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02/17/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 7"

Sunday, Fenruary 17, 2008

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International


Spring training has opened for the 2008 Major League Baseball season, and as well as being a time of hopeful rookies looking to reach The Show and longtime veterans looking to hang on for another year, it’s a time for visa problems involving foreign players. Welcome to Francisco Liriano’s world.
The Minnesota Twins pitcher has already had his difficulties, missing the 2007 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery after going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA for Minnesota before an elbow injury ended his rookie campaign in 2006. Now, as the Twins open camp in Florida, Liriano is going to be delayed for at least a week after the U.S. consulate in his native Dominican Republic required him to take a sobriety test in the wake of a 2006 arrest in Florida on speeding and drunken driving charges. The 24-year-old lefty also needs to attend a counseling session. The American consulate in Santo Domingo did not comment on the situation.

Curt Schilling is entering his 21st year in the major leagues working to come back from shoulder miseries that sidelined for much of the 2007 season. Schilling had differences with the Boston Red Sox over the best way to deal with his shoulder problems, and at one point the defending World Series champions threatened to void his one-year, $8 million contract if he chose surgery. Instead, Schilling chose to avoid surgery, take the money (and a little cortisone) and hope for the best with a shoulder that has been operated on twice since 1995.
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein told reporters Schilling will be rehabbing his shoulder for six to eight weeks, but that it’s too early to put the 41-year-old pitcher on a timetable. Schilling spent seven weeks on the disabled list last year with shoulder tendonitis and finished the regular season with a 9-8 record, but went 3-0 in the postseason for Boston.
Schilling is not expected to pitch for the Red Sox until after the All-Star break.

The Kansas City Royals opened spring training last week in Arizona, and a familiar face from Japan is on hand looking to make a comeback. Pitcher Hideo Nomo is a non-roster invitee in the Royals’ camp, seeking to return to the major leagues after a two-year absence. The 39-year-old Nomo last pitched in the majors with Tampa Bay in 2005, going 5-8 with a 7.24 ERA, and got roughed up during a brief stint in Venezuelan winter ball last year.
Nomo was the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1995, going 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA and a league-leading 236 strikeouts for the Dodgers, and has 123 wins and nearly 2,000 whiffs for his career. However, he has been hampered in recent years by elbow and shoulder injuries. Nomo is one of 31 pitchers in Kansas City’s camp, and is considered a long shot to make the team. The Royals think he might help offseason acquisition Yasuhiko Yabuta’s transition from Japanese to American baseball.


Your Tax Dollars At Work, Exhibit 73: A typo in court papers regarding Barry Bonds filed late Thursday by federal prosecutors implied that Bonds had failed a drug test in November 2001, one month after breaking the single season home run record. In fact, the government meant to reference a previously-reported failed drug test from November 2000, according to U.S. attorney spokesman Josh Eaton. The gaffe touched off reports that Bonds had failed a test in 2001.
Bonds is still scheduled to be the topic of a February 29 court hearing looking into whether he lied under oath about his alleged steroid use. Bonds’ personal trainer Greg Anderson and BALCO founder Victor Conte were expected in court last Friday for a hearing to determine whether they could keep evidence prosecutors turned over to them from the government’s investigation of steroids in sports.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have closer Takashi Saito in camp at Vero Beach, Florida after signing the 38-year-old All-Star to a one-year deal worth $2 million, plus another $200,000 in performance bonuses.
Saito joined the Dodgers by signing a minor league contract, and went on to set a team rookie record with 24 saves in 2006. He improved to 39 saves last season, turning in a 1.40 ERA along the way. When asked by American media to comment on the salary gap between him and new Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, whose three-year contract will reportedly pay him $35 million, Saito said “Kuroda’s pay is based on what he did in Japan,” adding that the Dodgers gave him a chance to pitch and that he finally got to this point from a minor league contract.

The Defending National League champion Colorado Rockies avoided salary arbitration with one of their leading batter by signing outfielder Brad Hawpe to a one-year contract for just over $3.9 million. Eligible for arbitration for the first time, Hawpe was seeking a raise from $403,000 to $4.35 million after helping the Rockies make a spectacular late season run to the pennant and a World Series berth against Boston.
In addition to his base salary, Hawpe can crack the $4 million barrier by reaching $100,000 worth of performance bonuses based on plate appearances. The Rockies had filed at nearly $3.6 million. Hawpe batted .291 in 2007 with 29 homers and 116 RBIs, and was the last Colorado player remaining in arbitration.

First baseman Tony Clark has signed a one-year, $900,000 contract with the San Diego Padres, just in time to join the team in their Surprise, Arizona training camp. The 35-year-old Clark is a San Diego native who played college ball at San Diego State University. He played last season with the National League West champion Arizona Diamondbacks, batting .249 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs in 221 at-bats. With the Padres, he’ll back up All-Star candidate Adrian Gonzalez.
Padres general manager Kevin Towers touted Clark’s ability to provide a jolt from both sides of the plate, as well as bring the team a solid locker room presence.


Jeremy Powell’s status in 2008 is still unsettled after the Orix Buffaloes filed an appeal with the Japanese baseball commissioner’s office over Powell’s contract with the Softbank Hawks. The 31-year-old pitcher created a firestorm by reportedly agreeing to contracts with both the Buffaloes and Hawks for the upcoming campaign, and the Pacific League recently awarded Powell to Softbank, asking that the Hawks suspend him for the first three months of the season.
The decision did not sit well with Orix team officials, who brought the case to interim commissioner Yasuchika Negoro’s office. The Buffaloes want Powell’s suspension to be for the entire year in order to accept the league’s ruling, while the Hawks want the suspension shortened. Softbank announced that they had signed Powell on January 29, three weeks after Orix made the same claim.
Powell has a 67-59 record in seven seasons in Japan, but was only 0-2 in seven starts for Yomiuri last year before a knee injury ended his season.

After one month of existence, the Korea Baseball Organization’s newest team remains a cauldron of confusion, with the situation deteriorating into a player boycott of training camp before an employment dispute with the owners was resolved.
The former Hyundai Unicorns have been the off-season’s hot potato, with no less than three organizations deciding not to pick up the franchise after Hyundai decided not to field a team in 2008 before the Centennial Investment firm of Seattle decided to take a shot at owning a baseball team last month. Since then, Centennial has been reshuffling the front office, replaced the manager, and announced they’d be cutting the team payroll, which led to the player boycott. General manager No-joon Park, who still has his job as of this report, met with players last week and assured them Centennial would fully inherit the current Unicorns roster. Training camp opened Wednesday, with the still-unnamed team set to open their exhibition season on March 8.
Much of the confusion centers on the secrecy surrounding the franchise since Centennial’s takeover, and pitcher Min-tae Chung said, “We could have saved a lot of time if Centennial officials had explained things clearly to the players from the start.”

Mexico’s baseball hall of fame has sent ballots to its 160-member Voting Committee seeking to select three new members. The Salon de la Fama in Monterrey will be celebrating its 35th year in 2008, with two players and a manager to be picked.
Among the former players being considered are pitchers Ricardo Solis, Jesus Moreno, Enrique Castillo, Luis Fernando Mendez and Ricardo Sandate; while position players on the list include Rodolfo Hernandez, Jose Pacho, Fernando Villaescusa, Luis Alfonso Cruz, and brothers Antonio and Juan Briones.
Voters will also choose a manager from among Cuauhtemoc Rodriguez, Pablo Machado, Rodolfo Gonzalez Castillo, Arturo Leon Lerma, Enrique Rubio and Arcadio Mazon Valenzuela.
Final selections will be announced the second week of March.

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