bats mostly productive. Vizquel, batting leadoff, provided the spark for Chicago's 12-4 battering of Atlanta Saturday, going 4-for-5 - three singles and a double - with 3 RBI, 3 runs and a stolen base. Not bad for a 42-year-old. The Venezuelan, who set the standard for other quality shortstops from his country, is a career .276 hitter (2704-for-9922) with 389 steals. Cooperstown awaits his bat, glove and shoes. National League The Giants are scaring everybody in the NL West with their starting rotation. Already well-known are Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito, but if Jonathan Sanchez keeps throwing like he did this Spring, they will be tough to keep from the top of the division. Sanchez completed his final work of the pre-season with a 4-inning, 1-hit effort against the crosstown A's, setting up his teammates to bludgeon their way to a 10-6 win. The Giants had 12 hits, 3 of which were homers, and the A's scored just one run before piling on 5 in the bottom of the 9th. By that time, however, Sanchez was already showered, his 3-1 record in the books, along with his Springtime ERA of 3.62. MLB Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers Seeking their 3rd straight NL West crown and 4th post-season appearance in the past five years, the LA Dodgers return virtually intact from last season, and have all the elements to finally get to the World Series. They will face challenges in the division from San Francisco and Colorado, even possibly Arizona, and may have to again deal with the Phillies, who are looking to make 2010 their third straight World Series appearance. For the Dodgers to succeed, they'll have to get quality starts from a somewhat suspect starting rotation headed by Vicente Padilla, who was 4-0 down the stretch last season after being acquired from Texas where he had an 8-6 record. Padilla always was considered to have good stuff, but didn't live up to expectations in Philly, though he did have a winning record in Texas. Behind him are Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Charlie Haeger. Of the bunch, Billingsley is probably the best, a fire-thrower with a lifetime 47-30 record and a 3.55 ERA. Kershaw was 8-8 last year, but the Dodgers think his upside is huge. Kuroda was a sensation as a rookie, then succumbed to injuries last season, He's only a .500 pitcher, at 17-17. Again, the Dodgers expect him to be fully recovered and a solid starter. Haeger is a rookie. There are plenty of unknowns in the LA starting rotation. The bullpen is a different story. Jonathan Broxton emerged as a superior closer last season, notching 36 saves in 42 opportunities. He will be set up by righty Ramon Troncoso and lefty George Sherrill, both of whom have credentials as closers themselves. In the outfield, Manny Ramirez returns after a disappointing season in which he was suspended 50 games for violating MLB's prohibited substances clause, though he should be the main power hitter in the lineup. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have both emerged as stars in their own right. The outfield trio could put up 100 homers and 300 RBI combined. Second base now belongs to Blake DeWitt, who was solid in 2008, but spent most of 2009 in the minors. At first, James Loney has strung together three solid seasons. Though he isn't notable for his power, he has driven in 90 runs in each of the last three seasons. Veterans Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake man short and third, respectively. Furcal has great range in the field and speed. He will be leading off. Blake adds more power to the mix. He's capable of hitting in any spot in the lineup, though 6th seems to be the likely place for him. Catching will be another rookie, A.J. Ellis, who apparently has impress manager Joe Torre enough to fill those shoes, though he will need some seasoning. Nothing's for sure about the Dodgers except that they are a good hitting team, which should come in handy if the pitching doesn't come through as expected. They still have plenty of hunger for World Series rings and are listed at 9-1 in the future book to win it all.

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