Thursday June 7th, 2007

Homer Bailey will make his first major league start Friday night against the Indians. Being a longtime Reds fan, can I expect big things from this guy? -- Mike Whaley, Midway, Ky.

Be patient, and he'll deliver for you. A starting pitcher is like an NFL quarterback: the learning curve can be pretty long. But Bailey showed in the minors he can be a big strikeout guy with good control. Some scouts like him more than Phil Hughes, who has gained more attention largely because he's in the Yankees organization. I think Bailey can be at least a No. 2 starter, with the stuff to grow into a No. 1.

How on earth have the Nationals won 23 games? Their roster is filled with people I didn't even know were still in the majors (Tony Batista, Jason Simontacchi) and people who couldn't make another roster (Nook Logan, Christian Guzman). I guarantee if you had suited up for them, and not the Blue Jays, you'd be the cleanup hitter right now! -- Bryan Gelecki, Papillion, Neb.

Actually, Dmitiri Young has given them some pop and Ryan Zimmerman has been pulling out of his funk. But the pitching staff? Oh, boy. The Nats have only one pitcher who has pitched enough to even qualify for the ERA title, and that's Matt Chico, who has an ERA worse than 5.00 and has walked almost as many guys as he has struck out. I still think they're a lock to lose 100.

I enjoyed your article on Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain of the Giants. However, at the risk of intruding upon your poetic license, which is enjoyable to read, neither Cain or Lincecum throw 99 mph. I know. I have seen every game. Even with the jacked up radar gun at AT&T Park, they still do not throw 99 mph. And it is common knowledge that their gun registers high. In fact, in recent games both pitchers have been registering significantly lower. So give the kids a chance before you make them Sid Finch. They both are part of a new era in Giant history that I believe will shake the foundation of negativity born of the performance-enhancing era. -- Frank D., Bridgeport

Shea Stadium has a notoriously slow gun. Lincecum struck out Carlos Beltran on a pitch that the Mets clocked at 99 mph. I'm not trying to say he throws 99 all the time. But he can touch it.

Being a East Coaster and AL follower, I appreciate the article on two up and coming Giants pitchers. That said, I haven't heard one word about the Orioles' rotation. It's not their fault run support has been inconsistent and the bullpen stinks. Don't you agree? -- Chris Laughman, Baltimore

Absolutely. The rotation has done its job. The Orioles' starters rank third in ERA and second in batting average against. But the pen ranks 11th in ERA and is 8-13. I agree that the offense has been too inconsistent as well. You know, I applauded the Orioles spending money on relievers over the winter, but once again it proves that year-to-year relief performance is far less predictable than starting pitching or especially offense. Seems just when relievers have pitched enough and well enough to get big money on the market, their performance is ready for a downturn, possibly because of the rigors of the job.

Why didn't the Mariners pick up local kid Lincecum in the draft? A lot of us would like to know. -- Linda Gage, Auburn, Wash.

Seattle took Brandon Morrow out of Cal. At 6-foot-3, he probably was the safer pick because of his projected durability. But you bring up an interesting question: should teams lean toward local guys (all things being equal) in the draft? The Braves seem to have done well with that thinking. And by the way, the 2006 draft will be fascinating to see how it plays out because seven of the first 10 picks were pitchers.

Is it just me or is the AL West suddenly a much more difficult division all of a sudden? The East, which was supposed to be one of the toughest, is getting so roughed up. -- Warren, Ft. Hood, Texas

I don't know if I'm ready to say it's so tough just yet. I mean, to win the division you only need to be better than three other teams. And because the Rangers are so bad, now you're down to winning more games than just two other teams and you're in the postseason! Great. I picked the Angels to go to the World Series, so I don't want to take anything away from them, but the division isn't anything close to the AL Central

Will we ever again see a pitcher completely dominate the league like Greg Maddux did in the 1994 and 1995 seasons? The guy was unhittable, posting ERAs of 1.56 and 1.63 and throwing 10 complete games in each season. And in 1994 he only gave up 35 earned runs the entire season, which sounds impossible in today's game. Danny Haren and Jake Peavy are off to great starts, but can they keep it up through September? -- Mike Hautamaki, Virginia, Minn.

I know this: it'll be a long, long time before we see that kind of pitching in back-to-back years. Maddux walked only 54 batters in 53 starts in those years. Amazing. In 1994 he gave up four home runs. Four! That's as many as Chase Wright gave up to four hitters in April. And remember, Maddux did it without ever cracking 90 mph on the radar gun.

Don't you think that Brian Cashman should get some credit for turning around the Yankees minor league system. in fact Baseball America says that in less than two years Cashman has done a great job in turning around the Yankees system that now ranks in the top ten in baseball. -- Tom, Unionville, Conn.

I agree he has started to turn around the minor league system. Trenton, for instance, is stocked with some very good pitchers. The Yankees have been smart enough to pay big money to later round picks -- the guys who slide because of signability issues. The Yankees' greatest weapon is their money, so they should use it to bring in high-ceiling guys like that. My beef with Cashman, though, is that the Yankees have made a series of bad evaluations on pitching in the past few years as he has gained control of the baseball operations. Some even question Humberto Sanchez (who never could stay off the DL) and Ross Ohlendorf (over Micah Owings or Dustin Nippert). We'll see.

Your defense of the Josh Hancock lawsuit made me sick. Just because it is standard legal procedure does not make it right or any less despicable. The guy with the broken down (truck) now has to hire a lawyer to defend himself against this lawsuit, money this person probably can't afford. -- Thomas Cummins, Boston

Again, your view is completely understandable from afar, and one I admit I had as a knee-jerk reaction. Your view might be clouded by his being a ballplayer. I still find it hard to tell a grieving family what they should do or shouldn't do. If there is no merit to their lawsuit it will be dismissed.

Who would be on your short list of the worst GM/manager tandems in MLB? I would imagine J.P. Ricciardi/John Gibbons as well as Bill Bavasi/Mike Hargrove to be at the top. -- Ted Bloomquist, St. Louis Park, Minn.

The Blue Jays finished ahead of Boston last year and the Mariners have played respectable baseball this year. It's like Bill Parcells said: you are what your record says you are. So until Pittsburgh, Colorado, Tampa Bay and Kansas City win more games than they lose -- and I realize there is hope growing in those places -- I think you have to start with those franchises.

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