Orioles not shocked by fast start (cont.)
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has an uphill battle to keep the Dodgers. He needs $200 million he doesn't currently have to settle his divorce case and remove ex-wife Jamie from the picture. McCourt apparently could get that money in advance from Fox on a new TV deal, but he needs commissioner Bud Selig's approval for such a move, and there is little evidence that Selig or many of the other 29 owners want him to remain in baseball. But McCourt is a scrapper, and he's also litigious, so he can't be completely ruled out. The McCourt case is being watched with great interest by several other owners who have seemed intrigued by its soap operatic quality and almost unseemly details about the McCourts' over-the-top lavish lifestyle considering they aren't among baseball's richest owners.
One scout said about young Cubs star Starlin Castro, "He looks ridiculous at the plate, he's so good.'' That scout said Castro is reminiscent of Marlins' All-Star Hanley Ramirez. "He's going to get bigger and stronger. He might have to move of shortstop, but his bat plays.'' That's what they said about Hanley, too.
Ramirez, by the way, is hustling hard for Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez. Good sign.
The Rangers appear to have more hitting than anyone, so much, in fact, that they could afford to trade Michael Young if they could get back a viable starting pitcher or closer (in that case, they could move Neftali Feliz into the rotation). Several teams could use Young, as many need either a second baseman or third baseman. The Phillies, Cubs, Marlins and Rockies all look like they could use one or the other. Ruben Amaro was quoted on Tuesday as saying Utley may start jogging soon, but he seemed to refute that later. in any case, Utley's progress seems painfully slow and whatever progress he is having shouldn't discourage Philly from pursuing a second baseman. In the meantime, Wilson Valdez looks better than a healthy Utley defensively but ultimately won't give them the offense they need.
The Marlins will likely need a third baseman unless Donnie Murphy can prove to be more than a utilityman. Murphy had a walk-off hit Tuesday, two days after being nailed on the right hand by a pitch. Future star Matt Dominguez's broken elbow may not keep him out as long as first suspected, but he still needs plenty more at-bats in the minors to be ready to face major league pitching.
Bronson Arroyo continued his streak of never missing a start when he went to the mound for the Reds with mononucleosis, pitching seven innings in a win. Don't let the long hair and guitar playing fool you; this is one of the toughest guys in baseball. "He's like the [Cal] Ripken of pitchers,'' one scout said, admiringly.
Scott Kazmir's status with the Angels may well be tenuous after he followed up a poor 2010 by surrendering five hits and five earned runs while getting just five outs in his season debut.
Aaron Rowand couldn't be released by the Giants to make room for top rookie Brandon Belt because the Giants needed a backup center fielder on the roster to start the year. But once Cody Ross returns, they won't need one, possibly putting Rowand, who makes $12 million a year, in potential jeopardy of being let go.
Candid Twins closer Joe Nathan admitted he isn't 100 percent, saying he's throwing 92, which is about 3-to-4 mph off his usual figure. While that may not seem like a big deal, Nathan admitted it's significant. On the plus side, it's only been 13 months since his Tommy John surgery, the 92 mph is six mph more than his readings of two months ago, and he said he feels good.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka seemed to have an early case of the jitters, according to people close to the Twins. But the strong belief is that Nishioka will settle down and be one of baseball's more productive second basemen.
Jim Thome, 40, who is 11 home runs from 600, isn't suggesting this will be his last year. "Why not keep going as long as you can do it?'' he said.
Thome said he believes the Red Sox's young starter Clay Buchholz will someday win a Cy Young award.
One scout said the Pirates' Charlie Morton, 2-12 last year, looks terrific, that he was throwing 96 with really impressive sink. "He's always had really good stuff,'' that scout said.
Mets starter Chris Young, at $1.5 million guaranteed, may turn out to be the best signing of the offseason. Even before his successful debut vs. the rival Phillies, one scout said of Young, "He's pitching like he did when he was at his best.''
David Wright looks absolutely terrific at bat. And Jose Reyes is running as well as he has in years. That may be great timing for the free-agent-to-be.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson said it's unlikely Jason Bay will be back Saturday when he's eligible to come of the disabled list from that popular intercostal, and he may actually need a couple weeks. It isn't expected to be a long-term injury but he isn't able to swing a bat yet.
One scout who saw Daniel Murphy in spring training said the Mets are wasting him, that they should have given him more innings in the outfield in camp to give them another spot to play him. "Murphy can really hit'' if given the opportunity, the scout said.
The Mets are trying something unusual this year, deploying more scouts to the minors and using no scouts primarily to scout the majors. As a few other teams do, they also use video for advance scouting and presumably will rely more heavily on stats when considering trades involving major leaguers.
Former No. 1 pick Andrew Cashner looked superb in his first start, but Cubs people have to be a bit concerned after he left with what was described as shoulder "tightness.''
The Rangers' Brandon Webb, who hit three batters while pitching batting practice, admitted, "It went bad.'' Some are starting to question whether he'll ever get back in an actual game.
Brewers people are encouraged by Zack Greinke's progress, and GM Doug Melvin said he's looking for Greinke to debut by the second homestand. It's been a rough start for the Brewers, who are dreaming of the World Series but lost their first four games before Yovani Gallardo's two-hit 1-0 shutout win over the Braves earned them their first win on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Rangers' Nelson Cruz became the third player to homer in his first four games in a season, joining Willie Mays (1971) and Mark McGwire (1998). So legitimately, he's the second.
One scout of the anointing of the Red Sox in the preseason, "I think people underestimated the Yankees.''
Yankees GM Brian Cashman looks right about signing veteran catcher Russell Martin. Scouts were skeptical of Martin this spring, but he has looked great early.
Joe Girardi must really must not want to use Jorge Posada to catch at all considering he said only that Posada "might'' be ahead of Eduardo Nunez on the catching depth chart. The Yankees are carrying Gustavo Molina, a catcher they seem to want to avoid using in any capacity. Meanwhile, Posda already looks comfortable in the DH role.
One scout said he has real worries about Boston's Josh Beckett due to poor fastball location.
A Red Sox person said they weren't concerned yet about Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who went 0-for-10 with five strikeouts to open the season against his old team, the Rangers. Word is, he has until June to prove he belongs as the starting catcher.
SI Now: Should NCAA Student Athletes be treated as pros?
SI Now: What role will Tim Tebow fill for the Patriots?