A couple of things: (a) My latest Baseball Prospectus article is now online (as is the Professor's), (b) judging by the blogosophere and Twittersphere reaction, Rick Carlisle is coming dangerously close to becoming the most hated pro sports coach in the Metroplex, and (c) if you heard something about a Rutgers screwjob yesterday and blew it off because it's college basketball, well, it's worth watching at least once:
● Following closely on the heels of some speculation yesterday about Chase Utley's injured knee being a possible impetus for a Rangers-Phillies trade hookup, a new report has surfaced indicating that the Diamondbacks renewed their efforts to trade for Michael Young last week, but talks withered on the vine when Texas requested a "strong package of prospects and major leaguers" in exchange for Young; aside from the eight teams that can acquire him without his permission, Young has reportedly green-lit Chicago (N.L.) and Philadelphia as possible destinations, though one source stated Young would be willing to waive his no-trade clause and join the Diamondbacks at third base (Ken Rosenthal, FOXSports.com)
[Rosenthal further indicates that the Phillies are already wedged up against their payroll limit and unable to assume another major salary commitment, and while that's obviously a huge and likely insurmountable obstacle to anything getting done here, you also have to ask the question -- assuming Utley's situation is serious but not season-threatening, and that we're talking about him missing 1-2 months of the regular season at most, where would you play Young when Utley returns? Evan's speculatory post about a potential Joe Blanton and Placido Polanco for Young deal -- which, incidentally, fell through -- sounds all well and good, but you couldn't revisit a modified configuration of that deal now, because that would put Young at third base and still leave Philadelphia with no replacement for Utley.
The Diamondbacks thing is vaguely interesting, I guess, but we still have a situation where Young is dissatisfied but tolerant, Jon Daniels is irritated at Young's previous implication of dishonesty but willing to put up with it for the good of the team, and the Rangers, as an entity, want a lot more back for Young than what any one team on the market is willing to pay. Granted, it does only take one team to break the logjam, but I can't see any real reason to think that a trade is forthcoming, or that the Rangers are going to back off their presently high demands.]
● When asked about his level of satisfaction with his 62-minute, 14-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday, Brandon Webb replied, "It went pretty much as planned. It wasn't the best I've ever thrown. It wasn't the worst"; according to various reports, there was no consistency in his work and the "heavy" sink that characterized his formerly devastasting sinker is still absent; Webb roughly estimates that he's about four weeks away from being ready to pitch in a regular-season game, which, taken literally, would set him up for an April 6th debut (Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News; T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[Aside from some scattered concern about how Webb's velocity still doesn't seem to be where you would like to see it at this point in camp, there isn't any more cause for alarm here than there has been at any other point this spring; of course, we've been on perpetual high-alert status as it is anyway. Speaking as a relative pitching novice, I think it's awfully optimistic to believe that Webb's mechanics, command, velocity and movement are all going to coalesce as planned in just four weeks' time, and I'm more inclined to think that we're looking at mid-to-late-April activation, but I guess that's just part of the mystique of Webb -- nobody really knows what to expect out of him, or when they might actually get it.]
● Both Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz posted three shutout frames yesterday against Oakland, eliciting remarks from pitching coach Mike Maddux about how Holland's delivery appears "cleaner" and more consistent than that which he featured last year, as well as this rather laudatory quote: "[Holland] looked like a pitcher out there today. He had a plan. He had the firepower to back it up." (Richard Durrett, ESPNDallas.com)
[We're now beginning to cut into the part of camp where it's presumed the mechanical cobwebs have been vacuumed up and both the performance and underlying process are assigned more weight, which is a rather roundabout way of saying that a few more showings like that, and Holland will probably have little problem locking down a rotation spot. Somebody between Michael Kirkman, Dave Bush, and Matt Harrison has a golden opportunity to snag the other rotation spot, and this is a tight enough competition that a disastrous outing by any one of the three could be a major setback.
Meanwhile, Ron Washington mentioned that Feliz broke out a "short slider," whereas Feliz described it as more of a cut fastball. Who's right? Going off the Pitch f/x data that I pulled, the pitch in question looks to be an 86-89 mph offering with the horizontal break of a cutter, but the vertical break of a slider -- not that the two aren't rather similar to begin with movement-wise, mind you. If you held a gun to my head and made me choose between one or the other, I'd be more inclined to call this pitch a slider, but the other characteristics of the pitch -- including the spin direction -- more closely align with the definition of a cutter. Just to be safe, I'll call it a hybrid 'cutler' for now -- hopefully it's more effective than the one being used by the Bears -- and move along.]