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Around the NL East - Jon Niese's nose job, Ryan Zimmerman wants no-trade clause, HanRam finally at third base, Ryan Howard at just 40%

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One of my favorite moments of the 2011 season was this night on July 23rd, with the Braves playing the Reds in Cincinnati. Dan Uggla had the night off, but in the top of the ninth inning was summoned up by Fredi Gonzalez to pinch hit. Not just pinch hit, but also put his at-the-time 12-game hitting streak on the line. In the microcosm of one at-bat, there was a hitting streak on the line, all his teammates pulling for him, the Cincinnati crowd cheering on Nick Masset, as well as the fate of the game.

And in one swing, the microcosm essentially flipped upside down. Not only did he keep the hitting streak alive, he didn't just keep the Braves' chances alive, he outright won the game for them with his two RBI homer. The Cincinnati crowd went silent while the Atlanta dugout went berserk. Just like that, one swing. Craig Kimbrel put the nails in the coffin with a perfect bottom of the frame.

I remember being in my car after a dinner out, listening to this as it all transpired. I didn't even see it, but I went crazy the same, listening to the call on the radio. Watching it on replay was even better, because the body language tells a story in itself; Dan Uggla, in his typical Baby Gap-sized uniform stepping to the plate, wagging his bat impatiently, seemingly oblivious to hitting streaks and the noise of the crowd. A look on his face that screams "I'MMA MURDER THAT BALL" right before he whips the pitch deep into right-center, the sound of Cincinnati dying down immediately afterward.

Rooting for it or rooting against it, the clutch, game-changing home run is always breathtaking. Today, all players and personnel are required to have reported into their respective Spring Training homes. It's mostly irrelevant, because almost all healthy Braves players have already been in Orlando for the last few days anyway. Seems like they can't wait as much as we can't. Welcome back to the basement.


Jon Niese got a nose job, courtesy of Carlos Beltran mostly as a joke; reaping actual physical benefits - NY Daily News
This pretty much is the biggest story to be coming out of Mets-land this week, considering how many numerous outlets are talking about it. But long story short, Beltran gave Niese a bunch of grief about his big schnozz, and it apparently bothered him so much that he offered to pay for a nose job. Niese said "hey cool, free nose job," and took the free rhinoplasty, which has shrunken his nose ever so slightly, but more importantly, improved his breathing. This physical upgrade has given Niese improved cardiovascular capabilities, and although they didn't say the magic acronym, he has reported to camp ten pounds lighter. Think Carlos Beltran will be laughing when Niese frustrates him and the Cardinals with his outside corner nibbling and curveballs, deeper into games?

Johan Santana "feels good" after first bullpen session - MLB (ht AA)
25 pitches, of his whole repertoire, to an actual catcher off an actual mound. More bullpen sessions with gradual increases will tell the story clearer. 29 pitches next, and eventually he will be pitching in actual Spring Training starts.

So good, that Terry Collins expects him to be Opening Day starter - NY Daily News
Call me crazy, but considering Opening Day is against the Braves I'd actually feel better if the Braves went up against Johan Santana instead of R.A. Dickey.

Speaking of Opening Day, I wonder how many bunts we'll see? - Amazin' Avenue
Terry Collins wants to have ten more successful sacrifice bunts than the next best team in the league in 2012. Fredi Gonzalez would lay down a bunt during church if he could. But seriously, after seeing Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Brandon Beachy unsuccessfully bunt, what felt like, at all, I'd say this is a reasonable, modest, attainable goal.

Ike Davis unchained, cleared to go - MetsBlog
I know he's an enemy and all that jazz, but I can't help but feel well wishes for most anyone who was hampered so unfortunately so early on in their careers.

Tim Wakefield retires, not dies; R.A. Dickey mourns regardless - ESPN (ht AA)
It's funny how subcultures in baseball are, especially ones that are really, really small, like the brotherhood of knuckleballers. With Tim Wakefield declaring retirement, and people pretending like Charlie Haeger doesn't exist, R.A. Dickey is the self-declared last male, major league, right-handed knuckleball pitcher in existence now.

Dillon Gee hopes to get in better physical condition to handle rigors of entire season - NY Post
Personally, I think he's being too hard on himself. Pretty much every rookie pitcher that starts with the team out of the gate goes through what he went through. Jair Jurrjens ran out of gas too, in 2008, as it's no surprise that rookies are susceptible to such late-season fatigue. Understanding this first hand is the most important part, and Gee will probably be fine.

Ruben Tejada is having some visa issues, Terry Collins unhappy with his 25 pieces of flair - NY Times
The Panamanian is having some troubles getting back into the country. The Mets are optimistic he'll make it in time for camp, which is the 25th. But Terry Collins isn't happy that he hasn't arrived early like everyone else. And considering Ruben is the young guy trying to make a statement, arriving at the bare minimum isn't a good impression. Was it Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran who used to do this too? No matter, they were established stars by then.

Jon Rauch's appearance is imposing - North
But that's really about it. Despite being 6'11 and covered in tattoos, the fact of the matter is that he's kind of an often overrated, mediocre reliever. He doesn't have Randy Johnson's 98 mph slider, and his K/9 career rate is just 7.2.

Francisco Rodriguez considering legal action against former agents - MetsBlog
Why? They never filed his no-trade list with the league while he was a Met.. The Brewers, where he was traded to and didn't get a single save opportunity, were on that list. Essentially that killed a lot of his value as a potential closer, and accepted arb for a one-year deal instead of pursuing a multi-year contract. But the fact remains that his agents, the Wasserman Group, helmed by Paul Kinzer and Arn Tellem, whom the latter, Braves fans are quite familiar with, didn't correctly do their job, and it could put a dent into K-Rod's future earnings.

Two guys out of position next year - NY Post

Here is something Mets officials believe: Daniel Murphy’s best position is third base, and Lucas Duda’s best position is first base.

That's great and all, but David Wright and Ike Davis already have those positioned locked up.

Mookie Wilson back in the Mets organization - MetsBlog
It's really not like he could have gone anywhere else, either. The Blue Jays? Pish.

Scott Kazmir doesn't really impress anyone - Hardball Talk
Perception is an interesting thing. At first, I wanted to write about what a shame Kazmir's career has become, because he was supposed to be this demi-god when he was pitching for the Rays. But when you add all his numbers up, he's had a fairly nondescript career. Apparently owning the Red Sox with regularity has its merit in perception, but that's about it. Nobody is really interested in a 27-year old lame horse who can only dial it up to the mid/high-80s now.

Mets might have to look for a new Double-A affiliate soon - MetsBlog
Details are still spotty, but if this is correct, than the team in Binghamton, currently home of the B-Mets, will be going to of all places, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where they'll immediately become Blue Jays affiliates, leaving the Mets with no AA squad. Better get crackin'


Ryan Zimmerman requests a full no-trade clause with his extension - Nationals Journal
Supposedly, the money isn't so much the issue as much as it is the no-trade clause that the Franchise is requesting come along with it. Regardless of the outcome, the deadline of negotiations ends on the 25th, when full-squad workouts begin.

Bryce Harper is hell-bent on making the big league roster out of spring - Nats Insider

I'm going to come in here, work as hard as I can, keep my mouth shut and play

I have to admire the determination and fire here, but the service clock is probably going to dictate against him, unless he manages to hit 1.000 with 15HR this spring, and play a flawless outfield.

Ryan Zimmerman on Bryce Harper - Nationals Journal
Two quotes stand out to me:

When you’re 19, you’re not supposed to be mature. He’s got a lot to learn.

He’s really a good guy. He means no harm. He honestly just wants to play baseball, and he wants to be good, and he wants to help us win.

The obligatory "you need to grow up message" as well as the "he's actually a good person if you get to know him" line.

Bryce Harper bought his parents a house - Nats Enquirer
Say what you want about all his goofy 19-year old tweeting, and his own team and team's flagship radio station saying he needs to grow up or is a douche, but as children, he's already accomplished what a lot of us would aspire to do - spoil our parents.

Details on the Stephen Strasburg innings limit - Nationals Journal
In short, the Nationals won't try to jigger his schedule to stretch 160 innings out between the entire season. They'll supposedly let him pitch every fifth day, and just do what he does until he reaches the 160 inning limit that Jordan Zimmermann had last year.

Back to Ryan Zimmerman, he'll be okay moving to first; if you pry third base away from his cold dead hands - The Nats Blog
Being the consummate team player he is, Ryan Zimmerman says all the right things in regards to the absurd suggestion that he move to first base so soon, but I totally love the warning he heeds to anyone who wants to take the position from him - it won't be easy.

Eric Byrnes decides to be contrarian; picks Nationals to go to World Series - Yahoo Sports
Just remember, Eric Byrnes is also the same guy who decided to challenge a sprint race with Chris Young and Stephen Drew, and ended up shredding both of his hamstrings in the process. Yeah, not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Former Philly Brad Lidge says the Phillies can't discount the Nationals anymore - Nats Insider
Naturally, he'll say these kinds of things since he's on the Nationals, but it is kind of misleading. Although the Nationals did have a 10-8 record against the Phillies and John Lannan actually got a win against them, it should be worth mentioning that four of those wins came in a late-September sweep where the Phillies had already clinched, and had no reason to trot out their best.

Former Philly Jayson Werth suggests fans actually try to keep Phillies fans out of D.C. - Nats Enquirer
Maybe not specifically Phillies fans, but Jayson Werth wouldn't mind seeing a little bit more of the home crowd piling in, when they're home. Start winning, and it'll happen fairly naturally.

Danny Espinosa will play some short in spring, Nats say not to speculate, so let's speculate - Nationals Journal
The Nats are saying it's just to give him some practice in the event Ian Desmond ever gets hurt, but let's not ignore the fact of guys like Steve Lombardozzi and Anthony Rendon waiting in the wings that could make Desmond expendable.

Mike Cameron decides to not bother, retires - Nats Insider
Before even bothering to report to camp, the 17-year veteran Mike Cameron has decided to call it quits. It's a shame too, because I like the guy as a player, and I thought with his guidance, Roger Bernadina could have turned into something really good this year. Regardless, it more or less ends any speculation of who's in CF, as it will probably be a platoon of Bernadina and Rick Ankiel. The team has decided to look for alternative options internally.

Go ahead, say it - Rotoworld
Chien-Ming Wang is already feeling a bit of soreness in his shoulder after preliminary workouts in Spring Training. Secretly, John Lannan and Ross Detweiler rejoice.

Nationals use Wang to force a story to relate to Linsanity - Nationals Journal
I guess it helps to have a Taiwanese player on the team to somehow make it look like it's relative, but for all intents and purposes, there's less Taiwanese media in Viera this spring so far, and much of it is being blamed on the fact that they're all following the Jeremy Lin, the Knicks and LINSANITY around, instead of the fact that it would be a bunch of Taiwanese guys in Viera, Florida.

Edwin Jackson was probably tipping pitches, fixing it - Nats Insider
Last week, I mentioned a link that showed how much more efficient Jackson was pitching out of the stretch as opposed to the wind up. He was likely tipping pitches. Or at least his grip gave a tell on the kind of pitch it was because it was visible. Regardless, he's working to fix it, and it sucks for all opposition.

WSJ says the Nationals had the fourth best off-season, ignores details - The Bog

Key Acquisition(s): SP Gio Gonzalez, SP Edwin Jackson. Key Loss(es): LF Laynce Nix.

Here, let me fix that second part for you: SP Tom Milone, SP Brad Peacock, SP A.J. Cole, C Derek Norris (All top-10 organizational prospects)

I get it, but whyyyyy? - MASN
I have some pretty dumb tattoos, I'll be the first to admit it. But at least mine are easily concealable. Not so much the case for Wilson Ramos whom after his horrific ordeal over the offseason, has gotten a deeply religious toned tattoo to commemorate his survival and triumph over evil. I understand the meaning, but I'm not going to sugar coat it; it looks horrendous.

Do you guys hear an echo in here? - Nationals Journal
Jesus Flores is now healthy. Jesus Flores does not want to be a backup. Jesus Flores believes that he can be a successful starter.

Ian Desmond another young guy pissing off Ian Desmond fans - Nats Insider
Just like Logan Morrison (and Scott Cousins, but nobody gives a crap about Scott Cousins), Ian Desmond is changing his jersey number, making every single person who owns a Nationals #6 jersey/shirsey pissed that they have an outdated piece of apparel now. He'll be wearing #20 to honor Frank Robinson, whom ironically, he has never actually played for as Jim Riggleman was manager when he finally made his way up.


Hanley Ramirez taking grounders at third (VIDEO) - Marlin Diehards
Maybe I'm trying to create something out of nothing here, but man, look at that body language.

BTW, he's cool with third base now. Really. Really! - Palm Beach Post

I never said I’m not going to do it

It almost sounds like when a deadbeat parent is busted for not paying child support, and then they're forced to pay child support, and how they explain it when they're being forced to relinquish money.

And he better get used to it - Palm Beach Post
Because if Jose Reyes gets hurt or is taking the day off, it's sure as heck not going to be him playing shortstop. :(

Dominican paper makes speculations about Dominicans Hanley and Reyes about Marlins disrespecting Hanley, in which Hanley feels disrespected for - Sun Sentinel
Man, Hanley Ramirez just cannot get a break this off-season. Essentially a Dominican paper writes an opinion piece about all this Dominican-on-Dominican drama, and Hanley gets mad at them, and takes to Twitter (how else?) to defend his being disrespected.

Marlins being sued by their real owners - SBNation
Team pres David Samson must have had his mind on other ironman competitions or charity runs, because while being a guest auctioneer at a banquet, he kind of accidentally sold the Marlins for $10 million dollars. "It was a joke," is the explanation, but the company that made the bid is taking it quite seriously. LOLMarlins?

Ozzie Guillen does not believe in team chemistry - Sun Sentinel
Somehow, I find this hard to believe.

Leo Nunez stuck in the Dominican Republic, has not yet reported to camp - Fish Bytes
Wow, who would have seen that coming?

MLBN's Brian Kenny thinks Gaby Sanchez would be the best leadoff hitter - Sun Sentinel
Wow, this is almost as good as justin's "Adam Dunn should bat leadoff" dead horse. Look, I get that Alan Thicke Brian Kenny is trying to get ahead the curve and embrace the sabr-movement early, but stick to the teleprompter.

Jeffrey Loria not giving any pre-arb players any raises in 2012 - SBNation
When you're a youngin' stuck in the purgatory of pre-arbitration, you're paid what the team wants to give you, and nothing more. Although small raises are not mandatory by any means, they're still often typically done, in good faith or cost of living, or whatever reason, because it makes their players happy. The excuse is that the new CBA's forced raising of league minimum from $414k to $480k is more than sufficient enough for all the Marlins' pre-arb guys, in Loria's eyes, so for all intents and purposes, such Fish as Mike Stanton and LoMo are making the absolute minimum they can be paid. Sounds like a great way to retain good relations thar, Jeff!

Marlins going to be great or ghastly? - Marlin Maniac
Naturally, we Braves fans only want to really hear about what happens in a disaster, because the obvious answer to everything clicking is simply grand success. I'm not overly pleased with this optimistic assessment of "disaster," so I'll come up with my own scenario: Ozzie Guillen can't get the hang of managing in the NL and at some point mismanages a double switch which ends up with Josh Johnson coming out of a no-hitter with a 0-0 score, Hanley Ramirez somehow ends up at first base with Omar Infante playing short with Jose Reyes at third and Mike Stanton ends the game with an awful strikeout. Mark Buehrle pulls a Derek Lowe, and Carlos Zambrano retires outright after Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman hit back-to-back-to-back inside-the-park HRs because the Marlins literally have nobody out in CF, meaning eight guys on the field. All the players vent out on Twitter, but no more than who else, Logan Morrison who declares he really wanted to wear #5 because Albert Pujols is a demi god, and he wished he were him. And then Josh Johnson gets hurt, bam, game over.

Money quote - Fish Chunks

Turning onto a side-road near the west side of the stadium we faced one of the guarded construction gates; turning left from there we immediately faced a chicken crossing the road.

Although a chicken is funny, I think my experience with the guy in the truck with the mini-PA system with animal noises to agitate all the housed-in dogs still wins.

Kind of brilliant, actually - Sun Sentinel
Scott Cousins, he who ran over and pretty much killed Buster Posey in San Francisco has decided to give up the jersey number #33, and give it to Aaron Rowand, who has pretty much worn #33 his whole career. This accomplishes two things, the switch tricks what dumb Giants fans there are that only remember a #33 bowling over Posey, and secondly, Aaron Rowand sucked so hard for the Giants during his miserable tanked contract that they'll already be booing him anyway.

Ew, more Marlins hair stories - Fish Bytes
This time, it's Josh Johnson who got rid of his fro-like hair, for Locks of Love. More Borat jokes about hair being used as currency.


Cole Hamels isn't focusing on extension talks - Phillies Nation
The interesting thing is that he hasn't declared any sort of deadline for setting talks, so the whole process could feasibly go through the season, unless he more or less ignores it once training begins. But the bottom line is that it's insinuated that he had some nagging injuries all throughout 2011, and despite being a top-5 pitcher in the NL, he might have been capable of being better.

Phillies lock up Kyle Kendrick for two years, $7.5M - TGP
You know, I actually don't think this is that terrible of a move for the Phillies. Kyle Kendrick may not be the best pitcher in the world, tries a little too hard to usurp Roy Halladay's prowess, and doesn't strike out enough guys, but at least the Phillies have more or less locked up the grunt worker who will spot start in the event of any injury, take long relief most other times, and be the mop up guy in rare occasions, for two salary-projectable years, meaning they don't have to worry about raises for his arb 2 and 3 years. As TGP points out, if he's remotely capable of producing the WAR numbers he did in 2011 for two years, this deal essentially pays for itself. Otherwise, he's still a far reach from Oliver Perez.

Ryan Howard is at 40% - Phillies Nation
At such a pace, he's hoping to be back my late-May, early-June. But for what it's worth, he's taking some swings in the cages in Clearwater regardless.

What do Ryan Howard and Chipper Jones have in common? - High Cheese
Both guys are the only two guys in history to twice, been the last out of an LCS with the tying or go-ahead runs on base. Say what you want about how frail Chipper is, but at least he didn't get hurt in either of his.

Chase Utley to be limited this spring - Phillies Zone
As pointed out in a link last week, Chase Utley's MO has been that he gradually wears down after July. That couldn't have been helped any with the patellar tendinitis that hindered him all throughout 2011, so with that in mind, along with the fact that he's getting older, the Phils will be limiting him with hopes of helping him conserve his gas better towards the end of the year. Placido Polanco too.

Phillies signings amongst the best - Phillies Nation
According to MLBTR, Juan Pierre and Joel Pinero's minor league deals with the Phillies are two of the lowest-risk, highest-reward deals made in all of baseball. Considering Pierre's strengths and that Pinero is more or less going to be a distant contingency plan at a low-cost, I can't really disagree.

Placido Polanco determined to stay healthy - Phillies Zone
So pretty much bank on that he'll get some sort of elbow, back, or knee injury that will disable him for significant amounts of time.

Roy Oswalt planning on Roger Clemensing - TGP
Lol'd at WholeCamels' headline. It kind of makes me think of that episode of the Simpsons where all Simpson males grew up to be buffoons, and they were ramming into each other with pots on their heads. But with bulldozers, for some reason, I picture Oswalt having bulldozer races with another Gulf Coast resident who also has a bulldozer in Karl Malone.

Raul Ibanez's final gift to the Phillies is a Yankee's draft pick - Beerleaguer
By signing his $1.1M deal with incentives with the Yankees, he nets the Phillies a compensation pick, because he actually managed to be a Type-B free agent.

Domonic Brown wants a real job in the bigs - Phillies Zone
Gotta admire the fire and determination coming from the youngster whom many are beginning to see the formations of doubts in his ability to be stud outfielder who would serve as a major component to the future. He's accepting his flaws and shortcomings with dignity, and selflessly seeking out help and advice from anyone and everyone willing to, from Gary Sheffield to Jason Heyward. Ironically, regardless of his determination, the bureaucratic construction and logjam of outfield options might just relegate him to triple A anyway.

Charlie Manuel needs to stop being like ... wait for it ... Bobby Cox - Beerleaguer
Meaning, ol' Cholly needs to stop relying on veterans because they're veterans, over the more capable options, regardless of the situation. Most people bemoan the 2005 NLDS as the 18-inning heart breaker in Game 4, but I more critically turn my eye towards Game 1's loss, where for no reason than the aforementioned, Brian Jordan, Julio Franco and Johnny Estrada started over the widely more capable Brian McCann, Adam LaRoche and Ryan LOLangerhans.

Jose Contreras will start throwing off a mound now - Phillies Zone
Who else forgot that Jose Contreras was still a Philly, and is still under contract to them for $2.5M for 2012? Well, he is, and after recovering from an elbow surgery, the big 40-42 year old Cuban righty is on the slow path to return.