Posted on: March 6, 2012 7:06 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 11:00 am
MESA, Ariz. -- Ears perked up, perhaps, by new manager Dale Sveum discussing him as a potential cleanup man the other day, beleaguered Cubs veteran Alfonso Soriano sure looked the part Tuesday.
Granted, it was March 6. Yes, the Colorado Rockies essentially are holding tryouts for their rotation and Guillermo Moscoso and Zach Putnam won't remind anyone of Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson anytime soon. And true, making hasty spring training judgments is more dangerous than crossing the desert with no water.
On the flip side, when you've had your ears pinned back with boos while disappointing as much as Soriano has over the past couple of seasons ... maybe a little confidence boost can go a long way.
Batting fourth against the Rockies on Tuesday, Soriano absolutely crushed a Moscoso pitch in the second inning, drilling it off of the scoreboard behind the left-field seats. Then, after doubling against Alex White -- another Rockies' starting pitcher wannabe -- he ripped another homer, this one in the fifth against Putnam. He finished with three RBIs.
"Second game, and I'm starting to feel good with my swing and with my timing," Soriano said. "That made me feel good."
Normally, Soriano said, it takes him somewhere between 20 and 25 at-bats before he begins feeling good in the spring. So you might say he's already in mid-spring form.
"My goal is to have a lot of at-bats and feel comfortable at the plate," Soriano, who batted .244 with 26 homers and 88 RBI last season, said of the spring. "I want to show my teammates and show the Cubs that I'm here to play the game. It doesn't matter if I lead off, I'm here to do my job."
Soriano, a leadoff man in the past, lost that gig in 2009 under Lou Piniella. Slogging along at the plate for too long, Soriano mostly hit seventh (221 plate appearances) last year, with some sixth (186) and fifth (94) mixed in.
Aggressively shopped over the winter by new president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, and booed at the Cubs Convention over the winter, Soriano said he doesn't care where he hits in the lineup.
"Not really," he said. "I'm just preparing my mind. It doesn't matter to me if I lead off or hit fourth or fifth."
Wherever Sveum thinks he can best help the club, the affable Soriano said, he's happy to hit there.
Sveum has said he'd like to give rookie first baseman Bryan LaHair the opportunity to hit in the cleanup spot in the order. But right out of the gate, that would appear to be pushing it for a rookie. If Soriano can have a good spring and own the cleanup spot, that will take some of the heat off of LaHair as well as give the Cubs a boost.
Plus, the only way the Cubs likely will be able to trade him is if he gets off to a hot start, and a contender impressed with his April, May and June comes calling. Soriano has three years and $54 million remaining on his contract. The under-new-management Cubs have been so desperate to move him that sources say they will eat a significant portion of the contract if they can deal him.
This spring, though, Soriano, 36, will keep his blinders on and prepare for 2012.
He wants to get as many spring at-bats as he can.
"The more I take, the more I feel comfortable at home plate," he said. "If I can get 50, 60, 100 ... my goal is to be ready for opening day."
Last spring, he checked in with 64 at-bats.
This spring, if many more of them go as they did Tuesday, maybe Soriano can write a happy ending yet.
Sunblock day? Nice and hot, in the 80s, with a bright, warm sun and a cloudless, blue sky. Perfect spring training weather. And great convertible day.
Likes: Cool old huge photo of Ron Santo on the door greeting those entering the press box at the Cubs' HoHoKam Park. Very striking, and a great tribute. ... Looking forward to watching Yu Darvish's Cactus League debut Wednesday. ... Every time I visit Scottsdale Stadium, it's reinforced that it's the best thing going. ... Reminiscing about former major leaguers and legendary scouts Pat Dobson and Ted Uehlander with Giants general manager Brian Sabean. Each of those men, special assistants to Sabean before passing away, was a terrific baseball character, and it brightened your day to run into them. I miss seeing Dobber and Ted around the spring training trails. ... The fried calamari at the Italian Grotto in Scottsdale.
Dislikes: Freddy Sanchez, Giants' second baseman -- will he ever again be healthy enough to be the player many thought he would become? Discuss.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Hold tight to your anger
"And don't fall to your fears"
-- Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
Posted on: November 7, 2011 6:56 pm
Late spring, two years ago, manager Bruce Bochy told me that Jonathan Sanchez was going to be one very important key to San Francisco's season. And as the Giants went on to win the 2010 World Series, he was.
But as the Giants regressed in 2011, so did the frustratingly enigmatic Sanchez. Straight to the point where the Giants finally threw up their hands and shipped him to Kansas City on Monday for outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Difference between the Giants 2010 World Series run and failing to make the playoffs in 2011?
Try 127 runs ... or .78 runs per game.
Only Seattle crossed the plate fewer times than the Giants in 2011.
They have to score more and, in dealing Sanchez, what they've decided is that the only way to boost that offense is to deal from their source of strength, pitching.
It is a key decision for this reason: They do not have much money to spend this winter.
Failing some financial miracle, such as trading Barry Zito, sources familiar with the Giants winter plans say that they do not have the resources to chase Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins on the free agent market. They very well may not have enough to re-sign free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran.
As such, general manager Brian Sabean worked to strike quickly, adding to his lineup before some of the affordable bats were taken from the market.
In Cabrera, the Giants acquired a center fielder who likes the big stage, played well with the Yankees and hit .305 with 44 doubles, 18 homers and 87 RBI for the Royals last summer. Just 27, Cabrera also scored 102 runs for the Royals.
He is a smart, quick upgrade for the Giants.
Sanchez will turn 29 in two weeks, has a no-hitter on his resume and compiled a disappointing 4.26 ERA while going 4-7 with the Giants last summer. He missed the final month-and-a-half with a left ankle sprain.
Meantime, the Giants wasted Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and even Ryan Vogelsong, pitching that should have been good enough to take aim at a second consecutive World Series berth instead of winter tee times.
What they ultimately decided with Sanchez sidelined was that he was the most expendable -- or undependable, take your pick, they're probably one and the same -- of their starters.
If there is to be no Reyes or Rollins in the near future, acquiring Cabrera looks an awful lot like what Sabean did two years ago in building the '10 World Series winner: Supplement top-shelf pitching with the right mix of position players to squeeze enough runs across the plate to win more often than not.
It worked in 2010 because the Giants found that mix with players like Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, and then they got hot just at the right time.
They never did get hot in 2011. If they are to recapture that formula in 2012, Cabrera, a healthy Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez and a bounce-back year from Huff will be among the key pieces.
Barring some found money, they have to be.
Posted on: July 12, 2009 8:06 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2009 8:47 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Freddy Sanchez's inclusion onto the National League All-Star team Sunday inches him a little closer toward guaranteeing his 2010 contract.
Which could make Pittsburgh's ongoing efforts to trade him a little more difficult.
There is no question that the Pirates, one of the most active teams in the trade market this summer, are looking to capitalize on their second baseman's hot start by dealing him.
But one mitigating factor that unquestionably will make general manager Neal Huntington's job more difficult as he works to re-shape the Pirates is that, with Sanchez having been selected as an All-Star, his current contract now vests for 2010 with 600 plate appearances.
At that point, Sanchez, more than halfway there with 342 plate appearances into Sunday, is guaranteed an $8 million salary for 2010.
As one major-league executive noted Sunday, that's a lot of money for a player who gets hurt quite a bit. Most recently, Sanchez missed a week with a sore back.
If he doesn't reach 600 plate appearances this summer, the Pirates own an $8 million club option, and the Pirates can buy him out for $600,000 if they choose to not pick it up.
Among the teams that have been linked to trade talks with the Pirates are San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle and Tampa Bay.
The Giants, leading the NL wild-card hunt at the break, make a lot of sense because they are starved for offense.
You probably can discount the Twins, however. Industry sources say they're focusing on bullpen help. And $8 million is pretty pricey for them, unless the player's name is Justin Morneau or Joe Nathan.