Managers on the hot seat and more league notes (cont.)
4. Bud Black, Padres.
He's well-regarded but has to avoid back-to-back disastrous seasons, especially with a new owner coming in. The good rep is nice, but it doesn't mean more than the record.
5. Clint Hurdle, Rockies.
He's a terrific guy and a great interview, but he can't repeat last year's dreadful performance. He took Colorado on an improbable ride to the World Series in 2007 but was exposed as strategically challenged on the national stage. His bosses have been very loyal to him, though.
6. Cecil Cooper, Astros.
There were whispers about clubhouse dissension in Houston last year. The reality is the Astros easily beat expectations. Still, inconsistent owner Drayton McLane remains a wild card.
6. Bruce Bochy, Giants.
He earned a rep in San Diego but hasn't done any magic in San Francisco so far. Even if they don't get Manny, the Giants still spent liberally, and probably expect more. Giants general partner Bill Neukom is in his first year, which could work either way for Bochy.
7. Bob Melvin, Diamondbacks.
He has a nice rapport with his bosses, but the expectations went up with the cost-efficient signing of starting pitcher Jon Garland. Melvin had a superb year in 2007 when they got to the NLCS, but last year was a flameout after their big start.
8. Bob Geren, A's.
It can't hurt that GM Billy Beane is Geren's best friend. But anxious owner Lew Wolff wants to win now, after some surprisingly big winter expenditures including star slugger Matt Holliday.
A-Rod gets himself into trouble
Alex Rodriguez pulled a boneheaded play by having his cousin, Yuri Sucart, pick him up after the exhibition opener vs. the Blue Jays in Dunedin, and his Yankees bosses have told him that can't happen again. A-Rod's story was that he and Sucart cooked up the 2001-03 steroid idea together, and while Sucart may be a great friend, he can't be seen at the park with him now. He should know that.
"That situation has been addressed, and I'll leave it at that," Girardi said.
Pressed to explain what he meant, Girardi repeated, "I said the situation's been addressed, and we'll leave it at that."
Then, when someone asked him whether he'd have to question Rodriguez's judgment for thinking he could be hanging around in public with Sucart, Girardi said, "I'm not going to comment on that."
Around the majors
After Astros ace Roy Oswalt's nice three-inning performance Thursday, an NL scout said, "He's in midseason form."
That scout was also impressed by top Braves prospect Tommy Hanson: "He throws 95 mph with two different breaking balls. He could be a top-of-the-rotation guy."
Leyland says Willis is showing a solid delivery and keeping the ball down, and his ball is moving. Leyland also said, "It's like night and day" from last spring. But when Leyland tells his friends about Willis, Leyland finishes by saying, "We'll see." It's true there can be no guarantees at this point.
Leyland said he sees no problem with Carlos Guillen re-learning left field. That was his first spot in pro ball, and as Leyland said, "He's the consummate professional." We agree.
Livan Hernandez and Freddy Garcia look like they'll battle it out for the Mets' No. 5 starter spot, with Tim Redding likely to start in the bullpen. Hernandez is off to an especially good start.
Looks like Girardi's $455 million 3-4 combo will be Mark Teixeira at No. 3, followed by A-Rod at cleanup.