Good last impression might not be enough to earn roster spot

Updated: March 25, 2009

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Jeff Samardzija has two weeks left to win a spot on the Cubs' opening day roster.


It's put up or shut up time for young players trying to do that little bit extra to make a big league club. Although players can unexpectedly make the major league roster based on an impressive showing at spring training, it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes it's not about individual ability. Sometimes it all comes down to roster flexibility.

Back in 1983, I won the Dodgers' rookie of the year award for spring training. The day before the team departed Vero Beach, Fla., for Anaheim to play a freeway series with the Angels, I was still on the roster. That wouldn't last. I was cut, because the 11 pitchers who made the roster didn't have any minor league options left. I did.

Tommy Lasorda called me into his office to give me the news that the Dodgers were sending me down. He said, "Don't get a long-term lease in Albuquerque. You'll be up here in no time."

Then the Dodgers went the whole year without making a pitching move. So I got to the big leagues on Sept. 1, 1983, when rosters expanded. Five months after that meeting with Lasorda, I arrived with the major league team. When I saw Lasorda, the first thing I said was "I guess I needed a long-term lease, Tommy!"

So you need to show what you can do, but sometimes it's out of your hands. If the players are good enough they will get there sooner or later.

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Each day,'s contributors offer a wide array of thoughts and analysis in their blogs. Buster Olney recalls a career-changing conversation Curt Schilling had with Roger Clemens:

The young pitcher had no idea whether the star player would agree to meet with him, but he had let it be known he was around, just in case the star had time for him. And quite frankly, the star player wasn't really that interested in talking with the young player. He wondered if it would be a waste of his time.

The star had seen and heard enough about the young player to believe that the kid was intent on wasting his talent, that he wasn't really that serious about his work, and nothing frustrated this particular star more than somebody who would soon throw it all away. The star had played seven years in the big leagues and had earned a reputation for being very serious about his work, about being very serious about his pursuit of greatness.

In the end, he decided to talk to the young player, a kid then 24 years old. He let the young guy have it, as both would recall years later. No punches were pulled. The star told the kid pitcher, to his face, everything he thought about his work ethic; blunt words that hit deep into the soul of the younger player. The star intended to jar his nerves, feeling as if he owed it to the kid pitcher -- to baseball -- to be as honest as possible.

The kid pitcher took it all to heart; he had too much respect for the star to not take it seriously, too much respect for his accomplishments and for his approach to the game. The pointed words of the star became his fuel, and in the years that followed, he pursued greatness in the way the star had talked about, preparing himself physically, mentally, disciplining himself.

There would come a day about a decade later that the younger pitcher -- no longer a kid -- would climb a mound and pitch against the star in one of the most famous games in history. The day before that game, the younger pitcher made it very clear that this moment might never have come without the tough words from the star. "When you look at the by-lines of the game … Game 7 of the World Series, and all that that entails," he said, "and what has happened in my career, what he's done in my career, I don't know that I'd ever get a ball for a bigger game in my life."

For the rest of this entry from Buster Olney's blog, click here.

Rob Neyer examines the Indians' decisions on their starting rotation:

The Indians have locked in their rotation:

    GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Left-hander Scott Lewis and right-hander Anthony Reyes will open the season as the Cleveland Indians' fourth and fifth starters.

    Manager Eric Wedge told Lewis Wednesday he won the No. 4 spot in the rotation. Aaron Laffey was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday, one day after Jeremy Sowers was sent down.

    Reyes will be moved to the fifth spot to give him time off at various points in the season. Reyes was shut down in September with a sore elbow, but has not had discomfort this spring.

    Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee lead the rotation, followed by Fausto Carmona, a 19-game winner in 2007, and veteran Carl Pavano, who signed as a free agent.

In the new Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Scott Lewis comes in 21st among Cleveland's prospects. In the new Baseball Prospect Book, John Sickels assigns a C+ grade to Lewis. Oddly, both books suggest that he might be good enough to pitch in the Indians' rotation this season.

For the rest of this entry from Rob Neyer's blog, click here.



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Clay BuchholzClay Buchholz continues to make a case for a spot in the Red Sox's rotation. The right-hander allowed three hits and one run, and did not issue a walk, over six innings in a win against Cincinnati on Wednesday. Buchholz is 2-0 with a 0.46 ERA this spring.
Jason MarquisJason Marquis had one of those spring training days to forget on Wednesday. The Rockies' starter gave up 10 hits, 12 runs and four walks over 3 1/3 innings. What's worse? The guy who replaced him, Adam Bright, gave up three runs while retiring just two batters, pushing his ERA to 40.50 this spring.



The New York Yankees reportedly remain open to the possibility of trading center fielder Melky Cabrera. With the recent emergence of Brett Gardner, and an outfield featuring Xavier Nady, Nick Swisher, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, Cabrera may become expendable.

The move may open up space in a crowded outfield, but Gardner doesn't compare favorably to Cabrera in two key hitting categories. Gardner is more prone to striking out and is less of a threat to get a hit when the game is on the line.

Cabrera vs. Gardner
Cabrera Gardner
Strikeout pct. 12.8 21.3
Strikeout pct. (w/ 2 strikes) 28.7 41.1
BA (innings 4-6) .268 .250
BA (innings 7-9) .265 .175

-- ESPN Stats and Information



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