Posted on: June 10, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 6:17 pm

Hafner could return to Indians next week

NEW YORK -- Travis Hafner is on his way back to the Indians.

But will it be soon enough?

Hafner, out since May 18 with a right oblique strain, took batting practice Friday in New York. He is scheduled to take batting practice again Sunday and Monday before the Indians decide whether he's ready for a rehabilitation assignment -- and there will be a rehab assignment, manager Manny Acta said.

"I absolutely think he's going to need some games because of how long he's been out," Acta said Friday afternoon.

That means the Indians will be without Hafner for this weekend's entire four-game series in New York and probably also for the three-game series in Detroit that begins Tuesday.

The Indians have gone 8-13 in Hafner's absence, and their lead in the American League Central, once seven games, was down to one game over the Tigers heading into the weekend. The Indians have averaged just 3.2 runs a game since Hafner went out of the lineup, and they've been held to two runs or fewer in 13 of the 21 games.

Even if Hafner is able to return to the lineup when the Indians come home next Friday, the timing won't be great. After six games at home, the Indians will go on a nine-game interleague trip where Hafner will be limited to pinch-hit duty.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 10, 2011 5:54 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 6:58 pm

Indians' Buck 'dazed' in NY cab accident

NEW YORK -- Indians outfielder Travis Buck was checked out at a New York hospital Friday after being involved in an accident while riding in a taxi.

Buck wasn't seriously hurt, and returned to Yankee Stadium in time for Friday night's game against the Yankees.

Manager Manny Acta said that Buck was "a little dazed" when he came to the stadium earlier Friday, and that trainer Lonnie Soloff sent him to the hospital for precautionary tests. Acta said that Buck appeared to be suffering from whiplash.

Buck has played in 26 games this year for the Indians.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 10, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: June 10, 2011 10:49 am

3 to Watch: The CC sees the Indians edition

CC Sabathia won't pitch against the Indians this weekend, so the Yankees left-hander will have plenty of time to go see his ex-teammates.

If he can find any.

It hasn't even been three years since the July 2008 trade that sent Sabathia from Cleveland to Milwaukee to start off the latest Indians rebuilding project. But the lineup from Sabathia's final Cleveland start includes just two players (Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo) who are still with the Indians now.

The current lineup, which has the Indians (barely) holding on to first place in the American League Central, features two players (Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta) who were acquired in the Sabathia trade, another (Carlos Santana) who was acquired in the Casey Blake trade three weeks later, and another who (Asdrubal Cabrera) was acquired in a deal two years earlier when the Indians traded the guy who just became the Marlins hitting coach (Eduardo Perez).

"They seem to be able to trade everyone and start over," Sabathia said this week. "That's what they did when they traded for Cliff [Lee] and Grady [Sizemore]."

He's right. Sabathia was 21 years old and in his second year with the Indians when Cleveland traded Bartolo Colon to Montreal for Lee, Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens. That trade built the Indians team that lost to the Red Sox in the 2007 American League Championship Series.

Four years later, Colon is Sabathia's teammate in New York, and the Indians have rebuilt again, with the trades of Sabathia, Lee, Blake and Victor Martinez playing big parts in it. And while it's hard to believe they can hang on to win the AL Central -- their lead over the fast-charging Tigers is down to one game, heading into the weekend -- the young players acquired in those deals have inspired renewed hope for the future.

One part-time Indians fan now pitching for the Yankees is inspired.

"I was excited [earlier this year], and I am excited," Sabathia said. "It's a really good team."

It's an Indians team that needs a few wins, after a 4-11 stretch that has seen Cleveland's division lead drop from seven games down to one.

Sabathia wouldn't go so far as hoping the Indians win this weekend, but after they leave town Monday, you can bet he'll be pulling for them again -- even if all his old friends are gone.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Carlos Zambrano created a stir last week, when he said the Cubs were "playing like a Triple-A team." But scouts who have watched the Cubs recently say Zambrano had truth as his defense. The Cubs have been awful of late, even if Zambrano (2.03 ERA over his last four starts) hasn't. Zambrano has actually outpitched Roy Halladay (3.41) in that span, but Halladay's Phillies won all four of his start, while Zambrano's Cubs won only two of his. Now they meet, in Cubs at Phillies, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.

2. You think Sabathia has a hard time finding ex-teammates who are still in Cleveland? How about Colon? The last time he pitched for the Indians, his manager was Charlie Manuel, his closer was Bob Wickman, and the Indians lineup featured Ellis Burks, Jim Thome and Travis Fryman. Oh, and Frank Robinson was in the other dugout, managing the Expos. Colon has faced the Indians eight times since (going 4-3 with a no-decision), and will again in Indians at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium.

3. If Cardinals-Cubs is the old rivalry in the National League Central, and Cardinals-Reds is the "new rivalry," then what do we call Cardinals-Brewers? They're in first and second place, respectively, they have some history, and they meet this weekend. The matchups even work out, with Zack Greinke facing Chris Carpenter in Cardinals at Brewers, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Miller Park. Greinke has some history with the Cardinals, too. He faced them six times in the I-70 interleague rivalry with the Royals, and hasn't lost to them in four appearances since 2005.

Posted on: June 9, 2011 6:28 pm

From contraction to the (College) World Series

Before he stepped in to try to save the A's, Bob Melvin stepped up to help save the Bears.

The Cal Bears. The team that has become the best baseball story of the year, maybe the best sports story of the year.

The team that the school tried to dump, refused to save, basically put up for sale, then only grudgingly agreed to keep. The team that now finds itself one step away from the College World Series.

This was Bud Selig-style contraction, but with college kids. And with an even happier ending.

"It's unbelievable," Melvin said, the day before Billy Beane called him in to rescue the A's.

Melvin played one year at Cal before he went to the Tigers in the 1981 January draft. He's not Cal's most famous baseball alum (that would probably be Jeff Kent), and he didn't give the most money to the Save Cal Baseball fund (Kent reportedly contributed over $100,000).

But like anyone who has had anything to do with Cal baseball -- and plenty who haven't -- Melvin is loving what has happened in the last few weeks.

Just a month after the university relented on a plan to drop the program (after donors came up with $10 million), Cal made it to the NCAA playoffs and won a regional. Better yet, the Bears came from three runs down in the ninth inning of the final game, beating Baylor, 9-8.

"It really was symbolic of what this program has been through," Cal coach Dave Esquer said in a phone interview Thursday.

This weekend, Cal hosts Dallas Baptist in a best-of-3 super regional, with the winner going to Omaha for the College World Series. The regional which begins Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET (and will be shown on ESPNU), will be played at Santa Clara, because Cal's Evans Diamond doesn't have lights.

Nothing against Dallas Baptist, but I'm rooting hard for the Bears. It's too great a story, and this team has been through too much. As Esquer points out, any one of these players could have transferred to another school without penalty, and only three of the 38 chose to leave.

"Every one of them could have left," Esquer said. "Anybody in America would have taken [infielder Tony Renda], or [pitcher] Erik Johnson. These guys pledged themselves to this school and this program."

Johnson was drafted this week by the White Sox, in the second round. He was one of seven Cal players picked (Renda, as a sophomore, wasn't eligible).

When the season began and the future of the program was still in serious jeopardy, Esquer told Cal's student newspaper that "I don't like this year's team, I love this year's team."

He repeated that Thursday.

"Sometimes as coaches you have a team you don't like, where guys are selfish," he said. "We love this team."

And why not?

It's the team the school tried to get rid of, the team the school at first refused to reinstate.

"It was embarrassing," Melvin said. "We're talking about the University of California. California is the ultimate baseball state. I think everybody felt that way."

Now Cal baseball is assured of sticking around in 2012, for what will be its 121st season. First, the Bears have a real chance to go to the College World Series for the first time since 1992, maybe a chance to win their first national championship since 1957.

It's a great story already, the best sports story I've seen this year.

"There's a chance for it to really be the best story," Esquer said.

I know I'm rooting for it to happen.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 9, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 2:53 pm

A's fire Geren; Melvin takes over

What would it take for Billy Beane to fire Bob Geren?

Well, now we know.

It took last place. It took nine straight losses. It took players, past and former, complaining publicly. It took, according to Beane, a constant focus on the manager's job status.

The A's general manager fired his close friend Thursday morning, relieving Geren of his duties and replacing him with Bob Melvin. Melvin, the former Mariner and Diamondbacks manager who had just rejoined Arizona as a special assistant, will serve as the interim manager for the rest of this season, beginning with Thursday night's game in Chicago.

"This was an opportune time for a change," Beane said on a Thursday afternoon conference call.

The move will stun some people who thought Beane would never fire Geren, who was the best man at his wedding. Others assumed that Beane would wait until the end of the season, if he fired Geren at all.

But the A's, who expected to contend behind a pitching staff that is one of baseball's best, have turned into a disaster that has only gotten worse. By last week, there were rumblings in the organization that Beane could be ready to make a change.

Players questioned Geren's communication skills, and rival scouts and executives derided him as the worst manager in the game.

"They'll never win as long as he's there," one scout with Oakland ties told me last month, after the firestorm that began when Brian Fuentes and Huston Street ripped Geren in print.

People close to the team said that Geren had lost the trust of his veteran players.

"He could have said the house is on fire, and guys would have stayed, because they wouldn't have believed him," one A's person said.

Thursday, former A's catcher Rob Bowen ripped Geren on Twitter, writing: "Finally the A's have realized Geren has destroyed a dozen pitcher's careers and doesn't have a clue how to manage a big league club."

Geren was 334-376 in five-plus years with the A's, and never had a winning season. The A's had been to the playoffs five times in the seven years before he took over.

This year, the A's have been hurt by injuries, with four starting pitchers on the disabled list and with closer Andrew Bailey also missing time. But even with the injuries, the A's rotation still owns the lowest combined ERA in baseball, at 3.17.

Offense has been a much bigger problem, as the A's have scored the fewest runs in the American League. That's not all Geren's fault, but players complained about his inconsistent lineups that kept anyone from getting going.

Those complaints helped fuel the questions about what it would take for Beane to fire Geren, and the GM said that speculation led to his decision. He refused to say whether he had talked to A's players about Geren, but it's hard to believe he hadn't.

"You get a feel of the tone of what's going on," Beane said. "You need to shift the focus back on the field."

The 49-year-old Melvin has local ties, having grown up in the Bay Area and playing one year at the University of California. He played 10 years in the big leagues, and he managed the Mariners for two years and the Diamondbacks for a little more than four years. He took Arizona to the National League Championship Series in 2007, but was fired two years later.

Melvin worked for the Mets last year, and the Mets interviewed him last fall before giving their managerial job to Terry Collins. Melvin returned to the Diamondbacks in April, and as of Thursday he was planning to call this weekend's Diamondbacks-Marlins series on Arizona radio.

While the A's named Melvin as just the interim manager, it's hard to believe that there's not some kind of understanding on a longer-term relationship.

"Bob's got the rest of this year to make an impact," Beane said. "He's got a big job ahead of him. We'll see how it goes."

Geren had a rough final few hours as manager. The A's lost 3-2 in Baltimore on Wednesday night (and some criticized Geren for using singles-hitting Ryan Sweeney instead of power threat Hideki Matsui as a ninth-inning pinch hitter). Then the team had travel trouble because of bad weather in Chicago. The A's plane sat on the ground in Springfield, Ill., for three hours, and the team didn't arrive at the hotel in Chicago until 6 a.m. local time.

A few hours later, the A's announced that Geren's time was up.

Billy Beane had seen enough.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 8, 2011 11:43 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 11:37 am

Is Yanks rotation a problem? Only against Sox

NEW YORK -- The Yankee rotation looks fine against the A's, the Mariners and the Angels. The Yankee rotation looked fine against the Mets.

In eight games this year against the Red Sox, the Yankee rotation has an 8.20 ERA.

Is the Yankee rotation the problem so many warned it would be?

For weeks, it doesn't seem to be. For weeks, the Yankees pitch enough -- and hit enough -- to look like a legitimate challenger to Boston as the best team in the American League (and maybe the best team in baseball).

And then they face the Red Sox again.

In the three weeks between Boston series, Yankee starters had a 3.23 collective ERA. In the 10 days they spent on the weak-hitting West Coast, Yankee starters were even better, with a 2.72 ERA.

Then Freddy Garcia couldn't get out of the second inning Tuesday night. And A.J. Burnett, who the Yankees signed in large part because he was great against the Red Sox, was his now-usual awful self against them in Wednesday's 11-6 Red Sox win.

Burnett has an 8.71 ERA in eight winless starts against the Sox as a Yankee. Amazingly, he has allowed at least eight runs in four of those eight games.

But Burnett couldn't beat the Red Sox in 2009, either. And the Yankees couldn't beat the Red Sox in the first half of 2009.

They're 1-7 against Boston now. They were 0-8 against Boston then, and Johnny Damon said that night, "Our day is going to come. Our team's good enough."

Their day did come. Their team was good enough.

They won the World Series, and even though Burnett never did beat the Red Sox, he won some important October games on the way to that title.

That night, when the Yankees fell to 0-8 against the Sox in 2009, I wrote that they didn't look like Boston's equal. By the end of the year, that Yankee team proved me wrong.

This time, I'm only saying that right now, the Yankee rotation seems to get exposed when they face the one team in the league most capable of exposing it.

And I'm saying that if the Yankees' day is going to come, that rotation is still going to need to prove it is good enough.

Posted on: June 8, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: June 8, 2011 5:55 pm

Teixeira plays, many others don't

NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira did it.

He made it back into the Yankee lineup Wednesday, a day after taking a 90-mph Jon Lester cutter to his right knee and going down in so much pain that most watching feared he had broken his kneecap.

"It feels really good," Teixeira said, before adding more realistically, "The pain is still there, but it's tolerable."

Teixeira played Wednesday, but Russell Martin didn't. Yankee manager Joe Girardi said that Martin's back locked up after Tuesday's game.

The Yankees were also without Joba Chamberlain, who went on the disabled list with a flexor tendon strain.

And the Red Sox were without Jed Lowrie, who had an MRI on his sore shoulder/back, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was sick. Saltalamacchia's absence forced the Red Sox to use Jason Varitek to catch Tim Wakefield, which he almost never does, and it also forced the Sox to make a roster move to add a catcher. Bobby Jenks, who left Tuesday's game when his back tightened up, went on the disabled list, and Luis Exposito was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket.

And meanwhile, Mark Teixeira was back in the Yankee lineup.

Posted on: June 8, 2011 5:12 pm
Edited on: June 8, 2011 5:40 pm

Yanks put Joba on DL with flexor strain

NEW YORK -- The Yankees lost another key part of their bullpen Wednesday when Joba Chamberlain went on the disabled list with a flexor tendon strain in his right forearm.

Chamberlain and David Robertson have been performing well in the absence of Rafael Soriano, the big-money reliever the Yankees brought in to be their eighth-inning man.

Manager Joe Girardi said that Chamberlain will be shut down totally for 10-14 days. The Yankees are hopeful that he'll then be able to resume throwing and that he shouldn't be out for too much longer, but flexor tendon strains can last longer and can also be a sign of more trouble.

Chamberlain heads to the DL just three days after Girardi allowed him to throw 35 pitches in a 1 2/3-inning stint in Anaheim. Girardi said Wednesday that he had been aware Chamberlain was getting treatment on his elbow but didn't consider it risky to let him throw that many pitches.

The Yankees claimed Jeff Marquez on waivers from the White Sox and added him to their bullpen. They had traded Marquez to Chicago in the Nick Swisher trade. Also, the Yankees sent Hector Noesi to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre -- Noesi threw 71 pitches Tuesday -- and called up Amauri Sanit.

The decision on Sanit was a little surprising since he had been on the Scranton DL with a leg problem and hadn't pitched in 11 days, according to the Scranton Times-Tribune.

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