Tag:Matt Harrison
Posted on: April 17, 2011 9:43 pm

3 to watch: The first-place battle edition

The Giants are in Colorado this week, for the first time since Tim Lincecum complained about the "juiced balls" at Coors Field . . . in a game where he allowed just two hits in eight innings.

That'd be a good place to start 3 to watch.

The Angels are in Texas this week, for the first time since the Rangers ended their run of three straight American League West titles.

That'd be a good place to start 3 to watch.

Forget it. So far as I can tell, only one player was so excited about this week's schedule that he tweeted Sunday that he was "on to KC for a 1st place battle."

It was Indians closer Chris Perez. Or @ChrisPerez54 , as he's known on Twitter.

And he's right. The first-place Indians are in Kansas City this week, to meet the second-place Royals.

Now that's the place to start 3 to watch. So far as I can tell, there's never been a true first-place battle between the Indians and Royals.

The only time they finished first and second in the same division, in 1995, the Indians won the AL Central by 30 games and the second-place Royals were actually under .500.

It's been 11 years since both the Indians and Royals both had winning records on the morning of April 18. Charlie Manuel was the Indians manager the last time it happened.

And, of course, it wasn't supposed to happen this year.

The Royals were pointing towards 2012 or 2013, when their best-in-baseball prospects arrive. The Indians were pointing towards sometime in the future, too.

To be honest, the Royals and Indians should have been pointing towards the future. They still should be, but you can't blame either team for celebrating some early success.

If nothing else, they've proven that they won't be pushovers for the White Sox, Tigers and Twins, the teams expected to battle for the AL Central title. The Royals have already impressed opponents with their gritty play and with their bullpen (especially Tim Collins and Jeremy Jeffress). The Indians have impressed opponents with their strong starting rotation.

There will be plenty of time to talk about the Rockies and Giants, and the Rangers and Angels, and even the Yankees and Blue Jays, the fourth pair of first- and second-place teams that will meet this week.

This week of first-place battles belongs to the Indians and Royals.

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Rockies, in their entire 18-year history, have never won a division title. They've been to the playoffs three times, but all as wild cards (including in 2007, when they went to the World Series). If they're going to be as good as they think they can be ("You want to become that Philadelphia Phillies-type team," Troy Tulowitzki said last week), then they'd better start winning titles. That means beating San Francisco, and this week, including Giants at Rockies, Tuesday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field would be a good place to start. The Giants have their top three starting pitchers going in the series. The Rockies get their ace, Ubaldo Jimenez, back on Tuesday, after he missed two weeks because of a cut on his thumb.

2. The Angels are missing Kendrys Morales. The Rangers are missing Josh Hamilton. But as of Sunday, Matt Harrison was third in the American League in ERA, and Jered Weaver was fourth. And it'll be Harrison facing Weaver, in Angels at Rangers, Wednesday night (8:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark .

3. OK, so Harrison and Weaver are third and fourth in the AL in ERA. You know who's fourth? One hint: He plays for Cleveland. It's Justin Masterson, who was acquired from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade and until this year was best known for not being able to pitch to left-handed hitters. His left-right splits aren't great this year, either (righties hit .103, lefties .273), but Masterson has already beaten the White Sox, Mariners and Orioles. His next start comes in Indians at Royals, Wednesday night (8:10 ET) at Kauffman Stadium.

Posted on: April 14, 2011 9:49 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 9:53 pm

3 to watch: The Rangers pitching edition

Remember last winter, when the Rangers were going to sign Cliff Lee, or trade for Zack Greinke or Matt Garza?

Remember this spring, when the Rangers began spring training with just two spots set in their starting rotation?

Remember the end of spring training, when Tommy Hunter's injury left a hole in the Ranger rotation?

Well, forget it. All of it.

Forget that anyone was ever concerned that the Rangers wouldn't be able to pitch enough to support their great offense.

While the Yankees worry about Phil Hughes and the Red Sox worry about Daisuke Matsuzaka, this is what the Rangers have gotten from the back end of their rotation: six starts, six wins, and a 1.15 ERA.

Red Sox people raved about Matt Harrison after he shut down the Sox in his first start. Orioles people raved about Derek Holland after he held the O's scoreless in his second start. And in two starts, Alexi Ogando has yet to allow a run to anyone.

"The way they've been throwing, they don't need anyone [else]," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said.

"I don't think people realize the depth they have in pitching," O's manager (and one-time Rangers manager) Buck Showalter said. "They've covered the what-ifs very well."

The Rangers visit the Yankees this weekend for the first time since last year's American League Championship Series, and they won't start any of the four starters they used in the ALCS. Instead, it'll be Harrison, Holland and Ogando.

And that's not bad.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Remember, Troy Tulowitzki is a notorious slow starter. In his first four full big-league seasons, he hit seven April home runs. That's seven in four years. Now he has seven home runs and 14 RBI, with 14 April games still remaining on the Rockies schedule. The next six of those will be home games, starting with Cubs at Rockies, Friday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field. For his career, Tulowitzki has a .926 OPS at Coors, vs. .804 on the road, but this year he has five homers in his first seven road games. One more Tulowitzki fact to think about: Over his last 41 games, dating back to last Sept. 2 (basically one-quarter of a season), he has 22 home runs and 54 RBI.

2. Things have been so bad in Boston that the Red Sox welcomed a Wednesday rainout that basically gave them back-to-back days off. "I don't think that will hurt one bit," manager Terry Francona told reporters. So it'll be interesting to see how the Sox react this weekend against the Blue Jays. It'll be even more interesting to see whether Josh Beckett follows up on his strong start last Sunday against the Yankees, when he starts in Blue Jays at Red Sox, Saturday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Fenway Park. Beckett wasn't good against many teams last year, but he hasn't beaten the Jays in six starts since 2007, going 0-3 with an 11.85 ERA.

3. Of all the new Rangers starters, Ogando is the most interesting, and not just because he has yet to allow a run (and, in two starts, has allowed just a .298 opponents OPS). Ogando is the guy who replaced Hunter in the rotation at the end of spring training. He's also the guy who signed with the A's as an outfielder, got caught up in a visa fraud and couldn't get out of the Dominican Republic for five years, was converted to a pitcher by the Rangers, and got to the big leagues last year. Now he's in the rotation, maybe to stay. Some Rangers officials see a 2012 rotation that includes both Ogando and Neftali Feliz, who for this year remains the Rangers' closer. Ogando faces CC Sabathia in Rangers at Yankees, Sunday night (8:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium.

Posted on: April 12, 2011 9:33 pm
Edited on: April 13, 2011 11:51 am

Josh Hamilton: A great player, who gets hurt

Josh Hamilton does things other players can't.

But Josh Hamilton also gets hurt when other players don't.

He can be the best player in the game, as last year's Most Valuable Player award proves. He can be one of the hardest-to-depend-on stars in the game, as Tuesday's freak injury proves again.

The Rangers said Tuesday night that Hamilton will miss at least six weeks, and perhaps as much as eight weeks, after he suffered a non-displaced fracture of the humerus bone just below his right shoulder. Hamilton was hurt on a play at the plate in the Rangers' 5-4 loss to the Tigers.

So Hamilton is on the disabled list -- again.

You can ask how good a career he'd have if he could just stay healthy, but that's the ultimate hypothetical. He doesn't stay healthy.

It's how he became a Ranger in the first place.

The Reds traded Hamilton away after the 2007 for one reason, and one reason only. Their medical people told them he was too big a health risk, in large part because of the drugs he took earlier in his life.

Since then, Hamilton has had two great seasons with the Rangers, one in which he drove in 130 runs, another in which he won the MVP and helped the Rangers to the World Series.

He's also been on the disabled list three times in three years, and it would have been four except that his ribcage injury last September came after the rosters expanded.

He plays hard, he plays well and, well, he gets hurt.

Now he's out for another 6-8 weeks, after getting hurt Tuesday on a strange play at the plate. He's out, even though the play seemed so innocuous that neither set of television announcers even mentioned the possibility of an injury.

He's out, because he chose to dive into home plate (and then strangely blamed third-base coach Dave Anderson for choosing to send him home in the first place).

"The whole time I was watching the play and I was listening [to Anderson]," Hamilton told reporters in Detroit. "I was like, 'Dude, I don't want to go. Something is going to happen.' But I listened to my coach and I went."

Hamilton is right about one thing. Something was going to happen. With Hamilton, something is always going to happen.

Part of the reason is the way he plays, with little regard for his body, and the Rangers love that aggressive attitude. But they also try to protect him against it.

It's why they moved him from center field to left field this year, hoping to limit the chances he'd get hurt on defense. So instead, he gets hurt 11 games into the season, in a game where he was the designated hitter.

Now he's out for two months or so, and now there are two big questions:

-- Does Hamilton's absence open up an American League West race that was starting to look like a runaway? The Rangers were off to the best start in their history, and no other team in the West looked that strong.

Now Hamilton is out, and while the Rangers have a capable replacement in David Murphy, Murphy doesn't bring what Hamilton does. The Rangers gave Hamilton's roster spot to Chris Davis, who had a good spring and was off to a great start at Triple-A Round Rock. But Davis doesn't bring what Hamilton does, either.

Maybe the A's now have a chance in the West, or maybe the Angels even have a chance -- although I'm still thinking the Rangers win it.

One reason is that their starting pitching is shaping up to be much better than some people expected. The Rangers entered spring training with only two starters set (C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis), but in the early days of the season Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando have been the talk of baseball.
-- Do the Rangers think even harder about how much of a long-term commitment they should make to Hamilton? He's 29 years old, and he's signed through 2012. Without health questions, he'd be looking at a long extension. Maybe he still is, but would you trust him to be healthy?

Hamilton is a great story, the guy who overcame drug addiction to star in the major leagues. But he's also a guy who has played just one full season uninterrupted by injury in five years in the big leagues.

He's a great player, when he's healthy. All too often, he isn't healthy.

That's Josh Hamilton.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com