Lexington native Austin Kearns and Louisville native Todd Wellemeyer, who signed Minor League contracts with the Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants this offseason, will both be included on their respective team’s 25 man roster when Spring Training ends. Kearns, who was competing for the starting left field job with the Indians, will serve as the teams fourth outfielder and should see plenty of work as a right-handed substitute in a lefty-heavy lineup, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com reports. Wellemeyer will break camp as the Giants’ fifth starter after beating top prospect Madison Bumgarner for the job, although Giants manager Bruce Bochy hasn’t officially named him the winner, Chris Hart of MLB.com reports.
Earlier this month I posted a Spring Training position battle primer for Kentucky fans looking to keep track of their native sons hoping to make MLB rosters. These were the borderline major leaguers and players assured of making the roster but fighting for a bigger role, not established players. With one week left before Opening Day I thought I’d update each battle so you have a better idea of where the official Kentuckians in the majors count will stand in 2010. A special kudos goes to PLD alum and Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis who appears ready to start the season with the big league club after starting catcher Russell Martin suffered a groin injury.
Toronto Blue Jays: Closer
- University of Kentucky and PRP alum Scott Downs is all but eliminated in the three-way closer race that will go to righties Jason Fraser or Kevin Gregg. Downs recently commented to a Toronto newspaper he prefers pitching in the eighth inning anyway.
San Francisco Giants: Fifth starter
- Louisville-native and Bellarmine alum Todd Wellemeyer has all but wrapped up the fifth starter position after star prospect Madison Bumgarner was sent to AAA this week. Wellemeyer is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA this spring.
Cleveland Indians: Left fielder
- Lexington-native Austin Kearns has likely lost the starting job to top prospects Michael Brantley and Matt Laporta, but should still stick with the Indians as a reserve. The team is very left-handed, so Kearns’ right-handed bat is needed for balance.
Seattle Mariners: Relief pitcher
- Louisville-native Shawn Kelley appears destined to make the team per this MLB.com blog post, but hasn’t had a great spring. Kelley has given up eight runs in 12 innings, but does have 14 strikeouts compared to just one walk.
New York Mets: Relief pitcher
- No one in the Mets bullpen has really stepped up this Spring so Louisville Male alum Sean Green remains firmly in the mix for an Opening Day spot despite a 6.75 ERA and eight walks compared to four strikeouts this spring.
Cincinnati Reds: Utility reserve
- Despite an early camp injury, non-roster invitee and St X alum Chris Burke is still hanging on to a big league Spring Training spot. Burke is batting just .188 in eight games, so he’ll have to sell the Reds on his defensive versatility to avoid spending 2010 in his hometown with the Bats. 2009 Louisville Bat Drew Sutton is still in the mix.
- Candidates: Burke, Sutton, Aaron Miles, Paul Janish
Hit the jump for the concluded competitions.
Spring Training games are officially underway, making today an excellent chance to examine what BluGrass Baseball players are battling for specific roles on major league squads and roster spots. I’ve outlined relevant battles I can think of below, but feel free to include any you would add in the comments section.
Toronto Blue Jays: Closer
- University of Kentucky and PRP alum Scott Downs is in a three-way battle for the Blue Jays closer position. Toronto manager Cito Gaston has said he might use a closer-by-committee approach if none of the three candidates step up. Downs saved nine games in 13 opportunities last season.
- Other candidates: Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg
St. Louis Cardinals: Fifth Starter
- 2009 Louisville Bats starting pitcher Ben Jukich is in Cardinals camp as the team’s Rule 5 pick. Jukich must be on the 25-man roster all season for the Cardinals to avoid giving him back to the Reds, so he may be given added chance to make the team out of camp. If he doesn’t earn a starting spot he could be considered for a left-handed reliever spot.
- Other candidates: Rich Hill, Mitchell Boggs, Kyle McClellan
Los Angles Dodgers: Right-handed reliever
- Kentucky Wesleyan alum Cory Wade is looking to regain his spot in the Dodgers bullpen one year after shoulder pain led him back to AAA. Wade is in an open competition for a right-handed setup role after Ronald Belisario’s visa trouble getting into the country, but he would probably take a spot in middle relief if it means leaving the minors.
- Other Candidates: Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, Charlie Haeger
Hit the jump to see more spring position battles.
The Winter Meetings are officially underway and, as expected, most of the Bluegrass speculation centers on a certain Florida second baseman. Check out those rumors and more in some mid-afternoon links:
- Andrew Baggarly of the Silicon Valley Mercury News reports the Florida Marlins may be asking for top pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Louisville-native Dan Uggla. The Giants are unlikely to pursue Uggla at that price.
- Stan McNeal of The Sporting News writes the Marlins’ biggest question entering the Winter Meetings is whether they will move Uggla.
- Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe also lists Uggla as the likely Marlin to move in his team-by-team Winter Meetings breakdown.
- Daan De Kerpel of TSN in Canada speculates the Blue Jays could create a market for closer and UK alum Scott Downs despite the glut of relievers available.
- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer asks where will 2009 Louisville Bat and Cincinnati Reds’ top prospect Todd Frazier play in 2020?
Three players earned consideration for this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet. Bowling Green LHP Matt Moore checked in at number two after a week that saw him go 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts in nine innings. According to BA his 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings leads all full-season minor leaguers.
Lexington RHP Jordan Lyles checks in at number seven on the list after a 1-1 week with a 2.08 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched. BA compares Lyles’ domination of SAL hitters this season to top prospect Madison Bumgarner’s performance in 2008.
Former EKU Colonel Christian Freidrich checks in in the “others in the team pitcture” section. Friedrich struck out 10 in five innings of work in his only start his week for high A Modesto.