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‘MLB’ Articles

Major League Baseball Opener Easter Night: Yankees at Boston

compiled by megasportsnews.com staff

Boston's Fenway Park (creative commons/wfe photo)

Baseball’s most heated rivalry is ready to get heated up again and it’ll start on the day of the new 2010 baseball season.

Easter night’s game between two of baseball’s benchmark franchises. the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox will be a prime-time showcase for themselves, while the other MLB teams including the oldest, the Cincinnati Reds, will have to wait until Monday to open their seasons.

The Yankees will start this season off as defending champions for the first time since the opening game in 2001. The world championship is the 27th in the history of the franchise.

The opening night pitchers will be C.C. Sabathia for New York and Josh Beckett for Boston. Both will be making their second consecutive opening day starts in what is expected to be warm temperatures in Beantown.

There will be some new faces on both benches for this season’s rivalry.

The Yankees said goodbye to World Series MVP Hadeki Matsui and fan favorite Johnny Damon, both left as free agents and the team traded Melky Cabrera. However, they picked up speedy centerfielder Curtis Granderson, designated hitter Nick Johnson and righthanded pitcher Javier Vasquez.

Boston made additions as well. They lost Jason Bay in free agency but vastly improved their defense by signing Gold Glovers Mike Cameron to play centerfield, Adrian Beltre will play third base and Marco Scutaro will be the new shortstop. John Lackey will be the number 3 starter behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.

Checking the baseball record books, this will be the fourth time in 26 years that the rivals have met in the opener. The Yankees were the winners in 1992 and 2005 in Yankee Stadium. Boston won at Fenway Park in 1985 and is opening the season at home for just the third time since 1996.

Former Baltimore Orioles lefty Mike Cuellar dies at age 72

compiled from staff, wire and internet reports

Mike Cuellar, the cunning lefty from Cuba whose sharp screwball made him a Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion with Earl Weaver’s Baltimore Orioles, died at the age of 72 on Friday.

Cuellar made his major league debut in 1959 and bounced from team-to-team (Cincinnati, St. Louis and Houston) for almost  10 years before a key trade took him to Baltimore.

Playing for the powerful Orioles, Cuellar’s potential balloned on one of the most dominant and imposing pitching staff in baseball history, in 1971, he was among four 20-game winners.

Mike Cuellar (Houston photo)

Mike joined Baltimore for the 1969 season and that season became the first Orioles pitcher to win the American League Cy Young Award, sharing the honor with Detroit Tigers righthander Denny McLain.  During that season, he went 23-11 with 5 shutouts, including a game in which he held Minnesota hitless until Ceasr Tovar’s bloop, leadoff single in the ninth inning.

The Cuban lefty helped pitch the Orioles to three straight World Series from 1969-1971. He finished off that time by teamming with Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Pat Dobson to become the only staff other than the 1920 Chicago White Sox with four 20-game winners.

Cuellar proved he was a big-time pitcher, winning big games eventhough he was overshadowed by Jim Palmer and Dave McNally.

Mike started the first American League championship series game ever, in 1969 against the Minnesota Twins. He then outpitched Tom Seaver of the New York Mets in Game 1 of the 1969 World Series; the only win for Baltimore as they were  upset by the New York Mets.

Cuellar won a career-high 24 games in 1970 and again pitched well in the postseason, using his arm and his bat. A career .115 hitter, the Cuban Lefty hit a grand slam in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS).

He then closed out the 1970 World Series by beating the powerful Cincinnati Reds in Game 5 at old Memorial Stadium. After falling behind three runs in the first inning, he shut out the Reds on two hits the rest of the game.

Mike threw a gem in his final World Series game, but lost Game 7 in 1971 to the Pittsbugh Pirates, 2-1.

Cuellar finished up with a record of 143-88 with Baltimore and ended his career in 1977 with the California Angels.

A four-time All-Star, Cuellar was 185-130 overall in his career, with a 3.14 ERA. He was voted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame.

Matt Garza sharp in final spring tuneup; Rays clinch best spring record

compiled from staff and wire reports

The Tampa Bay Rays clinched the best spring training record in major league baseball Friday, with a 4-2 win over the New York Mets at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Righthander Matt Garza had another strong performance pitching 5 scoreless innings, allowing one hit, walking two and six strikeouts. 13,133 fans were in attendance.

Garza has lowered his spring ERA to 2.28 and will pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in the Rays second game of the year on Wednesday.

Matt Garza Tampa Bay (Fresno State photo)

The Rays have a spring record of 20-8-2 this spring. They also had the number 1 spring training record in major league baseball two years ago, when they went on to become American League champions and appeared in the World Series.

Before Friday’s game, Tampa Bay announced that two-time All-Star Hank Blalock will not open the season on their roster and he will try to sign with another team.

If the 29-year-old infielder can’t sign a contract with another team, he’ll report to the Durham Bulls, the Rays Triple-A affiliate.

Blalock agreed to a minor league contract last month. The Rays feel he showed enough in camp that he will eventually be able to help the major league team if he stays and not sign with another team.

Hank Blalock batted .234 with 25 homers and 66 RBI’s in 123 games for the Texas Rangers in 2009. The .269 career hitter missed most of 2008 and 2009 with injuries that hurt his production at the plate.

President Barack Obama will throw out first pitch at Nationals game

compiled from staff, wire, MLB and Nationals info

Barack Obama 44th U.S. President (file photo)

Barack Obama will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener, marking the 100th anniversary of a presidential pitch to start the season.

Ohioan William Howard Taft first did it on April 14, 1910.  This will be the 48th time a president has made an opening-day pitch in the nation’s capital.

The Washington Nationals will open at home on April 5 against the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Commissioner Bud Selig said, “I am proud that President Obama will continue the long presidential tradition of throwing out the first pitch of opening day in Washington, D.C.”

President Obama will be throwing to a catcher who is experienced in catching presidents. Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez is a 14-time All-Star and when he played for the Texas Rangers, he twice caught ceremonial pitches from President George W. Bush, a former Rangers owner. This will be President Obama’s first time in attendance at Nationals Park.

Barack Obama threw out the first pitch at last year’s All-Star game in St. Louis, wearing a White Sox jacket. An interesting note is that the Nationals will be playing host to the White Sox this season for a three-game series, June 18-20 and everybody wonders who the president will be rooting for?

Major League Baseball makes off-day changes in middle of LCS

compiled from staff and wire reports

Bud Selig MLB Commissioner (Creative Commons/wfe photo)

There had been a lot of talk during the off-season that Major League Baseball would make changes in the off days in the postseason.

The awkward off-day between Games 4 and 5 of the league championship series, will be eliminated. Instead, there will be another off-day between the division series and the start of the LCS. That’s the word from the commissioner’s office on Wednesday.

The overall length of the postseason will not be shortened and the first round will remain a best-of-five at least through 2011.

Without any rainouts, this year’s switch will make it more difficult for any team to get through the best-of -seven LCS with only three starting pitchers, as the defending world champion New York Yankees did in 2009.

The off-day was among the four baseball added for the Fox network who wanted the World Series to open on a Wednesday rather than a Saturday, usually the lowest-rated night of the week.

This year’s division series starts October 6, and the National League team with the best record will likely be the one that decides whether it wants the eight-day division series. The American League Championship Series starts October 15, with the National League Championship Series beginning the following day. The World Series opens on Wednesday, October 27, and Game 7 would be scheduled for November 3, the second straight year it could extend past Halloween.

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