Panda Ties Mays, and I admit to being a Bonifacio fan…

Pablo Sandoval extended his hitting streak at the start of the 2012 season to 16 games by hitting a homer in the first inning against the Mets.  The 16 game streak matches the longest hitting streak to start the season in Giants history – a record set in 1960 by Willie Mays.

Tampa, looking for a little more bench strength, are considering giving a contract to Godzilla himself, Hideki Matsui.  Matsui hit .251 with a dozen homers for the A’s last year.  The twelve homers put Matsui at 505 career homers – the first 332 with Yomiuri in Japan.

Hunter Pence took today off with a sore shoulder injured while diving for a ball Sunday in San Diego.  He’s day to day.

Hurry Back!

The Mets placed shortstop Ronny Cedeno on the 15-Day DL with a left intercostal strain.  To cover the infield, the Mets recalled infielder Jordany Valdespin from AAA Buffalo.  Not sure what to make of Valdespin.  He looks like a pretty decent fielder, has gotten better with the bat but puts everything in play, can run a little, but hasn’t been a great percentage base runner.  He might help, but I don’t know how much playing time the 23-year-old kid from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic will get…

The Boston Red Sox, already down a couple of outfielders, placed Jason Repko on the DL with a partially separated shoulder.  Back comes Lars Anderson…  The first baseman (and Norse Guitar Hero) has been learning to play the outfield to increase his opportunities with the Sox.

Welcome back!

The Indians activated Asdrubel Cabrera from the bereavement list.  Nick Hagadone returns to AAA Columbus.

Happy Birthday!

Those celebrating with cake, cards, and remembrances include:

(1886) Harry Coveleski – Stan’s brother…
(1900) Sunny Jim Bottomly
(1907) Dolph Camilli
(1921) Warren Spahn
(1939) Chico Fernandez
(1967) Rheal Cormier
(1979) Carlos Silva
(1985) Emilio Bonifacio

When the Marlins first got Bonifacio, I nailed his productivity, which wasn’t going to be all that good – low average, few walks, didn’t run enough.  To his credit, and not that any of us writers had anything to do about it, he’s gotten better.  Bonifacio is better about working the count and getting on base.  He makes better contact.  He’s been convinced to use his speed more on the bases and now is among the leaders in stolen bases.  He can play a decent enough third, a good short, is fast enough to cover center though he never looks totally comfortable out there and doesn’t really have that strong an arm.  He’s the best defensive shortstop on the Marlins roster – but he’ll never be the starter with all that star power there.

I’m convinced – and I’m now a fan.

A Tale of Two Mouths…

I am writing as the Cubs and Marlins prepare to open a three-game series here in Miami…  Ozzie Guillen, he of the multiple footspace mouth, aims to start earning the respect of Little Havana and the thousands of Cubans who are more than irked at Guillen’s callous and thoughtless statement about Fidel Castro.  I’ll be honest – I’d rather be at the park tonight…

By the way, Kerry Wood is not here, though.  He’s taking care of a sore right shoulder by getting a cortisone shot.  [ESPN]

A lot of press about Bobby Valentine lately – and with good reason.  In the middle of saying something positive about Kevin Youkilis, Valentine let side a note that Youk didn’t seem “…as physically or emotionally into the game as he had been in the past.”  That led Youk to wonder what, exactly, he had done to deserve it and for his teammate, Dustin Pedroia, to call out Valentine for making that comment in the first place.  You have to love when Pedroia pulled out a comment about how Valentine was successful in Japan – certainly a pointed comment.  It also didn’t help that Valentine left Daniel Bard in Monday night’s game too long, enough to walk in the lone run in a 1 – 0 loss to the Rays on Patriot Day.

I’ll be honest – I’m not a huge Valentine fan, or for that matter a fan of most of the more “too happy to tell you his opinion” managers, because it’s too easy to say something stupid.  The more you say about people, the more likely you will say something – even unintentionally – that doesn’t sit well with someone else.  (I run that risk as a writer.)  The Red Sox needed to focus on winning; now the press can start sharpening their pencils and wit on other things.

Other people with thoughts on the subject:

Peter Gammons

Richard Justice

Jason Turbow

Back to real baseball stuff…

Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubel Cabrera is on the bereavement list as he has headed home to Venezuela following a death in the family.  Pitcher Nick Hagadone joins the Indians in the meantime.  [ESPN]

Some good news…  The San Francisco Giants wrapped up starter Madison Bumgarner to a six-year deal worth at least $35 million, with opportunities to make a few more dollars based on two potential option years and bonuses if he makes a run at a Cy Young award.  I like the deal – I like any deal that keeps a homegrown talent around for a while.  Bumgarner has shown good command and surprisingly solid maturity in his first seasons with the Giants.  [FoxSports]

Reds utility infielder Miguel Cairo heads to the 15-Day DL with a strained left hamstring.  Joining Cincinnati will be infielder Todd Frazier.  Frazier isn’t a bad option – a little power, a good eye, a bit of speed, but a bit of a free swinger.  He can help out at three positions.  [MLB]

Transaction Wire:

The Brewers activated shortstop Alex Gonzalez.  He can still play – but his bat is starting to slow down.

Colorado swapped AAA pitcher Edgmer Escalona for Tyler Chatwood.  And I just got Chatwood’s 2011 Topps Update card…  Bummer!  Chatwood was a starter for the Angels last year, but doesn’t have much of a strike out pitch and his control had been suspect.  Moving to Colorado, Chatwood looked to have a shot at a rotation spot, but hasn’t made it and didn’t look great in relief.  Escalona has had a good run through the minors and has looked good in two short stints with the Rockies since 2010.

Tampa Bay recalled Brandon Gomes from AAA Durham, and dispatched Alex Cobb back to the minors.  Gomes is another of those great young arms in the Rays system, just killing it in the minors.  He has future closer stuff.

Baltimore designated infielder Josh Bell for assignment – he could be claimed by any other team, or could accept a AAA assignment.  The Orioles just claimed a player themselves, catcher Luis Exposito.

Happy Birthday!!!

(1820) Alexander Cartwright, a founding father!
(1852) Adrian “Cap” Anson
(1923) Solly Hemus
(1954) Denny Walling
(1967) Marquis Grissom
(1984) Jed Lowrie

Trade Analysis: Boston Acquires Victor Martinez from Cleveland for Justin Masterson and Prospects

From what I understand, the trade was difficult for Victor Martinez, who has spent his entire adult life as an Indian – from the day of his signing as a 17-year-old kid in Venezuela to the day before he was scheduled to have a Victor Martinez bobblehead night.  However, Boston wanted a bit more offense and some lineup flexibility – and the switch hitting Martinez offers that.

Boston Gets:  Options, though I happen to agree with FoxSports Jon Paul Morosi – the biggest challenge will be how to mix and match Martinez among modern Boston legends Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, and David Ortiz – as well as the newly acquired defensive replacement Casey Kotchman.  Martinez is under contract for another year and Varitek is no longer a productive hitter at the bottom of the lineup.  Of course, Varitek is still more than sound behind the plate and his pitchers love him.  Anyway – expect Varitek, Ortiz, and Lowell to lose at bats.  However, if Victor can handle leaving his home and hits the way he is supposed to, winning will take care of sharing lineup spots.

Cleveland Gets:  Pitching.  Justin Masterson is already a successful reliever and spot starter – and Cleveland can use some live arms.  With Lee leaving, Masterson may wind up in the rotation for a few weeks to see if he can handle the grind.  If not, he’s still a valuable reliever – an option in the eighth inning and possibly a future closer.  Nick Hagadone was a first round pick in 2007, and while he’s been the starting pitcher when used, he’s rarely making four innings in his starts.  What is impressive is that his career ERA in the minors is under 2.00 and he has a 3:1 K/W ratio – with 75 Ks in 56.1 innings.  Obviously, Hagadone is two to three years away, but you have to like first impressions.  Bryan Price was a first round pick a year ago and has moved up to AA already – a sign that he has great stuff.  Another pitcher with good control and a great K/9 rate, he hasn’t been as successul in the minors despite racing through A and A+ levels very quickly.  Price is also a couple of years away, but he’s great.

Winner?  Hard to say.  Cleveland got two recent first round picks who are moving in the right direction and someone who can play now.  Whether Masterson and the rest can have long enough (and successful enough) careers moving forward is still an open question, but I think that the sum total of the three is greater than Victor Martinez.  Boston gets a little bit of long-term value in Martinez.  He’s only 30, but at the end of the season will have about 900 games under his belt.  I think he’s got four years left as a productive player – and if he does that, the Sox should be pretty happy.  Still, I like what Cleveland done – even if it means accepting that the last two years were disappointing failures and admitting that it’s time to start over.