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Monday, April 02, 2007

Giants Barry Bonds Hits Two Home Runs - In Great Shape To Take Record This Year

Two more makes seven homers for Bonds
Henry Schulman - SF Chronicle
Monday, April 2, 2007

Barry Bonds returned to the site of his 714th home run and celebrated by hitting two more in the Giants' 8-5 loss at Oakland on Sunday. Bonds concluded a healthy and productive spring by twice taking left-hander Joe Kennedy deep, a high drive down the right-field line with a man aboard in the first inning and a solo laser to left-center in the third.
Bonds concluded spring training with seven home runs, his highest total since he hit 10 in 2003, before swatting 45 during the regular season and winning the sixth of his seven National League Most Valuable Player awards.
"Unreal," starter Noah Lowry said. "The guy just looks healthy, and when he's healthy the results take care of themselves. It's exciting to see. Hopefully he can stay healthy the whole season and we can see him make history. He's out there in the outfield running balls down. It looks like he has his legs under him. That's going to help him on defense, and of course that will help him at the plate."
General manager Brian Sabean said Bonds seems "locked in and confident, and that's usually a dangerous combo, a confidence-builder for him. I think he really feels good about his physical shape and how far he's come from last year."
Manager Bruce Bochy said he will keep an open mind about how to use Bonds, but he expects Bonds to play some day games after night games. At the same time, Bochy had a telling comment when he said he would not be surprised if Todd Linden plays as many games as the starting outfielders. Linden presumably will start a lot of games when Bonds rests.
"I'll keep him monitored," Bochy said of Bonds. "I'm not going to run him into the ground."
Plea for Benitez: Kevin Frandsen would like fans to give Armando Benitez a rousing welcome before the season opener Tuesday.
"The past is the past. People need to move on," Frandsen said. "We're going to jump on his back in the ninth inning and the fans need to jump on his back too, and not in a bad way. The fans need to give him what he deserves. He deserves some support."
Briefly: Travis Blackley, a starter whom the Giants got for Jason Ellison, pitched four games for Seattle in 2004 but was sidelined by shoulder surgery in 2005 and spent all of 2006 in the minors, going 8-12 with a 4.06 ERA. "Anytime you get a starting pitcher of that ilk, it's interesting," Sabean said. "We're obviously trading a guy who's going to be in the big-leagues. Hopefully this guy is going to do the same." ... Bochy remains fuzzy on who will set up Benitez, suggesting at least initially he will use a number of pitchers in the seventh and eighth inning. ... Russ Ortiz allowed two runs over 8 1/3 innings in a Double-A intrasquad game at the minor-league camp in Scottsdale, Ariz. He stayed back so he could throw 100 pitches on his regular pitching day. In Oakland, Lowry allowed two runs over three innings in his final tuneup.

My 2007 Baseball Predictions: NL Division Winners & World Series Participant

By David

The NL is a lot more competitive and there are at least ten teams who can reach the playoffs. This creates for parity and last year the eventual World Series champions, the St.Louis Cardinals, only needed to win 83 games to secure the NL Central crown.

NL East

Philadelphia revamped their pitching staff during the off season and shortstop Jimmy Rollins proclaimed that the Phillies are the team to beat in the NL East. He might be setting high expectations for his club, but when you look through the rest of the division no other team scares you. The Mets have fantastic offense, but their starting rotation has many question marks and they have no bridge to get to closer Billy Wagner.

The Braves have several young players on their team coupled in with the Jones' duo and veteran John Smoltz. While Atlanta wants to reclaim the honor of being the class of the division they will have to settle for a third place finish. The Marlins should settle around .500 and it would be a success for the Nats if they avoided 100 losses.

NL Central

Even though the NL Central won't have a team top 90 wins it will prove to be a very competitive division. The defending champs will be there until the end, the Brewers will prove to be a surprising team and the Cubs will look to prove that spending $300 million can produce a winner.

Despite adding Carlos Lee, the Astros will struggle because of a lack of quality pitching and will find themselves as a sub .500 team. The Reds seem to stay a float till June and once the Summer hits they fizzle in the heat. Pittsburgh improved their ball club during the off season with the addition of slugger Adam LaRoche, but they are still very young.

This might seem like a bold prediction, but I expect the Brewers to win the division. Milwaukee has a potent lineup and the best pitching in the division. If Ben Sheets can stay healthy and Francisco Cordero can come through as the closer, the Brew Crew have the opportunity to beat out the Cards.

St.Louis seems to have too many uncertainties with their starting five and they also have no plan B if Izzy goes down, again. I find it too difficult for the Cubs to go from 96 losses to a real contender in the division.

NL West

The Dodgers are the class of the division, but just like the AL Central there are many great teams and players. The D-backs and Rockies are two young improving teams and I would not be surprised if Arizona stayed in contention till late September. The Giants spent $126 million to sign pitching ace Barry Zito, but overall their team is not good enough to contend.

While the Padres have excellent pitching [Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Greg Maddux], there offense is porous and at best they will finish in second place. L.A. has a terrific pitching staff and despite not having a true power bat, the Dodgers have very good balance in their lineup. This could be the year that Grady Little and his men represent the NL in the World Series.


First Round: Phillies over Brewers; Dodgers over Mets

NLCS: Dodgers over Phillies

World Series Participant: L.A. Dodgers

World Series: Yankees over Dodgers

Padres, Gonzalez sign four-year pact- Padres.com

Adrian Gonzalez is a young slugger who is quickly emrging into an elite first baseman in the NL I expect 2007 to be his breakout season.
04/01/2007 7:10 PM ET
First baseman a Padre through 2010, with option for 2011
By Sandy Bergin / Special to MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- What a difference a month makes.
Just four weeks ago, the San Diego Padres offered to renew Adrian Gonzalez' contract for $380,500, which is $500 above the league minimum.

On Sunday, the Padres and their 24-year-old first baseman agreed on a $19.5 million contract. The deal, which includes a $500,000 signing bonus, is for four years through 2010, with a club option for a fifth season in 2011.

Gonzalez, the team's MVP last season after batting .304 with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs, will receive $500,000 for this season, $750,000 in 2008, $3 million in 2009, and $4.75 million in 2010. The Padres will have the option of picking up a $5.5 million contract in 2011.

"This is a special day, a significant day here for this organization, as we're pleased to announce a multiyear contract for Adrian Gonzalez," said Padres GM/executive VP Kevin Towers at a press conference following the Padres final preseason workout at PETCO Park.

"The great thing is that we avoid that arbitration process and ensure that one of San Diego's own will play here in his home town," said Towers. "We're proud to say that Adrian is going to be the centerpiece of the infield, the middle of this lineup -- not only for this contract, but, hopefully, for many more.

"What led us to this decision was, not only is [Gonzalez] a great baseball player, but we take very seriously here in San Diego the type of people we tie ourselves to, long-term. It's important who wears that Padres uniform, who acts, and treats not only our fans but many people in San Diego, in a professional manner. And Adrian Gonzalez is a tremendous role model, who represents the city and this organization."

"First of all, I'd like to thank the Padres, Kevin Towers, Sandy Alderson, [and] John Moores for this opportunity," said Gonzalez. "It is something that secures (my wife, Betsy, and I) and gives us the knowledge that we are going to be here. I know trades are always a possibility -- we learned that in the past -- but I'm very happy.

"My wife and I look forward to trying to help this team win a championship. With the pieces that we have this year and the years to come, we'll be able to accomplish that feat."

Originally selected first overall in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft by the Florida Marlins, Gonzalez was just the second first baseman in baseball history taken with the top pick, joining Ron Blomberg, who was selected first overall by the New York Yankees in 1967. Gonzalez was acquired by San Diego from the Texas Rangers on January 4, 2006, and is the seventh No. 1 overall draft pick to appear in a Padres uniform.

Over parts of three Major League seasons with the Rangers (2004-05) and Padres (2006), Gonzalez has batted .285 (217-for-762) with 48 doubles, 31 home runs, 106 RBIs and 107 runs scored in 215 career games. A native of San Diego, he attended Eastlake High School in Chula Vista where he was named the CIF and San Diego Union-Tribune Player of the Year in 2000.

Padres manager Bud Black, who joined Towers at the press conference, offered his take on securing Gonzalez for the long term.

"I've seen Adrian from the other dugout when he was in Texas," said Black. "I've read his name in print when he was in high school. I got the chance to put the name to the face finally when he got to Texas. When I was in Anaheim and saw him in a Rangers uniform, I knew he was going to be a good player.

"Knowing the year that he had last season [and] where he is in his career, I'm very happy for the organization and happy for Adrian," Black added. "To me, it is validation for the last five weeks in Spring Training watching him go about his business. He comes to play and had done everything that we have asked. He is up front, leading the pack.

"I think he's the guy I will be able to lean on. He has great knowledge of the game, and I look forward to seeing him playing in the field. San Diegians can be very proud."

According to Gonzalez, the deal was not in the works for very long, perhaps the last couple of weeks.
"I'm not the type of guy to be looking into contracts once I'm on the field," Gonzalez said. "That's what I worry about. I was glad the opportunity for this came up."

According to Towers, it was important to get this contract done before the season started.

"Anytime you start negotiating deals in season, sometimes it can be distraction to the players," Towers said. "We want these players focused once the season starts. We didn't have a great deal of time to get it done. Considering there was a renewal, we put our heads together and were able to hammer it out and put it behind us."

Sandy Burgin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

My 2007 Baseball Predictions: AL Division Winners & World Series Participant

By David

Today is the first full day of action around MLB. It's the best day of the year because every team believes they are the best and that they have an opportunity to reach the playoffs. Over the year's the parity around the game has grown immensely to the point that many teams, mostly in the NL, are in it until the end of August.

Unfortunately, only four teams from each league can make the playoffs and this is how I envision the season playing out.

AL East

Even though the Blue Jays finished ahead of Boston in the division last year, they did not spend the money or make the improvements that the Red Sox' did during the off season. Boston has a deep lineup that includes Ortiz & Ramirez, and their starting rotation might be the best in baseball. With Papelbon back as closer their bullpen is all but shored up. Still, I like the Yankees to win their tenth straight division title in what will be a two-team race. If Tampa and Baltimore played in another division then they might have a shot.

AL Central

Baseball's best division produced two playoff teams last year and the same thing might happen this season. Despite the loss of Kenny Rogers, Detroit has an intimidating pitching staff and they added Gary Sheffield during the off season. The White Sox have a chance to return as the elite team in the division, but with aging veterans and a shaky pitching staff the South Siders will have to wait another season. Minnesota might have the best pitcher in baseball, but after that many people could not name the rest of their staff. I forecast them to take a step backwards this year.

This paves the way for the young and energetic Cleveland Indians who have been predicted by many experts to win the division. If they can remain healthy and shore up their bullpen they have the best chance to win the AL Central. As for the Royals, at least they have Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon on their team.

AL West

Like the AL East, this division usually comes down to two teams, the Angels and A's. While I think the Rangers could be competitive their pitching is still very shaky. As for Seattle, they might be the team to take home the honor of first manager and GM to be fired mid-way through the season.

Despite losing veteran Frank Thomas and having question marks in the outfield, the A's have a solid team. Nick Swisher needs continue his hitting prowess and Rich Harden must stay healthy in order for his team to contend with the Angels. Still, I like the Angels with their elite pitching staff and dominating bullpen to win the division. Not to mention they still have Vladamir Guerrero roaming the outfield.


First round: Red Sox over Angels; Yankees over Indians

ALCS: Yankees over Red Sox

AL World Series Participant: New York Yankees

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