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News » Competitions won't end on April 6


Competitions won't end on April 6


Competitions won't end on April 6
For all the attention placed on Opening Day rosters, it's easy to forget that the 25-man lists are fluid over the course of a season. Virtually every club evolves, addressing injuries and weaknesses along the way.

Baseball people recognize that many spring-training competitions will not end on April 6; if anything, they will just enter another phase. In many cases, teams are decidedly unfazed that no clear-cut winner has emerged:

The Skip Schumaker experiment at second base is yet another issue that need not to be decided by Opening Day; the Cardinals recognize that Schumaker might not be a finished product at the position immediately, but are satisfied that he is making progress.

New shortstop Khalil Greene looks poised for a bounceback season, and La Russa can patch third base with Joe Mather or David Freese until Troy Glaus recovers from shoulder surgery.

Then there is the bullpen, which was perhaps the team's biggest question entering spring training. Manager Tony La Russa spoke of wanting an established closer, but who's to say that Jason Motte cannot develop into the next Joakim Soria or Jonathan Papelbon?

Chris Perez, another young pitcher, looms as a potential alternative if Motte falters, and the Cardinals feature better bullpen depth than most clubs — Motte, Perez, Ryan Franklin and Kyle McClellan from the right side, Dennys Reyes and Trever Miller from the left.

The team never addressed its need for a big bat to complement Albert Pujols, and the offense looms as a potential trouble spot. But few managers — if any — are better than La Russa at maximizing a team's ability.

DeRo: The Cubs' missing link

One of the season's more interesting storylines will be whether the Cubs are diminished by the loss of super-utility man Mark DeRosa, whom they traded to the Indians to clear money for free-agent outfielder Milton Bradley and create a more balanced lineup.

Team USA's coaches loved DeRosa's selflessness and versatility, and showed their confidence in him by playing him at first base in the semifinal against Japan. DeRosa handled the position without incident and hit three balls hard, including a two-run double.

To a degree, the Cubs already miss DeRosa, who will play third base for the Indians. One of the Cubs' issues is that their lack of an in-house alternative to third baseman Aramis Ramirez, one of several regulars whom manager Lou Piniella plans to rest more regularly this season.

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Rockies' Baker in demand

The Rockies often are criticized by rival executives for asking too much for their players in trades, but they figure to make a move with with utility man Jeff Baker, who is out of minor-league options and drawing interest from the Phillies, Astros and Pirates.

One possible target for the Rox: Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick, who was demoted to Class AAA on Monday. Kendrick, for all his faults, has won 21 games the past two seasons — as many as Rockies lefty Jeff Francis, who was hampered last season by shoulder trouble and recently underwent surgery.

Baker, who plays first, second, third and the outfield corners, would fill the Phillies' need for a right-handed bat off the bench. The problem for the Phillies is that they would not have an available roster spot unless they traded one of their left-handed hitting reserves, Geoff Jenkins or Matt Stairs.

Jays seeking shortstop depth

The Blue Jays have been scouting the Dodgers' Chin-Lung Hu and Juan Castro, as well as other shortstops whom they could stash at Class AAA and summon if either Marco Scutaro or John McDonald were injured.

The team, which lost McDonald and David Eckstein in the same game last season, currently lacks a viable third option and has tried Jose Bautista and Joe Inglett at short this spring.

The Indians' Wilson Valdez and White Sox's Eider Torres are among the other shortstops who could fill the Jays' need.

Around the horn

The Dodgers can get away with keeping just four outfielders due to the versatility of third baseman Casey Blake and utility infielder Juan Castro. Blake, who has played 238 career games in right field, could fill in for Andre Ethier aganst a tough lefty, with Castro possibly serving as his defensive replacement. Doug Mientkiewicz's strong bid for a utility job could persuade the club to send Blake DeWitt back to the minors, where he could play every day ...

Rival executives continue to suggest the Reds blew it by signing center fielder Willy Taveras to a two-year, free-agent contract. The Reds instead could have alternated Chris Dickerson and Jerry Hairston in center and pursued a right-handed hitting left fielder such as Josh Willingham in a trade or Ty Wigginton as a free agent. Willingham would make sense in a platoon with Dickerson ...

The Brewers need twin breakouts from right-hander Yovani Gallardo and lefty Manny Parra similar to what the White Sox got last season from Gavin Floyd and John Danks. Gallardo and Parra, however, will not enjoy the same type of veteran protection that Floyd and Danks did. Mark Buerhle and Javier Vazquez each pitched 200-plus innings for the Sox last season. The Brewers' Jeff Suppan and Braden Looper are not the same types of workhorses — and the team's bullpen is starting to look like a mess.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 24, 2009

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