First Start for Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson made his first start of the spring yesterday, but didn't pitch well, giving up 3 runs and 4 hits in 1 1/3 innings. He gave up a three run home to Chris Iannetta. The main thing is that he threw pain free, and now he knows that he can throw without pain he should pitch better in his next outing. He needs 16 wins in 2008 to join the 300 wins club.

Freddy Dolsi Tigers Closer?

Freddy Dolsi is making a bid to become the closer for the Detroit Tigers and has posted 3 saves which leads all relievers in majors this spring. He has struck out 5 in 4 innings with no walks this spring and has a very good chance of being the Tigers' closer this season since Todd Jones has been rocked this spring. Jones hasn't posted a save and his ERA is 24.55 after giving up 10 runs and 12 hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Pirates Shift Pearce to Outfield

Steve Pearce has been shifted to the outfield since he is not likely to get much playing time at first base behind Adam LaRoche but he still may not make the opening day roster unless the Pirates trade Xavier Nady or Jason Bay before opening day since the general manager Neal Huntington says that Pearce will be sent to the minor leagues if he can't play regularly. Pearce is leading the team in home runs with 3 and runs batted in with 8 this spring but is hitting only .241.

Braves Outfield Prospects

The Atlanta Braves have a plethora of outfield prospects in spring camp this year, so I am posting how they are doing with opening day two weeks from today. Mark Kotsay, Matt Diaz, and Jeff Francoeur are sure to be in opening day lineup so there should be space for two more players on the roster.

Josh Anderson (25) - 0-6, .375, has only struck out once in 24 at bats.

Brandon Jones (24) - 0-0 .150, only has three singles in 20 at bats with 7 strikeouts.

Jordan Schafer (21) - 0-4 .389. At his age, and never having played above A ball, he is not likely to be on opening day roster

Brent Lillibridge (24) - 0-4 .241. He is a shortstop playing outfield this spring who may have been too much, since he played only shortstop in minors.

Summary: Only Anderson should be on opening day roster since he is hitting well and has shown good plate discipline by not striking out much. The troubling thing about this group is that none of them have hit a home run this spring, but then only Javy Lopez has hit more than one home run this spring for Atlanta Braves.

With Jones, Schafer, and Lillibridge likely to start the season in minor leagues veteran Joe Borchard may join Anderson in the Braves outfield this season. Borchard has not hit a home run but leads the Braves in runs batted in with 8 this spring and is hitting .375 and slugging .688 with 5 of his 6 hits being doubles. Borchard though in six major league seasons has never had more than 10 home runs or 28 runs batted in during a season and has a .284 on base percentage, .352 slugging percentage and .205 batting average for his career.

So Borchard does not look like a long term solution since once he faces regular season pitching he may revert to the Borchard who played for the Chicago White Sox hitting .222, .184 and .174 his first three seasons with them. On second thought, I think the Braves may be better to let one of the older rookies start the season with the Braves since Borchard has never hit above .230 except in a 12 at bat season with the White Sox.

Brewers Leading NL This Spring

The Milwaukee Brewers are showing that last season was not a fluke by leading the NL this spring with a 9-4 mark. Ryan Braun is leading the Brewers in home runs with 3 and runs batted in with 9 this spring. He is hitting .333 and slugging .810. On a less positive note, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks are second in majors this spring in strikeouts with 11 each.

Prince Fielder may have to get off his vegetarian diet since he has only 2 runs batted in after 25 at bats with no home runs. Gabe Kapler is second on team in runs batted in with 6 while hitting .333 and has a chance of winning the fifth outfield spot. Matt LaPorta, who only has 14 at bats this spring, is hitting .286 with no home runs and no runs batted in which probably means he will be headed to minors to start the 2008 season but he could be back by middle of the season if he hits well in the minors.

Rickie Weeks is hitting .148 this spring and Gabe Gross is hitting .190. After hitting .235 last season Gross may be in danger of being sent to minors or being released if he doesn't turn things around by end of spring training but he does have two home runs which ties him for second this spring with Mike Cameron.

Claudio Vargas leads the Brewers pitchers with a 2-0 record this spring. Stephen Bray has a 1-0 record and a 1.80 ERA and is trying to win a spot as a reliever. Chris Capuano is seeing his ERA increase the more he pitches. In 4 innings he has given 8 runs, 10 hits and 2 walks. Capuano may be pitching his way out of the major leagues.

Dave Bush has pitched 9 innings and has a 10.00 ERA and has given up 10 earned runs and 12 hits. Chris Narveson has started one game and pitched in relief twice. In those three games which consisted of 9 total innings pitched he has allowed one earned run and struck out 7.

Nobody has stepped up to claim the closer spot with four different pitchers having one save each but the front runner to me would be Guillermo Mota, who has not allowed a run in 4 innings and has struck out 5 with no walks.

Ben Sheets has a 0.00 ERA after his first two starts and has allowed 2 hits in 5 innings. Manny Parra has increased his chances of being in the starting rotation with a 1.00 ERA, and has given up only 1 run and 4 hits in 9 innings while striking out 8. Carlos Villanueva has an ERA of 1.80 after one start. Jeff Suppan is 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA but is in little danger of losing his place in the starting rotation. Yovanni Gallardo is supposed to be back after having torn cartilage in his left knee but may not be ready for opening day.

More than likely the opening day rotation will consist of Claudio Vargas, Ben Sheets, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan and Carlos Villanueva and when Yovani Gallardo returns one of these pitchers might be shifted to the bullpen or traded. Dave Bush and Chris Capuano both have ERA's of over 10.00 this spring so can't see them in the rotation. With eight starters on the Brewers depth chart they will have to pare this number down to at least six with maybe one starter being shifted to the bullpen. The Brewers have several pitchers who have pitched well out of the bullpen and Ned Yost needs to find roster spots for them.

Summary: This team is ready to make another run for the NL Central title. I can't see them taking Suppan out of starting rotation but the rotation might be stronger without him but it probably comes down to a money thing where they don't want to pay a lot of money to a pitcher like Suppan while he is sitting on bench or in the bullpen. This is one of the best offensive teams in baseball and may be even better if LaPorta joins the team later in the season and becomes a regular. The front office and Ned Yost will have to make a lot of hard decisions by the season opener especially in the makeup of the pitching staff.

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