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Posted: Thursday March 19, 2009 1:54PM; Updated: Saturday March 21, 2009 8:30PM
Jon Heyman Jon Heyman >

Daily Scoop (cont.)

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After falling short of the high expectations around him last year, Phil Hughes appears to be a more complete pitcher in 2009.
Douglas Jones/Icon SMI

21. Phil Hughes, Yankees pitcher. If last year was a wasted year, at least he appears to have learned from it (2.25 ERA this spring). He came to camp with a revised and deeper repertoire, including a cutter and improved changeup. Barring injury, he'll start at Scranton. But he's ready to go if needed.

22. Jason Heyward, Braves outfielder. Tremendous all-around talent with big power has hit .310 this spring.

23. Vin Mazzaro, A's pitcher. "Big power arm with a repeatable delivery,'' one scout said. Has a 2.61 ERA in spring.

24. Antonio Bastardo, Phillies pitcher. "They have pretty good depth with [J.A.] Happ, [Carlos] Carraso and Bastardo,'' one scout said. Has a 5.41 ERA this spring.

25. Bobby Parnell, Mets reliever. Fastball clocked in the 96 mph range and decent spring (4.05 ERA) means he looks ticketed for the Mets' pen. Lefthander Michael Antonini ("a great change and can pitch inside'') and right-hander Dillon Gee (tremendous poise) also impressed early in camp.

26. Logan Morrison, Marlins first baseman. "Pretty good approach .. really strong with power to all fields and a fluid swing,'' one scout said. Hit .181 in spring.

27. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates outfielder. Maturing all-around talent will make an impact soon, if not immediately. Hitting .280 this spring.

28. Michael Stanton, Marlins outfielder. "A young Andre Dawson,'' says manager Fredi Gonzalez. Tremendous combination of power and speed, with a .364 batting average this spring.

29. Chris Tillman, Orioles pitcher. Yet another piece who came for crusty veteran Erik Bedard. Still a baby, Tillman (2.25 ERA) is almost good enough to make the Orioles' rotation now (though that may say more about their rotation). "A little raw,'' according to a scout.

30. Matt Gamel, Brewers third baseman. Gamel (.294, .588 slugging) obviously can hit. And while he has been criticized for his defense, he has made some nice plays this spring.

31. Ryan Perry, Tigers reliever. Word is Tony La Russa loves the former No. 1 pick with a 0.00 ERA this spring.

32. Brad Nelson, Brewers first baseman. Power hitter has put up the numbers and now he's putting together a decent spring (.375, .563). He's out of options and should make the team.

33. Xavier Paul, Dodgers outfielder. Very good hitter who has speed and can run has caught manager Joe Torre's eye. With a .425 spring he's got a shot to make the team.

Livan large, so that's no help for Pedro

Livan Hernandez effectively used an 85 mph fastball and his usual guile to glide through five solid, one-run innings on Wednesday, so he appears in position to win the Mets' No. 5 starters spot. The Mets are believed to have made Pedro Martinez an offer that's well below his $5 million minimum asking price ("I can assure you, we are not paying him $5 million,'' one Mets person said) and are unlikely to immediately boost their bid (believed to be $1-2 million, plus incentives) after Hernandez's latest professional effort.

Meanwhile Freddy Garcia got roughed up again, as his comeback efforts have hit a snag. It would appear that he needs a little more time to regain some velocity.

Chipper not living up to his name

While the WBC isn't perfect, it's definitely salvageable if they can figure a way to get Team USA players training earlier. It's no coincidence that their players are the ones getting hurt. They were the least-prepared since they don't play winter ball.

Team USA members see the big problem as the large number of off-days. Davey Johnson mentioned that a few times, and so did Chipper Jones, who hurt his ribcage. Jones is a great player and a future Hall of Famer. But let's be fair about this: He's a guy who can hurt himself at any time. I know this firsthand since Jones injured his ribcage last year while I was interviewing him. I believe he made a sudden motion while dressing himself.

"There's some serious problems with the WBC setup,'' Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. But I wouldn't do it again under the current format.''

Jones was probably hurt by the fact that he was 0 for 10 with six strikeouts. But his comments, and a couple other remarks by U.S. personnel, came off as excuses. Next time start working out sooner if you plan to contribute, Chipper.

Wade owes apology for misdirection play

I know things are bad in Astros camp -- 1-15 at last count, plus ties -- but GM Ed Wade should not be telling the folks who cover their team, much less, that the team wasn't pursuing Ivan Rodriguez when it was. After it was mentioned here and probably a few more places that the Astros were one of about four teams in the bidding for Pudge, an item appeared on saying, "After talking with Ed Wade yet again today, I can assure you the Astros are not pursuing [Rodriguez]. And, judging from the irritated look on his face, I can assure you I won't be asking him about Pudge anytime soon.''

This isn't the fault of the reporter, Alyson Footer, who did the right thing by confronting Wade, who proceeded to do the wrong thing by denying pursuit during mid-pursuit. There appears to be no wiggle room here for Wade, either, since it had already been reported at least here that the Astros desired Rodriguez. That was not a guess, either. I should have an idea what's going on with Pudge since he lives three doors down my block in Miami.

It didn't bother me that Wade denied what was written here. But now that he has signed Pudge for $1.5 million plus incentives, he owes an apology to Footer, who had the professionalism to praise him for the move even after he led her astray. For his own sake Wade should also rethink this strategy, because when you're caught telling big fat ones like this, folks tend not to trust you in the future.

Around the WBC and the camps

• Team USA is going to Hollywood. But do they deserve it? They were outscored 16-7 by Puerto Rico in two games but had the advantage of playing the Netherlands after losing the first game to Puerto Rico, while Puerto Rico had to face Venezuela in games that counted. The U.S. lost 10-6 to Venezuela in the seeding game, while Puerto Rico lost 2-0.

• Yankees GM Brian Cashman said their reports are that Alex Rodriguez is working hard (no surprise there) to be back in May, as hoped. Some Yankees people were rolling their eyes at the latest A-Rod controversy, the mirror-kissing picture in Details magazine, but Cashman said, "All the extra stuff doesn't have any bearing on whether you win or lose.''

Mariano Rivera just started throwing in earnest, and already he looks terrific.

Brett Gardner leads Melky Cabrera in the Yankees' center field derby.

Hideki Matsui has been worth almost every penny. But since he can't play the outfield for months, he seems more like a burden than an asset right now.

• News flash: Kei Igawa hasn't been terrible this spring.

• The Yankees and Mets are lucky to have CC Sabathia and Johan Santana, respectively, for what they bring to a clubhouse, as well.

• Trivia question: Ryan Howard has three top-five MVP finishes. How many All-Star teams has he made? Answer far below.

• One scout on the Padres: "Pathetic ... it's going to be an open tryout with lots of waiver claims.''

• The Pirates' Paul Maholm (0.66 ERA) is justifying his big contract extension signed a few weeks ago.

Cliff Lee, who was almost perfect last year, certainly is having a scary spring (18.90 ERA, 19 hits in 6 2/3 innings).

• There are worries that Gary Sheffield (.214) is at the end of the line.

Andruw Jones has been told that he's probably not making the Rangers and has until Friday to decide whether he wants to stay in the organization.. He has hit better lately (.258) but has 14 strikeouts in 31 at-bats.

Josh Hamilton is having a big spring, with three homers, 15 RBIs and a .434 batting average. (This is obviously my big day for stats.)

• Right-hander Sean Green could be an unheralded big pickup for the Mets. Hitters say he is a very uncomfortable at-bat.

Chris Carpenter looked great on Wednesday. But sorry if I remain skeptical..

• Folks in Florida say the Tigers look pretty iffy. But let's not forget that they have three stars -- Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera -- playing for powerhouse Venezuela.

• Mets people aren't complaining aloud about K-Rod's two four-out saves. "If it was four out saves back-to-back that might be different,'' GM Omar Minaya said.

• The Marlins continue to save money. They renewed four players on Thursday at salaries of their choosing, three at the major league minimum. Florida will pay Robert Andino, Cameron Maybin and Taylor Tankersley $400,000. The Marlins also renewed closer Matt Lindstrom at $410,000. Lindstrom made some news earlier this week by (inexplicably) "sending a message'' to Netherlands after allowing a bomb of a home run in a WBC game. He is said to be out for "seven to 10 days'' with a rotator cuff issue after their outing.

• Answer on Howard question: one.

• The situation with newspapers is very sad. I enjoyed the Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which were both around for a century and a half. And while we're handing money out, why shouldn't newspapers get a bailout? Why aren't they more deserving than AIG?

• Best of luck to Aaron Boone, who heads to open heart surgery. The man who hit the last big Yankee home run is a truly terrific guy.

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