Cardinal tickets go on sale today and as usual the system is bogged down and very slow. With all the money this organization makes, it seems they could improve this.
Joe Strauss is reporting that Eckstein will miss at least two weeks of spring training with left side discomfort, similiar to what caused him to miss action last year. I know that he works hard and is a crowd favorite, but I wonder if more strength and conditioning could have been done to prevent a relapse instead of running around trying to be a wrestler.
Braden Looper’s debut as a starter went well, allowing 2 hits in 3 innings of work. Ricardo Rincon pitched a perfect inning in his return from injury.
Check out FutureBirds.com for some info on the Cardinals’ Mexican signing and info on Mitch Boggs.
2006 Finish: 78-84, 4th place, 18 games back
Manager: Eric Wedge, starting 5th year
Comings: RHP Keith Foulke, RHP Joe Borowski, OF David Dellucci, OF Trot Nixon, 2B Josh Barfield, LHP Aaron Fultz
Goings: RHP Keith Foulke, 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B Aaron Boone, RHP Danny Graves
Offense: These guys can mash with the best. DH Travis Hafner has may be the least famous superstar in baseball. Last year he hit .308/.439/.659 with 42 HRs and 117 RBIs. C Victor Martinez is an offense power behind the plate hitting .316/.391/.465. His power is limited but he did drive in 93 runs and he switch hits. CF Grady Sizemore might be the best leadoff hitter in baseball. In 06 he hit .290/.375/.533. He hit 28 HRs, drove in 76, scored 134 runs, and stole 22 bases. 1B Casey Blake is also often overlooked, he hit 19 homers and drove in 68. SS Johnny Peralta is looking to bounce back after a disappointing sophmore season. Even in a down year he drove in 68. 2B Josh Barfield was brought over from San Diego after an impressive rookie campaign. He hit .280 with 13 long balls, 58 driven in, and 21 steals. The son of former big leaguer and Seinfeld star, Jesse, he has outstanding power potential for a middle infielder. Rookie 3B Andy Marte was considered one of the top prospects in baseball and has really good power. LF and RF will be manned by a platoon system. LF will manned by lefty David Dellucci (.292/.369/.530 with 13 HRs and 39 RBIs in only 264 ABs) and righty Jason Michaels (who hit .291 against lefties). Long time Red Sox Trot Nixon (.288/.385/.420 against RHPs) while Casey Blake will move to right andRyan Garko (45 RBIs in 185 career at bats) will play first against lefties.
Defense: Hafner is not much of a defender and that is why he is the DH. Sizemore covers plenty of ground in center. Martinez is average behind the plate. Blake is a solid defender who works hard no matter what position he is playing. Peralta is very good at short, even though his offense struggles did affect his defense last year. Barfield is improving at second. Marte plays a good third base. The outfield corners are very good. Dellucci is an underrated fielder and Michaels is a former centerfielder who covers a lot of ground. Nixon is much slower than he used to be, but is rarely found out of position.
Rotation: Might be the most set rotation in baseball. LHP C.C. Sabathia is one of the young stars of baseball. Last year he was 12-11 with an ERA of 3.22. RHP Jake Westbrook had a breakout year going 15-10 with and ERA just over 4. LHP Cliff Lee continues to improve winning 14 against 11 losses with a 4.40 ERA. LHP Jeremy Sowers was impressive in his rookie debut, going 7-4 with a 3.57 ERA. RHP Paul Byrd stayed healthy, going 10-9 in 31 starts.
Bullpen: This was the achilles heal of this team last year. RHP Foulke was brought in to close, but has since retired. RHP Borowski will now be looked on to close out games. He saved 36 with Florida last year. With Borowski signed, the other power arms will get have more defined roles that should lead to better results. LHP Fultz was brought in to be the left-handed specialist. Prospect LHP Tony Sipp could be the other lefty out of the pen.
Adam Miller-RHP-Considered to be one of the top prospects in baseball, was injured in 05, but bounced back in 06 going 15-6 with a 2.75 ERA at Double A. Will probably start the year in Triple A and could be called up if any of the big league club’s rotation gets hurt.
Chuck Lofgren-LHP-Reminds me a lot of Sowers. Good changeup is his out pitch. Went 17-5 with an ERA of 2.32. Will start the year at Double A.
Trevor Crowe-CF-Exciting switch hitting leadoff man that is a very polished hitter. Will not unseat Sizemore, so will probably move to left. Tried to convert to second during last year, but that experiment has been abandoned. Hit .329/.449/.470 at high class A with 29 SBs in 60 games. Moved to Double A where he struggled .234/.318/.325 but did steal 16 bases in 39 games.
Analysis: Could be a World Series contender. I heard Buster Olney pick the Indians as his favorite. If the pitching is healthy, this group is as talented as any. The offense should score a lot of runs. The key is the bullpen. If Borowski can come in and stabilize the rest of the staff, this is a team that could be a favorite come October. The biggest obstacle for the Indians is that they play in the deepest division in baseball.