A quick update on what I think are some of the more interesting off-season moves, not only of players going from team-to-team, but movement within teams.
FROM RELIEF TO ROTATION - these are 3 pitchers making the switch from the bullpen to the starters role this season.
The Jonathan Papelbon move has been well-documented. I wonder whether pitching every fifth day helps his arm, rather than working almost everyday, or if he's hurt by the number of pitches per start he'll be throwing. I think he'll be fine - it's the Red Sox' closer position I'd be worried about if I was a Red Sox fan. Papelbon was soooo good in that role last year. He struck fear in other teams - something that's been missing from that position at Fenway in the past.
This one should be interesting - everyone's favorite former Mets closer, Braden Looper, is part of an experiment in St. Louis, most likely titled, "How to Destroy A Championship Team". Looper is being moved into the rotation - I can't imagine, if he couldn't fool teams coming into games late, how he's going to do against teams facing batters more than once per game.
Then there's Adam Wainwright, who did such a spectacular job closing out games for the Cardinals during the post-season, but is no longer needed as a closer because of Jason Isringhausen's return. Wainwright is also expected to get a shot at starting...if I'm a Cardinals fan, I'd rather see Wainwright in there than Isringhausen at the end of games, based on Isringhausen's performance and the way he's looked on the mound in the past couple of years.
OLD FACES, NEW PLACES
I've mentioned this before, but I'll continue to root for Mike Piazza as long as he's playing. This year, Piazza finally finds himself on an American League team - the Oakland A's - meaning he's going to be a DH for the majority of the year. (There is a possibility he'll get some time behind the plate - possibly even some time at first base!) It will be interesting to see how his bat responds to the new role, even if it is at cavernous McAfee Coliseum.
I'll bring this up again when I make my picks, but the Texas Rangers have become a chic pick to be good this season (perhaps it's because Buck Showalter is no longer with them, and every team Showalter has left has won a championship the year following his departure). I don't think the Rangers will win the West, but I will be keeping an eye on the once-dominant, now-very-fragile, Eric Gagne, and whether or not he can return to form. Or, at the very least, stay healthy.
When Juan Pierre is your number two hitter, you have a good lineup. Such is the case for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will have Pierre hitting behind Rafael Furcal. The Dodgers improved their team this off-season, I can't say much more than that. Pierre and Furcal at the top of the lineup could mean a lot of early leads for Los Angeles this season.
COMMENT COMMENTS: The Southern Bureau left a note detailing a few of Oliver Perez's other, not-so-successful starts. I didn't bring up the horrid numbers, because I figured the ERA spoke for itself regarding how bad those starts were. My point remains - I'm not sure he's too much worse than Trachsel in the rotation - there were times when Trachsel hurt the team and taxed the bullpen. Bottom Line: I hope Dave in Brighton's unfailing confidence in Oliver Perez prevails over the Southern Bureau's negative experiences.