'Minor' moves that have had a big impact

It's the stuff that happened this past winter while everybody else was digesting the 1,000th Roy Halladay trade rumor of the week.

It's the stuff that happened while the rest of us debated which hitter would collect the biggest paycheck, Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.

But what we're learning again this season is that it isn't always the stuff we think matters every winter that determines who wins and who loses. Sometimes it's That Other Stuff. It's The Little Stuff. It's the small moves that don't make headlines but just make a team's pieces fit together the way they never had before.

So let's take a look this week at just some of those "minor," under-the-radar acquisitions that have had a major effect on this baseball season so far:

Scott Rolen

Scott Rolen

#27 3B
Cincinnati Reds

2010 STATS

  • GM42
  • HR10

  • RBI27

  • R23

  • OBP.333

  • AVG.265

Scott Rolen

OK, if you want to be technical -- and we know that millions of you do -- the Reds didn't acquire Rolen during the winter. They traded for him in July 2009, minutes before the trade deadline. But that was a deal that was never supposed to be about last season. It was about this year and beyond. And at the time, we don't recall anybody saying: "Now there's a move that could change the face of the NL Central."

Well, check the record. Since Rolen showed up, the Reds are 54-27 in games he's played and 6-20 in games he's missed. And they've gone from a fifth-place afterthought in the Central to a team that's in first place at the moment, a game ahead of the Cardinals. And that, Reds GM Walt Jocketty said, "is not a coincidence."

Back when the Reds made this deal, it looked like a head-scratcher. The Reds took on more than $14 million money due to Rolen and sent two of their most coveted power arms (Zach Stewart and Josh Roenicke) to Toronto. And that, Jocketty told Rumblings, "was tough to do.

"But we had pitching prospects in our system, and I felt it was very important for us to change the culture and the mentality of our team. I know Scott well enough [from their days in St. Louis] to know what he brings to a club. And it's what we needed to bring to this club."

What Jocketty didn't see coming was that Rolen would have as many home runs this year (10) as Joey Votto, that he'd be slugging nearly .540 or that he'd have a higher OPS than Alex Rodriguez. Whether Rolen can keep this up all year, at age 35, or through the life of his contract (which was restructured during the winter to run through 2012 while reducing Rolen's salary to $6.5 million a year), is the great unknown. But if he keeps producing -- and setting a tone with his usual on-the-field ferocity -- he'll make his GM look like a genius.

Rafael Soriano

He wasn't exactly the No. 1 storyline of the 2009 winter meetings. As a matter of fact, Soriano didn't just rank behind Halladay, Holliday, Bay and Milton Bradley on the Rumor Central hit list in December. He was somewhere back of Edwin Jackson, Marco Scutaro and Randy Wolf.

Rafael Soriano

Rafael Soriano

#29 RP
Tampa Bay Rays

2010 STATS

  • GM20
  • IP19.1

  • SV13

  • BB5

  • K16

  • ERA1.40

But if you followed the small print closely enough back then, you know that Soriano headed off into free agency, couldn't find a team willing to give him a multiyear deal and wound up shocking the Braves by accepting arbitration.

You also know that the Braves then shopped Soriano around, discovered Tampa Bay in find-a-closer mode and quickly shipped him off to Tampa Bay for reliever Jesse Chavez, a fellow the Rays had just picked up from Pittsburgh in a deal for a player (Akinori Iwamura) they were about to nontender.

So the Rays not only saved somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 by dealing Iwamura but also turned him (indirectly) into a potentially big-time closer. And for a team that had to turn to nine different relievers to save a game last year (three more than any other club in baseball), that was a major deal.

But Soriano hasn't just thrown a Band-Aid onto that bleeding. He's been the most dominating closer in a division that's still the home of Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon. The dazzling numbers: zero blown saves in 13 chances, 11 straight scoreless outings, 12 hits in 19 1/3 innings and a .133 opponent batting average (6-for-45, with 12 whiffs) when his team has the lead.

Of course, great numbers are nothing new for Soriano. It's been getting him to the mound in one piece that's been the problem throughout the years. But so far so good in Tampa Bay.

"Any time you take a pitcher who's going from the National League to the American League, you always have some reservation," Rays GM Andrew Friedman told Rumblings. "But our scouts had seen him a lot, and they felt very strongly he had the type of stuff that would fit extremely well over here. And he's been great."

Jose Contreras

There were eight closers on the free-agent market this past winter. Contreras wasn't one of them. But the planet often spins in directions nobody saw coming in December. So here we are, heading for Memorial Day. And a pitcher who is listed at age 38 (and might be 48) -- and was unemployed until two weeks before spring training -- has turned into the most dominating emergency closer in baseball.

Jose Contreras

Jose Contreras

#52 RP
Philadelphia Phillies

2010 STATS

  • GM16
  • IP14.1

  • W-L2-1

  • BB2

  • K20

  • ERA0.63

If Brad Lidge was Plan A for the Phillies, and Ryan Madson was Plan B, and Danys Baez was Plan C, then Contreras was somewhere between Plan D and Plan Q on the potential-closer drawing board. But it's amazing what a couple of injuries and some unforeseen domination can do to change the plans.

Among all relievers who have saved at least one game and pitched at least 10 innings this year, it's Contreras who ranks first in WHIP (0.70) and third in opponent batting average (.063) while piling up 20 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.

"He's been huge for that team," one NL scout said. "They wouldn't be in first place without him. He's been a really good, reliable late-inning guy. And his fastball's running all over the place."

Contreras, a right-hander, has faced 26 right-handed hitters and struck out 12 of them. He has faced 17 hitters with runners in scoring position, but not one of them has gotten a hit (0-for-16, one walk, eight strikeouts). But not even the team that signed him -- for $1.5 million -- saw this coming.

"He was a low-risk, high-reward kind of guy," Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "From what we saw [when he was pitching in relief] in Colorado, our guys really liked him and pushed for him. He had about four or five other teams after him, and he had teams that offered him much more money. But he wanted to be on our team, and we're very fortunate he did."

Eric Hinske

For some reason, we never lead "SportsCenter" with the news of a utility guy signing a one-year deal for a million bucks. But next to the arrival of Jason Heyward and the revival of Tim Hudson, Hinske has been just about the Braves' lead story for weeks now.

Eric Hinske

Eric Hinske

#20 1B
Atlanta Braves

2010 STATS

  • GM37
  • HR4

  • RBI20

  • R14

  • OBP.415

  • AVG.356

He was signed to be essentially an insurance policy for Troy Glaus, Chipper Jones and even Heyward. But so far, the former AL Rookie of the Year has been way more than that.

Hinske, a left-handed hitter, is hitting .356 with a .671 slugging percentage and 1.086 OPS. He has more extra-base hits (14) and RBIs (20) than Brian McCann or the Chipster. He is mashing right-handed pitching (.368 batting average/.421 on-base percentage/.706 slugging percentage). And he has turned into the semiregular left fielder since Matt Diaz went on the disabled list with a thumb infection. Who knew?

"I think what happens, and we're all guilty of this, is that we probably don't pay enough attention to our bench -- building a bench and building depth," Braves GM Frank Wren said. "And even in our own case, it took us until January until we got around to signing Eric. But we really liked what he could bring, not just as a bench guy but as a guy who could step up and be a regular, or a semiregular, with some pop. And that's been exactly what's happened. … From the day he reported for spring training, he's really been a pleasant surprise."

Matt Capps

If you live in western Pennsylvania, it's tough enough that the man leading the major leagues in homers (Jose Bautista) is a fellow who was once dumped by the Pirates for a nonprospect in a 2008 waiver deal. But then the Pirates had to go out this past winter and nontender the pitcher who's now leading the majors in saves, too. Does it ever end for this team, or what?

Matt Capps

Matt Capps

#55 RP
Washington Nationals

2010 STATS

  • GM22
  • IP23.1

  • SV16

  • BB6

  • K21

  • ERA2.70

But meanwhile, in Washington, Capps is up to 16 saves for the Nationals already -- which would be twice as many as he had for the Pirates after the All-Star break last year. But this is more than a case of a guy who just happens to be pitching the ninth inning for the right team.

"What's happened with Matt Capps is, he's gotten his fastball life back," one NL scout said. "Last year, he was 90-93 [miles per hour] and dead straight. This year he's back up to 92-95. He's confident. He's healthy. And he's confident in his fastball, because his fastball has got that late finish. Last year, that late finish was in the gap -- or over the fence."

And the numbers prove it. According to FanGraphs, Capps is using his fastball much more than last year (78 percent versus 68.7 percent in '09). His swinging-strike percentage (11.1 percent) is the highest of his career. And his strikeout rate (8.10 per nine innings) is also the highest of his career.

Now the Pirates had their reasons for nontendering him, of course. And by that, we mean (what else?) money. Had he stayed in Pittsburgh and gone through the arbitration spin cycle, Capps was going to be looking for a contract in the range of the $3.5 million he eventually got from the Nationals. Pittsburgh, naturally, had a much lower figure in mind.

So the Pirates decided to take their chances and let him go, and they eventually gave Octavio Dotel $3.25 million to be their closer. Dotel has 10 saves but also has a 5.59 ERA. But the Nationals roared right in and scooped up Capps about a week and a half after the Pirates let him walk. And although we'll never know whether he'd be having this season in Pittsburgh, a second scout says finding a new team seems to have given him new life.

"He's a great example of how success leads to confidence and vice versa," the scout said. "Last year, he didn't have a whole lot of success, and he lost confidence. Last year, he was just trying to place it. Now, he's pitching to finish off hitters again. He looks like the guy of old."

Colby Lewis

When last we saw Lewis on this side of the Pacific, he'd gone almost four years without winning a game in the big leagues. He'd been employed by four organizations in a little more than a year. And his career was spinning in circles.

Colby Lewis

Colby Lewis

#48 SP
Texas Rangers

2010 STATS

  • GM9
  • IP57.1

  • W-L4-2

  • BB24

  • K58

  • ERA3.45

But that was before two spectacular seasons ('08-09) in Japan, where he won two Central League strikeout titles, racked up an incredible 369-to-46 strikeout-to-walk ratio and set the forces in motion that have turned him into the winningest pitcher on a first-place team in Texas.

It just happened that, as Lewis was resuscitating his career for the Hiroshima Carp, the Rangers were building up their Asian scouting operation by hiring Jim Colborn, who has arguably had as big a presence in Japan throughout the years as any American baseball figure. The Rangers then began bearing down on the Japanese League last season, looking for a pitcher they could sign who could have an impact on their big league team this year.

And that brought them to Lewis, a man whom they had once drafted with a supplemental first-round pick, who had come up through their system and who had spent 2002 to '04 pitching for them in the big leagues until his 2004 rotator-cuff surgery. The Rangers sent more than a half-dozen scouts and executives to watch Lewis pitch in Japan. And they all concluded he wasn't just another American journeyman with pretty numbers overseas.

What they saw, GM Jon Daniels said, "was a guy with major league ability and pedigree … who'd just been hurt but was now healthy. He's refined his mechanics. He now has a much more compact arm action and repeatable delivery. He's added a hard cutter/slider that's become a real weapon. And he matured. You have to give him and his wife, Jenny, a lot of credit for taking that step and succeeding in a different culture."

Nine starts later, the 30-year-old right-hander owns a 3.45 ERA. He has held the league to a .201 average, .292 on-base percentage and .325 slugging percentage. And his record would look a lot more picturesque than 4-2 if the Rangers had managed to score more than six runs total while he was in the game in his past five starts.

Hardly anybody noticed when the Rangers signed him in January. But they're noticing now. That, says one scout who has been tracking him, "was a wonderful signing."

Honorable mentions: Jon Garland (Padres), Livan Hernandez (Nationals), Miguel Olivo (Rockies), Scott Hairston (Padres), Rod Barajas (Mets).

Ready to rumble

Roy rage: Roy Oswalt may hit the market someday, but that day clearly is weeks away. Astros scouts have been telling their scout buddies that they still haven't been instructed to start zeroing in on any other clubs or their farm systems in anticipation of an Oswalt trade. So obviously, this man is going nowhere any time soon.

In fact, longtime Drayton McLane watchers predict it could be mid-to-late July before the Astros' owner signs off on dealing Oswalt, Lance Berkman or anyone else.

Roy Oswalt


"Has he ever traded a veteran player?" asked one longtime baseball man who has done a lot of business with McLane. "Go back and look. He'll move payroll. But he's never been a guy who told his public, 'We're not going to win, so we're going to clean house.' He's always felt that portrays the wrong kind of image."

Well, if you tell us Rumblers and Grumblers to go back and look, we follow orders. So we went back and looked. We found that in the 17 years that McLane has owned the Astros, his team has traded a veteran player in July or August just three times.

Two of them were your basic it's-time-to-move-on giveaway deals -- Pudge Rodriguez to Texas last year and Morgan Ensberg to San Diego in 2007, both for players to be named later. The third deal was the 2007 trade of setup man Dan Wheeler to Tampa Bay for a third baseman to replace Ensberg, Ty Wigginton. But that's it.

Now it's also true the Astros have finished with a losing record just three times in McLane's 17 seasons. So they haven't had much reason to unload. But there isn't a single example of a deal that would remotely resemble the trading of Oswalt this summer. As a matter of fact, the last time the Astros talked about trading away Oswalt in July of 2006, McLane eventually balked at signing off on a deal with Baltimore and instead pushed to sign Oswalt to an extension.

Oswalt still would have a year and a half, and $25.5 million, left on that extension when July arrives. But when asked whether he could see McLane authorizing the Astros to eat some of that money so they could get more talent back in a deal, the same baseball man replied: "I can only speak from historical perspective. He's never, ever done that."

Attention shoppers: Whether McLane says yes or no, though, we'd still advise you to fasten your seat belts and get ready for a two-month barrage of Oswalt trade rumors. Here's a look at just some of his potential destinations:

Cardinals: St. Louis is a place Oswalt has told friends he'd love to go to. But the Cardinals lead the major leagues in quality starts, so starting pitching doesn't top their shopping list. And even if McLane could be persuaded to OK a deal somewhere, there's almost no chance he'd allow a trade to his biggest division rival.

Rangers: We've heard from two old friends of Oswalt that Texas probably would be No. 1 on a very short list of AL teams he'd go to. But given all the money the 29 other teams have been kicking in to keep the Rangers afloat, there would be a riot among the troops if MLB signed off on a deal that would add $25 million to the team's payroll.

Dodgers: This is another team it's believed Oswalt would have interest in joining. But as the Dodgers' "Divorce Court" soap opera drones on, it's hard to find a club that has talked with them that thinks they can add a guy making $15 million this year and $16 million next year. "I'll tell you what I could see," an official of one team said. "And that's Cliff Lee to the Dodgers for half a year. That's more in the range of the kind of money [about $4.5 million for a half-season] they could take on."


Nationals: "They're the one team that would pay the whole freight on the contract," an official of one contender said. And if the Nationals hang in this race, they're sending signals that they could be very aggressive in pursuing a difference-making pitcher who could take some of the heat off Stephen Strasburg. But would Oswalt go there? "Maybe if George Bush was still president, he might," one friend of Oswalt said, laughing. "But I can't imagine that now at all."

Reds: We keep hearing they'd have interest. But as we alluded to earlier, "I don't see Drayton trading this guy in the division," one NL executive said.

Twins: They lack a true ace. They have Joe Nathan's insurance money to play with. And "that would be a great place for him, because of the way they do business," one rival executive said. But remember, there is zero precedent for the Twins making a midseason deal for a high-ticket item like this guy.

Braves: This is believed to be another of Oswalt's preferred destinations. But there has been zero indication that the Braves have interest. More on this shortly.

Mets: They'd love to make a splash, and they sure need starting pitching. But would Oswalt have any interest in heading for Queens? "I can't see that at all," said the same friend quoted earlier.

Angels: "This is the only team I see," an official of one club said. "I know they have some money. They desperately need pitching. And they can afford him." But the friend of Oswalt quoted earlier is skeptical that Orange County is Oswalt's kind of place. "I'll be honest," the friend said. "I think it would take a lot of persuading to get him to go to the other league, where he doesn't know the hitters. What he'd prefer is a National League team that's close to home. But where is it? I can't find one."

So is this deal actually going to happen?

"I honestly see no market for him," said the club official quoted above. "Maybe the Angels. But the Yankees have five starters they like. The Red Sox have five starters they like. I don't see him going to the Mets. The Cardinals aren't looking for starting pitching. The Dodgers have no money. So a lot can change in two months, but I honestly don't see a market."

Home of the Brave: Even with Javy Vazquez roaring down their exit ramp, starting pitching was supposed to be the Braves' biggest strength this year. Instead, the Braves rank 10th in the league in starting-pitching ERA (4.16) and 11th in quality starts. And their only starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.00 is Tim Hudson.

But if anybody's thinking that could inspire the Braves to chase someone like Oswalt or Lee before the deadline, uh, think again. Although GM Frank Wren wouldn't talk about any specific player or trade possibility, he did say this:

"We wouldn't have any interest in a starting pitcher. I don't think we'd be involved in anything like that. We've got to use our bullets on our areas of need, and starting pitching is not an area of need for us. We expect to get [Jair] Jurrjens back in about three weeks. And we'll take our chances against anybody's rotation when we get him back."

So what would be the Braves' area of need? Well, they rank 13th in the NL in slugging, ahead of only the Padres, Pirates and Astros. And all their left fielders and center fielders combined have half as many homers (six) as Kelly Johnson (12). So if you guessed outfield offense, you're definitely paying attention.

Fausto Carmona


Who's on Fausto?: Here's one to keep your eye on. We keep hearing the Blue Jays will have money to spend if they're still in the race. And one player they clearly have their eye on is resurgent Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona.

"They're definitely tracking Carmona," one scout said. "They've probably watched a dozen Carmona starts in a row, going back to spring training. Every time I've seen him, they've had a guy there who wouldn't normally be there, guys who were only coming in for a day and then leaving."

After two ugly seasons in 2008 and '09 (13-19, 5.89 ERA, 140 walks, 137 strikeouts), the 26-year-old Carmona has found his delivery and is off to a 4-2 start with a 3.45 ERA, a .239 opponent batting average and only 10 extra-base hits allowed in nine starts. But his .264 batting average on balls in play and low strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) suggest he may not be pitching as good as his raw numbers look.

The Indians would be looking to move him because he's signed for next year at $6.1 million, then carries club options of $7M, $9M and $12M the following three years.

"I guess the big question," the same scout said, "is, Which guy are you getting if you trade for him -- the guy who won 19 games three years ago, with a heavy sinker, or the guy who had a 6.50 ERA [actually 6.32] last year? That $6.1 [million] is pretty steep for a guy who had a 6.50 ERA, and there's not a lot of strikeouts there. But he's throwing a lot better right now."

Sawing Wood: Meanwhile, the Indians would seem to have a way bigger challenge on their hands trying to move Kerry Wood, even though his time on the disabled list figures to make it practically impossible for him to vest his $11 million option for next year by finishing 55 games. (He's finished none so far.)

Wood still has a great arm. His fastball still averages nearly 96 mph. But that hasn't kept him from allowing 15 baserunners in 6 1/3 innings. And his swing-and-miss percentage (just 15 percent) would be a career low.

Asked whether Wood could be the kind of difference-making bullpen arm his team figures to be shopping for in July, one AL executive laughed. "He is if he can go back to 1998," he said.

Kevin Millwood


Knock on Millwood: Two hundred eighty-six different pitchers in the big leagues have won a game this year. Thanks to his pathetic run support in Baltimore (10 straight starts of three runs or fewer while he was in the game), Kevin Millwood isn't one of them. But when the Orioles hang a "for sale" sign on him in a month or so, we can guarantee that other clubs won't be paying any attention to his win total.

"He's really throwing well," one scout said. "He was awful this spring. And if he'd kept throwing that way, I'd have been concerned. But I've seen him twice now, and he's really been good. He's a professional pitcher. He'd be a good pickup for somebody."

Open Mike: The Red Sox have played eight games since Mike Lowell told reporters last week that he had "no role" on his team. That same Mike Lowell has started exactly one of them. So clearly, he was on to something.

The Red Sox have tried to trade him with no success. They haven't shown any interest in releasing him and digesting more than $8 million in salary. So there's no end to Lowell's limbo in sight.

But Lowell tried to make it clear to Rumblings that he didn't say what he said last week because he's selfish. He was "just answering a question," and now he's concerned that people took the answer wrong.

"I think it would be different if I'd sat at a podium and held a press conference," Lowell told Rumblings this past weekend. "I tried to answer truthfully. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't."

What Lowell is looking for, he said, isn't sympathy. It's just an opportunity.

"I'm at peace with whatever comes," he said. "It's just hard to put in all the work I put in, in the offseason, to get myself into a position where I felt I was able to do so much more. I just haven't had the opportunity, and that's the reality. Am I crying over my situation? No. To play baseball is a privilege. But as a competitor I want to be able to show what I can do."

What has surprised Lowell is the backlash he's heard "from people who say shut the hell up and take your $12 million," he said.

"I've heard that from everyone -- from reporters, from fans, from my cousin who calls me and probably reads every single blog on the Internet," he said, laughing. "But I even told my agent, 'If there's a situation where I can get paid for [how I] play, I would do it, except the union would kill me.' And I would be confident I would be able to put up those numbers. But I know that's not really a realistic scenario. … I can't get paid based on my numbers. A contract is a contract.

"I try to justify it to myself: 'Why don't I just be quiet and take the paycheck?'" he said. "Well, it's not that easy. That's just the competitor in me."

Sooner or later, this situation will resolve itself. But in the meantime, it's a little shocking to see the angry reaction to a player who has spent 13 years proving that on the "it's-all-about-me" scales, he isn't exactly Manny Ramirez Jr.

David DeJesus


New York state of mind: Clubs that have spoken with the Yankees say they haven't met to formulate their July shopping list yet. But with Randy Winn fizzling and Nick Johnson's future uncertain, we're hearing Yankees scouts have begun lightly targeting versatile outfield bats who could be available. One name in that category they've inquired about in the past: David DeJesus.

Not quite Wright: David Wright's struggles and body language have become such a nonstop topic of conversation around baseball that an official of one club told Rumblings this week that the Mets have "messed with his head so much … they should get him out of there while he's still got value, because I don't think he'll ever be the same player with that team in that park."

But an executive of a National League team who has seen a lot of Wright this year had a different take:

"He's got some issues with his swing that are fixable," the exec said. "I hear people saying he's flinching at balls inside, but I don't see that. I see him wrapping the bat. He's got too long a swing. He's not clearing his hips, and he's not using his legs. He's just using his arms. His trouble is, he's wrapping the bat late. It would be one thing if he was wrapping it early like Gary Sheffield or Julio Franco. But he's wrapping it late, and he just can't get to the ball."

Leake frog: Is there a better story in baseball this year than Mike Leake jumping directly to the big leagues from Arizona State and going 4-0, with eight quality starts, in his first nine starts?

Just to give you some perspective, Leake is the 11th American-born pitcher in the division-play era to skip the minor leagues. Here are the starts the other 10 got off to in the big leagues:

Mike Leake


Jim Abbott, 0-2
Eddie Bane, 0-5
Pete Broberg, 0-2
David Clyde, 1-3
Darren Dreifort, 0-5
Steve Dunning, 1-4
Mike Morgan, 0-3
Dick Ruthven, 1-5
Tim Conroy, 0-0 (in two starts)
Burt Hooton, 0-0 (lasted 3 1/3 IP, then headed for the minors)

That totals up to a combined 3-29 for those other 10 guys. And Leake is 4-0. Amazing.

"It's not a fair comparison, because he's a very different player, but when he made our team this spring, it reminded me a lot of the year we took Albert Pujols north with the Cardinals," said Reds GM Walt Jocketty, who was still in St. Louis when the Cardinals jumped Pujols all the way from Class A to the majors in the spring of 2001.

"We kept saying to ourselves all spring, 'Shouldn't we send him to the minor leagues?' But each time he went out there, he was so impressive, we got to the point where our mindset was, 'Do we really have anything to lose? If he's in the big leagues, we can protect the guy, we can watch him, we can keep an eye out for him.' So we finally said, 'Let's roll the dice and see what happens.'

"When I compare him to Albert, obviously they're different players, and I'm not putting him in that category. But it was kind of the same decision-making process."

And like Sir Albert, Leake shows no signs he's ever planning to take a ride on the down elevator. Incredible.

The Rumblings Scouting Bureau

• On Livan Hernandez: "Man, he works slow. I swear a gentleman sitting behind me read half of 'War and Peace' while he was out there. I looked back at one point, and he said, '400 pages.'"


• On Francisco Liriano: "I saw him the start after he threw 123 pitches, and his delivery and arm slot weren't the same. And they haven't been the same since. The plane of his pitches wasn't good. And the velocity wasn't what it used to be in the Dominican [this past winter] and spring training."

• On Arthur Rhodes: "He's amazing. He hit 94 [mph] on the gun the other night. I'm telling you, this guy's Methuselah, and I don't even know what that is."

Quotes of the week

We interrupt our regular Quote of the Week programming to honor the genius of one of our favorite TV epics of all time, "Lost." So we now present three legendary, Red Sox-themed baseball quotes that got dropped into "Lost" scripts through the years:

• From Jack Shephard's father, Christian, to his new friend, Sawyer, on why there's no use in complaining when your life spins in the wrong direction: "It's fate. Some people are supposed to suffer. That's why the Red Sox will never win the damn Series."

• From a guffawing Jack Shephard, after his captor, the mysterious Benjamin Linus, tried to prove he'd been in touch with the outside world by reporting that the Red Sox had won the 2004 World Series: "If you wanted me to believe this, you probably should have picked somebody else besides the Red Sox … Sure. Sure. Of course they did."

• From just-landed pilot Frank Lapidus, when a curious Jack Shephard asked him to confirm that the Red Sox had really won the 2004 Series: "Don't even get me started on that. I grew up in the Bronx."

Tweet of the week

From our old friend Darren Rovell (@DarrenRovell1), of CNBC fame:

Best part of Rangers bankruptcy? That they still owe Mickey Tettleton (last played in '97) $1.4M!

Headliner of the week

Finally, this just in from the always-entertaining cynics at Realfakesports.com:


Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.