Moving right along with our preview of the American League West, here's the [super exciting] scoop on the Texas Rangers' upcoming season.

Kevin Millwood is expected to be the Rangers' Opening Day starter and the once empty spots in the rotation have filled up behind him this off season. Vicente Padilla was re-signed as the Rangers' number two starter while Brandon McCarthy, acquired from the Chicago White Sox, figures to be number three. Robinson Tejeda, based on his last nine starts, will enter Spring Training penciled in as the fourth starter. Depth? Not so much. The fifth spot is still iffy, but will most likely be handed to John Koronka.

The Rangers outfield is pretty stocked with the return of Sammy Sosa to the game. Frank Catalanotto, Kenny Lofton, Marlon Byrd, Nelson Cruz and Brad Wilkerson will somehow fit into the outfield, as well. Wilkerson's return is shaky however, as he is recouping from August shoulder surgery.

If Sosa is to become the new designated hitter, then the Rangers will probably start off with Catalanotto in left, Lofton in center and Cruz (or Sosa) in right. Byrd could share time in center with Lofton, who is averaging only 107 games played over the last three years, at the age of 39.

Gerald Laird, who will be holding down the catcher's spot has a great track record for throwing potential base-stealers out at 40.7%, even though he has only started 134 games. Miguel Ojeda will serve as back up along with Chris Stewart.

The Rangers first and third basemen combined for 190 runs scored in 2006, the fourth most in the American League. They also combined for 212 RBIs, which was the third-highest combination in the AL. Mark Teixeira will continue to hold down first base, backed up by Jason Botts, who will also see some time as backup DH. Five-year Ranger Hank Blalock's spot at third is safe, with Joaquin Arias ready to take over as needed.

With Mark DeRosa having signed with the Chicago Cubs, last years' backup Ian Kinsler gets the starting spot at second. Michael Young, who hit .314 last season, will return to short, backed up by Arias.

Long-time Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne was added to the bullpen this off season, joining righties Akinori Otsuka, Wes Littleton, Rick Bauer, Josh Rupe's sweet chops, Joaquin Benoit (also known as Joaquin Dos) and Scott Feldman.

Third-year reliever C.J. Wilson will add a left-handed arm to the bullpen, along with lefty Ron Mahay.

The Rangers finished third in the West last season at just under .500, but managed a winning divisional record at 29-28. As the start of the season nears, look for the much-anticipated sighting of Sammy Sosa wearing his spankin' new "Don't Mess With Texas" T-shirt with matching belt-buckle.

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is ticked, to say the least, about the beaucoup bucks proposal to make MLB's "Extra Innings" exclusive to DirecTV.

The Massachusetts Democrat says he plans to raise the matter with the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission at a hearing this Thursday, stating he is "opposed to anything that deprives people of reasonable choices."

He went on to say, "In this day and age, consumers should have more choices - not fewer. I'd like to know how this serves the public - a deal that will force fans to subscribe to DirecTV in order to tune in to their favorite players. A Red Sox fan ought to be able to watch their team without having to switch to DirecTV."

"Extra Innings" is an pay-service provided by MLB that allows viewers to watch all broadcasted games that are unavailable on their local channels. In recent years, it has been available through many popular cable service providers, but this pending elitist DirectTV deal would ruin everyone's fun.

Way to stand up for the people, Senator Kerry! Don't let the corporate terrorists win this one!

If you are as peeved as Kerry about this nonsense, contact the dude in charge, Bob Bowman (the MLB Executive VP in charge of Extra Innings) at:

Source: Seattle Post

Red Sox ace Curt Schilling has announced on the worst radio station ever earlier this week that he will pitch in 2008. According to Schilling, he's not looking for a raise on his new contract, but just the opportunity to stay in Boston and pitch for the Red Sox.

Schilling told the Associated Press that he is willing to negotiate a new contract with the Red Sox up until the start of the 2007 season, and if no agreement is made, he will become a free agent for the first time in his career.

Schilling's wife, Shonda, stated one of the reasons why she wanted her husband to return to baseball for another year was because she wanted "the opportunity for her youngest child to have memories of his father pitching."

How sweet.


Cubs, Prior Come To Terms

The Chicago Cubs avoided salary arbitration Wednesday, agreeing with Mark Prior on a one-year deal.

If Prior manages to stay off the DL for the better part of the season (30 starts), he will get $3,575,000 and would earn an additional $150,000 each start. Since Prior, 26, went 18-6 in 2003, he has won just 18 games over the past three seasons due to injury after injury after injury...

He is 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA in 106 starts since making his major league debut in 2002 and has struck out 757 batters in 657 innings - an amazing rate of 10.37 per nine.

The right-hander could actually make less than he did last season, when he was paid $3.65 million while bothered by an ailing shoulder. He went 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA in nine starts, then asked for $3,875,000 in arbitration while the Cubs countered with $3.4 million.

The Cubs had as busy an off-season as anyone, adding a huge bat in free agent Alfonso Soriano, and some bulk to their starting five in Jason Marquis from the St. Louis Cardinals and lefty Ted Lilly from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Bonds, Giants At Odds On Contract Language

In my experience, not that I have any, one should always read through all parts of a contract and agree with its contents 100%. Same goes for MLB players and their agents.

Barry Bonds' $15.8 million, one-year agreement with the San Francisco Giants contains a provision giving the club the right to void the deal if he is indicted, but Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, says the language is unenforceable under baseball's collective bargaining agreement.

The specific provision is only meant to protect the Giants in the event that Bonds is charged with perjury in the ongoing steroid investigation.

The deal was done Monday night, but wasn't approved by the commissioner's office since it contained a personal-appearance provision. Does he expect the club to pay for his bi-weekly manicures, or something? Borris said late Tuesday the team was redrafting the agreement and sending him a revised version for Bonds to review and sign.

If all else fails, the Giants can just change Bonds' deal to a nonguaranteed contract, which means he could be released before opening day for 30 or 45 days' termination pay, depending on the timing.

UPDATE: Apparently, Borris and Bonds are not happy with the revised contract, either. Says Borris, "At this time, Barry is not signing the new documents."

Source: MLB

Blah Blah Steroids

Congress is monitoring former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell's investigation of steroids in baseball and could intervene if he doesn't get more cooperation from the league.

Mitchell was hired by commissioner Bud Selig last March after more than a year of allegations against Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and other suspect sluggers.

Mitchell told baseball owners on Jan. 18th that he intends to interview active players and stated that Congress could possibly compel testimony from them, or just check them for back acne and popped forehead veins.

The leaders of a House subcommittee that held the 2005 hearings on steroids pledged their undying support for Mitchell in a letter sent to him Tuesday, which was to the media Wednesday.

Source: Sign On San Diego

Continuing our American League West season previews is a look at the incredibly long Seattle Mariners' upcoming season.

Six-time gold glover and All-Star Ichiro Suzuki will patrol center field, as he did for the final two months of last season after Jeremy Reed broke his thumb. Reed will serve as the primary backup in center on the rare occasions Ichiro sits. Left-fielder Raul Ibanez and the recently secured Jose Guillen, who will be roaming right field, will be backed up by Mike Morse.

Ichiro should continue to smoke the ball, as he hit .322 last season in 161 games while Ibanez hit 33 bombs and 123 RBIs. Guillen, who played the last two seasons with the Washington Nationals, hit .216 in 69 games during 2006.

With youth up the middle in short stop Yuniesky Betancourt and second baseman Jose Lopez, the Mariners are building a solid infield. Betancourt flirted with a .300 average up until the final weeks of last season, before finishing at .289 while Lopez came up huge when Seattle needed him most, hitting .327 with 67 RBIs with runners in scoring position. Willie Bloomquist is set to back up all infield positions.

First baseman Richie Sexson and third baseman Adrian Beltre will hold down the corners and provide the club with plenty of offense in 2007. Sexon hit 34 longballs with 107 RBIs last season and Beltre batted .286 with 89 runs batted in on .465 slugging.

Ben Broussard is available for first should Sexson need a rest, as well as seeing time at the designated hitter spot behind Jose Vidro, who managed to have a slightly better 2006 season than Rondell White, who was such a terrbile DH, he plays left field now in the Metrodome. Vidro hit .289 with 7 homers and 47 RBIs with the Nats last season.

Felix Hernandez will lead the starting rotation, joined by lefties Jarrod Washburn and Horacio Ramirez. Righty Miguel Batista, who held an 11-8 record last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, may get the fourth spot with the recent addition Jeff Weaver through free agency from the St. Louis Cardinals.

J.J. Putz will return as Seattle's closer after he converted 36 of 43 save opportunities in 72 games last season, with an impressive 2.31 ERA and a 4-1 record.

Lefty George Sherrill will return to the bullpen along with left-hander Eric O'Flaherty, whose major league experience only stems to last September. Sean Green and John Huber, who also have but one month of big league time under their belts, will join Chris Reitsma, who had a tumultuous season with the Atlanta Braves last year going 1-2 with an 8.68 ERA in 27 appearances with the club.

Arthur Rhodes, who played with the Mariners from 2000-2003 before trying out the Oakland A's, Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies organizations, will return to the pen as well.

Lefty Jake Woods, who was acquired from Seattle last season from the Los Angeles Angels, will look to improve his 4.20 ERA and Cha Seung Baek should continue to improve as a third-year reliever.

Kenji Johjima, who hit .291 last season with 18 home runs, will hold down the backstop position, followed by fourth-year backup catcher, Rene Rivera.

Seattle ended last season dead-last in the West, going 19-38 among their division. This was partly due to an inexperienced line up and poor pitching, but look for Mike Hargrove's club to improve in his third year as manager, when presumably their club will grow and get used to playing together. Maybe?

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Victor Zambrano agreed Tuesday to a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays that includes a club option for 2008.

The right-hander went 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts last year with the New York Mets and became a free agent in December when the Mets declined to offer him a 2007 contract.

After striking out Andruw Jones in a game against the Atlanta Braves on May 6th, the 31-year-old Zambrano was pulled and was diagnosed with a torn flexor muscle. He had surgery May 15th to repair his elbow tendon, remove bone spurs and replace a ligament.

Zambrano hopes to be ready by the start of spring training, having thrown this winter, but his health remains a shaky subject.


David Wells, who was on the verge of retirement and possibly a heart attack due to abnormally high cholesterol after the 2006 season, agreed to terms with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday to sign on for another year.

A native of San Diego, the 43-year-old Wells went 3-5 with a 4.42 ERA in 13 starts between the Padres and the Boston Red Sox last season, going 1-2 with an unimpressive 3.49 ERA in five starts for San Diego.

During his 20-year-career, the lefty is 230-148 with a 4.07 ERA in 631 appearances - 460 starts.

Source: Sign On San Diego

After losing closer Eric Gagne in free agency to the Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced Monday the official signing of righthander Chin-hui Tsao, adding him to their 40-man roster.

Tsao became the first Taiwanese-born pitcher to appear in the major leagues and was rated as the Colorado Rockies' #1 prospect by Baseball America in 2001, 2002 and 2004. He appeared in 29 games from 2003-05, going 4-3 with four saves.

After beginning the 2005 season as the Rockies' closer, Tsao had three saves in 10 appearances before hurting his shoulder. A second stint on the DL in May led to season-ending shoulder surgery, forcing him to miss most of the last two seasons.

Source: LA Daily News

After a one-season hiatus, Sammy Sosa is set to make his return to baseball with the club he began his 1989 major league career with.

The Texas Rangers have finalized a one-year, $500,000 minor league contract with Sosa, who will have to compete for a roster spot during spring training.

Sosa had a yawning season with the Baltimore Orioles in 2005, hitting .221 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs in 102 games, his slugging percentage dropping 161 points lower than his career mark of .376.

The 38-year-old Sosa, a seven-time All-Star, ranks fifth on the all-time list with 588 home runs, giving himself a chance to hit the 600-mark in 2007 if he graces the 40-man roster.

Source: MLB

Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants completed a one-year, $15.8 million contract Monday night after the slugger spent all evening at the ballpark being looked over by team doctors.

Before the deal could be completed, Bonds had to work out the contract language regarding his behavior and what would happen if he were to be indicted by a federal grand jury on whether he perjured himself during his 2003 testimony in the BALCO steroid distribution case when claiming that he hadn't knowingly taken any performance-enhancing drugs.

As part of the deal, Bonds' two trainers will no longer be allowed in the clubhouse, where they previously had their own lockers next to his space. They will no longer be on the Giants' payroll and they won't be allowed in restricted areas on any ballpark campus. Furthermore, if they want to make any road trips, it would be on Bonds' dime or their own.

Barry, at the tender age of 43, has 734 home runs, just 22 from breaking career record. Bad news, Barry-haters: he plans to play beyond this year if he fails to set the mark in 2007.

"I think I'll be around until I'm 100, or at least try to," Bonds said.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle


Jeremy Guthrie To Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles claimed Jeremy Guthrie off waivers from the Cleveland Indians on Monday, adding the right-handed pitcher to their 40-man roster.

Guthrie, 27, had a 6.98 ERA in nine games with Cleveland last year, but spent most of the season at AAA Buffalo, where he went 9-5 with a 3.14 ERA. Over the last three seasons, he has appeared in 16 games with the Tribe, compiling a 6.08 ERA. Guthrie was Cleveland's first-round selection and the 22nd overall in the 2002 amateur draft.

To make room for Guthrie on the 40-man roster, the O's designated righty Mariano Salas for assignment. Salas went 2-6 with a 2.92 ERA in 44 relief appearances for AA Bowie in 2006.

In other Orioles news, the club reached one-year agreements with outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Stern, along with pitchers Kurt Birkins and Ryan Keefer.


Right-handed pitcher Claudio Vargas asked the Milwaukee Brewers for $2.85 million and they countered with $2.15 million. The two parties reached an agreement somewhere in the middle with a one-year, $2.5 million contract.

Obtained by Milwaukee as part of a six-player exchange with the Arizona Diamondbacks in November, Vargas went 12-10 with a 4.83 ERA last season. This leaves catcher Johnny Estrada and utility player Bill Hall dangling in arbitration for the Brewers.


Roger Clemens is still not sure if he will be returning to baseball next season.

Source: Yahoo! Sports

Preston Wilson agreed Monday to a one-year, $1 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals after helping them win their first world championship in over two decades.

After leaving the Houston Astros as a free agent, the 32-year-old outfielder signed with the Birds in August and hit .243 with eight homers and 17 RBIs in 32 games, providing some depth to all outfield positions. Wilson's best season came in 2003, when he hit 36 longballs and tallied 141 RBIs for the Colorado Rockies.



Looking Ahead To 2007: The Oakland A's

Here is where Sooz's all-encompassing baseball knowledge is going to make me look like a fool. I don't watch enough baseball to always be able to talk intelligent about what's going on with other teams. I got the Yanks, the Mets, and the Red Sox down. Let's see if I can pull off the A's.

Well, the biggest news that the A's made in the offseason would certainly be the losses suffered by the team. Barry Zito, Oakland's ace decided to move north and become teammates with Satan (see Bonds, Barry) and join up with the San Fransisco Giants, and Frank Thomas fled north of the border to sign with Tornoto. The A's starting rotation will have to rely on its youth (seriously, their oldest pitcher is 36, and its freakin' Alan Embree of all people.) Esteban Loaiza will return to the rotation, as will A's closer, and owner of the coolest name in baseball, Huston Street.

Gold Glover Eric Chavez will return for the A's at third base, and will likely be relied on to produce most of the offense. You know you're having a rough offseason when Mike Piazza is your most prized acquisition. Piazza signed a one year deal with the A's after spending a year with the Padres. Oh yes, the A's also boast the second coolest name in baseball, Milton Bradley.

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We've dropped our That and we're movin' on up.

You can now find us at www.BabesLoveBaseball.com, as well.

...not to be confused with BaseballBabes, which is completely unsafe for work, school and your parents' house.


There's nothing like adding a World Series pitching hero to your roster in the off season, even he is somewhat mediocre in real life. After winning a championship ring in the National League, Jeff Weaver won't be swinging any bats where he's going - back to the American League to fill out the Seattle Mariners starting five.

The Mariners have reportedly agreed to terms with the free-agent righty on a one-year contract worth $8.325 million, which is no more and no less than he made last season when he went 8-14 with a 5.76 ERA in 31 combined starts with the Los Angeles Angels and the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Halos ditched Weaver, 31, designating him for assignment after he went 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA. However, the Cardinals needed a short-term solution to add some depth to their injury-plagued rotation and acquired Weaver in July for minor leaguer Terry Evans. Weaver went 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA in five postseason starts, helping to lead St. Louis to its first World Series title in 24 years.

If all goes as planned, he will join the promising Felix Hernandez, veteran Jarrod Washburn and newcomers Miguel Batista and Horacio Ramirez in the Seattle rotation, holding a career record of 86-101 with a 4.58 ERA in eight seasons with five different clubs.

Source: Seattle Times

The New York Yankees buffed their bench Friday, signing utility infielder Miguel Cairo to a one-year contract worth $750,000.

Able to play any position on the diamond, Cairo batted .239 with 30 RBIs in 81 games with the Yankees last season. He will serve as the club's main backup to shortstop Derek Jeter, third baseman Alex Rodriguez and second baseman Robinson Cano.

Cairo, 32, is a career .268 hitter with 27 homers and 280 RBIs while being bounced around for 11 seasons with the Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets.

Source: MLB

In early January, San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy had a minor confrontation with a Mobile Regional Airport security officer that occurred while he was double parked, unloading equipment for a church mission that helps children in the Dominican Republic.

After refusing to move his vehicle and making a comment about "a real cop", Peavy, 25, was arrested and booked at the Mobile County Metro Jail and later released on a $350 bond.

The disorderly conduct charge was dismissed this week on the recommendation of the officer involved and the chief of airport police. Peavy apologized directly to the Airport officer during a meeting with his attorney and a second time at the court hearing.

Source: USA Today

Hall of Fame pitcher was treated and released from Round Rock Medical Center in Texas Friday, in a non-emergency situation.

The 59-year-old strikeout king checked into the hospital for treatment of recurring symptoms from a pre-existing medical condition, his son, Reid Ryan, said. A family friend claims Ryan was suffering from chest pain.

Reid did not specify the condition, but said it was discovered when his father had double-bypass heart surgery in 2000. He explained his father takes medication for it and from time to time and has episodes that require him to get checked out when he has pain. "He's feeling good. This is more about taking precautions," Reid Ryan told reporters.

"This is something I've lived with for the last seven years," Nolan Ryan said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Round Rock Express, one of the Astros' minor league affiliates Ryan owns, said he was transferred to a Houston hospital for further evaluation.

During his illustrious career, Nolan Ryan struck out 5,714 batters and pitched seven no-hitters - both major league records - in 27 years with the New York Mets, the California Angels, the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers before retiring in 1993 and being elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999.



Ending our preview of the American League Central's upcoming season are the Kansas City Royals.

One thing not lacking in the KC organization is optimism and club owner David Glass is full of it, hoping to put the club's recent 100-loss seasons behind him. The mighty sweep of the unbeatable, ALC-leading Detroit Tigers last year that swiped their division championship away on the last day of the season, gave the team something to hold on to and build from.

A few big off season moves have been made to strengthen the offense and defense. The outfield is absolutely stacked with Emil Brown in right field, David DeJesus in center and a world of possibilities in left. Shane Costa is expected to have a shot at an outfield position (at least at backup), competing with Joey Gathright or Mitch Maier.

DeJesus, being the left-handed hitting treasure that he is, will bring some power to the top of the line-up. Veteran Reggie Sanders, at 39-years-old, played rather poorly in only 88 games before a season-ending knee surgery on Aug. 31, making his future in left field uncertain. Gathright was obtained last June to add some much-needed speed and thievery to the lineup, hitting .262 and stealing 10 bags in 79 games with the club.

A tough double-play combo up the middle will return in Angel Berroa at short stop, and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek.

With Mark Teahan recovering from shoulder surgery this off season, Royals fans are wondering where Alex Gordon could end up - covering third base or possibly in the crowded outfield? Esteban German possibly has a spot at third as well, with Ryan Shealy holding down first. Shealy will be backed up by new addition Ross Gload and designated hitter Mike Sweeney. German and Justin Huber will round out the DH spot.

John Buck has control of the plate with a little help from Jason LaRue and Paul Phillips.

Gil Meche, who signed a five-year contract with the club in December, will headline the five-man rotation, along with Odalis Perez, Luke Hudson, Jorge De La Rosa and possibly Zach Grienke, Scott Elarton, or Brian Bannister.

Octavio Dotel will remain in the closer spot with the bullpen consisting mostly of returnees like right-hander Todd Wellemeyer, Leo Nunez, Joel Peralta and Ken Ray, who returns to KC after spending last season with the Atlanta Braves. Lefty Jimmy Gobble will be back with a few new, young arms.

Look for the Royals to bring more competition in 2007 - you might be surprised.

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The Seattle Mariners are possibly giving 36-year-old Arthur Rhodes another shot in the bullpen, agreeing Thursday to a minor league contract that could be worth $1 million for one year if he is added to the big league roster, including a chance to earn another $150,000 in performance bonuses.

After a nine-year career as a starter with the Baltimore Orioles, the lefty reliever came to Seattle from 2000-03, enjoying a 26-15 record in his four seasons as their main setup man. In 2001, he sported an 8-0 record with a 1.72 ERA in 71 appearances when the Mariners won 116 games.

Upon leaving Seattle, he tried on an Oakland Athletics uniform, then traded it in for one season as a Cleveland Indian, before joining the Philadelphia Phillies in 2006.

Rhodes isn't the oldest cat to stand on the rubber and has been effective out of the bullpen for most of his career. He struggled last year in Philly, going 0-5 with a 5.32 ERA in 55 games, missing the final three weeks of the season due to an injured pitching elbow.

Rhodes will most likely join the Mariners bullpen this year to take some of the load off of left-hander George Sherrill, who was 2-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 72 relief appearances last season.

Source: CBS News

Third baseman Morgan Ensberg, shortstop Adam Everett and outfielder Jason Lane agreed Thursday to one-year contracts with the Houston Astros, settling the team's remaining arbitration cases.

Ensberg, 31, hit .235 with 23 homers and 58 RBIs in 127 games last year while struggling through a shoulder injury, making $3.8 million. The Astros settled somewhere in the middle as Ensberg was asking for $4.9 million and was offered $4 million.

Everett, 29, hit .239 with six homers and a career-high 59 RBIs last year, committing only seven errors. He made $1.9 million and could earn an additional $150,000 in performance bonuses.

Lane, 30, hit .201 with 15 homers and 45 RBIs last season, when he was demoted for part of the year to AAA Round Rock. He made $450,000 last year and has the opportunity to earn $100,000 in performance bonuses.

Source: Houston Chronicle


Fourth in our American League Central season previews are the Cleveland Indians. Don't count them out just yet.

One thing is for sure, the outfield is stocked at Jacobs Field. Grady Sizemore, who led the AL with 92 extra base hits last season, will be patrolling center, Jason Michaels in left and the ever-adaptable Casey Blake in right, backed up by utility outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Shin-Soo Choo.

Newly acquired David Delucci and Trot Nixon will be set to cover the corners against right-handed pitching.

The addition of Nixon gives the Tribe a bat to follow Sizemore, setting up designated hitter Travis Hafner quite nicely. Dellucci, who signed to a three-year, $11.5 million contract, may also be a threat at the heart of the lineup, as he hovered around .300 with the Phillies last season.

New second baseman Josh Barfield, coming off a stunning rookie season with the San Diego Padres, will share the middle infield with shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who is coming off somewhat of a sophomore slump. Shifting infielder Hector Luna will back things up along with Joe Inglett. This team could live and die up a shaky middle, relying on strong defense and pitching rather than big blasts from the plate.

On the corners stand the inexperienced, yet promising Ryan Garko at first and Andy Marte holding down third, neither with any real competition for the every-day spots.

C.C. Sabbathia will lead a talented pitching staff consisting of Jake Westbrook, the allegiant Cliff Lee and veteran Paul Byrd. Second year players Jeremy Sowers and Fausto Carmona will vie for the fifth spot, unless Carmona ends up back in the bullpen.

He would then join closers Keith Foulke and the recently signed Joe Borowski from the Florida Marlins. Roberto Hernandez, Rafael Betancourt, Fernando Cabreara and Jason Davis highlight the rightys in the mix with the only proven lefty being Aaron Fultz.

Youngsters Edward Mujica along with leftys Rafeal Perez and Juan Lara will also compete for spots in the pen.

Victor Martinez remains the main man behind the plate, serving as a second designated hitter and backed up by second-year Indian Kelly Shoppach.

While Cleveland admittedly took a dive last season (78-84) after nearly coming back to take the division title from the Chicago White Sox in 2005, they will be looking to improve in 2007 with better defense and a younger, stronger offense.

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Outfielder Bernie Williams may be left out in the cold next season with an over-stacked New York Yankees roster, but Jorge Posada, teammate and close friend of the 16-year veteran, says Bernie has no plans to retire. He claims Williams wants to play one more year, so there is a possibility that he will be sporting a new uni in 2007.

The Minnesota Twins continue to target free-agent pitcher Bruce Chen, as the club would like to bring in another arm for the bullpen to take some of the workload off of lone lefty reliever Dennys Reyes. Chen, 29, has been with eight different teams in his 8-year Major League career and compiled an 0-7 record with a 6.93 ERA in 40 games (including 12 starts) last season with the Baltimore Orioles.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have contemplated signing left-hander Joey Eischen, who missed most of last season after having surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Eischen, 36, has been throwing off a mound for two months and is expected to be ready for spring training. His best season was with the Expos in 2002 where he went 6-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 59 appearances, striking out 51 batters in 53.2 innings pitched.

The St. Louis Cardinals will most likely learn this week whether or not their two-year offer to free-agent pitcher Jeff Weaver is enough to keep the right-handed hero happy. GM Walt Jocketty and Superagent Scott Boras expanded their negotiations last weekend, with the club apparently raising the deal's annual value, but standing firm on its two-year framework.

According to Victor Zambrano's agent Peter Greenberg, the New York Mets are one of five or six teams who are interested in the right-hander. Arm trouble limited him to five starts with the Mets in 2006 before he resorted to Tommy John surgery last May. Zambrano is expected to reach a decision later this week, with the club hoping the surgery will improve his performance. He went 7-12 with a 4.17 ERA in 31 games (27 starts) in 2005.

Source: Yahoo Sports

The New York Mets and manager Willie Randolph agreed Wednesday to a $5.65 million contract extension that runs through 2009.

Randolph, who last year led the Mets to their first division title since 1988, was supposed to earn $700,000 this year in the final season of a three-year agreement. Under this new deal, his salary will be doubled to $1.4 million. He'll get $2 million next year and $2.25 million in 2009, with a $2.5 million option for 2010 if the Mets choose to keep him around.

After a decade with the New York Yankees as their third base coach and another year as a bench coach, Randolph moved to the National League in 2005, finishing the Mets' season with a winning 83-79 third-place record in the AL East. Under Art Howe in 2004, the Mets finished fourth at 71-91.

Last year, the Mets ended the Atlanta Braves consecutive division title streak at 14 seasons, going 97-65 to tie with the Yankees for the best record in the majors. Seeking their first World Series title since 1986 and their first NL pennant since 2000, the Mets swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs and lost in seven heated games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.

Source: New York Post

Fenway Expands. Again

Next season The will be able to squeeze several hundred more fans into teeny Fenway Park. During each off season since 2002, the organization has added several more seats to the oldest park in the majors, most notably seats atop the famed Green Monster, as well as a patio on the right roof deck. Changes for this year include renovations to some of the women's restrooms, more luxury box seats, a new concourse behind the third base seating area, vending machines to purchase Charlie Cards to make stumbling onto the Green Line easier after the game, and a "Bleacher Bar" under the center field seating area. Just what the bleacherites need, another place to buy an 8$ Budweiser.

No plans have been announced to replace the Fenway seats, which are only comfortable if you are under 5'3 and 110 pounds, and have scoliosis.

Source: Yahoo


After spending four seasons with the New York Mets, free agent outfielder Cliff Floyd will return to his Chicago roots after agreeing to a $3 million, one-year contract with the Cubs on Wednesday.

Floyd could make an additional $4.5 million this year in bonuses if he starts 100 games or has 425 plate appearances. He also has the chance to earn $17.5 million over two years if he has 550 at-bats each season, or $15.5 million if he has 500.

This worries Cliff because he was limited to 332 plate appearances last year because of an injured Achilles' tendon and will likely serve only as a backup with the Cubs. Alfonso Soriano is expected to start in center, with Matt Murton in left and Jacque Jones, who was dangled in front of every team under the Major League sun this off season, in right field.

Floyd was replaced by free agent Moises Alou in October after having surgery on his left foot. He hit .244 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs last season and enjoyed his best year with the Florida Marlins when he hit .273 with 34 bombs and 98 RBIs in 2005.

Source: MLB.com

Continuing our American League Central Season Previews, the Chicago White Sox seem to have a dynamite roster set up, with their eye on a 2007 post season campaign.

As previously posted, Scott Podsednik was brought back as the White Sox lead off man and left fielder through a one-year deal, but may be out a bit into the regular season due to sports hernia surgery. Brian Anderson, coming off a rough offensive first year, and rookie Ryan Sweeney may compete with for the starting job in center field. New addition Darin Erstad may also have a spot in the outfield, pending injuries and performances.

In case anyone was worried, the ever-controversial A.J. Pierzynski has some new help behind the plate in Toby Hall, who was signed through free agency as a backup catcher.

They've also added a few young power arms through trades for David Aardsma, Gavin Floyd and Andrew Sisco, a [giant] 6-foot-10 southpaw. Sisco will join Matt Thornton and possibly Boone Logan as the left-handed core of the bullpen, joining the right-handed tandem of Mike MacDougal and dominating closer Bobby Jenks, providing nearly the amount of strength as Chicago's deep starting rotation.

As far as their starting five are concerned, Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, Jose Contreras and Jon Garland are set in the rotation for now, with Floyd most likely nailing down the fifth spot. The Freddy Garcia trade to Philly at this year's Winter Meetings provided a quick solution to the six-starter issue.

New arrivals include lefty Jon Danks and right-handers Nick Masset and Minor Leaguer , acquired from the Rangers in the surprising trade for righty Brandon McCarthy.

Aside from free-agency losses, some recent departures include lefty Neal Cotts across town to the Cubs and first baseman Ross Gload to the the Kansas City Royals.

The infield will remain the same, with Joe Crede and Paul Konerko powering up the corners, Tadahito Iguchi at second and (pending legal repercussions) Juan Uribe or Alex Cintron at short. Jim Thome will remain at the designated hitter's spot, backing up first base.

Manager Ozzie Guillen will return as well, hoping to lead this young team to a repeat of 2005.

Depth Chart

In an attempt to compete with the high-rolling American League East, the Toronto Blue Jays have been looking to add some depth to their rotation after failing to sign free agent starters Ted Lilly, who went to the Chicago Cubs, and Gil Meche, who is now a Royal, this off season.

Right-hander Tomo Ohka and the Blue Jays reached a preliminary agreement Tuesday on a one-year, $1.5 million contract with some performance bonus consideration that could bring the deal to as much as $3 million, pending a physical. That is a rather large pay-cut, considering he made $4.53 million last season in Milwaukee.

Ohka, 30 years old, went 4-5 with a 4.85 ERA in 18 starts with the Brew Crew last year, missing over two months after suffering a partial tear of his right rotator cuff and a strained right hamstring.

Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett lead the Jays' starting five, so Ohka must compete with John Thomson, Casey Janssen and Shaun Marcum for a spot in the rotation. Ohka is 48-58 with 4.04 ERA in 174 career games, including 162 starts.

Source: Canada.com

The Cincinnati Reds acquired right-handed pitcher Kirk Saarloos Tuesday in a trade that sent minor league reliever David Shafer to the Oakland Athletics. Each team will get a player to be named later, as well.

In an attempt to fill in their rotation and bulk up their struggling bullpen, Saarloos could be a decent fit in either spot. After being cast as Oakland's fifth starter in 2005, he made 16 starts and 19 relief appearances last season, going 7-7 with two saves and a 4.75 ERA in the 'pen.

Seeing as how Great American Ball Park is a hitter's park, Saarloos' ground-ball inducing sinker could come in quite handy in Cincinnati. However, he gave up a career-high 19 bombs in 121.1 innings last year.

Shafer, a promising 24-year-old righty, had 26 saves and a 2.36 ERA for the AA Chattanooga Lookouts last year.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle


That Dump In The Bronx To Get Last Hurrah

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It is expected that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig will announce at a joint news conference that notorious shithole Yankee Stadium will be the home of the 2008 All-Star Game.

The new Yankee Stadium, which I am willing to bet will not be named Yankee Stadium, will open for the 2009 season, and apparently baseball officials decided that it would be a fitting farewell to force as many people into that landfill of a park as possible during what will probably be the hottest weekend of the summer. My goodness, what will the Bleacher Creatures do now?

Please submit suggestions for what YOU think the new Yankee Stadium will be named.

Source: ESPN.com

Podsednik Out, Erstad In

Perfect timing struck for the Chicago White Sox this week when they reportedly signed lefty outfielder Darin Erstad to a one-year deal with an option for the 2008 season. Pending a physical, Erstad should be around just in time for SoxFest this Friday.

After playing his entire career with the Angels, Darin hit .221 over 95 at-bats in 2006, playing in only 40 games due to a right ankle injury. His best numbers came in 2000 with a .355 average, 25 home runs, 100 RBIs and 240 hits batting in the leadoff spot.

This veteran addition comes at a crucial time for Chicago, since left-fielder Scott Podsednik underwent sports hernia surgery Tuesday and will be out for anywhere from six to eight weeks. The injury, originally from four years earlier when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers, resurfaced recently when Pods kicked his workouts into high gear with Spring Training just around the corner.

If his recovery should cut into the regular season, Erstad would most likely take his place in the line up. Otherwise, he could also challenge Brian Anderson for a starting spot in center field.

Source: MLB.com

Season Preview: The Minnesota Twins

Continuing our preview of the American League Central's 2007 season are the Minnesota Twins.

After the heart-breaking loss of Francisco Liriano to a season-ending arm injury and Brad Radke to retirement, plenty of big questions surround the ALC Champion Twins' starting five.

Reigning Cy Young award winner, Johan Santana, will lead the rotation as he has for the past three-and-a-half seasons, followed by a lot of maybes. Ground ball pitcher, Carlos Silva, will be close behind if he can maintain his slider. Boof Bonser may have earned himself a spot with his performance late in the season last year, along with Matt Garza and possibly a reliever-turned-starter, Glen Perkins. Scott Baker may also get an opportunity to show improvement.

Adding a pitcher like Ramon Ortiz, who has a 79-76 career record during eight seasons in the big leagues, is a step in the right direction. Sidney Ponson will have a shot during his Spring Training invitation, as well.

The bullpen will consist mostly of familiar faces such as Juan Rincon, Pat Neshek and his crazy delivery, Jesse Crain, and dependable lefty Dennys Reyes, while it's business as usual for Joe Nathan in the closer spot.

The infield is set, with AL MVP Justin Morneau at first base, Luis Castillo at second, Nick Punto holding down third, and Jason Bartlett at short stop. Newcomer Jeff Cirillo will most likely shift between backup up first and DH, with veteran Rondell White also seeing some time at the designated spot when not in left field. The club will rely on Luis Rodriguez to back up second base, and Rule 5 Draft pick Alejandro Machado and Alexi Casilla will give the team depth at shortstop.

AL Batting Champ Joe Mauer will lead the backstops with re-signed Mike Redmond at backup. Redmond has proven to be clutch at the DH spot, also, hitting .341 in 179 at-bats last year. In addition, how could I forget the lovable Matthew LeCroy, who has been reunited with the Twins as a backup catcher/designated hitter with an invitation to spring training.

Gold glover Torii Hunter will patrol center field once again, while Michael Cuddyer has a permanent spot in right field. Rondell will be vying for left with Jason Tyner and rookie Denard Span. Lew Ford will back things up.

That pesky designated hitter spot isn't locked up, so a lot of speculation still remains. Cirillo will have a shot at it, as will Jason Kubel, if his knees can recover.

Ron Gardenhire's Twins definitely have some tough competition to stay on top of the ALC, with Detroit and Chicago staying strong, and Cleveland and Kansas City adding some talent of their own this off season.

Depth Chart

Duchscherer Stays Another Year In Oakland

Justin Duchscherer and the Oakland Athletics agreed to a $1,187,500 contract on Monday, keeping the righty in the bullpen for at least another season.

In May and June of 2006, he missed 42 games while on the DL with tendinitis in his right elbow, finishing 2-1 with a 2.91 ERA and a career-high nine saves in 53 appearances. He issued only nine walks in 55.2 innings, the third-lowest in the AL while making $344,500.

Duchscherer's best season came in 2005 when he went to the All-Star game and finished 7-4 with a 2.21 ERA and five saves in 65 games.

Source: MLB.com

Lopez, Nationals Come To Terms

Felipe Lopez and the Washington Nationals avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $3.9 million, one-year deal on Monday. They compromised on both ends, with Lopez asking for $4.1 million when he filed, while the Nationals submitted a $3.7 million offer, giving him a $1.2 million raise from last season's salary.

After playing at short for most of his big league career, Lopez will move to second base in 2007 and is expected to be the Nats' lead off hitter. He batted .274 overall in 2006, with 11 homers, 52 RBIs and 44 steals after being acquired by Washington in July in a trade with Cincinnati.

Lopez's best season came with the Reds in his 2005 All-Star year, where he hit .291 with 23 homers and 85 RBIs.

Source: FOX Sports


Season Preview: The Detroit Tigers

Kicking off the MLB 2007 Season Previews for the tough-as-nails American League Central are the Detroit Tigers.

The seemingly unbeatable Tigers and their angry, chain-smoking manager of the year, Jim Leyland, had a hell of a season last year. They even had Bob Seger sing "America The Beautiful" before Game 1 of the World Series. But it wasn't enough; not even the rain could stop the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

The Tigers have done some revamping this offseason by adding a big, controversial bat in Gary Sheffield and a steady arm in righty reliever Jose Mesa from the Colorado Rockies. They also re-signed Brandon Inge's soul patch for four years and avoided arbitration with first baseman Sean Casey for another year.

Magglio Ordonez' beautiful locks will return to the outfield along with Craig Monroe and Curtis Granderson. Utility infielder Omar Infante was also given a one-year contract, with righty reliever Fernando Rodney recently signing on for two years at $2.7 million.

Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco are back as the double-play duo, as they've been signed to multi-year contracts and Pudge Rodriguez will once again lead the backstops in his 4th year as a Tiger.

AL Rookie of the Year, Justin Verlander and Nate Robertson will rejoin the starting rotation along with the tumultuous, pine-tar-palmed Kenny Rogers. Detroit's other rocket arm, Jeremy Bonderman, agreed to a four-year deal with the club to the tune of $38 million, a bargain in baseball dollars.

Detroit's bullpen is still stocked with million-dollar arms, including Joel Zumaya's 100-mph fastball, Wilfredo Ledezma, home-towner Jason Grilli and starter-turned-reliever Zach Miner.

It seems the club is set for another challenging season in the ALC, with a strong rotation and a heavy lineup. Look for the Tigers to make another run at the Central Title, while trying to fight off the Twins, White Sox and Indians.

Depth Chart

Adios, #7...

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Good morning. Wait, it is not a good morning, what am I saying? The Patriots defense rolled over and died last night, and I'm surprised Phil Simms could even speak while verbally blowing Peyton Manning.

But I digress...11 year veteran, notorious fight-picker and starting right fielder Trot Nixon has joined Keith "Burger King" Foulke on the Cleveland Indians for next season. During his tenure with the Red Sox, Nixon hit .278 with 133 homers and 523 RBIs in 982 games.

Best of luck, Christopher Trotman Nixon, and I look forward to seeing you deck Tanyon Sturtze sometime in the near future.

Source: ESPN.com


Ramon Ortiz Heads To Minnesota

The Minnesota Twins and righty pitcher Ramon Ortiz have agreed to a one-year, $3.1 million deal, contingent upon a passed physical.

The 33-year-old Ortiz has started at least 30 games in five of his last six seasons, his best season coming in 2002 when he helped the Angels win their first World Series by going 15-9, including a 6-0 record in his final nine starts, with a 3.77 ERA.

The Twins are hoping Ortiz will fill at least part of the large void left in their starting rotation by the absence of Francisco Liriano due to Tommy John surgery and the retirement of Brad Radke.

Ramon would join reigning Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, Carlos Silva, Boof Bonser and possibly Sidney Ponson, if his contract is guaranteed after spring training. Young guns Matt Garza and Glen Perkins are two other options the team has, but they would like to have some veteran help, which Ortiz offers despite his scrawny frame.

Source: Star Tribune

Utley Inks $85 Million

The day after getting hitched, Chase Utley signed an $85 million, seven-year contract with the Phillies, avoiding his 2009 free agency. That should make for an extra special honeymoon.

Utley hit .309 last season with 40 doubles, 32 homers, 102 RBIs and 131 runs. He also had a 35-game hitting streak that tied for the 10th-longest in history; the longest ever by a second baseman.

Chase became the 15th player in major league history (the second from Philly after Chuck Klein in the early 1930s) to hit .300 while recording 200 hits, 30 homers, 100 RBIs, 40 doubles and 130 runs in a single season. He led Big League second basemen in longballs, RBIs, hits and runs scored for the past two seasons.

His agent, Arn Tellem, explained that when the Phillies came to them with this huge multiyear deal, Chase didn't really have to think twice since he loves Philadelphia and is hoping to retire there.

Source: Bloomberg


A New Era For Babes

From the beginning, Babes That Love Baseball has been a Minnesota Twins blog. I've enjoyed the growth in readership, comments and writing about how amazing the Twins are (they'll always be the best in my eyes).

However, I've decided to expand this little blog and bring another babe on board. Welcome, Lizzy. May your Red Sox burn in hell.

We will be covering all Major League teams, MLB news, games, stories and players past and present. Especially the hot ones.

We'll cover the mishaps, the controversies, the anguish and elation.

We'll begin by profiling one team at a time up until the first pitch of the regular season. It should be fun, so stick around and spread the word!

Familiar Face

The Minnesota Twins have reunited with Matthew LeCroy.

The Twins and LeCroy have agreed to a minor league contract that includes a Spring Training invitation, with the option to earn $500,000 if he makes it to the Bigs.

LeCroy spent last season with the Nationals, batting .239 with two home runs in 39 games before being released in July.

His best season came with the Twins in 2003, when he hit .287 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs in a career-high 107 games as the Twins' DH and third catcher.


Six Twins File For Salary Arbitration

The Twins and their six arbitration-eligible players submitted contract figures Tuesday, including first-timers Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.

Morneau is seeking $5 million for 2007, a $4.14 million raise from the $385,000 he was paid in 2006. After hitting .321 with 34 home runs and 130 RBIs, the Canadian Crusher was awarded the American League's MVP award. The Twins have offered Morneau $4 million and the two sides are continuing negotiations on a long-term contract for the invaluable 25-year-old first baseman.

The club is also trying to lock up Mauer, the Major Leagues' leading hitter to a long-term deal. The All-Star catcher was paid $400,000 in 2006 and is seeking $4.5 million for 2007 while the Twins have offered $3.3 million.

There is an even bigger gap between Minnesota's $3.3 million offer to Michael Cuddyer and the $4.25 million that the outfielder is asking. Cuddyer and the Twins avoided arbitration last year by agreeing to a one-year, $1.3 million contract with incentives. They certainly got their money's worth out of one of the team's most clutch hitters.

After making $425,000 last year, utility outfielder Leeeeeeew Ford wants a raise to $1.3 million while the Twins are offering him $800,000. Reliever Juan Rincon, who made $700,000 last season, is seeking $2.4 million while Minnesota has offered $1.6 million.

Nick Punto, who made $690,000 last season, is also arbitration-eligible for the second consecutive year. The third baseman submitted a $2.1 million number while the Twins' offer is for $1.6 million.

These six players were paid a combined $3.9 million in 2006. The Twins' are offering a $14.3 million in all while the players are seeking $19.55 million for 2007. The two sides can continue to negotiate a contract until their scheduled hearing begins sometime in February, when a panel of three arbitrators will select one of the two salary figures submitted. Their decision is binding.

As a fan, I sincerely hope some of these players are kept happy and paid what they deserve. Surely, there are other teams out there willing to pay much, much more for their services.


The Twins Are America's Team

Thanks to Shelly McKay for this article.

Today, the America's Team organization announced that it has chosen the Minnesota Twins to receive the 2006 America's Team Award for professional baseball. Based on integrity, teamwork, sportsmanship and commitment to the community, the America's Team Award honors American sports teams and their athletes in the achievement of overall excellence.

"The America's Team Award celebrates athletic excellence as well as recognizes team dedication to community development. This year we are honored to give the America's Team Award for professional baseball to the Minnesota Twins," said Bryan Reichel, America's Team president. "The team's commitment to improving the lives of children and their families throughout the upper Midwest is appreciated and admired by many professional athletes and fans."

The award was presented to the Minnesota Twins by Bryan Reichel, president of the America's Team organization.

Other America's Team 2006 Award trophy recipients include: Pittsburgh Steelers (professional football), Florida Gators (men's college basketball), and Maryland Terrapins (women's college basketball).

About America's Team
America's Team is an organization that celebrates the role of good will in athletics and offers recognition for the honest effort put forth by athletes, both on and off of the playing field. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, America's Team honors excellence and commitment in American sports through awards, promotions and community giving. Learn more at www.americasteamusa.com.

About the Minnesota Twins
As the American League 2006 Central Division Champions, the Minnesota Twins are proud to represent the state of Minnesota and the upper Midwest. The Twins commitment to community includes the Twins Community Fund, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to enrich local and regional communities by providing resources for the healthy development of children and families through baseball and softball. In addition, the team provides direct support to the community via a variety of in-kind and team resources.


Twins Winter Caravan

The Caravan departs Monday, stopping in over 50 communities along the way. Current and former Twins players and coaches along with radio and television personalities will be at each location to sign autographs and talk about this upcoming season. Twins legend will also participate.

Check out this page on the Twins site to find out when they're coming to your area!

Minnesota @ Baltimore

To get you nice and warmed up for Spring Training, here is a photo slide show of the Twins playing the Orioles last year at Camden Yards in August and September.

Thanks to Anthony of the Oriole Post for the amazing pictures.


Arbitration Eligible

Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer were among the 100+ players to file for salary arbitration on Friday, setting themselves up for big, fat pay raises.

The Twins got more than a bargain for those two last season as Morneau made $385,000 as the AL MVP and Mauer made $400,000 as the AL batting champion.

How big of an increase their salaries will receive is yet to be determined. To give you an idea of what those two could (and should) make, here is a list of a few players' post-award season salaries. Inflation is inevitable.

Source: Baseball Almanac


Last season was full of ups and downs in Minnesota; walk-off homers, rising rookies, devastating injuries and an unforgettable final regular-season game. Check out MLB's photo slideshows, highlighting the Twins 2006 season.

First Half

Second Half


Twins GM Terry Ryan has reportedly shown interest in free agents Ramon Ortiz and Bruce Chen, to possibly fill some holes in the 2007 starting rotation.

Ortiz, 33, went 11-16 with a 5.57 ERA with the Nationals last season. His best year came in 2002 with the Angels where he posted a 3.77 ERA (15-9) in 32 games. Ramon made $2.5 million last season and could demand more than the Twins would be willing to offer.

Chen, 29, was 0-7 with a 6.93 ERA with Baltimore last season after going 13-10 (3.02 ERA) in 2004 with the O's. He's been with eight different teams in his 8-year Major League career and might be a better fit for the Twins bullpen, which lacks a second lefty.

Minnesota may also have their eye on right-handed pitcher Steve Trachsel, who was 15-8 last season with the Mets. He made $2.5 million last year, and could be even tougher to sign than Ortiz. Steve boasted a 3.03 ERA in his best season with the Cubs in 1996.

The Twins have signed 30-year-old Sidney Ponson to a one-year, $1 million Minor League contract, with a $2 million performance option. They also signed another pitcher, righty Brad Voyles, who spent last season with the Cardinals' AAA affiliate in Memphis.

A career 80-96 pitcher, Ponson went 4-5 with a 6.25 ERA in 2006 with the Cards, who released him in July. He was then picked up by the Yankees, who tossed him after just two starts. He has seen his ERA rise over each of the last three seasons, after going 17-12 with a 3.75 ERA with Baltimore and San Francisco in 2003.

The hope is that pitching coach Rick Anderson will be able to re-mold Ponson into the innings-eating pitcher he once was, to give the Twins more depth to their rotation. GM Terry Ryan believes that maybe just a change of scenery is all that would be needed to help these two players.
"This is an opportunity for him to compete for one of our rotation spots with a host of others, and he is still just 30 years old," Ryan said. "It wasn't too long ago that he threw well over 200 innings. We feel like we are a good fit for him and I thought it certainly was worth taking a shot at bringing in a guy that has the Major League experience that he has."

Voyles, 30, was limited to just three starts for Memphis last season due to knee problems. He has been pitching in Venezuela during the Winter League and has proven himself healthy, going 1-2 with a 2.78 ERA in five starts. He also has some Major League experience, having spent parts of three seasons with the Royals from 2001-03 with a career 0-4 record and a 6.45 ERA.

The Twins have had some recent success with pitchers who have been shuffled around throughout their career. Dennys Reyes, for example, emerged as one of the best left-handed relievers in the league after struggling to find a fit with other teams.


The American League Central will only get tougher in this coming year and the Twins have some major questions to answer, along with some tough re-building choices ahead of them.

Detroit followed up its World Series appearance by adding Gary Sheffield as DH to an already muscular lineup. The White Sox have re-amped their bullpen by adding David Aardsma, Andrew Sisco and Gavin Floyd, while also making room for budding star Brandon McCarthy for Freddy Garcia. Cleveland added outfielder David Dellucci along with some bullpen help; even Kansas City spent some dough by signing starter Gil Meche to a five-year, $55 million deal.

Considering Minnesota's biggest losses this past season - rookie phenom Francisco Liriano to Tommy John surgery and dependable veteran Brad Radke to retirement - fans are left questioning the depth and stability of the Twins' starting rotation.

Of course, two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana will lead the pitching staff, but behind him follows a series of question marks.

Boof Bonser is expected to take the #2 spot, with his experience limited to one season. Carlos Silva is coming off one of his worst seasons ever, and the other two spots may be filled by the much-improved Matt Garza and hopefully, talented lefty Glen Perkins.

The Twins' apparent goal for the offseason was to add at least one veteran arm to that group. With the price tag on many free agents and the desire for young talent, a decent trade or pick-up was next to impossible for such a small-market team. While the club has remained fairly quiet, they did add infielder free agent Jeff Cirillo and Rule 5 Draft choice Alejandro Machado.

A steady dose of offense always helps to lighten a pitchers' load. Minnesota saw a bunch of young stars emerge in the lineup, as AL MVP Justin Morneau, AL Batting Champ Joe Mauer, and 100-RBIer Michael Cuddyer all had breakout seasons.

The infield appears to be stocked, with Jason Bartlett holding down the shortstop spot and Nick Punto locking up third base for the upcoming season. Luis Castillo proved he could stay healthy at second base and Morneau has drastically improved his defense.

Torii Hunter will once again rule the center of the outfield after the Twins picked up his $12 million option for 2007. Cuddy finally earned a permanent starting spot in right field, but a hole still remains in left field. The Twins brought back Rondell White (why?) to possibly take that spot, with questions surrounding Jason Kubel's unstable knees and the loss of Shannon Stewart. Jason Tyner and fan favorite Leeeeeew Ford, along with promising rookies Denard Span and Alex Romero are a few other possibilities for the outfield chart.

One of 2006's best bullpens will return in full force, only without righty Willie Eyre, who was released last month. A second lefty to take some burden off of Dennys Reyes would be welcome, as well.

There is still plenty of talent on the club, so don't count them out of the ALC race just yet. GM Terry Ryan has a history of making moves after the New Year, but if he doesn't, the Twins will have to stick with what they've got: a boatload of youngins'. Minnesota has long relied on its farm system for digging up talent, so the inability to acquire a big bat or strong arm is nothing new.