Thursday, March 31, 2011

Josh Beckett, Madison Bumgarner Get on Track in Final Tune-ups

Players of the Day for Wednesday, March 30, 2011

American League

Josh Beckett
Josh Beckett won't be on the mound for the Red Sox on opening day, but he will be in the rotation and Red Sox fans are probably feeling a bit better about that after Beckett, following four straight losses, picked up his only win of the exhibition season with five shutout innings against the Houston Astros.

The former World Series MVP (2003) has struggled through the Spring, compiling a 1-4 record from six starts with an ERA of 5.33, but he didn't need any excuses for his strong stint against the Astros. He allowed just one hit, didn't walk any and struck out three as the Red Sox completed their exhibition season with a 10-0 win.

Normally one of baseball's top hurlers, Beckett suffered injuries that limited him to 21 starts and a 6-6 record in 2010 while his ERA ballooned to a career-worst 5.78. Opposing hatters averaged .292 against him.

National League

Dallas Braden and Madison Bumgarner hooked up in a pitcher's duel on Wednesday, and by the time Braden stepped off the mound after 5 2/3 innings, his A's held a tenuous 1-0 lead.

Madison Bumgarner
Bumgarner had allowed a run in the third, but that was all, as his Giants failed to get anything going against Braden, who limited them to just five hits.

But the Giants got the last laugh, scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth inning to take a 2-1 decision in their final prep game.

Bumgarner didn't get the win. That went to reliever Marc Kroon (2-0) who struck out a pair of A's during a no-hit ninth inning. What Bumgarner did get for his efforts was a little momentum and maybe some needed confidence, allowing four hits and three walks while fanning six over the first six innings of the game.

The Giants' starter went 1-4 with a 5.93 ERA this Spring but hopes to fare better in his second professional season.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nady, Johnson Winfree Torch Cubs; Aaron Hill Rounds Out Blue Jay Lineup

Players of the Day for Tuesday, March 29, 2011

American League

Aaron Hill
With the regular season just a few days from opening, the Toronto Blue Jays appear to have their starting lineup in good shape now that Aaron Hill has returned to action.

Sidelined for most of the exhibition season with tightness in his right quad, Hill returned to duty about a week ago and has been tearing up opposing pitchers.

In Tuesday's 7-4 win over Baltimore, the spunky second baseman went 3-for-4 with two singles and a double, scored twice and drove in three runs. That pushed Hill's average up to .524 (11-for-21) in seven Spring games.

One of Toronto's rising stars, Hill hit 36 homers and drove in 108 runs in 2009, before backtracking in 2010 with a .205 batting average with 26 homers and 68 RBI.

National League

Kelly Johnson
Xavier Nady
Not generally considered a team with a wealth of hitters, the Arizona Diamondbacks woke u their bats with a barrage of 19 hits in a 15-8 win over the Cubs.

Xavier Nady was 4-for-5 with three singles and a grand slam home run, scoring three times and driving in four runs against the team he played for last year.

Teammate David Winfree went 3-for-6 with two homrs and four RBI and Kelly Johnson added a 3-run shot in addition to his double and two singles in four at-bats.

The Diamondbacks finished last in the NL West in 2010 and are hoping that some of their power strokes translate into wins in 2011.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Luke Scott Homers Twice, Drives in Seven; Ricky Nolasco on the Cusp

Players of the Day for Monday, March 28, 2011

American League

Luke Scott
Luke Scott entered the exhibition game with Detroit carrying a .185 batting average, two home runs and six RBIs. By the time the Orioles had finished their 18-hit barrage in a 14-9 win, Scott had gotten the batting average up to .207, doubled his home run total and added seven RBI.

Amazing what a grand slam in the first inning and a three-run shot in the second will do for your stats.

It's not that Scott doesn't produce solid numbers. He's averaged 25 home runs and 72 RBI over the last three years. He's also a lifetime .268 hitter, so he just needed some extra time - and maybe a few choice pitches - to get into his groove.

Looks like he found it.

National League

Ricky Nolasco
It took four starts for Ricky Nolasco to notch his first exhibition win, but he was on his game in Florida's 4-1 win over St. Louis on Monday.

Nolasco worked the first six innings, blanking the Cardinals on two hits. He didn't walk a batter and struck out three, appearing ready to roll into the regular season.

For the Marlins to have any success, they'll likely need Nolasco to go deep into games and notch double digits in wins, something he's done each of the last three seasons.

In 2008, Nolasco went 15-8 and followed that up with marks of 13-9 and 14-9 in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The righty is right on the cusp of true greatness, but hasn't been able to put together more than a few months of solid pitching at any given stretch. Now in his sixth season, he could have another so-so year or evolve into one of the leagues dominators.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar Lead Jays over O's; Brandon Phillips Ready for Reds

Players of the Day for Sunday, March 27, 2011

American League

Yunel Escobar
Rajai Davis
Rajai Davis went 5-for-5 and Yunel Escobar smacked a two-run homer, doubled in two more runs and added another ribbie on a ground out.

Toronto wasn't expected to have a lot of big bats in their lineup, but they managed to string together 20 hits for a 9-5 win over Baltimore.

Davis had more than his share, with two singles, two doubles and a triple. And when he wasn't hitting, he was running, scoring three times and managing to squeeze a stolen base into his schedule.

As Spring training winds to a close, the Blue Jays are a respectable 15-12 in the Grapefruit League and feeling pretty confident heading into what surely will be an AL East campaign full of the usual twists and turns.

National League

Brandon Phillips
A key element in the emergence of the Reds as a powerhouse in the NL Central last season, Brandon Phillips is eventually going to find a sweet spot in the lineup. Phillips batted third in Sunday's 9-6 win over Arizona, but he's equally suited to bat second or leadoff, the spot he held down most of last year.

Phillips singled and homered in three at-bats, driving in three runs and scoring twice. It was just his first home run of the exhibition season, but that's not an issue, as he's batting .341 over 17 games this Spring.

In 2010, Phillips had his usual solid season, batting .275 in 155 games, with 18 home runs, 59 RBI and an even 100 runs.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bautista Batting .396 for Blue Jays; Gallardo Fans 9 in 5 for Brewers

Players of the Day for Saturday, March 26, 2011

American League

Jose Bautista
One of the biggest surprises of the 2010 season was undeniably the home run power produced by the bat of Toronto's Jose Bautista, who led the AL in long balls with 54. Buatista was also 3rd in the AL with 124 RBI.

From the way Toronto's slugging 3rd baseman is stinging the ball this Spring, it appears that last season's exploits were no fluke, but rather the result of a change in stance and approach at the dish. In Saturday's 7-6 win over the Phillies, Bautista went 3-for-4, each of his hits a double, and drove in three runs as the Blue Jays amassed 13 hits.

Always one to get the most out of exhibition games, Bautista has 3 homers and 13 RBi over 17 games, along with a robust batting average of .396.

National League

Yovani Gallardo
It took ten innings for Milwaukee to finally push another run across the plate and knock off the Seattle Mariners, 2-1, but well before that, Seattle batters were baffled by the deliveries from Yovani Gallardo, who didn't get the win, but fanned nine Mariners over the first five innings.

Gallardo allowed just four hits and didn't allow a run and walked only one batter in his fnal tune-up prior to opening day.

In five starts this Spring, Gallardo went 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA and 23 Ks over 18 1-3 innings. The strikeout tally is nothing new for the righty. He punched out 204 batters in 2009 and another 200 in 2010.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blanton Blanks Braves Over Six; Alex Gordon on Comeback Trail

Players of the Day for Friday, March 25, 2011

American League

Alex Gordon
Since becoming a major leaguer in 2007, much has been expected of Alex Gordon, but mostly, the Nebraska native has produced more disappointment than highlights.

That may be about to change as Gordon enters his fifth season with the Royals.

As KC was pummeling the Giants, 15-3, Gordon was at the heart of the attack, rapping out a single and two doubles in four at-bats, driving in four runs and crossing the plate three times.

His initial seasons - 2007 and 2008 - were reasonably good, but Gordon's progress was stalled by injuries, which left him playing only 123 games in all of 2009 and 2010. This Spring, however, he's healthy again, and stinging the ball with authority. Through 20 games, he's hitting .368 with 4 homers and 20 RBI. Now, about that beard...

National League

Joe Blanton
As part of a pitching staff that includes multiple Cy Young award winners, Joe Blanton is easily overlooked and dismissed as a viable fifth starter for the Phillies, but the six-year pro has been a steady inning-eater his entire career who always gives a solid effort.

In Friday's 3-1 win over the Braves, Blanton was above average, tossing six shutout innings en route to his second victory of the Spring.

The Braves touched him for just five hits and Blanton fanned four in what might be his final tune-up before the regular season.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nelson Cruz Slams Rangers Past Reds; David Wright Leads 23-Hit Mets Onslaught

Players of the Day for Thursday, March 24, 2011

American League

Nelson Cruz
Two of the most potent offensive teams faced off on Thursday, as the Texas Rangers played the Cincinnati Reds. The result was a not-unexpected slug-fest, featuring 34 hits, including four homers and eight doubles and a final score of 15-13, with the Rangers on top.

The game also served as a coming-out party for Nelson Cruz, who had been struggling along this Spring with an average under .200 and no homers. No problem for Cruz, who found his stride just in time to jack a grand slam, single and double and drive in a game-high six runs.

Despite the slow start to his exhibition season, Cruz is healthy and surely will add punch to the Rangers' attack. Despite a few stints on the DL over the past two years, Cruz still managed to hit 54 home runs with 154 RBI in 246 games. Given a full season of good health, Cruz could easily swat 40 and drive in well over 100 runs in 2011.

National League

David Wright
The New York Mets rocked Jamie Garcia for 14 hits and 10 runs (though only 3 were earned) over four innings, and then beat up three relievers with nine more hits en route to a 16-3 bombing of St. Louis.

Five different players had two or more hits, but third baseman David Wright had his way all day, going 4-for-4 with a pair of singles, a double, homer, two runs and 3 RBI.

Wright bounced back from a 2009 season in which he hit only 10 homers and drove in just 72 runs with 29 jacks and 103 RBI in 2010, apparently rediscovering his power stroke. He's labored without a great deal of support the past two seasons, with Carlos Beltran spending most of the time on the DL and the departure of slugger Carlos Delgado to retirement.

Wright is batting .333 in the Spring and appears ready for another solid season.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Liriano Fans Nine in Three Innings; Branyan Hopes to Catch on with D-Backs

 Players of the Day for Wednesday, March 23, 2011

American League

Francisco Liriano
For Francisco Liriano, it was all or nothing for three innings as the Twins etched a 5-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

The power-pitching lefty threw 76 pitches over just three innings, coming off a short Spring rest due to a sore shoulder. Liriano either struck out or allowed a hit or a walk to every one of the 16 batters he faced: nine punch-outs, three walks and four hits, one of those a towering home run by Baltimore's Adam Jones, his 4th of the exhibition season.

The nine strikeouts was the most recorded by a pitcher this Spring.

Liriano is still looking for the control that made him one of the brightest prospects back in 2006, when he went 12-3 before succumbing to injury. After missing all of 2007, he's gone 25-27 over three seasons, though last year's 14-10 mark was encouraging.

National League

Russell Branyan
Since becoming somewhat of a regular in 2000, Russell Branyan has played for nine major league teams, but wherever he goes, he carries a big stick.

His current team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, got a taste of what he does to pitches in his wheelhouse as he parked an offering by Arthur Rhodes into the cheap seats. Having the bases chock full of teammates was a happy coincidence, producing a grand slam and a lead for the D-Backs, who went on to a 9-8 victory over the Texas Rangers.

Branyan also singled in four at-bats, scored twice and finished with five RBI. He's in Arizona's camp hoping to make the roster as the regular first baseman.

The slugger has 189 homers on his well-traveled resume, but also carries a lifetime .234 batting average and 1077 strikeouts in 2807 at-bats.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hank Conger May Fill Void for Angels; Billingsley Stifles Cubs over Six

 Players of the Day for Tuesday, March 22, 2011

American League

Hank Conger
With Mike Napoli no longer on the roster, the LA Angels need a catcher and the competition between veterans Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson and rookie Hank Conger is heating up.

As the Angels were in the process of putting a 14-6 whipping on Kansas City, Conger, the kid with the big upside, socked his first home run of the Spring and added a single and double in four at-bats, driving in three runs and scoring twice.

Hampered by injuries the past few seasons, Conger has been spending his time in the minors, but now appears ready for the big time. In limited action (31 at-bats), he's hitting just .226, but Tuesday's power display indicates better things ahead.

National League

Chad Billingsley
His fifth start of the exhibition season was exactly Chad Billingsley's most scintillating, but he did managed to keep the Cubs off the scoreboard for the first six innings of LA's 2-1, 10-inning win over Chicago.

A regular of the Dodger rotation the past five seasons, Billingsley allowed four hits and walked three in his six-inning stint, but he also managed to fan three batters and work out of situations with runners aboard in a tight contest. His Cubs' counterpart, Ryan Dempster, also went six innings, giving up six hits and striking out the same number, but the Dodgers broke through for a run in the 5th.

Billingsley, a workhorse as a starter, compiled nearly 200 innings each of the past two seasons with the Dodgers, going 12-11 in both 2009 and 2010, but his ERA and WHIP were both improved in his most recent season.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ian Kennedy Blanks Dodgers Over 5 1/3; Victor Martinez A Nice Addition for Tigers

Players of the Day for Monday, March 21, 2011

American League

Victor Martinez
With or without their sometimes-sober superstar, Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers are going to contend in the AL Central. Strutting into first place in the Grapefruit League with an 18-9 record, Tiger bats were booming again in a 9-1 win over the hitting-impaired Astros.

Detroit pounded out 19 base hits, three of them off the bat of Victor Martinez, who singled, doubled twice, drove in a run and scored once in three at-bats.

Having spent 2009 in Boston, where he batted .302 with 20 homers and 79 RBI, Martinez landed back in the Central division via free agency. He spent the first 7 1/2 years of his major league career toiling in Cleveland, but now has hooked up with Detroit and should provide another solid bat.

National League

Ian Kennedy
Arizona's Ian Kennedy may be turning into the kind of player fantasy addicts appreciate.

Now in his second season with the Diamondbacks after spending three fruitless years with the Yankees, Kennedy is at that point in his career where he's either going to get it or not.

In Monday's 3-0 blanking of the Dodgers, Kennedy work 5 1/3 innings, giving up three hits, three walks and no runs, striking out six in his 5th tune-up of the Spring.

The righty hurler went 9-10 with Arizona last season, which isn't bad considering they finished so far behind the rest of the division they were essentially done by July. His 3.80 ERA and 168 Ks in 194 innings were quality numbers, worth a look in 2011.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jesse Litsch Clicks for Blue Jays; Chris Heisey Showing Power for Hit-Happy Reds

 Players of the Day for Sunday, March 20, 2011

American League

Jesse Litsch
Jesse Litsch missed most of 2009 and came back in 2010 after having Tommy John surgery, going 1-5 for the Blue Jays. But, judging by his work in Toronto's 3-0 win over the Twins on Sunday, the operation and some additional time off seems to have been a successful remedy.

Litsch earned his second win of the exhibition season with 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out seven Minnesota batsmen.

A starter with the Jays in 2007 and 2008, Litsch went 20-18 over two seasons before the arm problems began. The ext two seasons were a lost cause, but he looks like a solid addition to the Blue Jays rotation, which is already in pretty good shape with Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil and Brandon Morrow.

National League

Chris Heisey
The Reds finished 2010 with one of the best-hitting teams in the majors, and they seem to be on a similar path as they tune up for the 2011 campaign.

Leading the charge to become a regular in a crowded outfield is Chris Heisey, who is batting .325 with 4 homers and 10 RBI this Spring. On Sunday, Heisey went 3-for-6 falling just short of the cycle with a single, triple and home run, 2 RBI and 2 scores as the Red outslugged fellow Central Division foe, Milwaukee, 9-8.

Heisey played in 97 games last season, batting .254 with 8 homers but only 21 RBI. With his power numbers up, he could challenge Drew Stubbs for the starting job in center field or fill in at either of the other two outfield positions.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Delmon Young Socks for Twins; Chris Capuano on Comeback Trail

Players of the Day for Saturday, March 19, 2011

American League

Delmon Young
The Minnesota Twins smacked around the Tampa Bay Rays in a 9-2 win, improving to 12-9, good for 4th place in the Grapefruit League.

Minnesota had 13 hits, three of them by Delmon Young, who the Twins acquired from Tampa Bay in 2008. Young socked his first home run of the exhibition season, drove in four runs and scored twice, going 3-for-4. He raised his batting average to .368.

Young had a solid season with the Twins in 2010, batting .298 with 21 home runs and 112 RBI.

National League

Chris Capuano
Chris Capuano looks like a keeper in the Mets' starting rotation.

Picked up following a 2010 campaign with Milwaukee in which he went 4-4 in nine starts, Capuano turned in his best effort of the Spring, working over the Nationals for 5 1/3 innings without allowing a run. He surrendered three hits and struck out five, paving the way to a 7-4 victory.

Following a few good seasons with the Brewers, Capuano missed all of 2008 and 2009 due to injury, but worked his way back to the majors last season. If he continues making progress, he could wind up as one of the steals of the off-season.

He did fan 54 batters in 66 innings last season, much of that in relief, so there's reason to believe he's got the goods.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Carlos Quentin Powers Sox Rout; Joey Votto Delivers for Reds

Players of the Day for Friday, March 18, 2011

American League

Carlos Quentin
John Danks worked six solid innings, fanning four while giving up a solitary run on 4 hits, but he didn't need to be that sharp as his teammates rapped out 21 hits in an 18-1 destruction of the Oakland A's and a quartet of untested hurlers.

Carlos Quentin was at the heart of the batting-practice-like affair, pounding a home run, two doubles and a single in four at-bats, with four RBI and three runs.

A mainstay in the White Sox lineup, Quentin, despite playing in only 131 games in 2011, cracked 26 home runs and drove in 87. He's healthy once more and looking to make up for lost time. The rest of the AL Central has been put on notice.

National League

Joey Votto
The rival Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds added some fuel to the Central Division fire on Friday, engaging in a 40-hit slugfest that had the Reds come out eventually on top, 14-13.

The Reds burned through five pitchers, while the Cubs employed just four, including starter Carlos Zambrano, who was dinged for sic runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings.

Joey Votto and Scott Rolen homered for the Reds. Rolen nailed a three-run shot, while Votto's was a two-run variety, and he added an RBI singles in a 2-for-3 effort.

Votto had a breakout season in 2010, earning him the league's MVP award, with 37 home runs, 113 RBI and a .324 batting average. He flirted with triple crown numbers all season, along with Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies and and Albert Pujols of St. Louis.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wieters on the Mark for Orioles; Hudson Leads Padres Past Rangers

Players of the Day for Thursday, March 17, 2010

American League

Matt Wieters
Baltimore bats were booming as the O's banged out 20 hits in a 13-3 win over the Pirates. Matt Wieters, in as a DH, had four for himself, going 4-for-5 with two singles, two doubles, two runs and two RBI.

Entering his third season, Wieters has yet to live up to his expectations. As a rookie in 2009, he hit .288 with 9 home runs and 43 RBI in 96 games. The power numbers were a little better in 2010 - 11 bombs and 55 RBI - but that was over a 130-game span in which the catcher struggled at the plate, batting just .249.

Lots of players really begin to find their stride in their third season, and if that's the case for Wieters, the Orioles may find themselves closer to the top of the AL East standings than the bottom.

National League

San Diego pounded Texas, 15-5, getting 19 hits off five Texas hurlers. Leading the barrage with a 3-for-4 effort was newly-acquired Orlando Hudson, who belted a pair of doubles and a single, scored twice and drove in two runs.

The well-traveled Hudson spent last season in Minnesota, where he batted .268 in 128 games. A veteran of nine seasons in the majors, Hudson has played with the Blue Jays, Dodgers, Twins and Diamondbacks and is a career .280 hitter.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Super Nova?; Taveras Stars for Comeback Rockies

Players of the Day for Wednesday, March 16, 2011

American League

Ivan Nova
Maybe those die-hard Yankee fans can breathe a little easier over their starting rotation worries, now that Ivan Nova set down the Baltimore Orioles for six straight innings without allowing a hit or a walk. Nova struck out four batters en route to his first win of the exhibition season as the Yankees clobbered Baltimore, 10-0.

Technically a rookie, Nova worked 42 innings with the Yanks in 2010, but did not exceed the 50-inning limit that determines rookie status. In his late-season stint, Nova started seven games and went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA.

The young hurler was in a perfect groove except for a hit batsman in the first inning and Alex Rodriguez' muff off an Adam Jones ground ball in the 4th. Despite the superlative effort, manager Joe Girardi hedged on whether or not Nova would be in the starting rotation when the regular season commences, saying he wasn't ready to make any decisions.

Competition for the 4th and 5th starting job are a battle between Nova and Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Sergio Mitre.

In the loss, the only Baltimore hit was by Vladimir Guerrero, who doubled off Mariano Rivera in the seventh inning, a blemish that may give the Yankee worriers something new to whine about.

National League

Willy Taveras
The Colorado Rockies rallied from a 9-2 deficit to defeat the reigning Al champion Texas Rangers, 11-10, as the Rangers' pitching collapsed in the latter stages of the game.

Colorado scored three runs in the top of the ninth to complete the comeback win. Ty Wigginton and Jason Giambi were among four hitter who homered for the Rockies, but fleet center fielder Willy Taveras was a force, going 3-for-4, driving in three runs.

An old hand in Colorado, Taveras stole 99 bases in 2007-2008 for the Rockies before spending 2009 in Cincinnati and last season with the Nationals. Injuries kept him out of all but 27 games last season, but he's tuning up well this Spring, with a .317 batting average and 5 steals in 15 games.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wallace Slams O's in Astro Win; Dice-K Sharp for Beantown

Players of the Day for Tuesday, March 15, 2010

American League

It took Boston and Detroit 10 innings to settle their differences, with the Red Sox coming out on top, 2-1.

Daisuke Matsuzaka
Tigers' starter Justin Verlander and Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka (Dice-K) hooked up in a fine pitching duel, with Verlander gong 5 1/3 innings, surrendering a run in the 4th frame. Matsuzaka went five full, allowed just two hits, fanned five and issued one walk.

Sidelined parts of the past two seasons with injuries, Matsuzaka went 9-6 with the Red Sox in 2010, but seeks to regain his 2008 form, when he went 18-3 with a 2.80 ERA, holding opposing batters to a .211 batting average.

The Red Sox improved to 11-8 in the Grapefruit League with the win. Detroit is in third place with a 13-8 record.

Brett Wallace
National League

Brett Wallace played in 51 games for the Houston Astros in 2010, almost all of them after the organization let Lance Berkman go to the Yankees in late July. Wallace wasn't very impressive, batting .222 with two homers and 16 RBI, but in Tuesday's 14-8 win over the Orioles, Wallace unloaded on Baltimore pitching, going 4-for-5 with two doubles and a grand slam home run, driving in seven runs for the Astros.

While Wallace had a great day at the plate, he'll need to keep it up in order to become Houston's regular first baseman. In 12 Spring games, he's batting .350, so he's on the right path.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Luis Cruz Leads Brewers Back Over Giants; Travis Hafner Hoping to Rebound

Players of the Day for Monday, March 14, 2011

American League

Leading a 13-hit attack, Cleveland's Travis Hafner singled and doubled twice in four at-bats as the Indians dropped the A's, 9-8.

Travis Hafner
Oakland, suffering its 10th loss against 7 wins, may have lost more than just an exhibition game. Closer Andrew Bailey left the game in the bottom of the 7th inning after facing three batters and recording only one out. Bailey had tightness in his forearm and will be evaluated on Tuesday.

Hafner, who scored twice and drove in a pair of runs, is coming off his fourth consecutive season of under-performance, having hit just 13 home runs with 50 RBI in 116 games last year. In 2006, Hafner smacked 42 homers and drove in 117 runs. His 24 homers and 100 RBI in 2007 were less than expected and the numbers kept falling off in subsequent seasons. He played in only 151 games in all of the 2008 and 2009 seasons, hitting 21 homers over the two-year span.

Hafner has had 11 hits in 32 at-bats this Spring for a .344 batting average.

National League

Luis Cruz
Luis Cruz, a middle infield prospect for Milwaukee by way of Pittsburgh (where else?), went 3-for-5 with a single and two doubles, leading the Brewers from a 3-0 deficit to a 12-8 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

Cruz drove in four runs and scored three times, prompting speculation that he may challenge Yunieski Betancourt or Ricky Weeks for playing time at either second base of short.

Having spent 2008 and 2008 in limited roles with the Pirates, Cruz played in just 7 games with Milwaukee in 2010 but is getting a longer look this Spring as the Brewers seek to upgrade their lineup.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hairston Socks a Pair as Mets Win; Danks One-Hits Dodgers Over Five

Players of the Day for Sunday, March 13, 2011

American League

John Danks
Riding five solid innings from starting pitcher John Danks, the Chicago White Sox beat up the LA Dodgers, 6-1, in Cactus League play.

Danks earned his first victory of the Spring, allowing one harmless hit over five scoreless innings, walking three and fanning a pair of batters.

Following a 2010 campaign in which he went 15-11, his third straight winning season for the Sox, Danks is tuning up well and expected to be a solid starter in the coming season. He needs more work on his control, having walked 8 batters in just 10 1/3 innings, but he's kept runners on base from scoring for the most part, registering an ERA of 1.74 in three games.

National League

For the NY Mets, keeping outfielders healthy has been an issue the past few years, which is one of the reasons they fetched Scott Hairston away from San Diego in the off-season.

Scott Hairston
Despite batting just .210, Hairston played in 108 games for the Padres last season, but his performance was so far below his previous seasons, the Mets saw some promise and make the deal.

Mets' brass must have been high-fiving in their skybox on Sunday as Hairston, playing right field, singled, socked a pair of solo homers and scored three times in four at-bats, helping the Mets to a 13-3 feast courtesy of some unusually accommodating St. Louis pitchers.

Hairston is 11-for-27 (.407) in ten Spring games.

Ellsbury All Threes in Win Over Marlins; Ross Drives in Five as Braves Whitewash Mets

Players of the Day for Saturday, March 12, 2011

American League

Jacoby Ellsbury
Jacoby Ellsbury doubled twice, homered, drove in three runs and scored three times in three at-bats as the Boston Red Sox swamped the Florida Marlins, 9-2, on Saturday.

Ellsbury, Boston's leadoff hitter and center fielder, played in only 18 games last season due to injury, though one wouldn't know it by the way he's been lashing base hits during Spring training. With Saturday's 30-for-3 effort, he's batting a robust .440, with 4 RBI, 8 runs and a stolen base on his tab.

National League

David Ross
A part-time catcher, David Ross is doing his best to impress the Braves this Spring, and Saturday's effort may give the Braves' brass something to think about.

With starter Tim Hudson giving up four hits and no runs over four innings, the Braves hammered the Mets, 12-0, as Ross went 3-for-4 - two singles and a double - and drove in five big ones.

Ross has bounced around the majors since 2002 with the Angels, Reds and Red Sox, but has found a home with the Braves since 2009.

Though he's unlikely to replace Brian McCann behind the plate, Ross did bat .289 in 58 games with the ATL last season. Saturday's fine showing should keep him as the backup in 2011.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cabrera Socks for Tigers; Raul Ibanez Expected to Bounce Back in 2011

Players of the Day for Friday, March 11, 2011

American League

Miguel Cabrera
Roundly criticized for his drinking and off-field antics, Miguel Cabrera will likely get down to the business of baseball shortly and refrain from entertaining thoughts of becoming the summer version of Charlie Sheen.

The Detroit first baseman took some strides in the right direction with his first home run of the season in a 7-4 win over St. Louis. Cabrera also added a fine double in three at-bats, scoring three times for the Tigers and driving in a pair of runs.

Following a sensational season with 38 home runs and 126 RBI, Cabrera, in the prime of his career (he'll turn 28 on April 18), should be a stalwart in the middle of Detroit's lineup and help the Tigers in their quest for an AL Central title.

National League

Raul Ibanez
Almost a forgotten man in the midst of Philadelphia's power-laden lineup, Raul Ibanez singled, doubled and cracked his first Springtime home run as the Phillies took down Baltimore, 13-6.

Ibanez went 3-for-3, drive in three runs and scored twice in the win, boosting his batting average to a respectable .321.

In 2010, Ibanez had an off year, delivering only 16 home runs and 83 RBI, though with Jayson Werth gone to the Nationals, he'll likely be hitting behind Ryan Howard, so he'll get more opportunities at choice pitches. The Phillies are counting on a solid year form Ibanez and more production, beyond the 83 RBI he sent in last season.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Halladay Works Six Scoreless over Yankees; Rajai Davis Brings Speed, Power to Blue Jays

Players of the Day for Thursday, March 10, 2011

American League

In five major league seasons, Rajai Davis has worn the caps of the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's, where he spent the last 2 1/2 seasons, but this year he'll be plying his trade wearing the cap - and uniform - of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Rajai Davis

Batting in the leadoff spot for the Jays in their 7-4 victory over the Twins, Davis singled, doubled and cracked his second home run of the exhibition season, driving in three runs and scoring once in four at-bats.

Known more for his speed than his power, Davis hasn't even attempted a swipe in 8 games this Spring, but he promises to bring some baserunning excitement to the top of the Blue Jays' order, having stolen 50 bases in 2010 after swiping 41 the year prior.

Davis should be a good fit for the leadoff role in Toronto. He carries into the season a career .330 on base percentage.

National League

Roy Halladay
Looking very much like he's ready for the regular season to begin, Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay outdueled C.C. Sabathia, supplying six scoreless innings against the Yankees en route to a 7-0 win for the Phillies.

Halladay allowed four hits, struck out two and didn't issue a walk, while Sabathia went five innings, surrendering three hits with two Ks and no walks.

Halladay was the NL Cy Young Award winner for 2010. He also won the award as the top pitcher in the American League in 2003 with Toronto. Halladay was 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA last season with the Phillies.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Adam Jones Leads O's Past Twins; Danny Espinosa a Find for Nats

Players of the Day for Wednesday, March 9, 2011

American League

Adam Jones
Baltimore's Adam Jones singled, doubled and homered in four at-bats, carrying the Orioles to an 11-2 pounding of Minnesota.

Jones also scored three times and drive in three runs, raising his Spring batting average to a reasonably solid .350 and helping get the O's back to .500 in the Grapefruit League with a 5-5 record.

Jones, of whom much is expected, comes off a somewhat disappointing season in which he slugged 19 homers and drove in 69 runs. A center fielder, Jones is a five-tool guy who some figure to be a league MVP some day. The O's have made some serious off-season moves to improve their offensive production and Jones will be a key to that effort in 2011. Just finishing anywhere other than last place in the rugged AL East will be considered a victory in Charm City.

National League

Danny Espinosa
Rookie second baseman Danny Espinosa is off to a hot start with the Washington Nationals, batting .455 with two home runs and 10 RBI in seven exhibition games.

In Wednesday's 8-4 win over the Marlins, Espinosa powered up with a single, double, his second home run of the season - a two-run seventh inning blast - and four RBI.

After a short stint with the Nationals in 2010 in which he hit six home runs in 28 games (103 at-bats), Espinosa has already secured the starting job at second and he appears to be relishing the appointment.

The Nats finished last in the NL East last year but are expected to be more competitive in 2011.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Andy LaRoche on Comeback Trail; Arizona Whips Padres with Chris Young

Players of the Day for Tuesday, March 8, 2011

American League

Andy LaRoche
The Oakland A's used the long ball strategy to whip the San Diego Padres Tuesday by a 6-2 final score. Home runs by Andy LaRoche, Michael Taylor and Anthony Becker all went yard.

For LaRoche, picked up from Pittsburgh by the A's in the off-season, it was his third homer of the Spring as he vies for the regular third baseman spot in Oakland.

LaRoche had a down year in 2010, hitting just four homers and driving in 16 runs in 102 games. His batting average was .206 in 247 at-bats, though he hit .258 in 150 games in 2009.

LaRoche may have an uphill battle for the starting job at third. Kevin Kouzmanoff is the regular, and he's coming off a productive season. LaRoche may end up as the DH or even at first base.

National League

Chris Young
Arizona's Chris Young banged out a double and his first home run of the Spring, drove in four runs and scored twice as the Diamondbacks plastered Cleveland's pitching staff for 22 hits in a 16-5 rout.

One could assume that the Indians need to work on their pitching, as they've given up 41 hits over the past two days, surrendering 19 in a 16-16 tie with the White Sox on Monday.

Young, the unheralded soul of the Diamondbacks, hit 27 home runs for Arizona last year, drove in 91 runs and stole 28 bases. Arizona finished far back in the NL West, in last place in 2010.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Alex Rios Sends a Pair Over the Fence; Brandon Boggs a Player to Watch

Players of the Day for Monday, March 7, 2011

American League

Alex Rios
Alex Rios slugged two home runs and drove in five runs as the Indians and White Sox demolished each other's bullpens in a 16-16 tie.

The two teams combined for 39 hits, employing a total of 13 pitchers, who gave up 6 homers and 10 doubles.

Rios, one of last season's most under-appreciated stars, batted .284 with 21 homers, 88 RBI and 34 stolen bases in his first full season with the White Sox following a late-season trade from Toronto in 2009.

National League

Brandon Boggs
Milwaukee bats were booming as the Brewers banged out 25 hits against defending N Central division champion Cincinnati in a 15-2 plundering.

Right fielder Brandon Boggs, hoping to make the final roster, homered, tripled and singled twice in five at-bats, scoring twice and driving in four runs to spearhead the onslaught.

A graduate of Georgia Tech, Boogs has spent considerable time in the minors but played 101 games with the Rangers in 2008, knocking 8 homers and 41 RBI. His .226 batting average and 93 strikeouts in 283 at-bats earned him a return trip to the minors. Milwaukee picked up Boggs, from Texas, in the off-season following the 2010 campaign.