Three strikes: Wells production bodes well for Jays

Sporting News’ Stan McNeal analyzes several early season trends.
 
STRIKE 1: It’s early but Wells is showing up
Vernon Wells is letting his bat speak for him -- and it's making big noise.
Vernon Wells is letting his bat speak for him — and it’s making big noise.

Just ask David Ortiz if the season is too young to make long-range assumptions. He bristled at reporters (to put it nicely) who tried to ask him about his slow start.

 
Vernon Wells has been around too long to get overly excited about his strong start. But this sure beats last year when he hit .260 with 15 homers. His struggles were compounded because of his massive contract, which has the Blue Jays on the hook for $107 million over the next five years. You can be sure Toronto fans upset about the team’s decision to trade Roy Halladay haven’t forgotten about Well’s deal.
 
Wells is doing as much as possible to get back in Toronto’s good graces. He slammed his fourth home run in three games Thursday — it was a ninth-inning shot that tied their game against Rangers. Toronto won 3-1, and Wells ended the series with a 6-for-10 showing, seven RBIs and more homers than he hit all of last April.
 
Don’t expect him to regress to his ’09 struggles, either. Two reasons: "Vernon is healthy and motivated," Blue Jays TV announcer and former manager Buck Martinez said. "He finally takes on the leadership role with Halladay out of the picture."
 
Health is the key. Wells, 31, didn’t complain last year when he missed only four games even though his left wrist bothered him most of the season (the same wrist he broke in 2008). But offseason surgery to repair cartilage damage has Wells feeling better and producing more than he has since signing his deal in late 2006.
 
STRIKE 2: San Francisco is off to a Giant start
Early results on Mark DeRosa are good as the Giants crank up on offense.
Early results on Mark DeRosa are good as the Giants crank up on offense.

What was impressive about the Giants’ three-game, 18-run, 37-hit sweep of the Astros: They didn’t get an RBI from Pablo Sandoval.

 
What wasn’t so impressive: their opponent. The Astros’ best pitchers, Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, both turned in (bare minimum) quality starts. But Brett Myers and the troubled Astros’ bullpen didn’t fare so well. The Giants pounded out 12 runs and 23 hits in 15 innings against Myers and the Houston ‘pen.
 
Like Wells, San Francisco newcomer Mark DeRosa also is responding nicely from offseason wrist surgery. DeRosa scored at least once and reached base at least twice in all three games. Edgar Renteria, a disappointment last season, had a five-hit game and reached base 11 times in 14 plate appearances. But the Giant to keep an eye on is John Bowker, who hit his way into the right-field job with a six-homer, 23-RBI showing in spring training. He had a hit in all three games, including a homer in Game 3.
 
The Giants will be tested this weekend when they open at home against the Braves. Hanging 18 runs on Atlanta like they did at Houston certainly would qualify as impressive.
 
 
STRIKE 3: Dusty’s critics are out again
Dusty Baker wears out umpires; more critical is early overuse of pitchers.
Dusty Baker wears out umpires; more critical is early overuse of pitchers.

The knock against Dusty Baker is that he burns out his starting pitchers. Scouts and execs take both sides of the argument, and, yes, more have leaned toward the "yes" side. Three games into 2010, it’s easy to see why Baker has developed such a reputation.

 
Two Reds starters threw 109 pitches in their season debuts. On Wednesday, it was Johnny Cueto and on Thursday, Bronson Arroyo. So far, only the Rays’ Matt Garza has thrown more pitches (114).
 
So was 109 too many?
 
In Cueto’s case, yes. He’s 24 and spent time on the disabled list last season because of shoulder inflammation. He wasn’t pitching well enough to be extended so early. Still, Baker’s stance is easy to understand. Though Cueto labored, he had the Reds even with the Cardinals, 2-2, through six innings. Enter bullpen, goodbye tie. The Cardinals scored four runs in the seventh and won 6-3. This came after Cincinnati’s bullpen was bashed for seven runs in four innings in the opener.
 
Arroyo, conversely, is a veteran who can handle a heavy workload. Beginning in November, he throws "pretty much every day" and reports to spring training in excellent shape. Before he left for Arizona, he said, "I need those full six weeks (of camp). Hopefully, I’ll get 90 pitches under my belt in spring and with a little extra adrenaline in a real game, I can push it to 105."
 
Arroyo topped that slightly Thursday, but Baker shouldn’t be faulted for sending Arroyo out for the eighth in a 1-1 game. Arroyo had allowed only three hits to that point. After extending Arroyo through a scoreless eighth, Baker sent out closer Francisco Cordero in the ninth and he retired the Cardinals in order, setting the stage for Jonny Gomes’ walkoff homer to give the Reds their first victory.
 
This story appears in April 9’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only digital sports daily, sign up today.
 
Stan McNeal is a staff writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.
Sporting News’ Stan McNeal analyzes several early season trends.
 
STRIKE 1: It’s early but Wells is showing up
Vernon Wells is letting his bat speak for him -- and it's making big noise.
Vernon Wells is letting his bat speak for him — and it’s making big noise.

Just ask David Ortiz if the season is too young to make long-range assumptions. He bristled at reporters (to put it nicely) who tried to ask him about his slow start.

 
Vernon Wells has been around too long to get overly excited about his strong start. But this sure beats last year when he hit .260 with 15 homers. His struggles were compounded because of his massive contract, which has the Blue Jays on the hook for $107 million over the next five years. You can be sure Toronto fans upset about the team’s decision to trade Roy Halladay haven’t forgotten about Well’s deal.
 
Wells is doing as much as possible to get back in Toronto’s good graces. He slammed his fourth home run in three games Thursday — it was a ninth-inning shot that tied their game against Rangers. Toronto won 3-1, and Wells ended the series with a 6-for-10 showing, seven RBIs and more homers than he hit all of last April.
 
Don’t expect him to regress to his ’09 struggles, either. Two reasons: "Vernon is healthy and motivated," Blue Jays TV announcer and former manager Buck Martinez said. "He finally takes on the leadership role with Halladay out of the picture."
 
Health is the key. Wells, 31, didn’t complain last year when he missed only four games even though his left wrist bothered him most of the season (the same wrist he broke in 2008). But offseason surgery to repair cartilage damage has Wells feeling better and producing more than he has since signing his deal in late 2006.
 
STRIKE 2: San Francisco is off to a Giant start
Early results on Mark DeRosa are good as the Giants crank up on offense.
Early results on Mark DeRosa are good as the Giants crank up on offense.

What was impressive about the Giants’ three-game, 18-run, 37-hit sweep of the Astros: They didn’t get an RBI from Pablo Sandoval.

 
What wasn’t so impressive: their opponent. The Astros’ best pitchers, Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, both turned in (bare minimum) quality starts. But Brett Myers and the troubled Astros’ bullpen didn’t fare so well. The Giants pounded out 12 runs and 23 hits in 15 innings against Myers and the Houston ‘pen.
 
Like Wells, San Francisco newcomer Mark DeRosa also is responding nicely from offseason wrist surgery. DeRosa scored at least once and reached base at least twice in all three games. Edgar Renteria, a disappointment last season, had a five-hit game and reached base 11 times in 14 plate appearances. But the Giant to keep an eye on is John Bowker, who hit his way into the right-field job with a six-homer, 23-RBI showing in spring training. He had a hit in all three games, including a homer in Game 3.
 
The Giants will be tested this weekend when they open at home against the Braves. Hanging 18 runs on Atlanta like they did at Houston certainly would qualify as impressive.
 
 
STRIKE 3: Dusty’s critics are out again
Dusty Baker wears out umpires; more critical is early overuse of pitchers.
Dusty Baker wears out umpires; more critical is early overuse of pitchers.

The knock against Dusty Baker is that he burns out his starting pitchers. Scouts and execs take both sides of the argument, and, yes, more have leaned toward the "yes" side. Three games into 2010, it’s easy to see why Baker has developed such a reputation.

 
Two Reds starters threw 109 pitches in their season debuts. On Wednesday, it was Johnny Cueto and on Thursday, Bronson Arroyo. So far, only the Rays’ Matt Garza has thrown more pitches (114).
 
So was 109 too many?
 
In Cueto’s case, yes. He’s 24 and spent time on the disabled list last season because of shoulder inflammation. He wasn’t pitching well enough to be extended so early. Still, Baker’s stance is easy to understand. Though Cueto labored, he had the Reds even with the Cardinals, 2-2, through six innings. Enter bullpen, goodbye tie. The Cardinals scored four runs in the seventh and won 6-3. This came after Cincinnati’s bullpen was bashed for seven runs in four innings in the opener.
 
Arroyo, conversely, is a veteran who can handle a heavy workload. Beginning in November, he throws "pretty much every day" and reports to spring training in excellent shape. Before he left for Arizona, he said, "I need those full six weeks (of camp). Hopefully, I’ll get 90 pitches under my belt in spring and with a little extra adrenaline in a real game, I can push it to 105."
 
Arroyo topped that slightly Thursday, but Baker shouldn’t be faulted for sending Arroyo out for the eighth in a 1-1 game. Arroyo had allowed only three hits to that point. After extending Arroyo through a scoreless eighth, Baker sent out closer Francisco Cordero in the ninth and he retired the Cardinals in order, setting the stage for Jonny Gomes’ walkoff homer to give the Reds their first victory.
 
This story appears in April 9’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only digital sports daily, sign up today.
 
Stan McNeal is a staff writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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