Saturday, March 21, 2009

Maholm Mah-velous; Bullpen Brutal

* Paul Maholm was all that again, going 6 frames and shutting down the Reds on three hits. He's given up one run in 19-2/3 spring innings; hopefully Maholm's bottling his performance for the regular season.

The pen was handed a 6-0 lead to hold for three innings. The final ended up 6-5, and the bases were juiced with Cincy runners when the last out was finally recorded. Aye carimba!

Matt Capps gave up a two-run homer, but he was working on his slider during his inning. His change-up was looking good, but he left a pitch over the plate, maybe a slider or meatball heater, and Jay Bruce drove it over the wall, across the parking lot, and into the next practice field.

Jesse Chavez gave up three more in the eighth. His stuff is nasty, but where it's going is anybody's guess, and an Anderson Machado boot at the hot corner didn't help his cause.

Then it was Craig Hansen's turn. He struck out the first batter, got the second on a weak bouncer, and then walked the next three Reds, two after being ahead 1 and 2 in the count. Hansen then ran up a three-one count on Joey Votto, but he swung through a heater that was up and took a borderline curve for strike three.

It looked on the tube as if he was just overthrowing; maybe he's trying too hard to impress. But it kills his delivery, as pointed out by Jeff Brantley, who shared the mic with Greg Brown on a FSN split-feed. It was kinda interesting to get the views of other team's talking heads on the Pirate players.

Hey, let's hope they're just going through their dead arm period.

The hitters looked sharp against Homer Bailey and Jeff Kennard, scoring six times. They banged out five extra base hits, including homers by Nate McLouth and Ramon Vazquez. Ryan Doumit went 3-for-3 with a double, and Freddy Sanchez added a single and walk.

Nyjer Morgan continued to look lost at the dish, going 0-for-3 with a short sac fly. On the other side of the coin, Brian Bixler had another hit, and his average is up to .342. He's put himself back on the Pirate map, and if the suits decide to keep two middle infielders on the 25-man roster, he may well come north with the team.

Tomorrow afternoon is the rematch at Bradenton, with Ian Snell making the start for Pittsburgh. The Reds will counter with Aaron Harang.

* The draft is months away, but the Scott Boras saber-rattling is already hard at work. According to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Major League Trade Rumors:

ESPN's Peter Gammons heard that top amateur pitcher Stephen Strasburg and his agent, Scott Boras, could demand $50M over six years if he's selected first overall by the Nationals in the June draft. If the Nationals pick Strasburg and seem unwilling to pay him as much as he wants, Boras could threaten to send the prospect to pitch in Japan for a year. If the Nats are scared off, the Mariners and Padres are next in line for Strasburg.

So how could an amateur player get away with these lofty demands? Strasburg has struck out 74 and walked only seven in the 34.1 innings he's pitched for San Diego State and scouts rave about his stuff.

Sure, the Bucs are willing to deal with another Scott Boras client - probably when there's ice-skating in Hades. And who can blame them?

If a cap ever comes about, it will because of guys like Boras. The draft is supposed to be the great equalizer in baseball, but if it's left to the machinations of agents like him, only the big market teams will be able to play and the gap between the haves and have-nots will become an abyss, if it isn't already.

And forget a Boras client signing a long-term deal early in his career to cover a year or two or free agency as the Pirates like to do; Boras thinks the players are being robbed, according to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. He may have a point; an agent always is looking for the next payday, not necessarily security or "cost-certainy."

Hey, the guy does a great job for his A-list clients. But as for the business and game of baseball, well, we think he's not so useful. But he'll be the first to say that he didn't build the system; he just works it.

And therein lies the problem.

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