Early line on contenders' trade needs (cont.)
Looking for relievers
Yankees: With New York apparently determined to keep Joba Chamberlain as a starter (his strong eight-inning outing in Cleveland on Monday only solidified their thinking), they could be looking for someone to pitch the eighth inning and even the seventh. Overall their bullpen ERA is a poor 5.02. As for the eighth inning, three doctors have looked at Brian Bruney and found no structural damage, but he still is unable to pitch. Their lineup looks very solid, and barring injury, so does their rotation.
Rangers: They have been scouring the bigs for viable relievers, as the rotation has been surprisingly good under new pitching coach Mike Maddux. Darren O'Day has been a big help via the Mets. But their 'pen ERA is still 4.90.
Angels: Overall their 'pen is a disaster, with a 6.62 ERA. And, no one has ever explained why they were willing to offer $300 million combined to Mark Teixeira ($160 million) and CC Sabathia ($140 million) but let their longtime record-breaking closer Francisco Rodriguez run to the Mets without a fight. Some others sensed some wear on K-Rod's arm, but the Angels are too classy to have said a thing to a soul. Still, it's strange, especially now that Scot Shields (5.31), Justin Speier (6.62) and Jose Arredondo (5.32) are struggling, and Brian Fuentes -- no surprise -- is proving to be no K-Rod.
Around the majors
The Dodgers hold a one-year option on GM Ned Colletti, and if they don't pick it up, they'll extend him. What do you expect? They are currently the best team in baseball, and even Pierre is proving valuable. The bigger question is what they do with Pierre once Manny Ramirez returns.
Some close to the situation believe Joe Torre saying he wasn't sure whether he'd return after 2010 is only the first salvo in negotiations. (I am one of those people.)
Good to see common sense is winning out and Ramirez is falling behind in All-Star balloting. Torre pleased his old friend Bud Selig by speaking out against Manny's candidacy.
Braves solid starter Javier Vazquez is supposedly available, but one competing exec said he doesn't see why Atlanta should trade a consistent starter.
Erik Bedard might have trouble in Philly, according to one AL exec. That executive said Bedard doesn't like extra attention, which may be part of the reason why he struggled early last year when he was being portrayed as the savior in Seattle.
Now that Randy St. Claire has been fired as Nationals pitching coach, I'm expecting a complete turnaround. Not! Manager Manny Acta would appear to be next in line to go.
One of many problems with the Nats is that they have several American League players. Dunn is one. Willingham is probably another.
Indians manager Eric Wedge is very likely to get the year, at least. It's hard to pin the Indians' problems on him, and GM Mark Shapiro has great respect for Wedge.
Ervin Santana's performance is worrisome. He's throwing only 90-91 mph, but one scout said the real problem is his control.
Cole Hamels still isn't in midseason form. He was throwing 90-91 and his changeup "wasn't as good as usual,'' according to one scout.
It's understandable that Rick Ankiel needs time to return after crashing headfirst into the Busch Stadium wall last month. "It was like a car accident,'' a friend said.
Mets people say they are sure Carlos Beltran doesn't have the swine flu since he has no fever. He did undergo tests after intestinal distress and had to stay back at the hotel on Tuesday night.
The Mets' Triple-A lineup is finally catching up to them in Pittsburgh this week. "The Pirates are a scrappy team,'' one scout said.
New Mets pickup Lance Broadway, a former first-rounder with a great New York name, is throwing only 86-88 mph. Judging by recent activity, White Sox GM Ken Williams seems willing to purge their system of the picks of the previous scouting director.
Talented Cubs starter Rich Harden is expected back by the end of the Cubs' nine-game trip. But when it comes to recovery time, Harden occasionally disappoints.
If Raul Ibanez is the best free-agent signing so far, Milton Bradley looks like the worst. Bradley left another game on Tuesday with a calf injury. Can't blame the umpires for that, can he? One thing folks don't realize: His Rangers teammates were tiring of him by the time he left.
If Barry Zito was dragging down the Giants in his first two years in San Francisco, they're dragging him down now. Despite seven quality starts in his last eight outings, he's still only 1-6.
Surprisingly there's only a little early scuttlebutt about former President Bush possibly retaking the reins with the Rangers. He is a neighbor of Tom Hicks, who has his team up for sale after some financial reverses. One possibility could be for Bush to join a Nolan Ryan-led group.
Thanks to you (some of you, anyway), I've moved into the top 10 in the MLB category in Twitter followers but still trail two Yankees, Nick Swisher (the runaway leader), CC Sabathia (though I don't believe that's really him) and a few teams. To follow along on Twitter, go to SI_JonHeyman.
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