Friday, April 2, 2010

Willingham's Hot Bat; A's Suzuki a Budding Star

Players of the Day for Thursday, April 1, 2010 American League Entering his 4th season, Hawaiian-born catcher Kurt Suzuki has quietly become one of the top backstops in the majors. Last season was his best yet, as he belted 15 homers and drove in 88 runs while compiling a .274 batting average. All of those numbers were among the best for catchers. In Thursday's 9-0 pasting of San Fran, Suzuki displayed some of his side-of-the-plate prowess, going 3-for-4 with a double, homer and 2 RBI. Hitting just .216 in the pre-season, A's fans aren't concerned, knowing that their young star will deliver once play starts for real. National League For the Washington Nationals, goal #1 is to finish the 2010 season anywhere but in last place in the NL East. That's a tall order for the fledgling Nats, but one player who will help them all season long is left fielder Josh Willingham, who has been tearing up the Grapefruit league for the past month. Willingham doubled and hit his 5th homer of the Spring, driving in 3 runs to lead the Nats to their 10th win of the exhibition season, a 9-3 win over the Mets, which, with Spring training ending in a few more days, virtually assured the Nationals that they will finish ahead of the Pirates. They might even catch the Orioles, who are just one game ahead. With a .370 average, 5 homers and 13 RBI, Willingham has had a strong Spring, which he hopes will translate into a special season. MLB Preview: San Diego Padres The last time the Padres have been competitive was 2007, when they lost a one-game playoff for the wild card to Colorado. Since then, they've been close to the bottom of the NL West standings and have let go of a number of their better players, most notably, closer Trevor Hoffman, the all-time saves leader, and Jake Peavy, one of the best starting pitchers in the majors. San Diego enters the 2010 season with a patchwork pitching staff, and a rotation that will be challenged in the heady NL West. Jon Garland is the #1 starter, and that speaks volumes about the quality of the entire staff. Garland had a 11-13 record with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks last season, one of the worst records for a #1 starter in the league. Behind Garland, Chris Young went 4-6 with a 5.12 ERA and #3 Kevin Correia led the squad with 198 innings in 2009, and posted a winning record of 12-11, with a 3.91 ERA. Questions abound over Clayton Richard and Mat Latos. The two have a combined 15-15 record. In the bullpen, closer Heath Bell was a pleasant surprise. His 42 saves in 2009 were tops in the league. Middle relief, however, might need some help. Tim Stauffer, Edward Mujica and Luke Gregerson will get most of the mid-game calls. Power is another concern for San Diego. Adrian Gonzalez is the only quality home run threat, with 40 long balls in 2009 and 99 RBI. Second baseman David Eckstein is a gritty player who is just average at the plate, shortstop Everth Cabrera and thrid baseman Chase Headley are just average hitters and catcher Yorvit Torrealba didn't live up to expectations in Colorado and lands in San Diego. The outfield of Kyle Banks, Tony Gwynn and Will Venable is sub-par. San Diego should be lucky to stay out of last place in the division. According to the Las Vegas future book, they project to have the lowest win total in the majors at 66 and are 200-1 to win the World Series.

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