Happy March Madness, everybody! It’s the only tournament we’re actually less excited for as it moves along, and somehow everyone’s okay with that. No matter—we’ve got baseball news: The Dodgers are juggling their infield, the Yankees are looking “fill vacancies at Scranton,” and The Man is holding down Aroldis Chapman (and he likes it that way).
Hanley out eight weeks; Dodgers look inward
Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez will have surgery today to repair a torn tendon in his left thumb. Ramirez sustained the injury diving for a ball in the World Baseball Classic final, when he could have been sitting in a protective formaldehyde tank like every other baseball player does at this time of year.
The Dodgers aren’t nearly as blessed with infield depth as they are in the starting rotation. Compounding the problem is that Ramirez’s supposed replacement, Luis Cruz, is also the nominal third baseman. Should Cruz move to short, Steve Dilbeck theorizes, “the Dodgers will likely rotate Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Nick Punto at third base.” (If you’re curious, Skip Schumaker has not played a professional inning at either third or short. Elian Herrera, despite having an excellent spring and a modicum of experience at the position, does not appear to be under consideration.)
Ken Rosenthal speculates that a little rehab time might help get Ramirez more comfortable at shortstop, a position he has hardly played since joining the Dominican Republic team for the WBC. But Dilbeck feels the opposite, saying the injury might precipitate Ramirez’s permanent move to third base. That would require Cruz to back up his surprising 2012 numbers (.272 TAv), but manager Don Mattingly was non-committal: “Am I going to be comfortable in eight weeks with a guy who hasn’t played if it’s a mess there?…Depends what his work looks like, I guess.”
It’s a strange brew the Dodgers have concocted in this infield. For the number of spare parts they’ve acquired—Uribe, Punto, Hairston, Schumaker—it’s strange there isn’t a capable shortstop in the bunch. It’s the kind of strategy that would make you think they’d be willing to start last year’s Opening Day shortstop, Dee Gordon, in the event Ramirez went down. But now Ramirez is injured, they won’t go with Gordon (opines Dilbeck), and yet none of the veterans they’ve acquired can really play the position. Ronny Cedeno, released by the Cardinals on Tuesday, is still relaxing by the phone, but GM Ned Colletti appears to be standing pat.
Aroldis Chapman happy to put cap on earnings potential by closing
The decision is not yet final, says this Danny Knobler piece, but all signs out of Cincinnati point toward Aroldis Chapman opening the season as the Reds’ closer. Chapman has essentially been treated as a starter this spring—he has made three appearances, tossing two, two, and four innings respectively, the latter outing coming on March 16—but it looks like the plug has been pulled and he’ll anchor the bullpen once again in 2013. He’s only 25, but the longer he closes, the less likely it becomes that he’ll be able to stretch his arm out to join the rotation—much less develop his secondary pitches.
Chapman wants to close, but pitching coach Bryan Price and GM Walt Jocketty made it an open question this winter when they expressed a desire to move him into the rotation. Now, Price has changed his tune:
"The risk is in starting him… There's no risk in returning him to the bullpen."
In a sense, the Chapman-as-a-starter ship has sailed, because the player himself is against the idea. Still, it's sad to hear a coach make these comments for the umpteenth time, and even sadder that these kinds of statements go unquestioned. There is risk in changing Chapman's role, but in keeping him at closer there is certainty that the Reds' most talented arm—perhaps the world's most talented arm—will not reach its full potential.
Knobler then mentions Mariano Rivera, now perhaps the ideal career track for Chapman, but a man who became a closer by necessity rather than by preference or managerial discretion. (And remember he began his career as a starter?) This is a football coach punting on fourth down when the math dictated going for it; it isn't so much that the Reds risk winning fewer games, it's that Price risks being blamed for their winning fewer games. Rather than dare to maximize his team's potential, Price would rather set the bar of expectation lower for his team, and thus himself. It's a job security issue, and it's hard to blame him, not when coaches in all sports behave this way. But in Chapman's case it's a shame that, no matter what his future holds, he could've been so much more.
- Following up on one of Daniel Rathman’s bits from yesterday, Buster Olney says little progress has been made on a Buster Posey extension.
- Dan Martin reports the Yankees are close to signing Chien-Ming Wang to a minor-league contract, with Brian Cashman noting, “We have some vacancies in the rotation at [Triple-A] Scranton.” Wang started five games for the Nationals last year—and not particularly well—but was reportedly in the low 90s during workouts.
- The Mets named David Wright the fourth captain in franchise history, following Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, and John Franco. He will not wear a “C” on his chest.
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The first scenario appears more likely to happen so is picked by the Reds. It is less obvious to the Reds, at the moment, that the latter scenario happens (although probably equally likely). Possibly the opposite way of thinking to the Nationals and how they dealt with Strasburg last year.
You don't think there is a significant difference between the intensity level (and likeliness of injury) of spring training games and WBC games?
Had Hanley been injured in Dodgers camp, it would have happened in a place where he is contractually obligated to be, presumably during an activity his contractually obligated to perform. The Dodgers pay him $$$ to be in Dodgers' camp and play in Dodgers' ST games. In this respect, the WBC is no different than the back of Jeff Kent's pickup truck.
I'm not saying that playing in the WBC is more hazardous than playing in a Dodgers' ST game - I was just being facetious with the Jeff Kent's pickup truck thing. It does not matter that Ramirez was "engaging in exactly what he would have been doing had he been in Dodgers camp."
If I'm Dodgers management, if Ramirez is anywhere other than in my camp when he gets hurt, no matter what the nature of the activity, then my reaction is WTF, you're cashing your paychecks, you're supposed to be in our camp, etc. That reaction would be the same whether he was injured in a WBC game or while butterfly-watching in Cape Cod.
If he's injured while engaging in the activity I'm paying him to perform, then that's just a risk in my business. If he's injured during the off-season doing an activity that isn't prohibited per contractual agreement, that's also a risk I can accept. If he's injured after the contractually stipulated report-to-camp date and it happens anywhere but in camp, then my reaction is WTF, I'm paying you to be in my camp, etc.