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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Updated: May 8, 1:36 AM ET
Ibanez, Hudson among best offseason moves; Bradley on opposite end

ESPN.com

John Rieger/US Presswire

Raul Ibanez has gotten off to a great start in Philadelphia, where he replaced Pat Burrell.

By Tim Kurkjian, ESPN

We are only about five weeks into the regular season, but some teams seem to have had better luck, at least so far, with their free-agent acquisitions from this offseason.

The first name that comes to mind for me among the best signings is Raul Ibanez. He joined a world championship team and replaced a guy who was pretty productive, but he has outproduced Pat Burrell and just about anybody else in the National League this year.

He's hitting .351 with eight home runs and is among the league leaders in RBIs. One of the best clubhouse guys in baseball, he is durable and always ready to play. Some of the Mariners told me last year that he was an absolute rock when they were going through such a brutal season. He was the only guy there who was present every single day in every single way. Now he's doing the same thing for the Phillies.

This spring, they had its unofficial team golf tournament, where everyone shows up and works out before playing golf in the afternoon. Ibanez was the last guy to leave the clubhouse because he was busy lifting weights. His teammates told me he was there all the time. It's really no surprise that he's off to a great start.

Another guy who comes to mind is the Dodgers' Orlando Hudson. He is coming off a pretty serious thumb injury. He showed me his thumb down at spring training and said it still hurts whenever he takes an awkward swing. That had me wondering whether he was going to hit this year. Yet here we are, about a week into May, and he's batting .336 and already has hit for the cycle. He has done great in the second spot for the Dodgers so far, and he has done an exemplary job defensively at second base. He, as much as anyone, is the reason a scout came to me this spring and told me the Dodgers had the best defensive infield in the NL.

Hudson replaced Jeff Kent, who wasn't as bad as people were saying but, at the end of his career, wasn't very good. But Hudson has been really good, and his signing is one of several reasons the Dodgers are in first place.

It's still early in the year, obviously, but a few guys haven't started the season at all well with their new teams. Chicago's Milton Bradley is one in particular. He's hitting .128 with two RBIs. Granted he hasn't batted even 50 times yet, so it's kind of unfair to start with him, but I know the Cubs were counting on him to bat well left-handed to protect all those right-handed hitters in their lineup. He's been hurt and obviously hasn't hit much at all yet, so he has to qualify, at some level, as a disappointment.

I think you have to throw Mark Teixeira in that group, as well. When you sign that kind of contract and the team isn't playing particularly well and you are hitting .198 with 12 RBIs (entering play Wednesday, although he did come up with a three-run, game-tying triple in the eighth inning Wednesday night against the Rays), I think it's fair to say the team expected more. Everyone knows what a notoriously slow starter he is, but it's one thing to start slow in Texas and Atlanta and another to do it at Yankee Stadium, especially with all that money and the focus on him without Alex Rodriguez in that batting order.

Finally, Brian Fuentes has been a disappointment with the Angels. Granted he has big shoes to fill by replacing Francisco Rodriguez, a guy who saved 62 games last year, but he already has blown a couple of games this season and has an ERA of 6.52. He clearly has been a letdown for them.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: May 5 | May 4 | May 3 | April 30 | April 29

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
J. Cantu, Fla8AtlLoweBot 1: 0-1, 1 Outs. 2 on.
N. Markakis, Bal5MinSloweyBot 1: 2-1, 1 Outs. 1 on.
J. Hardy, Mil4CinArroyoTop 1: 3-1, 2 Outs. 2 on.
R. Braun, Mil6CinArroyoTop 2: 1-2, 0 Outs. Gr. Slam.
A. Pujols, StL11PitDukeBot 1: 1-0, 2 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Wednesday's homers

ON DECK: THURSDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Mariners at Royals

Brian Bannister isn't quite Zack Greinke, but the Kansas City starter's numbers through three starts are pretty impressive. Bannister is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA. His opponent, Seattle's Jarrod Washburn, is off to a solid start, too, posting a 3-1 mark with a 2.97 ERA through five starts this season.

Phillies at Mets

Jamie Moyer (3-1) and Mike Pelfrey (3-0) both have decent records so far, but each is toting around a high ERA. Opponents are hitting .316 against Moyer, who enters with a 5.65 ERA. Opponents are hitting .310 against Pelfrey, who carries a 6.00 ERA. Pelfrey also has walked 13 and struck out only six.

Diamondbacks at Padres

Dan Haren has allowed more than five hits in a game just once in his first six starts; he has gone no fewer than six innings in any of those outings. He's throwing strikes, too, having recorded 47 strikeouts and handed out only seven walks over 43 innings.

For the rest of Thursday's schedule, click here.

BBTN ON THE AIR: THURSDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
11 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Buster Olney, Buck Showalter

12:20 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Buster Olney, Buck Showalter

BBTN MINUTE: DODGERS 13-0 AT HOME

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at Albert Pujols, who is off to a scorching start this season, even by his own lofty standards:



Albert Pujols (first 27 games)
2006 2007 2008 2009
BA .330 .284 .384 .364
HR 15 6 5 11
RBI 33 17 20 31

WEB GEMS

WEDNESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Johan SantanaJohan Santana came out on the winning side of one of the year's best pitching duels. The Phillies' Chan Ho Park allowed one hit over six innings, but the Phillies' bullpen surrendered the game's only run in the seventh. Santana allowed two hits and struck out 10 over his seven innings, and lowered his ERA to 0.91.
Jorge Cantu• Even if Marlins didn't have the greatest night, losing 8-6 against the Braves, it wasn't because of Jorge Cantu. The Florida first baseman went 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs. He also scored two runs in the loss.
WORST
Bronson ArroyoBronson Arroyo wasn't around very long against the Brewers, which is good because then maybe he can forget what happened. Arroyo couldn't record an out in the second inning, and left after allowing seven hits and nine runs in one-plus inning of work in the Reds' 15-3 loss against the Brewers.
Randy JohnsonRandy Johnson is stuck on career win No. 297 after a rough outing against the Rockies. Johnson gave up eight hits and seven runs over 5 2/3 innings of the Giants' 11-1 loss. Even more surprising, Johnson did not record a strikeout for the first time this season.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon entered Wednesday tied for second in the AL for saves with seven, but he has allowed 17 baserunners in 12 innings pitched. His tally of pitches per plate appearance is up from last season at 4.4. Papelbon's fastball is less effective this season than it has been in past years. Hitters are making more contact against it and aren't chasing it out of the zone.

The Red Sox finish a two-game series with Cleveland on Thursday night. The Indians were 3-for-8 with three strikeouts against Papelbon's fastball in two appearances entering Wednesday night.

Hitter vs. Papelbon's fastball
2007 2008 2009
BA .113 .205 .214
Swing-and-miss pct. 30.2 22.0 20.8
Chase pct. 31.2 30.9 24.0

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF THURSDAY'S GAMES

AJ Mass examines the 15 games on Thursday's slate.

Fantasy Mass ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Thursday. Daily Notes