10 things for Monday

March, 30, 2009
Ten things for a Monday morning:

1. The Cubs' Kevin Gregg/Carlos Marmol closer situation is not set in stone. "I think it's the right way to start the season and take some pressure off Marmol," Lou Piniella said Sunday. "We'll see how it evolves."

Piniella has Aaron Heilman, and hasn't decided whether to keep Jeff Samardzija as "a real good fourth bullpen alternative" or send him to the minors and avoid putting Angel Guzman on waivers, as he is out of options.

Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild is encouraged that Rich Harden can hold up in the rotation. "He's really worked hard, made some changes in his delivery, and I'm hopeful he'll make it through the year," Rothschild said. "He's a special guy."

2. Bud Selig has given MLB security an open checkbook to try to clean up the messes in the Dominican Republic and other foreign countries. MLB has officers in the Dominican right now, is cooperating with the FBI in at least two major scandals involving the Chicago White Sox and the Washington Nationals and is trying to deal with falsified birth records, kickback scandals and the performance-enhancing drug smuggling that avoided security -- and the Mitchell Report -- until recently.

One MLB official estimates that there are more than 70 young players who are being detained in the Dominican and other countries, and one club official says it's his understanding "there are some big so-called prospects on the list." If the players are found to have falsified names, birthdates and other information, they may not get through immigration. "It's no different from any other immigration situation when it comes to American jobs," one GM said.

The commissioner's office became heavily involved when White Sox personnel director Dave Wilder was caught smuggling cash into the U.S., and the resulting investigation revealed a major scandal involving kickbacks of cash that was supposed to be bonus money paid to teenage prospects. According to security sources, White Sox GM Ken Williams was "distraught" by what happened and opened every computer and book to MLB. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf was outraged because of what had been done to the poor kids in Latin countries, and reportedly has been a driving force in cleaning up the mess, as Selig has been.

"There's a lot that may come down," one source said. "And it could come to a head in the next month."

One of MLB's brightest and toughest security men is spending a month in the Dominican Republic working on several fronts. As for the federal government, threats of jail time remain.

3. Indians manager Eric Wedge will use Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach "according to situations. Each will catch two or three days apiece, although Victor may play more first base because he's so good there. Kelly will catch Opening Day with Victor at first because I want Shoppach catching Cliff Lee."

The Indians rave about the left side of their infield. Piniella insists third base is Mark DeRosa's best position and being allowed to settle there may make the former Cub an All-Star. Wedge says, "There is no more consistent player than Jhonny Peralta. He's the same every day. Throws are perfect, in the same place every time. He has no anxiety."

Peralta also leads all AL shortstops in homers the past three seasons with 57.

4. The Cubs seem a lot more worried about Kosuke Fukudome than they let on. They worry about his bat; after all, Fukudome batted .217 with a .314 OBP after the All-Star break, and his July-August-September averages were .236, .193 and .178, respectively.

They also aren't sure he can hold up all season in center field, so Reed Johnson may become an important player. Because Milton Bradley plays so hard, he has faced injury problems and has played 100 games in the field once in his career.

So don't be surprised if Micah Hoffpauir ends up playing right if Bradley gets hurt, or if Fukudome hits in the No. 2 hole if Bradley and Johnson play some center, opening right field for Hoffpauir's bat.

5. Word is the Angels are worried enough about their starting pitching to look around, especially at the Reds. And several teams have expressed interest in Boston reliever Manny Delcarmen. Boston needs a catcher, and could use another infielder and even another outfielder.

6. In his last Triple-A start, Boston's Junichi Tazawa threw three balls in three innings.

7. I never realized Aaron Rowand and James Shields are cousins, but I should have figured that two of the game's most promising kids -- White Sox 2B/SS Gordon Beckham and Giants C Buster Posey -- are what Posey calls "the best of friends" from their days as Cape Cod League teammates.

8. Someone needs to do a video of Tim Lincecum getting loose by walking on his hands. Lincecum stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix last spring, and left a lasting memory for employees because he practiced his motion while walking through the lobby.

9. I never realized Shin-Soo Choo's strength until this spring. He ran up a 1.038 OPS after the All-Star break last season, and could be a big factor in a Cleveland lineup that is going to be very good.

10. I'll buy into this being Rickie Weeks' breakout year after watching the work Willie Randolph has put in getting Weeks to slow down his game.



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