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Carlos Zambrano hit and pitched the Marlins into a first place tie with the Nationals in the NL East. Zambrano hit a 431-foot home run, the longest by a pitcher in four years according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, and struck out seven in 7 2/3 innings. Here are today's other pitcher-related links.
- The Red Sox may need to take a breather from the Daniel Bard experiment as a starter after his performance today, explains John Tomase of the Boston Herald. According to Baseball Reference, Bard became the first starting pitcher since 1918 to walk six and hit two batters in two or less innings of work.
- Roy Halladay's time on the disabled list could affect his $20MM vesting option for 2014 and make him a free agent one year earlier than expected, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.
- Jorge De La Rosa was pulled from his latest rehab assignment because of a small fluid build-up in his surgically repaired left elbow, says Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. The Rockies also placed right-hander Juan Nicasio on the DL with a strained left knee.
- The Orioles have added Steve Johnson to their 40-man roster after the right-hander sought to opt out of his contract, writes Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com.
One way for teams to avoid building their rotations through free agency is to move relief pitchers to the starting rotation. Few relievers have the repertoire and durability to succeed in the rotation, but teams are understandably tempted by certain promising bullpen arms. After all, starters have the potential to limit the opposition for 180-200 innings, while relievers might pitch 60-70 innings.
The Rangers have successfully converted C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando to starting roles under Ron Washington and Mike Maddux in recent years, but some conversions don't work out quite as well. For example, Phil Coke and Kyle McClellan started the 2011 season in the rotation, before returning to relief roles.
Here’s an early season update on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year. None of the pitchers below had started more than three MLB games in a season before 2012 and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Daniel Bard – Bard's walk rate has spiked, his strikeout rate is down and he's generating fewer ground balls. His average fastball sits in the 93-94 mph range, down from 97.3 mph out of the bullpen, but he continues to generate swings and misses. A dropoff is expected from relievers who move to the rotation, and Bard showed promise against the White Sox last week.
- Neftali Feliz – Feliz's 3.81 ERA is a little deceptive. He has 18 strikeouts against 14 walks, partly because he's generating fewer swings and misses. He has also been lucky on balls in play, as his .194 opponents' BABIP indicates.
- Jeff Samardzija – The strikeouts are up, the walks are down and the peripheral numbers suggest this may well be sustainable. Samardzija's fastball continues to average 94.7 mph and batters are swinging and missing more than ever. So far, Samardzija's conversion has been a major success, especially relative to pre-season expectations. To his credit he has faced the Cardinals — the NL's top offense — twice.
- Chris Sale – Sale's transition to the rotation is going smoothly. Though his fastball velocity has dipped to 92.4 mph and his strikeout rate is down, he's limiting walks and averaging more than six innings per start.
Note: Though Lance Lynn, Anthony Bass and Felix Doubront pitched in relief last year, they also started in the minors for an extended period of time, so I don’t consider them converted relievers. Advanced stats via FanGraphs.
The last time the Red Sox played a regular season game, they lost to the Orioles and the 2011 season ended in heart-breaking fashion. They'll look to start the 2012 season off with a win when they take on the defending AL Central champions in Detroit this afternoon. Here are some links in the meantime…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said on WEEI that he didn't consider putting Daniel Bard back in the bullpen this spring, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports (Twitter links). The Red Sox haven't made Bard promises going forward, but they view him as a starter for now.
- Former Red Sox scouting director David Chadd won't be watching when his current team and his former team open the season at Comerica Park today, according to John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press. "I'll be out trying to find another Jon Lester," said Chadd, who’s now a VP with the Tigers. Before Lester became a star in Boston, Chadd scouted and drafted him. "I saw a 6’4” left-hander with a great delivery with a good arm," Chadd said.
- Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe proposes that the Red Sox could have made Vicente Padilla their closer to keep relievers such as Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon in their previously-assigned roles. Manager Bobby Valentine says the save opportunities will go to Aceves for now, however. Be sure to follow @closernews on Twitter for the latest updates.
The Tigers released Carlos Pena on this date in 2006. The first baseman spent most of the year in the minors with the Yankees and Red Sox then broke out with a 46-homer season for the Rays the following season. Here are today's AL East-related links…
- Gustavo Cabrera worked out for the Rays recently, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com reports. The 16-year-old Dominican outfielder is one of this summer's top eligible amateurs and could command a bonus in the $1.5-2.5MM range, Mayo writes.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wonders if Daniel Bard can successfully transition to Boston's rotation this year and explains that in a perfect world he wouldn't have to become a starter. A number of baseball people are skeptical that the Red Sox right-hander will succeed in the rotation, Rosenthal writes.
- Executives monitoring the outfield market say the Blue Jays are inclined to keep Travis Snider, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. The Blue Jays optioned the left-handed hitting 24-year-old to Triple-A over the weekend.
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he's optimistic Joba Chamberlain will pitch in the Major Leagues this year, Jeff Bradley of the Star-Ledger reports. The right-hander dislocated his right ankle last week and will likely wear a cast for six weeks.
- It doesn't appear that the Yankees have any intention of releasing Chamberlain in an attempt to save money, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes.
The Red Sox and Daniel Bard have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract, the team announced. Earlier this week the SFX client filed for $1.825MM while the team countered with $1.4MM, and MLB.com's Ian Browne says (on Twitter) that they settled at the midpoint: $1.6125MM. Our system projected a $1.6MM salary for the right-hander.
Bard, 26, was arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. As a Super Two, he'll go through the process four times rather than the usual three. He's pitched to a 2.88 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 197 career innings, all of which were spent setting up the now departed Jonathan Papelbon. Bard will come to Spring Training with a chance to win a job as a starting pitcher this year.
Earlier this morning, we heard about Boston's reluctance to go over the luxury tax threshold this season. Now let's round up a few more Sunday's Red Sox updates….
- The Red Sox plan to stretch out Daniel Bard's innings this spring, writes Michael Vegas of the Boston Globe. "I'm going to go into spring training saying 'whatever's best for the team,'" said manager Bobby Valentine. "But he's going to get innings as a starter would in spring training. He's going to be penciled in to be one of those guys who works going from his bullpen to pitching two innings to pitching four innings to pitching six innings."
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports advises the Red Sox to blow past the luxury tax threshold, if that's what it takes to field a World Series contender.
- Within Rosenthal's piece, he adds that Marco Scutaro is drawing interest from the Rockies, among other teams.
- The Red Sox continue to discuss the possibility of a two-year deal with David Ortiz, GM Ben Cherington told Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.
The Red Sox seem "pretty confident" they'll be able to re-sign David Ortiz to a two-year deal, assuming he doesn't accept arbitration, tweets Jon Heyman of MLB Network. Here are a few more Red Sox updates from Ben Cherington's first Winter Meetings as Boston's GM:
- While Boston was thought to have interest in free agents like C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt, Cherington said today that he doesn't anticipate the Red Sox pursuing high-end starting pitching options, as WEEI's Alex Speier writes.
- Cherington also said today that Daniel Bard had indicated a preference for his 2012 role, though it seems he and Bard may not have been on the same page. In a text message to the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson, Bard said he stated a willingness to move to the rotation rather than a preference to do so: "I guess making it clear that I would be willing to start may have made it seem like a preference, but I just want to make it clear that I feel like I could thrive in either role."
- It doesn't appear that the Orioles will be signing longtime Red Sox backstop Jason Varitek. According to John Tomase of the Boston Herald, O's skipper Buck Showalter addressed the topic in Dallas: "Right now, it’s not a fit for us."
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington confirmed to reporters that the Red Sox and Cubs have obtained a one-week extension to work out compensation for former Boston GM Theo Epstein. Here are some more notes from the division, starting with the Red Sox…
- Peter Gammons of MLB Network said on WEEI's Mut & Merloni show that he won't be surprised if David Ortiz returns to the Red Sox this offseason.
- Though the Red Sox have considered moving Daniel Bard to the rotation, Gammons has heard it's not likely. Jerry Spar has the details at WEEI.com.
- The Red Sox are in talks with Ortiz and, to a lesser extent, with Jonathan Papelbon, according to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).
- It's highly unlikely that the Yankees will sign Roy Oswalt, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com. The club's worried about Oswalt's injury history, according to Matthews. Oswalt had multiple stints on the DL with lower back issues in 2011.
- The Yankees are "open-minded" about the possibility of moving A.J. Burnett or anyone else without a full no-trade clause, according to Chad Jennings of the Journal News. However, the GM sees value in the innings Burnett has provided.
- Joe Pawlikowski of River Ave. Blues expects Jesus Montero to open the 2012 season with the Yankees, but he wonders if New York could obtain Mat Latos, Jaime Garcia or Jordan Zimmermann for the catching prospect.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports takes a detailed look at C.C. Sabathia’s vesting option for 2017.
- For the latest on the Orioles’ GM search, click here.
Players with two years and 146 days of Major League service time will qualify for Super Two status, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has learned. This was the same cutoff point that was predicted by CAA in April, and as MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith wrote six months ago, it is "a decidedly late cutoff." In 2010, the cutoff date was two years and 122 days of service, while the 2009 cutoff was two years and 139 days.
Click here to refresh yourself on the details of the Super Two process, but to summarize, Super Two players will earn a fourth year of salary arbitration (as opposed to the usual three) before reaching free agency. So, all players with less than three years of service time but at least 2.146 (two years, 146 days) of service time quality as Super Twos.
This year's crop of Super Twos includes some of the top young arms in the game — David Price, Rick Porcello, Daniel Bard, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler Clippard. Ryan Roberts is also a Super Two, so he could be in line for an extra payday in the wake of his breakout 2011 season.
- Jose Arredondo, Reds, 2.168
- Scott Atchison, Red Sox, 2.168
- Daniel Bard, Red Sox, 2.148
- Brad Bergesen, Orioles, 2.147
- Emmanuel Burriss, Giants, 2.152
- Tyler Clippard, Nationals, 2.148
- Dexter Fowler, Rockies, 2.168
- Gio Gonzalez, Athletics, 2.162
- Garrett Jones, Pirates, 2.158
- Don Kelly, Tigers, 2.149
- George Kottaras, Brewers, 2.149
- Steven Pearce, Pirates, 2.165
- Rick Porcello, Tigers, 2.170
- Landon Powell, Athletics, 2.153
- David Price, Rays, 2.164
- Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks, 2.150
- Adam Rosales, Athletics, 2.171
- Will Venable, Padres, 2.155
- Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals, 2.154
John Tomase from the Boston Herald has some notes about several Major League topics in his latest article:
- Tomase reminds us that at the 2009 deadline, the Red Sox reportedly offered the Mariners any five of the following prospects in exchange for Felix Hernandez: Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, Josh Reddick, Yamaico Navarro, Nick Hagadone, Felix Doubront, and Justin Masterson. While a Boston official disputed the specific names, Tomase says the reports were in the ballpark.
- Regarding a trade though, Tomase quotes King Felix himself as saying that he wants to stay in Seattle: "I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m not trying to think about it. I’d love to stay here (with the Mariners). I’m part of Seattle now and I’d like to be in Seattle."
- San Diego's Anthony Rizzo, acquired in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, is off to a blazing start at Triple-A. Rizzo has posted a monstrous line of .400/.471/.744 with seven homers, eight doubles, and a triple through 102 PAs, but despite that production the Padres aren't giving up on Brad Hawpe yet. Manager Bud Black cites Hawpe's career success, but it'll be hard to ignore his .149/.194/.194 line much longer.
- Manny Ramirez's abrupt retirement had many questioning a Rays' lineup that was struggling to score runs, but as Tomase points out, the Rays have gone 14-5 since Manny called it quits. The Rays were 0-6 with Manny on board.
Tomase's article also features several more quotes from Felix on his appreciation for Seattle as well and is a good read all-around.