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Q & A with Peter Gammons

April 30

ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons took the time to answer some questions from users.

Chipper Jones
Chipper Jones is eligible for free agency after the 2000 season.

Q: What do you think the Braves will do with Chipper Jones at season's end? Will they offer him a monster contract, allow him to shop around, or try to sign Alex Rodriguez instead? Personally, I feel with Rafael Furcal doing well at shortstop, and Quilvio Veras doing well at second base, the Braves need a third baseman, so Chipper has more value than A-Rod. What is your take?
Joe Wyatt

Gammons: I am positive that the Braves will do everything to re-sign Chipper. They love Furcal at short, and are so pleased with Veras that I think they'll keep the two together.

Q: What is your best guess at this point as to when a new Fenway Park will actually open?
P.F. Gallagher

Gammons: It will be 6-8 years, at best. The Red Sox are underfinanced, because they are owned by a trust. Their development plan has been linear, at best, and they did not think out the cost of land acquisition in such a small city. They have gone nowhere in the last year, and now the cost overruns of The Big Dig (highway contruction project in Boston) kill any chance that they can get the $480 million of public financing they need. They have to go and find a developing partner, but John Harrington has been unwilling to do so.

Q: What is the status of some of the San Francisco Giants' top minor-league pitchers, such as Kurt Ainsworth? And will Ainsworth or any of the other top young pitchers be called up soon, due to the poor starts by both Livan Hernandez and Russ Ortiz?
Ezra Tafesse
Tucson, Ariz.

Gammons: The Giants like Ainsworth, but feel that their next group of young pitchers after Joe Nathan are probably a year or two aways. Jason Grilli and Joe Fontenot were in that group, but were traded for Hernandez and Robb Nen.

Q: Adrian Beltre strikes me as a guy who has the necessary tools to play shortstop at the big-league level (strong arm, quickness, range, agility). I'm curious if you have any idea why the Dodgers didn't try to develop him as a shortstop, especially considering they weren't particularly strong at the position when they signed him six years ago. I acknowledge, however, that he is still raw playing third base. What are your thoughts?
Paco Torrado
New York

Gammons: You have a good point, but Beltre was such a prototypical third baseman that they plunked him there. Normally, a club wants more of a waterbug at shortstop.

Q: What are the chances that the Mets will release or trade Rickey Henderson and give more playing time to Jon Nunnally, Jay Payton, and Benny Agbayani? Things seem to happen when these three are in the lineup.
Joe Raskin
New York

Gammons: The problem is that the Mets need Rickey, and he knows it, because none of the others can lead off. Prospect Jason Tyner is a ways off, so they have to keep plugging with Henderson until an outfielder becomes available in June.

Q: Is Darren Dreifort ready to turn the corner? He has some of the best stuff in the league, but wildness and it seems fatigue have seemed to undermine him so far in his career.
John DiBenedetto
Massapequa Park, N.Y.

Gammons: Absolutely. He needed to pitch, because he's got Kevin Brown stuff. Now he's pitching, in time to hit the free agent market after this season.

Q: As a National League fan, I am adjusting to the new umpiring crews. Which umpires are considered the most pro-pitcher and pro-hitter in calling balls and strikes? Have they changed their strike zone in light of the mixed (combined former AL and NL) crews?
Bill Barath
Columbus, Ohio

Gammons: John Hirschbeck is pro-pitcher, and considered one of the best in terms of hustle, integrity and honesty. Of the former AL umpires, Dan Morrison, John Shulock and Tim Welke are known to have tight zones.

Q:What is going to happen with the Red Sox when John Valentin and Bret Saberhagen return in May? Will Brian Rose be the odd man out in the rotation? Will Wilton Veras stay at third and Valentin move to DH, spelling Veras occasionally? In that scenario what happens to Mike Stanley? Can Jimy Williams keep everyone happy or is there a deal in the works?
Doug Swain
London, England

Gammons: No one knows if Valentin will be able to play third. Williams loves Veras, and if the kid is hitting, Valentin may be a right-handed DH. He's a ways away. They hope Saberhagen will be ready by Memorial Day. Mid-June is more likely, and who knows? This is a remarkable man and one should never wager against him.

Q: What do you think will happen with the Cardinals' rotation if Matt Morris and Alan Benes get back to form? That could leave six quality starters in the rotation. Rick Ankiel has looked very promising early on. Would they possibly move Pat Hentgen or someone into long relief or a set-up role?
Jim Price
Raleigh, N.C.

Gammons: Morris will go right into the rotation as soon as he finishes rehab while Alan will go into the pen, as will Garrett Stephenson if no one is hurt.

Q: Keeping in mind that he may possibly be the best defensive first baseman ever, do you thing Don Mattingly belongs in the Hall of Fame?
Jon Miller
Springfield, N.J.

Gammons: No, but only because injury denied him longevity. Too bad, because if the issue of character were a qualification, he'd be 11 on a scale of 10 (to quote Jackson Browne).

Q: To what do you attribute Darin Erstad's blazing start after last year's disappointing campaign?
Joel Leer
Owatonna, Minn.

Gammons: I think he's healthy and I think that he's thinking less at the plate. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulder because he is such an intense, great person.

Q: I was wondering about the status of Jose Guillen? He had a good spring but was forced to the minors because of the crowded outfield situation in Tampa Bay. I saw recently where he has been tearing up Triple-A pitching.
Russell Braga
East Providence, R.I.

Gammons: Jose has to make up his mind how badly he wants to be good. Tampa could use his outfield tools. But Bubba Trammell can hit, if he ever gets the chance

Q: In your opinion, which is Richard Thompson's finest album: Shoot Out The Lights, I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight, Rumour And Sigh or Mock Tudor?
Tom Van Sant
Burlington, Vt.

Gammons: Are you any relation to Townes? Actually, I like Rumour And Sigh.

Q: When Tim Belcher comes back from the minors I've heard that he will go back into their starting rotation. Is that true? And if it is who gets bumped out: Ramon Ortiz, Scott Schoeneweis, Ken Hill, Jason Dickson or Kent Bottenfield?
Jay Fisher
Hermosa Beach, Calif.

Gammons: That's one of those wait-to-see things. Dickson struggled last time out, but he has really pitched well this season.

Q: How much longer will the Yankees stick with the Shane Spencer/Ricky Ledee DH/LF combination? After posting good numbers during spring training, both have tailed off considerably since. Is there any talk of the Yankees making a move for Jeromy Burnitz or anyone else?
Greg Alvarez
Pompton Lakes, N.J.

Gammons: They may, in time, but they want to see if they need pitching first. The Yankee system isn't as deep as they like to tell people, and their chips have to be held until they see what's available on the pitching market. Burnitz would cost them a ton.

Q: Have you taken a look at Bobby Bradley, a minor leaguer in the Pirates' system? Being from southeast Florida and seeing him as a high school player, I was wondering if you think he has the same superstar potential as Rick Ankiel.
Charlie Sapia
Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Gammons: I had someone tell me this week that he has a 7 curveball (on a scale of 8) and will come in a hurry. The Pirates have made some odd picks the last few years, but this kid is reportedly someone who could be in the bigs at 21-22.

Q: Do you think Sun-Woo Kim could have an impact on the Red Sox this year, or is he still a year or two away?
Jason Foley
Pembroke, Mass.

Gammons: I think he'll be on their staff in one role or another by the All-Star break. He throws 90 with live sink, he's tough to pick up and he has an idea of what he's doing.

Q: Do you see Barry Zito cracking the A's rotation by the end of the year? Also, how do you think Mark Mulder will do and do you expect him to stay in the rotation for the remainder of the year?
Buckner Matthews

Gammons: I have been a Zito fan since I watched him in the Cape Cod League, and think he can pitch in the big leagues by July. Whether he will depends on injuries and whether the A's are in the race. If they are not, they could trade Kevin Appier or Omar Olivares on July 31

Q: What do you know about Rob Bell's minor-league history and how would you describe his immediate impact pitching for the Reds?
Bruce Lentz
Sparks, Md.

Gammons: He had physical problems last year, but John Schuerholz, who traded him from the Braves to the Reds, recently told me "I am not surprised he's pitching well, he is the real deal." Hard sink, good delivery, well schooled.

Q: After Eric Owens, who do you think are the five most exciting players in the game today?
Jay Tweet
Provo, Utah

Gammons: It depends on your definition. I had Owens as a semi-regular sparkplug exciter. To join him in that category I add Melvin Mora (Mets), Calvin Murray (Giants), Jesse Garcia (Orioles) and F.P. Santangelo (Dodgers).

Q: Do you see the Phillies offense recovering from their miserable April start? If so, who will be the catalyst? And how much longer do you think it will be until we see Pat Burrell in a Phillies uniform?
Mike Freitag
Allentown, Pa.

Gammons: I still think some AL club will grab Ron Gant, and then Burrell will move into left field. The Phils' bad start makes it more likely to happen quickly.

Q: Do you think the Players Association would agree to drop the DH if the owners agreed to expand rosters to 26 players per team?
Terry Metzger

Gammons: The Association leaders say they would shut down baseball rather than give up the DH. That's labor lawyer thinking.

Q: Do you think that baseball will come to the Washington D.C./Northern Virginia area anytime soon? What franchises are most likely to move, if any?
Jason Hammersla
Arlington, Va.

Gammons: Until some team goes bankrupt and has to move, baseball will hold onto that area as blackmail fodder.

Q: It's obvious the Reds need some pitching. What kind of pitcher can they possibly get if they traded say Dmitri Young or Michael Tucker? And is converting Scott Williamson into a starter out of the question?
Ben Burkhart

Gammons: Right now, not much. There just isn't much available. It will take another month before the market begins to open.

Q: Even though Darren Lewis is great defensively and he brings a lot of intangibles to the table, he continues to really struggle with the bat. Thus, will Michael Coleman ever get a legitimate shot with the Red Sox as long as Jimy Williams is manager? If not, are there any plans to trade him for some pitching any time soon?
Kevin Flynn
Acushnet, Mass.

Gammons: Coleman hasn't yet shown the defense, hitting consistency or hustle to deserve to play in the majors.

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