Posted on: February 24, 2012 9:09 am

Prince on Braun: 'It's great news'

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Prince Fielder's reaction to the Ryan Braun decision?

"It's great," Fielder said Friday morning at the Tigers' spring training camp. "It's great news."

Fielder and Braun were teammates for the last five years with the Brewers, but they're not close friends. Still, Fielder retains strong feelings for the Brewers, saying Thursday that he would like to see them go to the World Series, "and then lose to us."

Fielder said he hadn't spoken to Braun this winter, and hadn't closely followed the case.

"I have a life, too," he said. "I was trying to get a job there, for a while."

As to the question of whether Thursday's ruling should be enough to clear Braun's name, Fielder offered no real opinion.

"I don't know," he said. "Obviously, it says he's not guilty. He says he was innocent, so that's what it was."

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:22 pm

Will La Russa return to baseball as a GM?

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Just a few months back, Tony La Russa retired.

Now he's thinking about his next job.

La Russa's visit to the Tigers spring training camp this week gave him a chance to spend time with close friend Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager. But La Russa planned the trip just as much so he could learn from Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers general manager.

His next job, the 67-year-old La Russa figures, could be as a GM.

"I might get a shot," La Russa said Thursday.

If that shot comes, La Russa wants to be prepared. Thursday, when Dombrowski came off the field after the Tigers' workout, La Russa headed to the Tiger GM's office to talk.

La Russa and Dombrowski go way back together, back to when La Russa was the White Sox manager in the 1980s, when Dombrowski worked in the White Sox's front office in his first job in baseball.

La Russa said he also plans to talk to Reds GM Walt Jocketty, who he knows well from their time together with the Cardinals. But La Russa said that out of respect to the Cardinals, who play in the same division as the Reds, he won't be helping out the Reds this spring.

With the Tigers in the American League, there's no such conflict here. But La Russa's visit was based as much on allowing him to learn as it was on anything he could do for the Tigers.

"If I get a shot [as a GM], I want to be prepared," he said.
Posted on: February 15, 2012 5:50 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 5:58 pm

Is this it for Magglio Ordonez?

Is this the end of the line for Magglio Ordonez?

Ordonez, who turned 38 last month, told Deportes Union Radio in his native Venezuela Wednesday that he hopes to play one more season in the major leagues. But Ordonez also admitted that the free-agent market hasn't yet provided him with an opportunity, and said that he's not interested in a minor-league contract with only an invitation to major-league spring training.

"A few teams have been interested, including Oakland, but there's been nothing concrete," Ordonez said. "The market has been tough for me, but I'm working towards continuing my career."

Ordonez drove in just 32 runs in 92 games last year for the Tigers, after signing a one-year, $10 million contract. He had trouble coming back from a broken right ankle suffered in 2010, and then refractured the same ankle during the American League Championship Series against the Rangers.

Earlier last October, Ordonez said that he had nearly retired last year -- "I almost hung it up," he said -- because of the difficulty of coming back from the first ankle injury.

Ordonez has 294 career home runs and 1,236 RBI in 14-plus big-league seasons. He made six All-Star teams, and won the American League batting crown in 2007. His .363 batting average that year was the highest by a Tiger since Charlie Gehringer in 1937.

According to baseball-reference.com, Ordonez has made more than $133 million in his career, and people who know him say he has also done very well in business in Venezuela. But while money may not be an issue to him, his pride is. If he never gets anything more than an offer of a minor-league contract (and that's very possible), Ordonez could well retire.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:26 pm

More kids to watch: Moore, Montero, Arenado

Heading to spring training 2010, Stephen Strasburg was the big new name, the guy everyone had to see . . .

Until people started talking about Jason Heyward, too. And Aroldis Chapman.

It was still the spring of Strasburg, but it really became the spring of the phenom.

This spring could be the same.

The early focus is again on the Nationals, who seem determined to give Bryce Harper a real shot at making the opening day roster (which they didn't do with Strasburg in 2010).

But there are tons of other names, tons of other young players with some shot at opening the year in the big leagues, and an even better shot at opening eyes this spring.

An early look at a few names to watch, besides Harper, who colleague Jon Heyman wrote about separately:

Matt Moore, 22, Rays. The situation has changed only a little bit since Moore got everyone so excited last September and October. Moore signed a long-term contract in December, which seemingly lessens the financial incentive for the small-budget Rays to have him begin 2012 in the minor leagues. But the Rays haven't yet traded any of their other starting pitchers, so there's not yet an open spot in the rotation. The decision on what to do with Moore will be closely watched.

Jesus Montero, 22, Mariners. He can hit, but can he catch? And can he hit enough to make a difference for the Mariners? Those questions will get better answers during the season than during the spring, but as the key player going to Seattle in the big Michael Pineda trade, Montero will be watched and discussed.

Jacob Turner, 20, Tigers. The Tigers tried for Gio Gonzalez and they tried for Roy Oswalt, but they still don't have a fifth starter. Turner is the most exciting name among many candidates. He's probably less likely to end up with the job than some of the others, but on a team that has no problem with promoting young talent (Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, Rick Porcello), he will get a chance.

Trevor Bauer, 21, Diamondbacks; Danny Hultzen, 22, Mariners; Sonny Gray, 22, A's. Who will be the first pitcher from the 2011 draft to make it to the big leagues? Bauer, Hultzen and Gray all go to spring training with some chance, and whether they make it or not, all three will likely excite people every time they're scheduled to pitch.

Nolan Arenado, 20, Rockies. Arenado won a lot of fans among scouts who covered the Arizona Fall League, with one saying: "He's Edgar Martinez at the plate, with the best hitting approach I've ever seen from a young player." The signing of Casey Blake no doubt lessens Arenado's chance to make the team this spring (for now, he's ticketed for Double-A), but if he hits in spring training the way he did in the fall, the Rockies will at least begin talking about it.

Julio Teheran, 21, Braves; Randall Delgado, 21, Braves. The Braves got a look at Teheran and Delgado last year, but with health concerns about Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, the look this spring may be more significant.

Posted on: January 31, 2012 5:22 pm

Sparky in Japan? It almost happened

Sparky Anderson won in Cincinnati, and he won in Detroit.

Probably would have won in Japan, too.

We'll never know, but what we do know now is that he thought about giving it a try. In a soon-to-be-published book about his 32-year friendship with Anderson, Dan Ewald reveals that the Hanshin Tigers offered to make Sparky their manager soon after he left the Detroit Tigers at the end of the 1995 season.

Ewald, the former Tigers PR man, writes that he and Sparky discussed the offer for three full days before Anderson decided to turn it down.

Or rather, as Ewald writes, Anderson decided to have Ewald turn it down.

"You're gonna tell 'em how deeply I appreciate their offer," Ewald quotes Anderson as saying. "You're gonna tell 'em how much of an honor it is. But at this time, I just can't make such a commitment. Tell 'em I'll always be grateful for the consideration they gave me."

Ewald said he then asked Sparky why he had to be the one to call Japan.

"You gotta tell 'em," Sparky told him. "I don't speak no Japanese."

Not that Ewald spoke Japanese, either. But that was Sparky.

Anderson died in November 2010, but his voice comes through clearly in Ewald's book (due out May 8, from St. Martin's Press). It's not a biography, and it's not about baseball.

It's more a story of a friendship, with one of the friends just happening to be one of the best-known managers in baseball history.

The near-move to Japan is probably the biggest new piece of information about Anderson, but Ewald also details the reasons behind Anderson's 1989 leave of absence from the Tigers (his daughter was pregnant, and her husband had left her), and details Anderson's conversations with the Angels about becoming their manager in 1997.

The Angels nearly hired Anderson that fall, and Ewald writes that the plan was for Anderson to manage for two years with Joe Maddon as his bench coach, and for Maddon to then take over. Angels president Tony Taveras nixed the move, and the Angels hired Terry Collins instead.

I covered Anderson for the last six years of his Tigers career, and there was plenty in the book that made me smile. There are great nuggets, like the one about Sparky celebrating his election to the Hall of Fame with burgers and fries from In-N-Out.

Ewald builds the book around three days he spent at Anderson's California home just 10 days before Sparky died. They look back at their time together, from Detroit to the Hall of Fame.

And, almost, to Japan.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 12:57 pm

Victor Martinez has surgery, out for all 2012

The Tigers already expected Victor Martinez to miss the 2012 season.

Now it's definite.

Martinez underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee on Friday, the team announced Monday. And that was simply preparation for an ACL reconstruction surgery that he will undergo sometime in the next 6-8 weeks.

At one point, the Tigers thought there was some chance Martinez could return in time for the playoffs, if they make it there. But the decision to have the microfracture surgery before the ACL surgery rules that out.

Martinez should still be able to return without trouble in 2013. In fact, the extra surgery could repair some wear-and-tear damage to the knee, and even make him stronger when he comes back.

The Tigers have insurance on Martinez's contract, which means they will recoup much of the $13 million Martinez is due this year. Of course, Martinez's injury spurred the Tigers to spend that money and more to sign Prince Fielder last week.

Posted on: January 26, 2012 4:01 pm

What's next for Tigers? Maybe Cespedes

The Prince Fielder signing should push the Tigers' 2012 payroll up over $130 million.

Is there any money left?

Could be, but the Tigers are unlikely to spend it on a full-time designated hitter, or on a fifth-starter candidate who would require a guaranteed major-league contract.

They might, according to sources, still try to spend it on Yoenis Cespedes.

While the team has basically ruled out going after someone like Johnny Damon or Edwin Jackson, the Tigers remain interested in Cespedes, the 26-year-old Cuban outfielder who became a free agent Wednesday. The Tigers have been among the teams showing the most interest in Cespedes, and have had conversations about him with agent Adam Katz.

Cespedes, if he proves ready for the big leagues right away, could play left field, with Delmon Young moving to more of a full-time DH role. For now, the Tigers plan to have Young share left field and DH with Andy Dirks, Don Kelly and Clete Thomas, with Fielder and Miguel Cabrera also seeing a few days as DH.

The Tigers had worked hard to try to add another starter before turning their attention to Fielder late last week. They met Roy Oswalt's asking price, sources said, only to be told by Oswalt that he wouldn't agree to come to Detroit (even after a recruiting phone call from Justin Verlander).

The focus now is on veteran starters who would require less of a commitment, with the possibility that the Tigers don't add anyone before spring training begins. They could then audition Jacob Turner, Andy Oliver, Drew Smyly and others, and then search the trade market if they're not satisfied with what they see.

We've already seen that they're willing to be bold, and that the owner is willing to spend.

When Mike Ilitch told his baseball people that he was willing to make the huge commitment to Fielder, he explained it simply.

"I think the city needs it," Ilitch said. "I think we need it. I think our players need it."

Posted on: January 25, 2012 4:49 pm

Cespedes is a free agent, and bidding can begin

The bidding for Yoenis Cespedes can finally begin.

The 26-year-old Cuban outfielder has established residency in the Dominican Republic, and Major League Baseball told teams on Wednesday that he is now officially a free agent.

But where will he go, how much will he cost, and how fast could he make an impact?

First, the where: Cespedes himself told reporters in the Dominican that the Cubs have shown the most interest in him, with the Marlins, Tigers, White Sox and Orioles also involved. The Nationals have also shown interest in Cespedes, and the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies scouted him, although it's believed that none of the three will be among the top bidders.

The Marlins have made no secret of their interest, but according to sources, Cespedes has told other teams that he would prefer not to play in Miami. He plans to make his home in the Dominican, rather than in Florida, and may believe that the huge Cuban community in South Florida would add too much pressure and too many distractions.

The Tigers have long been interested, with general manager Dave Dombrowski making a surprising trip to the Dominican Republic to see Cespedes for himself. But Detroit's resources for signing Cespedes could be more limited after signing Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract.

How much will Cespedes cost? No one seems to know for sure, but many teams have been in contact with agent Adam Katz, and it seems clear that he'll get more than the $30 million that the Reds paid for Aroldis Chapman.

How fast does he make an impact? Several of the teams that have scouted Cespedes heavily believe that he would be best served by beginning 2012 in the minor leagues. Given his age and the amount of money he'll likely cost, there will be pressure to move him to the big leagues fast, however.

Cespedes is described by those who like him as a Bo Jackson type, with an unusual combination of speed and power.

Cespedes may not have helped his value by playing briefly and ineffectively in the Dominican winter league, but he may have had other motives for playing for Aguilas. It's believed that people involved with the team also have ties to the Dominican government, and that Cespedes' decision to play may have sped up the process of establishing residency.

In any case, that process is complete, and Cespedes is a free agent.

And the bidding can begin.
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