“That’s what we brought A.J. here to do, bottom line,” Girardi said. “In 2009, he was very, very important for us and pitched very well for us, playoffs, World Series, you name it. He struggled last year, but we believe he’s going to be back.”
I have touched on the Burnett subject a couple of times and this was the right move. Not only logical, but Burnett has worked his butt off and it shows.
Nothing is more inspiring than to see a pro-athlete, at Burnett’s level to still care with so much determination. Burnett loves the game of baseball and he well deserves to be right the team’s second ace.
I have faith that Burnett will prevail and have a solid 2011 season.
With passing each day, the 2011 Yankees purpose is becoming quite clear. The bad taste lingering from 2009 that Alex Rodriguez talked about at the start of Spring Training is for real.
The players are working their butts off to make sure that 2011 is a season with no regrets in New York. All I can say is I like what is going on down in Tampa.
Not much attention has been paid to the Atlanta Braves this Spring, which is not shocking considering the Braves play in the same division with two drama queens, the Phillies and the Mets.
Please note that this lack of headlines is not covertly saying the Braves are not contenders in 2011. Fact is nothing could be farther from the truth.
Last season, Atlanta won 91 games in the regular season and did not finish the way they had hoped, losing to the Giants in the NLDS. The disappointment stemming from the departure of their beloved skipper Bobby Cox and wanted nothing more then to have him go out on top.
A baseball legend, Cox retired after 28 years as a MLB skipper, with the last 24 serving as the Braves manager. Cox’s presence in the dugout will be sorely missed in Atlanta, and throughout baseball, but he has signed a one-year deal to be a special advisor in 2011, so Cox is not totally done yet.
Let’s take a look at the Atlanta Braves heading in to the 2011 season, in the team’s first year of the post-Cox era:
The Braves claim if any pitching rotation can compete with the Phillies ‘fab-four’ they can. Led by Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, this statement is not far from the truth.
Atlanta’s 1-4 in their starting rotation is impressive, with all easily winning 15+ games and should post an ERA of less then 3.00.
The fifth spot has not been named yet, but it looks to be top prospect Mike Minor. Minor is a 23-year-old lefty who had an ERA just shy of 6.00, going 3-2 over his eight starts in 2010. Minor will either struggle in his first full season or become a hero; he has the potential to go either direction.
The bats will be better than last season, with the acquisition of Dan Uggla from the Marlins. Uggla will be sandwiched in between rookie sensation Jason Heyward and his mini-me, rookie 1B Freddie Freeman who is said to be better than Heyward was last season. That is a nice group of power in the heart of a line-up, as the addition of two-time All-Star and recent Silver Slugger winner in Uggla will be the difference maker.
New Skipper Fredi Gonzalez will take over for Cox, his mentor and the Braves front office only interviewed manager by choice. Gonzalez was the Braves third-base coach for four seasons under Cox, till he became the Marlins manager following 2007. Gonzalez got canned last season for benching Marlins star shortstop Hanley Ramirez for being lazy, which was more then fair. Ramirez threw a fit and Gonzalez took the fall. Gonzalez is glad to be out of that situation and has a bright future ahead of him.
Regardless, Gonzalez believes in hard work ethic, with a smile. Gonzalez is perfect for this job and even though Cox’s shoes will never be filled, this is pretty darn close.
Defensively the Braves have to improve to back-up the pitchers on the mound. There is not one infielder that excels with their glove. The 126 errors in 2010 cannot happen again, as they only had one less then the Pittsburgh Pirates. It is just unacceptable and sloppy form by a playoff team.
The concerns start with 3B Chipper Jones is about to be 39-years-old and almost retired last season after he had to have knee surgery. After Jones, Freddie Freeman is a rookie covering first and Uggla playing at second is not comforting. Uggla brings a lot of talent but catching the ball is not one of them.
Behind the plate is catcher Brian McCann, who has been with the Braves for four seasons. McCann continues to improve his stats each season and is a threat with a bat. He has to stay healthy, as he was clearly worn down last season. Atlanta is counting on McCann’s bat being more productive to add to one of the club’s clear strengths. Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: Atlanta Braves’ »
Spring Training is supposed to be a time for teams smooth out the edges, while players prepare themselves for the demanding 162-game season ahead.
Wins and loses are meaningless; stats posted by key players don’t forecast anything, as guys mindsets change once things start to matter.
There is one thing that counts from the spring that can impact a team’s season, and that is injuries.
Injuries happen in sports, no matter if it is the World Series, Spring Training or playing a pick-up-basketball game with your teammates. It is a harsh reality that bites.
This year is no different, as teams cannot buy luck with the idea of keeping everyone healthy.
A few unfortunate ball-clubs will be leaving Spring Training in worse shape than when they arrived. Regardless if a player is out for the season or has the real possibility of returning, the baseball season will move forward, and crying is not an option.
Below are key five players whose injuries will cause both fans and teammates to have that dreaded Spring Training nightmare:
SP Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals – biggest blow in Spring Training thus far, as the team’s ace, Wainwright got shut down almost immediately. He had Tommy John surgery a week ago, so he won’t return to St. Louis until 2012.
2B Chase Utley – Philadelphia Philles – Utley missed a majority of 2010 and now might miss 2011, as he hasn’t partaken in a Spring Training game yet. Utley’s has tendonitis in his knee and first it was must-have surgery and now it rehab heavily so the change of story is never a good sign. Phillies are going to missing the days of Jayson Werth, as Howard has no protection without Utley behind him.
SP Zach Greinke – Milwaukee Brewers – Milwaukee will have to wait to welcome their new ace, who broke a rib off the field playing in a pick-up basketball game with his new teammates. Let’s hope Greinke can keep his mental game in tact while on the DL.
GM Brian Cashman decided to go with the motto of quantity over quality, which was far from comforting. Names like Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior and Freddie Garcia were the solutions that felt like you had swallowed something and it went down the wrong pipe.
Let’s not forget about Sergio Mitre, who is getting his millionth chance at a starting spot.
Mitre would be the Kyle Farnsworth of the rotation, as he shouldn’t be even considered with his track record.
Luckily for Mitre, his love affair with Joe Girardi has completely blinded the skipper to his true lack of effectiveness as a starter. Over his seven-year career, Mitre has a 13-29 record, with a 5.27 ERA over 64 starts total. Translation is when Mitre is not stinking it up on the mound; he spends an ample amount of time on the DL.
The highlight of the Spring was getting introduced to the Yankee youngsters, who Cashman should feel very good about after all the hard work gone into revamping the team’s farm system since 2004.
Yankees have a herd of talented arms stockpiled in the minors who most fans just got a taste of these last few weeks, watching Andrew Brackman, Delin Betences and the crown jewel Manny Banuelos shine.
Come mid-season Cashman’s phone will be ringing off the hook if the Yankees are in need of a trade but my guess is these three will not be on the table.
Maybe, let’s take a look at the Brewers heading into the season:
The Brewers had a great off-season, fixing up an ineffective pitching staff to match their potent offense by adding two ace arms in Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum.
The Brewers 1-4 starters are good enough to rival the Phillies for best in the NL.
Offensively remaining one of the most feared line-ups in the games with Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks. Weeks and Fielder can hit the open market at the end of 2011, so regardless if they stay or go their numbers will determine their paycheck, so expect big years from both. Ryan and Braun need to get on base a lot because these to can steal 20+ bases in 2011.
Look for an MVP season form Braun, who is in my top five list of possible players to win the award in 2011. Braun will be hitting clean up in a potent line-up and with the team being in the hunt for October and the above factors my bet is the team will produce, which Braun will benefit from.
New manager Ron Roenicke was a coach with the Angels for the last 10 seasons. The Brewers are hoping he follows in his old ex-Angel colleagues’, Joe Maddon and Bud Black’s footsteps. Roenicke will surely bring the Angels base-stealing mentality as that is inevitable after being under Mike Scioscia for so long. Hey it does work and the Brewers have the players to be a threat, so let’s see if he can bring some energy back to the Brew Crew.
The pressure is on in Milwaukee, as all the off-season moves have depleted the team’s farm system.
Add that to Fielder and Weeks both in contract season’s makes 2011 a do or die situation in Milwaukee.
The improvements could be short lived if the team misses the playoffs. This is no secret and inevitably will weigh on the players shoulders and Milwaukee’s loyal fanbase will make sure they don’t forget it.
Neither will new skipper Roenicke, as he has made it clear that he has one set of rules for every player and that the team is always playing as a contender, with the World Series in mind.
As positive as Roenicke has been as the Brewers are showing some life again in Spring Training…could he be to overwhelming for a group who is used to never living up to expectations?
It is too early to tell, but it is the last six weeks that Roenicke’s effectiveness will be judged.
Players To Watch:
2B Rickie Weeks is what makes this Brewers offense so deadly. Weeks is in his prime at age 27 and just watching him play is enough to realize that he is a superstar. Problem is Weeks cannot stay healthy long enough to transform into a household name, but he did manage to start to display consistency in 2010. Last season, Weeks’ bat posted 29 home-runs, 32 doubles, 83 RBIs, 175 hits and four triples. He needs to lower his strikeout numbers, as Weeks he had 184 in 2010. The Brewers rewarded Weeks with a four-year, $38.5 million dollar contract with a fifth year option in this off-season, so he is being paid like a star. Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: Milwaukee Brewers’ »
Honestly, my initial reaction was to immediately go on the defense. Considering this is after being subjected to the harsh words used all off-season about the Captain. I just wanted the man to catch a break, after skipper Joe Girardi made it clear that Jeter would be the at the top on Opening Day.
Now that I have had time to digest this idea, it might actually be a good one.
Jeter has only been lead-off since the start of 2009, other than filling in on occasion. He was cemented for the majority of 14 seasons as the Yankees #2.
Moving Jeter doesn’t concern me as much as whether Brett Gardner will be able to handle it. Last season Gardner struggled when atop the Yankee line-up.
Is Gardner speed going to hurt such an offensively dominant group and will his speed get wasted?
Jeter has never been a power batter, so what if he starts hitting into double plays, as he did do that more in 2010? That immediately closes the door for Teixeira to hit a sac-fly to move the runners with two outs already.
Question remains if Jeter can still be a pest on the base-pads because we know that Gardner is one of the fastest guys in the league.
Jeter stole 48 bases in 2009-2010, which is almost double what he had in 2007-2008 when he posted 26 combined.