Monday, February 28, 2011

Tigers Blank Blue Jays Second Straight Day; McCutchen Leads Pirates Past Rays

Players of the Day for Sunday, February 27, 2010

American League

Brad Penny worked two strong innings, allowing one hit, no walks, fanning one batter and his Tiger teammates continued their domination over the Blue Jays, posting their second straight shutout, a 1-0 win, as the Tigers scratched out a run in the 6th.

Penny was 3-4 with the Cardinals last season after bouncing from Boston to the Giants in 2009. If he regains some of his prior form, he could add valuable innings to a Detroit staff that is already pretty good.

Through two games, no Blue Jay has touched home plate and Tiger pitching has limited the punchless bunch to 8 hits total.

National League

Possibly the best player in Pittsburgh's camp, Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-3 with a solo homer, single and double, driving in two runs and scoring three times as the Pirates blasted the Rays, 10-3.

The third-year pro blossomed in 2010, batting .286 (same as 2009) with 16 homers, 56 RBI, 94 runs and 33 stolen bases. McCutchen has all the tools, but, as has been the cae in Pittsburgh for pretty much the past 20 years, he doesn't have much quality around him. The Pirates sem content to develop talent and then ship it off to contending teams, rather than keeping it at home. That's led to seasons of sorrow for many once-loyal fans.

Maybe this will be the year the Pirates' management gets serious about actually building a contending team, though betting on that probability has been a losing proposition for many years.

Team Report: San Francisco Giants

After winning the World Series over the Texas Rangers, the Giants kept the most important element of their team - the starting rotation - intact from last season's historic run. From top to bottom, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, RHP Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner looks like the best rotation in the majors (Philly may argue), especially with Lincecum and Cain the only righties.

While those two combined for 29 wins, the lefties logged lots of innings and will be expected to go deep in each outing. San Fran's pitching was what got them to the playoffs and through the championship season. Having Brian Wilson backstopping all efforts is a great comfort. His 48 saves and 1.81 ERA will be hard to match in 2011, but the closer has 127 saves over the past three seasons, a good reason to believe the Giants will win a lot of close games.

The major departures were in the infield, where aging vets Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria (WS MVP) were released, though sending Renteria to the Reds is a sketchy move, considering that he may be around for the playoffs and is one of baseball's best players in the clutch. The Giants opted for free agent Miguel Tejada, who will start at short and brings a lively bat. Turning 37 this year (May 25), Tejada will be expected to provide the pop needed in the middle of the lineup, though third baseman Pablo Sandoval may get back to 2009 form and take over the #5 spot.

Working the middle infield opposite Tejada will be Freddy Sanchez, who blossomed into a dependable #2 hitter late last year. Aubrey Huff returns at first base will bat third, in front of NL rookie of the year Buster Posey, who remains the main catcher.

In the outfield, center fielder Andres Torres will bat leadoff. The Giants probably won't run him often (he swiped on 26 bases in 2010), but will be looking for improvement on his .268 average and .343 OBP. Flanking him will be Pat Burrell in left and Cody Ross, the surprise of the post-season, in left. Ross was a valuable contributor after arriving from Florida, and Burrell, who has been bouncing around the past few years, may have found a home.

Following San Diego's late-season collapse and the under-performance of the year from the Dodgers, the Giants may not have much competition in the NL West, though Colorado looks like the other contender in the division. Should the Giants reach the playoffs again, they're certain to be a tough out, due to strong starting pitching and capable, and now tested veterans in the field.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Coke, Tigers Shut Out Blue Jays; Sandoval leads Giants Past Dodgers

Players of the Day for Saturday, February 26, 2011

American League

Seven Detroit pitchers combined for a 4-0 shutout over the Toronto Blue Jays, all started by two innings of solid work by Phil Coke, who allowed one hit, struck out a batter and didn't issue any walks. The Blue Jays failed to record a hit after the fifth inning.

Primarily a reliever in two seasons with the Yankees and one (2010) with the Tigers, Coke is attempting to convert to a starting role this season.

National League

Pablo Sandoval singled home a run in the second inning and blasted a two-run homer in the 4th, leading the Giants to an 8-3 win over the LA Dodgers.

Sandoval was largely a disappointment for the Giants in 2010, hitting just 13 homers while maintaining a .268 batting average. Slimmed down, Sandoval is attempting to rectify the shortcomings of his 2010 season, which resulted in just three World Series at bats for the erstwhile slugger.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baseball Begins Anew; Giants, Posey Drop D-Backs

Players of the Day for Friday, February 28, 2011

National League

Buster Posey picked up right where he left off last season for the World Champion San Francisco Giants. In the first game of Spring Training, Posey led the Giants to a 7-6 win over Arizona, going 2-for-3 with a double, two RBI and a run scored.

Posey, who batted .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBI in 108 games after a call-up in May, provided a big bat in the middle of the Giants' suspect lineup that propelled the team to World Series glory. Posey was named NL Rookie of the Year by various organizations and is viewed as one of the top three or four catchers in the league already.

American League

There were no American league games played on Friday.

Beginning Monday, February 28, check this space daily for previews of all 30 MLB teams and their prospects for success in 2011. Monday, we begin with the reigning world champions, the San Francisco Giants.