Sun Spots: Hot Stove 09-10

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Just a few spots this week. Mostly baseball stuff. It is hot stove time after all!

Ken Griffey Junior is officially coming back for the 2010 season meaning Hideki Matsui is most assuredly off the Mariners wish list. But, perhaps New York Yankees pitcher Chien-Men Wang could fill in the Mariners need for a capable starter.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post: And the Yanks will be very cautious with Wang. The success rate of pitchers returning at a high level after shoulder surgery is far lower than from elbow surgery. Plus, the Yankees always thought Wang was working on a narrow margin of error: He was essentially a one-pitch pitcher who got away with not missing any bats by having a 95 mph sinker that hitters routinely smashed into the grounder. They saw what he looked like when he lost some of that velocity this year, and it was not good.

Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com: The Pirates’ acquisition of Akinori Iwamura a week ago not only solidified second base for 2010, but it also clarified Andy LaRoche’s future in the infield as well. His immediate future, at least. LaRoche was approached by the Bucs at the end of the 2009 season to gauge his willingness to move from third to second, possibly as soon as next year. At the time, management’s thinking was two-fold. One, the Pirates did not particularly feel comfortable with their second-base options for ’10. And two, with top prospect Pedro Alvarez about to knock on the big league door, LaRoche was looking like little more than a placeholder at the hot corner. Accepting the challenge of reacquainting himself at second, LaRoche spent five days at the organization’s instructional league in Bradenton, Fla., right after the season ended, taking ground balls and making double play flips. But that preparation has since become a non-issue—at least for now—because the addition of Iwamura, who will be Pittsburgh’s everyday second baseman next season.

Keith Law of ESPN:  The Rays managed to trade Aki Iwamura for useful middle reliever in Jesse Chavez, while the Pirates get a productive offensive second baseman who can handle the position but isn’t plus. Iwamura had an unattractive option given his season-ending knee injury and the Rays have a superior option at the position in Ben Zobrist. The Pirates had no one capable of playing second after they traded Freddy Sanchez (just in time, as it turned out); Delwyn Young was the best available candidate and he plays the position about as well as a tombstone. Iwamura doesn’t have great range but can turn two and make the routine play. Chavez is a three-pitch reliever with an above-average fastball and a solid-average changeup; he has shown plus control throughout his pro career, making him a good bet to be an average middle guy, although he doesn’t miss enough bats to be a late-game reliever.

Perhaps some NPB teams considering Tomo Ohka? And the Baltimore Orioles feel strongly about Koji Uehara out of the bullpen, or perhaps even as their closer.

For those who follow my J-Slanted weekly column, this piece by Michael Street of Baseball Daily Digest might be a bit repetitive in information, but it offers a few new tidbits and is a good read on the futures of several of the Japanese players in the MLB.

Nikolas DeMordaunt of the San Jose Sharks Examiner: The return of forwards Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi helped the San Jose Sharks continued their winning streak with a victory at home over the Nashville Predators…Devin Setoguchi returned from a lower body injury versus the Predators. Like Pavelski, Setoguchi scored in his returning game, wristing a shot that was redirected off of a Predators’ stick and into the top shelf.

by JORDAN IKEDA

Rafu Sports Editor

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