BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA
Bonds one step closer to history
Barry Bonds picked up right where he left off in spring training, homering in his second game and fourth at-bat of the season. For those curious, Chris Young became Bonds victim No. 435 among pitchers and it was the 86th home run that Bonds hit against the Padres, his most against any team. San Diego managed to win the game on Wednesday, but Bonds moved one step closer to the magic 755 home run milestone.
Elsewhere, four teams completed sweeps on Wednesday, with the Mets, Pirates, Twins and Angels each improving to 3-0. The Mets, Twins and Angels all dominated. The Pirates, who struggled mightily in close games early last season (losing 23 of their first 30 one-run decisions), got both timely hitting and good relief pitching to narrowly edge the Astros. The good news for Houston and St. Louis is the two play each other next, so one of the winless won't be for long.
THOSE WHO WILL THRIVE IN NEW SURROUNDINGS
Below is my list of the five players who changed teams this past offseason and will make the biggest impact in 2007:
Jason Schmidt, Los Angeles Dodgers: Schmidt is a guy who throws hard and does so up in the strike zone. Dodger Stadium is an extremely tough place to hit in and Schmidt is going to take advantage of that and have a monster season.
Jeff Suppan, Milwaukee Brewers: People may be surprised by this pick, but Suppan is a guy who throws a lot of innings as he proved over the past three seasons in St. Louis (he pitched an average of just over 190 innings per year the last three seasons). He beat Roger Clemens in Game 7 of the NLCS back in 2004, which proves he knows how to win the big game. Count on him being a big difference maker for the Brewers.
Carlos Lee, Houston Astros: Lee will add a lot of offense to the Astros. Roy Oswalt said with the addition of Lee, the Astros now have the best offensive team he's played on since he's been in Houston. A lot of people talk about Lee being overweight, but he's been a big guy for awhile and hasn't had any trouble hitting with the extra pounds.
Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees: I think Pettitte returning to the Yankees is a great fit. He knows he's expected to win because he knows how to play in New York. Pettitte is a New York kind of guy in terms of being able to pitch in that type of spotlight in big games and in the dregs of summer.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox: Matsuzaka has the ability to be the ace of Boston's staff before the season is over. He's pitched under pressure before so he's not an average rookie. He's also a guy who should be able to handle the pressure of pitching in Boston. The question is, will he be able to handle pitching twice a week? That's something he didn't have to do when he pitched in Japan.
FORWARD THINKING: THURSDAY
• Indians at White Sox, 2:05 p.m. ET: Left-hander Jeremy Sowers gets the start as Cleveland looks to complete a three-game sweep of division-rival Chicago. Mark Buehrle, who allowed a whopping 26 home runs in 19 starts at home last season, counters for the White Sox.
• Padres at Giants, 10:15 p.m. ET: Clay Hensley is coming off a strong performance in the second half last season (2.66 ERA in 15 outings, 13 starts). Matt Morris pitched poorly down the stretch last year, going 0-4 with a 7.42 ERA in five starts in September.
RUMOR CENTRAL: CANTU HEADS TO MINORS
• Demoted Devil Rays second baseman Jorge Cantu has agreed to report to Triple-A Durham in time for Thursday's season opener, but he still wants to be traded, the St. Petersburg Times reports.
"Our request was firm. I think that sums it up," Cantu's agent, Steve Canter, told the newspaper. "I think right now he's focused on going to Durham and working hard. He's made the trade request, and we're going to go from there. The club did not provide a time frame. He's going to go there and work and turn this into something positive."