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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Yankees' Pettitte says he used HGH- Blatantly Disgusting

'If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize.'
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Two days after being named in the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drug use in baseball, Andy Pettitte admitted to using human growth hormone twice during the 2002 season.
"If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize," Pettitte said Saturday in a statement released by his agent."I accept responsibility for those two days."

Pettitte was among 89 players -- and 22 current or former Yankees -- to be named in Sen. George Mitchell's long-awaited report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

Through agent Randy Hendricks, Pettitte confirmed the anecdote contained in the Mitchell Report, which stated that the left-hander experimented with HGH on two occasions while rehabilitating elbow tendinitis from April 21 to June 14, 2002, when he was on the disabled list and working out in Tampa, Fla.

"I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow," Pettitte said. "I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone."

According to the report, Pettitte called Brian McNamee -- by then, a former Yankees assistant trainer who still worked closely with Pettitte and Roger Clemens -- and asked McNamee to travel to Tampa.

McNamee told the Mitchell investigators that he injected Pettitte with HGH two to four times, obtained from former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski. Pettitte paid for McNamee's trip and expenses, but McNamee said there was no separate payment for the HGH.

Pettitte returned from the disabled list on June 14 of that season and made 19 starts through the remainder of the regular season, going 12-4 with a 3.29 ERA.

"Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped," Pettitte said. "This is it -- two days out of my life; two days out of my entire career, when I was injured and on the disabled list."

Major League Baseball did not ban HGH until the 2005 season. Pettitte said that repeated references in the media to his using steroids have not only been incorrect, but that they were "hurtful to me and my family."
"Everything else written or said about me knowingly using illegal drugs is nonsense, wrong and hurtful," Pettitte said. "I have the utmost respect for baseball and have always tried to live my life in a way that would be honorable. I wasn't looking for an edge; I was looking to heal.

"If I have let down people that care about me, I am sorry, but I hope that you will listen to me carefully and understand that two days of perhaps bad judgment should not ruin a lifetime of hard work and dedication.

"I have tried to do things the right way my entire life, and, again, ask that you put those two days in the proper context. People that know me will know that what I say is true."

Pettitte, 35, finalized a one-year, $16 million contract with the Yankees last week. He was 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA for the Yankees in 2007, his first season back in New York after pitching three years for the Houston Astros.

In a statement released by the club, spokesman Howard Rubenstein said the Yankees were made aware of Pettitte's forthcoming admission late on Saturday.

"We support his coming forward," the team said.

D-backs add Haren, deal Valverde

Arizona lands A's ace, trades All-Star closer for Burke, Qualls
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com

PHOENIX -- Christmas came early for the D-backs this year, as they wound up getting the starting pitcher that was at the top of their list on Friday.
Arizona acquired Dan Haren from the A's in exchange for six prospects in a move that they hope will help them defend their National League West title next season. The D-backs also received pitcher Connor Robertson in the deal.

"I think he's on the short list of very good pitchers out there," D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes said of Haren. "His age [combined] with three years of control factor all that in to us, and he was our No. 1 priority."

In another move, the D-backs dealt closer Jose Valverde to the Astros for pitcher Chad Qualls, infielder/outfielder Chris Burke and pitcher Juan Gutierrez.

Haren, 27, has won at least 14 games in each of the past three seasons for Oakland. Last year, he was 15-9 with a 3.07 ERA, he was 14-13 in 2006 and 14-12 in 2005.

Not only has Haren been effective on the mound, he's cost-effective off it. The right-hander is under contract for $4 million in 2008, $5.5 million in 2009 and there is a club option for 2010 for $6.75 million.

With the market for starting pitchers extremely tight, Haren's name was mentioned often in rumors that swirled around the Winter Meetings last week in Nashville, Tenn.

"Definitely relief," Haren said when asked how he felt after hearing he'd been dealt. "I'm all over the Internet and newspapers, even though I shouldn't be, and I saw my name out there so much. They [the D-backs] were definitely one of the teams that if I did get traded I was hoping I would go to. Like I said, the organization is headed in the right direction."

While there were many suitors for Haren, the D-backs matched up well with the A's because of the amount of well-regarded prospects they had in their system. Parting with pitchers Brett Anderson, Greg Smith and Dana Eveland, along with outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham and first baseman Chris Carter, though, was not an easy decision to make.

Arizona officials wrestled over the past week with just how much they were willing to give up for Haren.

"We presented a rare circumstance for them where they [the A's] could get so many good players," Byrnes said. "They understood our desire not to really strip apart our 2008 team, so our interests were fairly aligned. It just took a while to make the trade work because of the magnitude of it, very good prospects going one way and one of the best pitchers in the game coming our way."

Robertson appeared in three games for the A's last year, but had a good year at Triple-A Sacramento, where he was 4-1 with a 4.35 ERA in 31 relief appearances.

The D-backs like Robertson's breaking ball and like his Minor League track record.

Arizona now heads into Spring Training with a rotation of Brandon Webb, Haren, Randy Johnson, Doug Davis and likely Micah Owings in the fifth spot. Webb, Davis and Haren all have a history of throwing 200-plus innings a season, while Johnson when healthy has done likewise.

By trading so many prospects for Haren, the D-backs are clearly banking that he's the guy to help them advance even farther than they did last year when they were swept by the Rockies in the National League Championship Series.

"I don't like to walk guys," Haren said in describing his style on the mound. "I usually try to make the guys swing the bat to get on base. I would probably describe myself as aggressive, and then when a situation comes where I need an out, I will always go to my split-finger. My split-finger is obviously my best pitch. I throw that and a curveball for strikes.

"I pride myself a lot in durability, and the last three years I've gone over 200 innings and it's something I plan on doing for the next couple of years, too. I do a lot of working out in the offseason and I really take a lot of pride in what I do."

It's been a hectic week for Haren. He and his wife, Jessica, welcomed son, Rhett, into the world on Tuesday.

"I've probably slept four hours since she went into labor," he said.

As he heard the rumors about possibly being traded to Arizona, Haren asked around and got good reports on the D-backs organization. Former teammate Barry Zito told Haren he thought he would enjoy it there.

"I'm extremely excited," he said. "Just having spent a couple of Spring Trainings in Phoenix, me and my wife really loved the town. There's just so much to do. The team is obviously on the rise, a lot of young guys, looks like a fun team to be on, looks like a loose clubhouse, which is something I really liked in Oakland."

Gonzalez was regarded as the club's best position player prospect, but he became expendable when Arizona signed Eric Byrnes to a three-year, $30 million deal last August. The D-backs appear to be set in the outfield for the next several years with Byrnes, Chris Young and Justin Upton. The club also could have felt free to deal Gonzalez because of the presence of outfielder Gerardo Parra, who played at Class A Visalia and South Bend last year.

Smith and Anderson were both highly regarded pitching prospects in the organization. Smith, a sixth-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, had some injury issues last season, but pitched well in the Arizona Fall League and could have had a chance to pitch for the D-backs at some time during 2008.

Anderson was selected out of high school in the second round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and was arguably the organization's best pitching prospect other than Max Scherzer. Anderson, who will turn 20 in February, started last year with South Bend before being promoted to Visalia.

Cunningham, 21, was acquired last summer from the White Sox, and in 31 games for Double-A Mobile, he hit .288 with five homers and 20 RBIs while compiling an .898 OPS.

Eveland, 24, was acquired by the D-backs from the Brewers prior to last season. Scouts rave about the left-hander's stuff and he's always put up good numbers in the Minor Leagues, but he has yet to translate that success to the big league level.

Carter, who will be 21 next week, was picked up during the Winter Meetings from the White Sox in exchange for outfielder Carlos Quentin. Carter hit .291 with 25 homers and 93 RBIs for Class A Kannopolis.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reason for Lo Duca to pick Nats: 'Getting to play the Mets 18 times'

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Catcher Paul Lo Duca agreed to a $5 million, one-year deal with the Washington Nationals because he felt wanted -- and because there will be plenty of chances to face his old club, the New York Mets

"I'm excited to be part of a team that's young and has a chance to win this division," Lo Duca said Tuesday after passing a physical to make the deal official. "The NL East is wide open."

Asked what his reasons were for choosing the Nationals, Lo Duca said they "wanted me more," and that he wanted to stay in the National League. Then he paused before adding with a smile: "getting to play the Mets 18 times."

Another former member of the Mets was introduced by the Nationals at the team's sales and marketing center: outfielder Lastings Milledge, who came over in the trade that sent catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church to New York.
Lo Duca, a free agent who played for New York the past two seasons, gives the Nationals a veteran to replace Schneider behind the plate.

A four-time All-Star from 2003-06, Lo Duca hit .272 with nine homers and a .311 on-base percentage last season that was the lowest of any Mets regular -- and lower than Schneider's .326. Lo Duca and Schneider each drove in 54 runs.

Lo Duca, who will turn 36 during the first month of the season, and Nationals manager Manny Acta were in New York together in 2006, when Acta was the Mets third-base coach.

In 10 major league seasons with the Dodgers, Marlins and Mets, Lo Duca has batted .288 with 80 homers and 466 RBIs.

"He has never been with a losing team. Ever," Washington general manager Jim Bowden said. "He wins. That's what he does."

The 22-year-old Milledge hit .272 with seven homers and 29 RBIs in 59 games with the Mets in 2007.

"I'm here to win, and anything else is really a failure to me," Milledge said.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Guillen, Gibbons get 15-day suspensions; Ankiel, others not punished

Guillen is the only player I know who can blatantly cheat the system, receive a 15-game suspension and then be granted a new $12 million per season contract.

ESPN.com news services

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jose Guillen and Jay Gibbons were suspended Thursday for the first 15 days of next season for violating baseball's drug policy. The penalties are an indication how the sport might treat players named in the Mitchell report, which could be released next week.

The pair were linked in media reports to the purchase of human growth hormone. Gary Matthews Jr., Rick Ankiel, Troy Glaus and Scott Schoeneweis also were linked to performance-enhancing drugs, but baseball decided there was "insufficient evidence'' to determine they committed a doping violation. They were accused of receiving the substances before 2005.

Guillen told ESPNdeportes.com's Enrique Rojas that his lawyers will appeal the sanction, but he will not comment further on the case. Guillen instructed the players' association to file a grievance, which would be decided by an arbitrator.

ESPN.com first reported that MLB and the players association were negotiating a 10- to 15-day suspension for Guillen on Wednesday.

Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell was hired by baseball commissioner Bud Selig in March 2006 to investigate drugs in baseball. Several media outlets, including ESPN, have been told it could be issued as soon as next Thursday.

Gibbons, who will not challenge his penalty, accepted responsibility and apologized.

"I am deeply sorry for the mistakes that I have made. I have no excuses and bare sole responsibility for my decisions," the Baltimore outfielder said. "Years ago, I relied on the advice of a doctor, filled a prescription, charged the HGH, which is a medication, to my credit card and had only intended to help speed my recovery from my injuries and surgeries."

Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail said he is glad Gibbons owned up to his actions.

"We completely support the Commissioner's program and his decision with regard to Jay Gibbons' suspension," MacPhail said. "Jay has acknowledged his mistake, and we appreciate his willingness to accept the consequences."

The 15-day penalties match what a second offense would have drawn under 2003-04 rules. Current rules call for a 50-game suspension for a first offense, a 100-game penalty for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

"Other open investigations should be completed shortly," MLB said in a statement.

The six players whose cases were resolved Thursday met with baseball officials after media reports of their names surfaced in a national drug investigation by the district attorney in Albany, N.Y.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore said the club will support Guillen, who earlier Thursday finalized a $36 million, three-year contract with Kansas City.

"We signed Jose knowing that was a possibility," Moore said Thursday. "While my initial reaction is one of disappointment, I am thoroughly convinced that Jose will put this behind him."

The San Francisco Chronicle reported last month that Guillen bought nearly $20,000 worth of steroids and human growth hormone from 2003 through 2005.

Citing business records, the Chronicle reported Guillen bought more than $19,000 worth of drugs from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center between May 2002 and June 2005. He played for five teams during that span: the Diamondbacks, Reds, Athletics, Angels and Nationals.

According to the Chronicle report, some prescriptions for Guillen were written by the same Florida dentist whose license was suspended in 2003 for fraud and incompetence. The dentist also reportedly prescribed HGH to Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd.

The Chronicle said Byrd made 13 purchases of HGH between August 2002 and January 2005.
Guillen reportedly had some of the shipments sent to the Oakland Coliseum during the 2003 season, after he was traded to the A's. The anti-aging clinic was raided in February as part of an investigation by the Albany County, N.Y., district attorney.

Gibbons got six shipments of Genotropin (a brand name for synthetic human growth hormone), two shipments of testosterone and two shipments of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) between October 2003 and July 2005, SI.com said on Sept. 9, citing a source in Florida with knowledge of a Signature Pharmacy client list.

The pharmacy is under investigation for illegally distributing prescription medications.

The substances were obtained through South Beach Rejuvenation Center/Modern Therapy, a Miami Beach clinic, and sent through Signature, SI.com said.

Ankiel met with baseball lawyers Sept. 11 following a report by the New York Daily News that he received eight shipments of prescription HGH in 2004, before it was banned by baseball.

"We're obviously pleased," said Scott Boras, the agent for Ankiel and Schoeneweis. "As we had said before with each of these players, they had not violated any baseball rule or any state or federal law."

Glaus received shipments at a Corona, Calif., address that traces to the player, SI.com said, citing a source in Florida with knowledge of a Signature Pharmacy client list. SI.com said its information dealt only with receipt of steroids and not use.

Schoeneweis, the veteran New York Mets reliever and a survivor of testicular cancer, received six steroid shipments from Signature Pharmacy while playing for the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and 2004, ESPN reported.

Matthews was sent HGH in 2004 from a pharmacy being investigated for illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, The Times Union of Albany, N.Y., reported last winter.

Matthews denied using HGH, which was not banned by baseball for players with major league contracts until 2005. His agent, Scott Leventhal, declined comment.

Bonds pleads not guilty on all counts- The Saga Continues

Home run king released; next court date set for February
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Lamar Bonds, Major League Baseball's all-time home run leader, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Friday to four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying about his use of performance-enhancing drugs in testimony given to a grand jury four years ago.

Bonds was released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond, meaning he won't have to put up that bond unless he violates the conditions of his release, which include committing no crimes, having no contact with court officials and not taking flight from the United States. He was not placed on any travel restrictions.

Bonds, who did not speak to reporters, issued a statement on his Web site on Friday.

"I want to thank my family, friends and fans for their unwavering support. It means everything to me. Despite the charges that have been filed against me, I still have confidence in the judicial system and especially in the judgment of the citizens who will decide this case. And I know that when all of this is over, I will be vindicated because I am innocent."

No date for a trial -- U.S. v. Bonds -- was set. A status hearing instead was scheduled for Feb. 7.

Afterward, in front of the Phillip Burton Federal Building, where the trials of Patty Hearst and those responsible for the Jonestown Massacre were once heard, Bonds' new lead attorney told reporters that his celebrity client was ready for a fight.

"Almost everything we have to say about this case we'll say in court papers, which we will file over the coming months," said Allen Ruby, a high-powered San Francisco Bay Area criminal defense lawyer who joined Bonds' defense team this week. "For today, Barry Bonds is innocent. He has trust and faith in the justice system. He will defend these charges. And we're confident of a good outcome."

The first steps in the long and sometimes tedious litigation process were taken in front of a crowded courtroom No. 10 on the 19th floor of the famous building.

The proceedings took about 20 minutes in two parts. Ruby entered the plea on Bonds' behalf before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James, and that was followed immediately by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston setting the date for the status hearing.

Bonds was accompanied by five other attorneys, including Cristina Arguedas and Michael Rains. Arguedas, another local criminal defense attorney, is also new to the case this week, while Rains has been on it almost since the federal government began its investigation.

Bonds, wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and tie with diagonal stripes, waived his right to a speedy trial and answered a number of perfunctory questions, including his name and age. He appeared somber, but not nervous.

James notified Bonds of his Miranda rights. The only point of contention during the 15-minute arraignment portion of the hearing was travel restrictions sought by assistant U.S. attorney Matt Parrella, who presented the government's brief arguments. The government sought free travel for Bonds within the continental U.S., but surrender of his passport and restrictions on his ability to leave the country.

Ruby argued that those restrictions would inhibit Bonds' ability to continue his profession as a Major League player, something he has said he intends to do in 2008. Under the government's proposal, if Bonds signs with an American League team, he would have had to apply for an exemption each time he was scheduled to play in Toronto.

The judge denied Parrella's motion.
After a short break in the proceedings, Illston asked the attorneys for their opinions on when to start the trial. The government, citing unnamed conflicts of interest between members of Bonds' legal team and some of its prospective witnesses, said that the matter had to be resolved in the coming weeks and sought the status hearing instead.

The government is now required to turn over all its evidence to Bonds and his attorneys in what is called the "discovery" portion of the case. The matter cited would restrict turning over some of that evidence until it is resolved, Parrella said. Ruby didn't object, saying that the government is turning over a good portion of its case almost immediately.

"I'm not exactly sure what the government is referring to," Ruby said afterward. "I don't want to guess at that so we'll just see how it unfolds."

Ruby also told the judge that the defendant is considering filing a motion to dismiss the case, stating that on its face not enough evidence was presented in the indictment for it to move forward.

"As we told the judge in court, there may be defects on the face of the indictment, meaning that if you just read it you can see the defects," Ruby said. "If we conclude that that's the case, there will be a motion to dismiss and a briefing schedule and a hearing date. But we're not quite there yet."

Bonds was excused from the Feb. 7 hearing unless a motion to dismiss is scheduled to be heard on that date.

Both before and afterward, as he entered and left the building, Bonds waved to a crowd of onlookers, signing an autograph in the lobby as he left the elevator after the hearing. He was accompanied by his wife, Liz, who was the only family member in attendance. He didn't stop to speak with reporters.

Bonds, the former Giants slugger with 762 career homers, first appeared before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative on allegations of money laundering and illegally dispensing performance-enhancing drugs on Dec. 4, 2003. He testified under oath and with immunity on numerous occasions that he had never used anabolic steroids, testosterone and human growth hormone or had been administered any of those drugs with a needle during the period from 2000-2002.

The indictment cited the actual grand jury testimony elicited from Bonds, alleging that Bonds committed perjury on 19 occasions.

The investigation into the case against Bonds spanned four years, involved three grand juries and led to the jailing of Greg Anderson, Bonds' former personal trainer, for refusing to testify against Bonds. Anderson, one of five people ultimately charged in the case, previously had served three months in prison and three months under house arrest in a plea bargain arrangement. Victor Conte, BALCO's president and founder, was the only other principal to go to prison.

Anderson was released from a federal prison in Dublin, Calif., on Nov. 15, shortly after the indictment against Bonds was unsealed. It's almost certain that if the case ultimately goes to trial, the government will subpoena Anderson to be a witness.

"I fully expect the government to start ratcheting up the pressure on Greg," Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos, told The Associated Press. "He will never cooperate with the government. He doesn't trust them."

Friday's hearing occurred four months to the day in San Francisco -- Aug. 7 -- on which Bonds hit his 756th home run to pass Hank Aaron and set Major League Baseball's all-time home run record. Currently a free agent, Bonds played his final game for the Giants on Sept. 26 at AT&T Park. He was told at the end of September that the club would not consider bringing him back for a 16th season as a Giant.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tigers set to acquire Cabrera, Willis

Maybin, Miller and four other prospects would go to Florida
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Marlins and Tigers are on the verge of completing a blockbuster deal that will send Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit for a package of six players.
A source familiar with the negotiations has told MLB.com that the Tigers are parting with outfielder Cameron Maybin and lefty starter Andrew Miller and four prospects for the final two players from the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship squad.

The deal was all but finalized as of late afternoon at the Winter Meetings.

The Tigers swooped into the sweepstakes for Cabrera and Willis on Tuesday and put together a package of players that the Marlins felt too tempting to pass up.

Cabrera and Willis were both rookies on the Marlins '03 title team. Both are eligible for arbitration through the 2009 seasons. Cost has become a concern for Florida, making the two All-Stars expendable.

Cabrera is a four-time All-Star who comes off a season where he batted .320 with 34 home runs and 119 RBIs. The 24-year-old made $7.4 million this past season and he is in line to earn more than $10 million in 2008.

Willis is coming off a 10-15 season with a 5.17 ERA. While the D-Train, who made $6.45 million in 2007, is coming off his worst season, he compiled 205 1/3 innings, marking his third straight 200-plus season.

Maybin and Miller were both first-round Draft picks of the Tigers, Maybin in 2005 and Miller in 2006. Both have tasted the Major Leagues.

Maybin, 20, made his debut in August and appeared in 24 games, hitting .143 with one home run in 49 at-bats. However, he made a rapid rise through the Tigers system, batting .304 with 10 homers in 83 games for Class A Lakeland before making a brief stop at Double-A Erie.

Miller, 22, made 13 starts for Detroit last season, going 5-6 with a 5.69 ERA. In 78 Minor League innings in 2007, he allowed 71 hits and struck out 61 batters. He was drafted out of the University of North Carolina.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Mets get C Schneider, OF Church from Nationals for OF Milledge- Goodbye Lastings

November 30, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Looking to shuffle their roster after an embarrassing collapse this season, the New York Mets found a new catcher and right fielder Friday.

The price: prized outfield prospect Lastings Milledge.

After holding onto Milledge through years of trade speculation, the Mets finally dealt him to the Washington Nationals for catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church.

"I thought we needed to change it up a little," New York general manager Omar Minaya said. "Names like Schneider and Church are not known names, but they give us balance."

In Schneider, the Mets add yet another catcher following their trade for Johnny Estrada last week. Coming off two operations and deficient on defense, Estrada is probably on his way out without ever suiting up for New York.

In Milledge, the Nationals pick up a talented young player they hope can avoid the sort of missteps that marked his Mets career and be a key component of their rebuilding project.

"We're getting a guy who has a chance to be an impact bat in our lineup for years to come," Washington manager Manny Acta said.

Considered one of baseball's best defensive catchers, the 31-year-old Schneider was given a lot of credit this season for holding together a ragtag Nationals rotation. But he struggled at the plate, batting .235 with six homers and 54 RBIs.

"One of my favorite parts of my game is working with a pitching staff," Schneider said.

The 29-year-old Church hit .272 with 15 homers and 70 RBIs, while tying for the team lead with 43 doubles.

"I just love the fact to have a chance to year in and year out go to the playoffs and try to win a championship," he said. "I've never been in that situation before."

New York advanced to Game 7 of the 2006 NL championship series before squandered a big NL East lead this September and missing the playoffs entirely.

For now, the Mets expect Church to be their everyday right fielder next season.

"We have been working on this trade for a while," Minaya said. "I think there's still upside with Church."

Milledge has long been linked to trade speculation as the Mets pursued a top starting pitcher. They're still looking for arms this offseason, but Minaya said teams told him giving up Milledge wouldn't prevent New York from completing other possible deals because the club has enough additional players who are attractive.

"There might have been a higher value up ahead," Minaya said. "I do believe when it's all said and we're getting two good players for him, two players at key positions for us."

Minaya is familiar with both players he gets in the deal from his time as GM of the Montreal Expos, the franchise that moved to Washington before the 2005 season.

Milledge and Acta know each other from Acta's stint as the Mets' third-base coach.

"I can assure you Lastings is a good kid," Acta said. "He came up very young in a tough spot, in New York, and he wasn't prepared to handle that. You can't believe everything you read and you hear. I believe the kid is going to be just fine with us."

Milledge hit .272 with seven homers and 29 RBIs in 184 at-bats with the Mets in 2007. Now, he gets a chance to play every day.

"That's the most important thing to me at this point in my career," Milledge said. "It's a real big relief for me and my family and everybody, because I really didn't get enough time to show what I can do."

Still just 22, Milledge was the Mets' top prospect when he made his major league debut in May 2006. Right away, he showed why he was so highly rated on the field -- but also drew the ire of his team and teammates.

One of the most publicized episodes came in the town that will be his new home. In September 2006, a sign was posted in Milledge's locker in the visiting clubhouse at RFK Stadium that read: "Know your place, Rook. Your teammates."

Milledge earlier had been reprimanded for not running hard on the bases and had arrived late to the clubhouse for a game. He also rankled Mets management by making a rap CD that used offensive language.

"As far as the controversy goes, sometimes you feel like you get a raw end of the deal," Milledge said. "But whether it was or wasn't, it made me a better person, it made me a better ballplayer. It helped me at a young age to play at a big market and have everybody against you at one time."

The Mets acquired Estrada from Milwaukee for reliever Guillermo Mota. They also re-signed Ramon Castro to be their backup catcher again, though he could see more playing time next year.

New York could try to unload Estrada at the winter meetings next week. If it doesn't, the club might decline to offer him a 2008 contract by the Dec. 12 deadline. That would make Estrada a free agent and the Mets wouldn't owe him anything.

Paul Lo Duca was New York's starting catcher the past two seasons but the Mets showed little interest in re-signing him. Yorvit Torrealba appeared set to become the team's No. 1 catcher when he and the Mets reached a preliminary agreement this month on a $14.4 million, three-year contract that was subject to a physical. But that deal fell through and Torrealba re-signed with Colorado.

AP Sports Writers Joseph White and Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

As part of plea deal, La Russa gets probation, fine, community service

La Russa is a fine individual and tremendous manager. In meeting him personally at the Cardinals spring training facility in Jupiter, Florida, I was extremely impressed with his conduct and demeanor.

Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa pleaded guilty to driving under the influence Wednesday, eight months after police found him asleep inside his running sport utility vehicle at a stop light and smelling of alcohol.

La Russa said he had decided to plead guilty to the misdemeanor because it was in the best interest of all concerned.

"I accept full responsibility for my conduct and assure everyone that I have learned a very valuable lesson and that this will never occur again," La Russa said in a statement released by his attorney, David Roth. La Russa did not appear in court to plead guilty.

As part of his plea agreement, La Russa will serve at least six months' probation, pay a $678.50 fine, complete DUI school and any recommended treatment and complete 50 hours of community service, according to state prosecutors.

The Cardinals said their concerns were addressed during the season.

"We addressed this matter with Tony last season and the nature of those discussions will remain private," chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. "We have been satisfied with Tony's responsible approach to this issue and we respect his decision. With today's news, our ballclub considers the matter closed."

The 63-year-old La Russa was arrested in March in Jupiter, where the Cardinals play spring training games.

He gave two breath samples and was determined to have a blood alcohol content of 0.093 percent, Jupiter police have said. Florida's legal driving limit is 0.08 percent.

Undercover officers first saw La Russa's SUV partially in an intersection around midnight and not moving despite several green lights, police had said. Officers knocked on the vehicle's window and La Russa did not initially respond.

The SUV was in drive and running, with La Russa's foot on the brake, police said. When he eventually woke up, the officers asked him to get out of the SUV.

He was booked in the Palm Beach County jail.

La Russa went to law school in Florida and passed the bar exam, but he no longer practices.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Reports: Free-agent closer Cordero reaches preliminary deal with Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Free-agent closer Francisco Cordero has reportedly reached a preliminary agreement on a four-year, $46 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

The deal, which includes a club option for a fifth year, is subject to Cordero passing a physical exam, ESPN.com reported Friday.
The agreement was first reported by FoxSports.com.

The 32-year-old Cordero was second in the National League with 44 saves last season for Milwaukee and made the NL All-Star team.

Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky didn't immediately return a message seeking comment Friday night. David Weathers led the team with 33 saves last season, but will be 39 next year and has been a setup man for most of his career.

Cordero, speaking Friday on a sports radio program in the Dominican Republic, hinted that he had received a lucrative offer from Cincinnati.

"There still isn't anything concrete," he said. "I would have liked to stay in Milwaukee, but it's not up to me. We will see what happens with the management and the owners of the Brewers, because we are willing to hear their offers."

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he offered Cordero a four-year, $42 million deal with an option for a fifth year.

"I thought we had a chance to keep 'Coco,"' Melvin said. "Our offer was competitive. As important as he was to us, we just felt (the bidding) was getting to be too much."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pitcher Joe Kennedy, 28, dies in Florida after passing out

First Daryl Kile of St.Louis, then Cory Lidle of the Yankees, Josh Hancock of the World Champion Cardinals and now Joe Kennedy of the Blue Jays. Is it me, or is something mysterious occurring among relatively young starting pitchers in Major League Baseball over the course of the last several years?

November 23, 2007

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Major league pitcher Joe Kennedy died early Friday morning, a Hillsborough County sheriff's official said. He was 28.

Kennedy passed out at home and was brought to a hospital, Hillsborough County sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said. She had no further details.

Kennedy's agent, Damon Lapa, told ESPN.com that Kennedy died while at home with family in Florida. He did not return phone calls and an e-mail from The Associated Press.

"We were terribly shocked," Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey said. "From what we understand he was in Bradenton ... to be the best man at a wedding today."

Godfrey said he didn't have any particulars on the cause of death.

"When a 28-year-old man dies it's terrible," he said.

The left-hander was 43-61 in seven major league seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays. Kennedy compiled a 43-61 record with a 4.79 ERA, pitching 908 2/3 innings over 222 career appearances.

ESPN.com first reported the news of his death.

Kennedy made his major league debut in June 2001 and made his last appearance in relief on Sept. 29 in a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.

He started the 2007 season with Oakland, appearing in 27 games. Claimed off waivers by Arizona in August, he was released on Aug. 15 after just three appearances. The Blue Jays signed him Aug. 29, and Kennedy got his first win as a Blue Jay on Sept. 21 at the New York Yankees.

"The entire Oakland's A's organization sends our thoughts out to Joe's family," Oakland assistant general manager David Forst told ESPN.com. "He was a valued member of our organization for almost two years, and certainly a guy we loved having around."

AP Writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Jimmy Rollins edges Holliday in close race for NL MVP

By ROB MAADDI, AP Baseball Writer
November 21, 2007

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Jimmy Rollins never thought about winning an MVP award until teammate Ryan Howard did it last year.

"Seeing him do it inspired me because the only thing he can do better than me is hit the ball a lot further," Rollins joked.

Howard is nine inches taller and about 80 pounds heavier than Rollins, so he packs a mightier swing. But Rollins' season stood above everyone else's this year.

The switch-hitting shortstop captured the National League MVP award Tuesday, edging Matt Holliday in a close race after leading Philadelphia to its first playoff berth in 14 years with his combination of speed, power and defense.

Rollins, a first-time Gold Glove winner, received 16 of 32 first-place votes and finished with 353 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"I just wanted to be mentioned with those guys who are MVP candidates every year," Rollins said on a conference call from California. "To win it is a blessing."

Rollins put pressure on himself and his team back in January when he boldly predicted the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East. Philadelphia won the division on the last day of the season, helped by the New York Mets' historic collapse.

J-Roll made it possible, proving to be the most indispensable player on a team ravaged by injuries. Howard, Chase Utley and several key pitchers spent time on the disabled list. But with Rollins leading the way, the Phillies went 23-17 in games that Howard and Utley missed.

Batting mostly out of the leadoff spot, Rollins finished with a .296 batting average, 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 homers, 41 steals, 94 RBIs and scored an NL-best 139 runs. He became the first player in major league history to have 30 doubles, 20 triples, 30 homers and 30 steals in one season.

No shortstop in the NL ever had more extra-base hits (88) and only Alex Rodriguez had more (91) in 1996 with Seattle. The durable Rollins, who's only 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, played every game, becoming the first NL shortstop in 34 years to do so.

"He's getting the recognition he deserves," team president David Montgomery said. "He's a complete player. Clearly his offense was spectacular and he's so consistent on defense. He was terrific, and he's a solid person."

Rollins, left off the All-Star team in July, had an outstanding second half. He also had more runs, hits and doubles on the road and an equal amount of RBIs away from home, disproving any thought that his stats were inflated because he plays at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

Holliday, the left fielder who led Colorado's surprising charge to the World Series, got 11 first-place votes and 336 points. Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder came in third, with five first-place votes and 284 points.

It was the closest election for NL MVP since Atlanta third baseman Terry Pendleton beat out Pittsburgh's Barry Bonds by 15 points in 1991.

Holliday, the NL championship series MVP, hit .340 with 137 RBIs -- becoming the third player since 1967 to lead a league in both categories. He also had 36 homers and topped the NL in hits (216), total bases (386) and doubles (50).

Voting took place before the postseason, when Holliday and the Rockies completed a three-game sweep of Philadelphia in the first round.

Holliday's performance in the wild-card tiebreaker against San Diego did count, however. He hit a tying triple off career saves leader Trevor Hoffman in the bottom of the 13th inning and scored the winning run on a shallow sacrifice fly with a headfirst dive at the plate. Still, it wasn't enough to catch Rollins.

"I called Matt and congratulated him on having a great season and told him how much he inspired me to play," Rollins said. "You never know which way it's going to go."

Rollins, who turns 29 next week, came through when the Phillies needed him most. Booed in New York all season, he batted .346 with six homers and 15 RBIs against the Mets. That helped the Phillies go 12-6 in the season series, winning the final eight meetings with their division rival.

Philadelphia trailed the first-place Mets by seven games on Sept. 12, but went 13-4 down the stretch to finish one game ahead.

Rollins was particularly proud that he, Fielder and AL Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia, also from the Bay Area, have set an example that might encourage more black kids to play baseball.

"I hope they one day say, I want to be Cy Young or I want to be MVP," Rollins said.

In his second full season in the majors, the 23-year-old Fielder led the league with 50 homers -- becoming the youngest player to reach the plateau.

It was the seventh time a Phillies player took the honor. Besides Rollins and Howard, Mike Schmidt won three times (1980, '81, '86), pitcher Jim Konstanty won in 1950 and outfielder Chuck Klein in 1932.

Rollins and Howard became the 11th pair of teammates to win the NL MVP in consecutive seasons, the first since Jeff Kent (2000) and Bonds (2001) with the San Francisco Giants. The previous NL shortstop to win the prize was Cincinnati's Barry Larkin in 1995.

With Torrealba talks dead, Mets get Estrada from Brewers for Mota

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets acquired Johnny Estrada from Milwaukee for reliever Guillermo Mota on Tuesday, moving quickly to plug their hole at catcher after talks with Yorvit Torrealba collapsed.

Estrada batted .278 with 10 homers and 54 RBIs for the Brewers this year. He is eligible for arbitration this winter and can become a free agent after the 2008 season.

"Johnny adds depth to our catching situation," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "He's a former All-Star who switch-hits and has hit over .300 three times in his career."

Mota served a 50-game steroids suspension at the beginning of the season and finished 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA in 52 appearances. Often booed at home, the 34-year-old right-hander struck out 47 and walked 18 in 59 1-3 innings.

"We are getting a quality relief pitcher who can pitch out of the back of the pen," Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said. "We have been looking for a pitcher who can give us multiple innings, and last season Mota showed he could do that, pitching 2.0 innings 13 times."

The trade leaves Paul Lo Duca, New York's starting backstop the past two seasons, looking for a job elsewhere. Last week, the Mets re-signed Ramon Castro to be their backup catcher again, though he could get more playing time now than he did behind Lo Duca.

The 31-year-old Estrada had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Oct. 4 to repair a torn meniscus. He also had a bone spur removed from his right elbow. The operations were performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

Estrada threw out only 11 of 84 basestealers (13 percent) in his lone season with the Brewers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and he also lacks discipline at the plate. He drew just 12 walks despite getting 442 at-bats, leaving him with a meager .296 on-base percentage.

Torrealba appeared set to become New York's No. 1 catcher when he and the Mets reached a preliminary agreement last week on a $14.4 million, three-year contract that was subject to a physical.

The Mets said Saturday they had ended negotiations with Torrealba, leading to speculation that a medical exam left them with concerns about his throwing shoulder. Torrealba, who helped Colorado reach the World Series this year, missed nearly three months in 2006 with a strained right shoulder.

"I'm just going to say that we couldn't get a deal done," Minaya said Monday.

An All-Star in 2004 with Atlanta, the slow-footed Estrada is a .280 career hitter with 42 homers and 281 RBIs in 589 games spanning seven major league seasons. He has spent his entire career in the National League, also playing for Philadelphia and Arizona.

Estrada made $3.4 million this year. Mota is guaranteed $3.2 million next season, then can become a free agent.

The Mets acquired the 6-foot-6 Mota in August 2006 after he struggled with Cleveland, but he pitched extremely well down the stretch to help New York wrap up an NL East title.

News of his positive test for a performance-enhancing substance surfaced after the season, and Mota said he felt terrible for making a mistake. Knowing he would be suspended for the first 50 games of 2007, the Mets re-signed Mota to a $5 million, two-year contract.

Mota is 28-29 with a 3.91 ERA and seven saves in nine major league seasons with Montreal, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida, Cleveland and the Mets. Since 2002, he ranks fourth among big league relievers with 444 1-3 innings pitched.

Former Twins star Hunter agrees to 5-year contract with Angels

ESPN.com news services
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Outfielder Torii Hunter and the Los Angeles Angels reached a preliminary agreement Wednesday night on a five-year contract thought to be worth $90 million.

"They play the game the right way," Hunter said. "They play hard-nosed baseball."

The agreement is subject to a physical.

The 32-year-old becomes the much-needed hitter the Angels sought to protect Vladimir Guerrero in the batting order. Hunter hit .297 with 28 homers and 107 RBIs for the Minnesota Twins this year and is a seven-time Gold Glove winner.

He finished 15th in AL MVP balloting and was on the AL's All-Star team for the second time in his career.

"We are very excited to have Torii joining our organization," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said in a statement. "Not only is he an outstanding ballplayer but he's also an outstanding human being. He'll impact our ballclub and community in a very positive way."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals were among those interested in Hunter. The newspaper reports that Reagins, the Angels' rookie general manager, called Hunter's agent Larry Reynolds on Tuesday and a deal for Hunter came together quickly.

"You're a little surprised, huh?" Reynolds told the newspaper Wednesday night. "It all happened within the last 24 hours."

Said Reagins: "In the past, we said we're going to pursue every opportunity to make our club better. This was an opportunity. I had the support of some people around me, then I got aggressive."

Hunter will join a talented outfield that includes Gary Matthews Jr., Garret Anderson, Guerrero, Juan Rivera and Reggie Willits.

With Guerrero in right and Anderson in left, the move leaves no space in the starting outfield for Matthews Jr. The Angels said the center fielder, who signed a $50 million, five-year deal as a free agent last offseason, could see time at designated hitter and spell the corner outfielders.

Matthews was sent human growth hormone in 2004 from a pharmacy being investigated for illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, The Times Union of Albany, N.Y., reported last winter. Matthews denied using HGH, which was not banned by baseball for players with major league contracts until 2005.

With Hunter gone, the low-budget Twins' attention turns to two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. His contract expires after the 2008 season, and other teams think Minnesota will make him available if he doesn't agree to an extension.

Hunter said he also had negotiated seriously with the Rangers, but he thought they were a year or two from contending. The White Sox and Royals also were interested.

Staying with the Twins wasn't a real option.

"Sometimes it's time to move on," Hunter said. "Sometimes your welcome is gone."

Hunter recalled when the Angels eliminated his Twins in the 2002 AL playoffs en route to the World Series title.

"I watched the Angels go to work on us. They play the game the right way," he said. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Hunter added: "Maybe I can do some damage and get about three rings out of this."

According to the Times, the Angels were also in trade talks with the Florida Marlins for Miguel Cabrera, but it wasn't known Wednesday night whether the Angels would still pursue Cabrera.

Reagins has made a splash on the job even before the agreement with Hunter. On Monday, the Angels traded Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for pitcher Jon Garland.

For his career, Hunter is a .271 hitter with 192 homers and 711 RBIs in 1,234 games.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Report: Castillo agrees to four-year deal

The market value for a slightly above average second baseman is mind boggling.

The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Second baseman Luis Castillo decided to stay with the New York Mets, reaching a preliminary agreement Sunday night on a $25 million, four-year contract, according to the Associated Press.
Castillo must pass a physical for the deal to be finalized, according to AP.

The three-time All-Star hit .296 for the Mets with 10 steals and 20 RBIs, who acquired him from Minnesota on July 30. He batted .304 with 18 RBIs for the Minnesota Twins.

Castillo also won three Gold Gloves and provided steady defense up the middle with shortstop Jose Reyes despite playing on a sore knee that limited his speed. The 32-year-old hit .316 in September, one of the few Mets who came through as the team collapsed and blew a seven-game lead.

Castillo's preliminary agreement came on the same day that two-time Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine decided to leave the Mets and return to the Atlanta Braves, his original team. Glavine was given an $8 million, one-year contract after turning down a $13 million option to stay with New York and receiving a $3 million buyout.

On a busy weekend, the Mets also broke off talks with free-agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba. The sides had reached a preliminary agreement last week on a $14.4 million, three-year contract that was subject to a physical.

Report: Rivera to re-sign with Yanks

The linchpin to New York's bullpen is expected to dawn Yankee pinstripes for the next three seasons.

Veteran closer set to accept record deal for reliever
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera's icy negotiations with the Yankees may be reaching a thaw, as the future Hall of Fame closer appears primed to remain with the club.
According to a report published Sunday in the New York Post, Rivera is expected to accept the Yankees' three-year, $45 million contract offer early this week. Rivera had spent last week in the Dominican Republic conducting baseball clinics.

The Post reported that Rivera will meet with his representatives on Sunday. According to multiple reports, Rivera may have had interest in a fourth year being added to his contract.

Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner has said the team would hold firm with its offer, which would make Rivera baseball's highest-paid closer, eclipsing Billy Wagner's deal across town with the Mets, where he earns $10.5 million annually.

Rivera, who turns 38 on Nov. 29, has pitched for the Yankees since 1995, compiling an American League-record 443 saves in the regular season. The most dominant postseason pitcher of his generation, Rivera owns a Major League-record 34 more saves in the playoffs, where he has a 0.77 career ERA.

Rivera made 67 relief appearances for the Yankees in 2007, finishing with 30 saves while going 3-4 with a 3.15 ERA. His signing has been earmarked by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman as one of the club's priorities leading into the early offseason months, along with re-signing catcher Jorge Posada.

Hours before he could have discussed financial terms with other clubs, Posada reportedly agreed to a four-year, $52.4 million deal. Posada had a physical last week and an official announcement is expected shortly.

The Yankees are also continuing to hammer out the details of Alex Rodriguez's landmark 10-year, $275 million contract, just weeks after the likely American League MVP delivered word that he had opted out of contract during Game 4 of the World Series.

"It feels great," Steinbrenner told the Post. "There was never any question we wanted to keep all of them. Obviously, they are being paid very well. Alex was the thing nobody expected, and he came through."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mets close to filling hole at catcher with deal for Yorvit Torrealba

November 15, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Mets were close to filling their big hole at catcher Thursday night, nearing a contract with free agent Yorvit Torrealba after completing a two-year deal for backup Ramon Castro.

The moves would leave Paul Lo Duca, New York's starting backstop the past two seasons, looking for a job elsewhere.
Torrealba has never been known for his bat, but he was a steady defensive presence for the NL champion Colorado Rockies this season. He and the Mets were closing in on a $14.4 million, three-year contract, according to a person familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been finalized.

The Mets retained Castro to be their backup again, though now he could get more playing time than he did behind Lo Duca. Castro passed his physical Thursday after agreeing to a $4.6 million, two-year contract negotiated by agents Sam and Seth Levinson.

The 29-year-old Torrealba batted .255 with eight homers and 47 RBIs in 113 games for the Rockies this season. He was roundly praised for a deft touch in expertly handling Colorado's young pitchers.

"We didn't see him a lot last year. Obviously, he was in the World Series and we got a chance to see him a little bit. I like the way he receives the ball," Mets manager Willie Randolph said Thursday night at third baseman David Wright's charity gala.

"There are not a lot of catchers that really throw really above average in the market, so everyone was kind of in the same boat, basically," he added. "It just depends on what you're looking for and what you want for your team. Not too many Johnny Benches, that's for sure."

If the sides agree on terms, Torrealba would have to pass a physical for the deal to be completed. After that, an announcement by the Mets could come as early as this weekend.

Castro filed for free agency after hitting .285 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 144 at-bats during an injury-shortened season. He has spent the past three years with the Mets, serving as the primary backup to Mike Piazza in 2005 and then Lo Duca the past two years.

The 35-year-old Lo Duca, a four-time NL All-Star from 2003-06, also is a free agent. A fiery voice in the clubhouse who provided leadership in New York, he hit .272 with nine homers and 54 RBIs in 119 games this year for the Mets, who collapsed in September and missed the playoffs.

"I'm still not over it. It's been tough," Randolph said. "It's going to take a while for me."

The manager said he thought Lo Duca was looking for a three- or four-year deal.

"Every year, things change," Randolph said. "This year, yes, I thought he brought a lot to this year, but that doesn't mean that you hold onto a guy because of that. Hopefully, you bring other guys in that maybe can pick up that slack. But each year is totally different."

This was the first time in Torrealba's seven-year major league career that he played more than 76 games. He is a .251 career hitter with 30 homers and 173 RBIs in 440 games.

Torrealba got some clutch hits for the Rockies, batting .256 with a home run and eight RBIs during the postseason. He was much more productive all year at hitter-friendly Coors Field, batting .296 with six homers and 34 RBIs at home but only .212 with two home runs and 13 RBIs on the road.

The 31-year-old Castro spent his first six major league seasons with the Florida Marlins. He is a .234 career hitter with 41 homers and 137 RBIs in 398 games. He set a career high for home runs this season.

Castro gets a $250,000 signing bonus, a $1.85 million salary next year and $2.5 million in 2009.

He would earn an extra $125,000 each for 65 and 70 games started at catcher in either season. He also could earn $250,000 bonuses for starting 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, 125 and 130 games behind the plate each year.

An announcement from the Mets on Castro's deal was expected soon.

Selig: Baseball revenue climbed to $6.075 billion this year.

By FRED GOODALL, AP Sports Writer
November 15, 2007

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) -- Baseball revenue climbed to $6.075 billion this year, and commissioner Bud Selig envisions an even rosier financial future.

"As I told the clubs today, we're on a great high here," Selig said Thursday following the conclusion of a two-day meeting in which owners discussed, among other things, ways to speed up games.

"When you look at the final numbers and you see what's happened, it's remarkable. There are times, honestly, when I have to pinch myself to make sure all of this is happening. ... Growth and revenue, growth and profitability; it's just been really, really good."

And with attendance up, and Major League Baseball also making a concerted effort to expose its product to other parts of the world, Selig is confident the game will continue the trend next season, and beyond.

"I'm putting myself on the spot here, but I'm very hopeful to draw 80 million-plus, and I think our revenues will continue to go up," Selig said of 2008, later adding that he's "very proud" of the growth.
"We started at $1.2 billion, and I can remember waking up in `93 and `94 and `95 and thinking how are we ever going to get to $2 billion? So here we are at $6 billion, 75 million. And if we just keep doing our work, stay out of controversies, keep the focus on the field, we'll get to numbers someday that will be stunning. And these are stunning."

The commissioner said there was nothing new to report on talks to have the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres play two exhibition games in Beijing in March, a recommendation that instant replay be used to help umpires with some calls, or George Mitchell's investigation into performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Selig still expects Mitchell's report to be released before the end of the year.

Owners heard a presentation on pace of games from Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner's office.

Solomon said last week during general managers meetings in Orlando that to speed up games, baseball was considering limiting when a hitter could step out of the batter's box between pitches, restricting the number of times a player could visit the mound, and limiting the number of players allowed to visit the mound.

"Obviously I have a lot of concern about the length of our World Series games, playoff games, regular-season games," Selig said. "We're going to work on that over the course of the winter."

In addition to enforcing existing rules, the commissioner said consideration will be given to adding new rules.

"We just need to speed things up a little bit for everybody's best interest," Selig said.

Indians' Wedge wins AL Manager of the Year award, Diamondbacks' Melvin honored in NL

By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer
November 15, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Backups as ballplayers, Bob Melvin and Eric Wedge certainly caught on as managers.

The career .233 hitters were honored Wednesday as managers of the year, having found far more success in the dugout than on the field.

Wedge became the first Cleveland manager to win the AL award, chosen by a wide margin after the Indians and Boston tied for the best record in baseball. Melvin was the first Arizona manager to get the NL prize, picked after leading his young team to the top mark in the league.

There are nearly a dozen former catchers now managing in the majors.

"There's been quite the trend," Wedge said on a conference call. "The catcher has to be aware and knowledgeable of every aspect."
"It's a leadership position. That position demands a great amount of passion for your teammates and the game of baseball," he said.

Wedge and Melvin crossed paths years ago. A month after Colorado took Wedge from Boston in the November 1992 expansion draft, the Red Sox wanted a second-string catcher and signed Melvin as a free agent.

Wedge received 19 of the 28 first-place votes and got 116 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He finished ahead of a pair of former catchers, the Angels' Mike Scioscia (62 points) and ex-Yankees manager Joe Torre (61). Terry Francona of the World Series champion Red Sox got 13.

"There's always challenges and unexpected challenges you go through over the course of six months. I think we were the extreme of that," Wedge said.

Wedge, a no-nonsense guy with a John Wayne calendar in his office, guided the Indians to a 96-66 record. Cleveland made its first playoff appearance since 2001, then lost to the Red Sox in Game 7 of the AL championship series.

Melvin was chosen on 19 of the 30 first-place ballots and got 119 points. Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel (76), Colorado's Clint Hurdle (58), himself a former catcher, and the Cubs' Lou Piniella (25) followed.

Melvin was honored for his steady hand in leading a team that sometimes started six rookies to a 90-72 mark. Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, Arizona swept Chicago in the first round before getting swept by Colorado in the NLCS.

"At the beginning, we were cautiously optimistic. We liked the young group," Melvin said on a conference call.

The 39-year-old Wedge played 39 games for Boston and Colorado in the early 1990s. He's done a lot better with the Indians since starting out 68-94 in 2003.

The Indians took over first place for good on Aug. 15 and went a major league-best 31-13 down the stretch. C.C. Sabathia, picked as the AL Cy Young Award winner Tuesday, and Fausto Carmona each won 19 games.

Cleveland rewarded Wedge with a three-year contract extension in July. "I look at this as an organizational award," he said.

The 46-year-old Melvin played 10 years in the majors with seven teams. He managed Seattle from 2003-04, got fired and took over the Diamondbacks in 2005.

A year after Arizona went 76-86 and tied Colorado for last in the NL West, the Diamondbacks surged. They did it despite becoming the first team since the 1906 Chicago White Sox to have a league's best record despite the worst batting average.

Melvin's evenhanded approach meshed well with his young team, which lost stars Randy Johnson and Orlando Hudson to season-ending injuries.

Eric Byrnes and rookie Chris Young led the offense, and Melvin counted on ace Brandon Webb and closer Jose Valverde.

Manuel received seven first-place votes after Philadelphia won the NL East, Hurdle got four first-place votes with the NL champion Rockies and Piniella got two first-place tallies after winning the Central in his first season with Chicago.

"Originally, I thought it was Friday. You try to put it out of your mind, to an extent," Melvin said.

Scioscia got four first-place votes after leading Los Angeles to the AL West title. Torre, since hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers, got the other five first-place votes.

The BBWAA first presented the manager awards in 1983.

The NL Cy Young Award will be announced Thursday. San Diego's Jake Peavy, who led the league with 19 wins and topped the majors in ERA and strikeouts, is the heavy favorite.

San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy wins NL Cy Young Award in unanimous vote

November 15, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jake Peavy has been one of the best pitchers in the National League for years. This season, he pulled away from the pack.

The San Diego Padres ace was an unanimous winner of the NL Cy Young Award on Thursday after leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts -- pitching's version of a Triple Crown.

"It was just one of those seasons where kind of everything came together," he said on a conference call.

Peavy received all 32 first-place votes and finished with 160 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Arizona sinkerballer Brandon Webb, last year's winner, was a distant runner-up with 94 points. He was listed second on 31 ballots and third on one.
"Obviously, I was elated. This is as big as it gets as far as individual awards," Peavy said. "Truly amazing. A very humbling day when you think about all my peers that take the mound every fifth day."

Peavy went 19-6 while topping the majors in ERA (2.54) and strikeouts (240) for the Padres, who came within one win of their third consecutive playoff berth. He joined Roger Clemens as the only starting pitchers to win a Cy Young Award without tossing a complete game.

Clemens did it once in each league: 2001 with the New York Yankees (AL) and 2004 with Houston (NL).

"I can definitely get better. Our bullpen's been so stinkin' good around here it's hard to get deep in these games," Peavy said. "I've got a long way to go to be who I want to be."

It was the 12th time an NL pitcher has been an unanimous choice for the honor, the first since Arizona's Randy Johnson in 2002. Peavy became the fourth San Diego pitcher to win the award, joining reliever Mark Davis (1989), Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry (1978) and lefty Randy Jones (1976).

Peavy had a chance to put the Padres in the postseason -- and earn his 20th win -- when he started the wild-card tiebreaker against Colorado. But the 26-year-old right-hander was ineffective at Coors Field, giving up six runs and 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings.

The Rockies rallied for three runs against career saves leader Trevor Hoffman in the 13th and won 9-8, then charged all the way to the World Series.

"That was a tough way to go. We were so close and had grinded it out for so long," Peavy said. "I really thought that this year's team, if we got in the playoffs, could really make some noise."

Brad Penny of the Los Angeles Dodgers finished third in the voting. Cincinnati's Aaron Harang was fourth and Chicago's Carlos Zambrano came in fifth.

Peavy, the National League's starter in the All-Star game, was the front-runner nearly all season. He consistently stymied opponents, allowing only 13 home runs in 34 starts. He gave up 169 hits and 68 walks in 223 1-3 innings.

Selected by San Diego in the 15th round of the 1999 draft, Peavy became the fifth different NL pitcher to take the prize since Johnson won four straight times from 1999-2002.

Webb was 18-10 with a 3.01 ERA and 194 strikeouts, pitching an NL-best 236 1-3 innings. His streak of 42 scoreless innings helped the surprising Diamondbacks finish with the best record in the league (90-72).

Atlanta's Tom Glavine in 1992 was the only other NL pitcher to finish second one year after winning the award.

A two-time All-Star, Peavy also won an ERA title in 2004 and a strikeout crown in 2005. His nasty stuff has made him one of baseball's toughest assignments for years, but this season was his most impressive.

"I don't really feel that I did anything different in '04 or '05, other than just had better luck to help win some games and obviously get some recognition for that," he said.

Peavy earned a $100,000 bonus for winning the award, and the price of San Diego's 2009 club option increased by $3 million to $11 million.

He knows the kind of money he could command on the open market. Still, he said he'd like to work out a contract extension and stay with the Padres, though he doesn't want to negotiate during the season.

"I think it can be distracting," Peavy said. "We're either going to do it this offseason or we'll address the issue next offseason.

"I'm really not worried about it," he added. "The team has given me financial security for the rest of this old Alabama boy's life. ... I just want to be fair to the rest of my peers when I sign something."

The American League MVP will be announced Monday -- with Alex Rodriguez considered a lock -- followed Tuesday by NL MVP, which could be a close race.

Cleveland lefty C.C. Sabathia won the AL Cy Young Award on Tuesday.

A-Rod and New York Yankees have outline of $275 million, 10-year deal

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
November 15, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees have agreed to the outline of a record $275 million, 10-year contract, a deal that potentially would allow him to earn millions more if he sets the career home-run record.

The amount of the guaranteed money was revealed by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn't been finalized. A-Rod and his wife met Wednesday in Tampa, Fla., with brothers Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, but the parameters of the agreement were set in place last weekend.

"The meeting was a final get-together," Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said. "He wanted to make sure myself and my brother knew that he was sincere and serious."

The Yankees still must draft the agreement with Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras. Asked whether the only remaining details were putting the deal on paper, Steinbrenner responded: "pretty much so."

Boras wasn't a part of the negotiations, in which Goldman Sachs managing directors John Mallory and Gerald Cardinale conducted shuttle diplomacy.
"They were the go-betweens, initially," Steinbrenner said. "That's how he reached out to us."

The Yankees were notified by Boras on Oct. 28 that Rodriguez was opting out of the final three seasons of his $252 million, 10-year contract -- the previous record -- and becoming a free agent. New York maintained then that it no longer would negotiate with A-Rod because the decision eliminated a $21.3 million subsidy from Texas that was negotiated in the 2004 trade.

About a week later, A-Rod contacted Mallory, a friend who works in private wealth management in Goldman's Los Angeles office. Rodriguez knew the Yankees have a close relationship with the investment bank, which was instrumental in the launch of the team's YES Network.

Mallory called Cardinale, who works in the merchant banking section in New York and helped finance the network. Cardinale in turn got in touch with Yankees president Randy Levine.

A-Rod and the Yankees exchanged proposals via the bankers, and the deal gradually was framed in about a dozen telephone calls.

The sides still are working on putting together a provision that would allow Rodriguez to share revenue created by his pursuit of the career home record held by Barry Bonds, who was indicted Thursday on perjury and obstruction charges. A-Rod has 518 homers, 244 shy of the mark.

"The Yankees have never had a player since Babe Ruth that really had a 100 percent chance" of setting the record, Steinbrenner said. "(Mickey) Mantle should have, but he had too many injuries. It's a historical achievement bonus more than it is an incentive bonus. There is no yearly incentive bonus."

That provision must be drafted carefully because of Major League Rule 3 (b) (5), which states no contract shall be approved "if it contains a bonus for playing, pitching or batting skill or if it provides for the payment of a bonus contingent on the standing of the signing club at the end of the championship season."

Even with that, the commissioner's office allowed the Boston Red Sox in 2003 to give Curt Schilling a provision for a $2 million raise in a season following a World Series championship. Boston won the title the following year.

The Yankees already have been in touch with Major League Baseball, and A-Rod's side contacted the players' association.

"Because he's generating such enormous revenue potential, both to the player and the club, there should be some way for the player and the club to capitalize on that achievement in some fashion," said Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer. "The devil will be in the details. The minds of men and women in the sport should be able to figure this out."

Steinbrenner said Rodriguez was given bad advice by Boras during the time before the decision to opt out.

"Boras did a lot of good things for Alex through the years, and Alex knows that. I mean, obviously, he's going to look to Scott's advice on everything," Steinbrenner said. "That's not unusual today. It's not like he's the only one. And if an agent gets out of line or makes bad decisions, then that's going to hurt the player. And obviously, that's one of the things that happened here."

Rodriguez still winds up with baseball's largest contract, a fact that got the attention of Schilling.

"None of us are worth that much relative to 'real world' salaries," the pitcher wrote on his Web site. "But if someone in the game was getting a contract that big, I am not sure you could argue it being Alex. On the field this guy is the MVP-in-waiting every year, it seems."

Steinbrenner said he thinks that had Rodriguez tested the free-agent market, he would have gotten a more lucrative contract and cited the interest of the Los Angeles Dodgers, led by new manager Joe Torre, and perhaps other teams.

"There are a few cynics who say, 'Well he really couldn't get this there,"' Steinbrenner said. "Trust me, he would have gotten probably more. He is making a sacrifice to be a Yankee, there's no question. ... He showed what was really in his heart and what he really wanted."

Now that he's staying with the Yankees, will A-Rod get a Yankeeography on YES?

"Well, we'll see," Steinbrenner said, chuckling.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yankees offer Rivera $45 million for 3 years, by far the most for a relief pitcher

It's imperative that for the Yankees future they keep their long standing closer.

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
November 13, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mariano Rivera was offered a $45 million, three-year contract to stay with the New York Yankees. Now, the team is waiting to hear back from its star closer.

"He'd be by $4 million a year the highest-paid relief pitcher," Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said Tuesday. "To say that's a strong offer would be an understatement."

On Monday, the Yankees retained catcher Jorge Posada when they upped their offer to $52.4 million for four years. Posada is due to take a physical Wednesday, another step toward finalizing that agreement.

Rivera, the next step in the team's offseason plan, was allowed to start discussing money with other teams Tuesday. Steinbrenner confirmed the $45 million offer, which was made several days ago and was first reported by The New York Times.

"The ball's in their court," Steinbrenner said. "If they still want to look for more somewhere else, that's up to them."

Rivera's agent, Fernando Cuza, did not return telephone messages.

Mets closer Billy Wagner is the highest-paid reliever, averaging $10.75 million during his $43 million, four-year contract. Only four pitchers are signed for next year at higher average salaries than the Yankees' proposal to Rivera: Carlos Zambrano ($18.3 million), Barry Zito ($18 million), Jason Schmidt ($15.7 million) and Atlanta's Mike Hampton ($15.1 million).

In addition, the Yankees have a standing $16 million offer to Andy Pettitte, who hasn't decided whether to pitch or retire.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was more guarded in his comments about Rivera than Steinbrenner was.

"He's a free agent and he's fielding offers from other clubs. He's certainly received offers from us," Cashman said.

Posada decided not to test the free-agent market and accepted a deal averaging $13.1 million, the most for a catcher in baseball history. Before Monday, the Yankees had offered a three-year contract to the 36-year-old catcher.

Steinbrenner wasn't concerned that Posada will be 40 when the deal expires.

"He's a catcher, but he can also later on be a DH," Steinbrenner said. "I'm fine with keeping his bat another four years. And as far as the salary is concerned, he was pretty logical. You can't argue with that. He didn't go nuts with what he asked for."

Steinbrenner said it was too early to evaluate the trade market. Florida is dangling third baseman Miguel Cabrera, and teams are waiting for the Minnesota Twins to determine if they can re-sign ace Johan Santana. If not, they might listen to offers for the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

"Everybody is just probing, including Brian," Steinbrenner said. "The only probing we've done thus far is on Cabrera. Obviously, there will be an interest in Santana. Everything with Santana and Cabrera is very preliminary right now."

Brewers 3B Braun named NL Rookie of the Year

Unfortunately, Tulowitzki should have been awarded this prestigious award.

NEW YORK (TICKER) -- Ryan Braun's monstrous season at the plate was barely enough to trump Troy Tulowitzki's solid all-around campaign.

The third baseman of the Milwaukee Brewers, Braun won the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year Award on Monday from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Braun edged Tulowitzki, the Colorado Rockies' shortstop, to become Milwaukee's first Rookie of the Year since shortstop Pat Listach won the American League honor in 1992.

"You don't like to put expectations on players," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "But he certainly went well beyond what we anticipated from him in his first year.

"To show you how good Ryan was, in any other year, Troy Tulowitzki would have won hands down."

Braun received 17 first-place votes, 14 second-place votes and one third-place vote for 128 points, just two more than Tulowitzki.

Tulowitzki was first on 15 ballots and second on the other 17 for 126 points. The two-point differential was the closest in the NL since the current points system was adopted in 1980.

Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence was a distant third with 15 third-place votes. He was followed by Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young, Philadelphia Phillies righthander Kyle Kendrick, Atlanta Braves infielder Yunel Escobar and Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman James Loney.

Braun, who did not make his major-league debut until May 25, led all rookies with a .324 average, 34 home runs and 66 extra-base hits.

"Ryan Braun came to the major leagues and had as much offensive impact as I have seen in my 12 years as a general manager," Melvin said.

The fifth overall pick of the 2005 draft, Braun finished second in RBI (97), runs (91) and total bases (286) and established a rookie record with his NL-leading .634 slugging percentage.

Braun, whose only drawback was his 26 errors, helped the Brewers (83-79) finish over .500 for first time since 1992, and nearly helped them secure their first postseason berth in 25 years.

"Offensively, I've done well," Braun said. "Defensively, I just need to work harder. I have to make my defense as good as my offense. I feel like for two weeks I'll be great, and then I'll find a way to be terrible for two games. It's just a process, and the more experience I have, the better I'll be."

After a slow start, Tulowitzki batted .291 and hit an NL shortstop rookie-record 24 home runs, while driving in 99 runs. He led all rookies in hits (177), runs (104) and doubles (33).

The 23-year-old Tulowitzki didn't get his average over .200 for good until April 28 and had just two homers through June 5.

Unlike Braun, Tulowitzki, who was selected with the seventh overall pick in 2005, excelled in the field. He led all major-league shortstops with a .987 fielding percentage and showed off his cannon arm to a national audience during Colorado's magical postseason run.

"Everybody knows in this locker room I would have much rather had a World Series ring," Tulowitzki said. "I care about the team much more than individual stuff."

Red Sox 2B Pedroia named AL Rookie of the Year

November 12, 2007
NEW YORK (TICKER) -- The World Series champion Boston Red Sox added to their list of honors Monday, as second baseman Dustin Pedroia was named American League Rookie of the Year.

Pedroia received 24 of the 28 first-place votes in balloting conducted by two writers from each of the 14 American League cities. He also received four second-place votes and 132 total points.

The only player named on all 28 ballots, the diminutive Pedroia led all rookies in batting average at .317, on-base plus slugging at .823, runs scored with 86 and doubles with 39.
"I'm not too big on personal accomplishments, I just want to help my team win," Pedroia said. "There have been some great players to get this award, and it's definitely been such a fun and exciting year for me and my teammates. I'm so happy for the people that have stuck with me through this whole thing."

Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young was second with 56 points, including three first-place votes. Kansas City Royals righthander Brian Bannister earned the other first-place vote and finished with third with 36 points.

Boston righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka finished fourth while Los Angels Angels of Anaheim outfielder Reggie Willits was fifth. Boston lefthander Hideki Okajima was sixth, followed by Chicago White Sox third baseman Josh Fields and Kansas City Royals righthander Joakim Soria.

Pedroia, 24, is the sixth Red Sox player to be named as the AL's top rookie and first since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997.

"We're very proud of Dustin for what he has accomplished and how he has conducted himself in a Red Sox uniform," Boston general manager Theo Epstein said. "So it's especially gratifying to see him recognized today with such a prestigious honor."

Pedroia became just the fourth AL player to win the award while playing the majority of his games at second base, joining Minnesota's Rod Carew (1967), Detroit's Lou Whitaker (1978) and Minnesota's Chuck Knoblauch (1991).

Pedroia began the season in a horrible slump, batting just .172 on May 1. The fans were clamoring for popular backup Alex Cora to take Pedroia's spot in the lineup. But Red Sox manager Terry Francona stuck with him, and had his faith was rewarded.

"Everyone has doubted me at every level I've been at, saying I'm too small, I'm not fast enough, my arm is not strong enough," Pedroia said. "But there's a lot of people that have stuck by me and knew deep down that there's something about me that makes me a winning baseball player."

He batted .335 between May 3 and the end of the season, working his way from the No. 9 spot in Boston's lineup all the way to the leadoff hole.

Pedroia won over the fans with his ability to fight through at-bats, tallying 165 hits and 47 walks while only striking out 42 times - ranking him second among all AL players with 12.4 at-bats per strikeout.

Pedroia was at his best during Boston's playoff run, hitting .345 against the Cleveland Indians in the AL Championship Series and clubbing a two-run homer in the decisive Game Seven. He batted .283 in the World Series against the Colorado Rockies and led off Game One with a home run.

"The only thing I cared about was trying to help the team win," Pedroia said. "That was our ultimate goal. We set out to try to win the American League East and try to win the World Series. We accomplished both of those things.

"I think that if you're dedicated into team goals, individual goals will come later."

Youkilis loses goatee for $5,000 donation

By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer
November 13, 2007

BOSTON (AP) -- What's next, Curt Schilling shaving his legs?

The Boston Red Sox continued their odd tradition of post-championship grooming Tuesday when first baseman Kevin Youkilis shaved off his goatee for a $5,000 donation to his charity, youkskids.org. The public haircut came three seasons after outfielder Johnny Damon ditched his caveman look for charity in the Back Bay, with giant TV screens to give the throngs a better view.
Youkilis was shaved by two blonde stylists from a local salon at the Cask 'n Flagon, a bar across the street from Fenway Park. Nine TV cameras captured the moment -- including one that broadcast a live shot ("The shaving is under way, as you can see") -- with their trucks parked outside to beam the images to a grateful nation.

Master of ceremonies Greg Hill of local radio station WAAF compared Youkilis' goatee to other great hair in local lore, including Carl Yastrzemski's sideburns, Larry Bird's mustache and Manny Ramirez's cornrows.

"By far, the most memorable piece of body hair in Boston sports history," Hill said, neglecting to mention Damon's beard, which came off in a charity stunt in 2005 before he left the Red Sox to sign with the rival New York Yankees.

Youkilis said he would re-grow the goatee in the offseason and maybe even cut it off again if the Red Sox win another World Series in 2008. "Hopefully, we'll do this again next year," he said.

Youkilis claimed ignorance about whether third baseman Mike Lowell would re-sign with the team, but he had heard that Josh Beckett finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting to Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia.

"It's disappointing, but Josh has the World Series," Youkilis said. "I'm sure C.C. would rather win the World Series than have the Cy Young."

Red Sox to open World Series title defense in Tokyo with two-game series against Athletics

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
November 14, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox will open their World Series title defense in Tokyo.

Following months of negotiations, the Red Sox agreed to a two-game series against the Oakland Athletics in Japan on March 25-26, and the commissioner's office announced the trip early Wednesday.
With Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, the Red Sox figure to be an attractive draw for the games at the Tokyo Dome. The Red Sox and A's also will play exhibition games on March 23-24 against Japanese teams.

After the trip, the teams return to the United States and open the rest of their regular-season schedules with a two-game series at Oakland on April 1-2. That originally was to be a four-game set.

Oakland will be the home team for the games in Japan.

The Japan visit is one of two Asian trips Major League Baseball hopes to make next year. Talks have been under way for months to have the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres play exhibition games in Beijing, most likely on March 14-15, at the ballpark to be used for the 2008 Olympics. That would be Major League Baseball's first trip to China.

If the Beijing games take place, the Dodgers likely would then travel to Arizona for most of their remaining spring training games. Next spring is their last at Vero Beach, Fla., where they first trained in 1949. They switch their training base in 2009 to Glendale, Ariz.

Boston and Oakland will be the third set of teams to open the regular season at the Tokyo Dome, following the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs (2000), and the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2004). A scheduled 2003 series between Oakland and Seattle at the Tokyo Dome was canceled because of the threat of war in Iraq.

"Opening our regular season in Japan for the third time is another example of Major League Baseball's commitment to continue the global growth of the game," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

Cleveland Indians lefty C.C. Sabathia wins AL Cy Young Award

November 14, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- C.C. Sabathia scanned the stats, comparing himself to Josh Beckett and other top pitchers in the American League.

This time, Sabathia was good enough to beat Boston's ace -- albeit a few weeks later than he hoped.

The big left-hander won the AL Cy Young Award on Tuesday, topping Beckett and two other worthy contenders by a comfortable margin to become the first Cleveland Indians pitcher in 35 years to earn the honor.

Sabathia received 19 of 28 first-place votes and finished with 119 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Beckett, who outpitched Sabathia twice in the playoffs, was second with eight first-place votes and 86 points.

"I did look at a few numbers," Sabathia said on a conference call from his California home. "I definitely thought that Beckett -- it could have went either way. I'm just happy and thankful that it went my way."

It might have gone the other way if October results counted. Voting took place before the postseason, when Sabathia struggled as Beckett put together a string of dominant outings to help Boston win the World Series.

The Red Sox right-hander trounced Sabathia two times in the AL championship series and went 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in four postseason starts, striking out 35 and walking two. Sabathia was 1-2 with an 8.80 ERA and 13 walks in three playoff outings.

"The first two I can definitely say I was trying to do too much," Sabathia said. "Just trying to make perfect pitches."

John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels got the other first-place vote and came in third. Cleveland's Fausto Carmona was fourth.

Sabathia went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA and 209 strikeouts, pitching a major league-high 241 innings. Beckett (20-7) became the only big leaguer to win 20 games since 2005, compiling a 3.27 ERA in 200 2-3 innings. Lackey led the AL in ERA at 3.01, going 19-9 and tossing 224 innings. Carmona was 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA.

"I was surprised. Beckett had a great year and an even better postseason," Sabathia said.

The only other Cleveland pitcher to win the award was Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry in 1972.

Sabathia is the first black pitcher to win a Cy Young Award since Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets in 1985 -- and the first in the AL since Oakland's Vida Blue in 1971.

"That's awesome to be mentioned with him," said Sabathia, adding that he recently attended a meeting designed to foster ideas on how to generate more interest in baseball among inner-city kids.
While the top four Cy Young candidates had similar statistics, Sabathia's stamina apparently set him apart. After being sidelined by injuries the previous two seasons, the 6-foot-7, 290-pounder stayed healthy all year and made 34 starts to Beckett's 30. That helped account for their wide gap in innings pitched.

"I can't really say I was tired in the postseason," Sabathia said. "My arm felt fine."

The 27-year-old Sabathia also walked only 37 batters, giving him a remarkable strikeout-to-walk ratio that took pressure off his defense all season. Beckett was nearly as tough, with 194 strikeouts and 40 walks.

"Being able to go deep in the games I think was the biggest deal in helping me win this," Sabathia said. "I think it was just being able to stay healthy, being able to go out there and take the ball every fifth day."

Sabathia is entering the final season of his contract with the Indians, who are preparing to offer him a long-term deal this winter. Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro would like to have his ace locked up before spring training.

Selected by the Indians in the first round of the 1998 draft, Sabathia has made it clear he'd like to stay in Cleveland -- for the right price.

"This year he crossed the final gates of being a true No. 1," Shapiro said. "C.C. took ownership of what he could control and let go of the things he couldn't control, and that allowed him to really focus pitch to pitch, stay in his delivery and turn into a pitcher instead of just a guy with great potential and a great arm.

"Maybe the most influential leadership he demonstrated this year was how he handled the stretch of five to seven games where he got almost no run support," the GM added. "He never pointed fingers, never felt sorry for himself, stayed a positive, team-oriented guy and continued to contribute and pull for our team's victories, not worrying about his own individual performance."

Beckett gets $100,000 for finishing second, and his 2010 base salary increases $100,000 to $12.1 million. Lackey earns $75,000 for coming in third, and his 2009 base salary goes up $500,000 to $10 million.

AL and NL Manager of the Year will be announced Wednesday and then the NL Cy Young Award on Thursday, with San Diego ace Jake Peavy considered the favorite.

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Phillies ink Romero to three-year pact

Lefty's strong stretch run rewarded with $12 million deal
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- What began as a hopeful experiment has now become a dedicated commitment. The Phillies signed left-handed reliever J.C. Romero to a three-year contract extension on Saturday night, transforming a pitcher who was unemployed just five months prior into a bullpen mainstay.

"J.C. had an outstanding three months for us this year, particularly down the stretch," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro said in a statement. "He was an integral part of our winning the NL East, and we're very happy we could get him signed before he hit the open market."

The deal is worth $12 million, and includes a club option for 2011 that would bring the total value to $16.75 million.

After losing a roster spot with the Red Sox in June, Romero signed a Minor League contract with the Phillies and immediately flourished. The lefty didn't make an appearance in the Minors, but instead went straight to Philadelphia, where he posted a 1.24 ERA in 51 games. Perhaps more impressive -- and certainly just as useful -- he allowed only five hits to left-handed hitters during that span.

There aren't many lefties who can boast that kind of success, which would have made Romero a hot commodity on the free-agent market -- and the Phillies knew it.

"I'm glad I didn't have to go out and test the free-agent market," Romero said in a statement. "I had a great time with the Phillies and really wanted to come back."

The fact that the Phillies had such a hometown advantage in re-signing Romero came more from good timing than anything else. Romero signed with the Red Sox as a free agent prior to last season, and while he didn't completely struggle -- posting a 3.15 ERA -- his 15 walks in 20 innings were enough to make the Red Sox leery. So when the team needed roster space to activate Mike Timlin, Romero's control issues -- along with the emergence of lefty Hideki Okajima -- made him expendable.

Lucky for the Phillies. Romero remained just as wild in Philadelphia, but became so unhittable that the walks rarely hurt. Opposing batters mustered only a .130 average off him after the trade.

Romero was considered one of the top lefty relievers in baseball at the start of the decade, posting a 1.89 ERA with the Twins in 2002. But struggles in subsequent years plagued his value, until an apparent revitalization with the Phillies.

With Romero, the Phillies secured another important piece at the back end of their bullpen. The team traded for new closer Brad Lidge on Wednesday, shifting Brett Myers back into the rotation. But some concern lingers.
Geoff Geary, who pitched in more games than any reliever other than Antonio Alfonseca last season, was shipped off to Houston in the trade that landed Lidge. And Alfonseca declared for free agency last month, meaning the Phillies still have plenty of bullpen holes to fill.

That's typical of any year, but coming off a down year, it looms larger. The Phillies ranked just 24th in the Majors in ERA last season with a 4.41 ERA. Even under the assumption that the addition of Lidge will cancel out the subtraction of Myers -- and such an assumption remains a leap of faith -- the Phillies haven't yet done anything to shake last summer's incriminating statistics.

That doesn't mean they won't, of course, and -- even more encouraging -- they may not have to. The Phillies won the NL East even with the division's worst bullpen last season, so there's no reason to think they can't do it again. But the signing of Romero is the first step toward ensuring that they won't need to try.

"I'm excited and looking forward to next season and hopefully we come out and defend our NL East title the way I know we can," Romero said. "The nucleus has remained the same, and we added the right pieces. We need to go out and do what everyone expects us to do, which is win a World Series."

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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