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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

March 15, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Notes from around the major leagues

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MAUER WORRIES: There might not be any more critical injury situation this spring than that of Twins’ catcher Joe Mauer. I had Mauer atop my MVP ballot last year (ahead of eventual winner Dustin Pedroia), and few players are more vital to their team’s success.

The Twins are really sweating out Mauer’s mysterious back pain, which has grinded his spring to halt. He has yet to play in any games, and there’s no timetable for his return. An MRI showed inflammation of the right sacroiliac (or SI) joint, which connects the spine to the pelvis. Doctors are trying to figure out the best course of action, but it already appears likely that Mauer won’t be ready for Opening Day. Now they’re just hoping it’s not a long-term thing, which would be a huge blow for a team that expects to contend for the AL Central title.

Mauer, who won his second batting title and his first Gold Glove last year, was already slowed coming to camp from the surgery he had on Dec. 22 to remove a kidney obstruction. It is a problem that doctors found when they were looking for the source of Mauer’s back pain, which he played through last year, according to Minnesota GM Bill Smith.

“For his long-term health, [the surgery] was a great thing to do, but now the pain that remains is not related to the kidney,” Smith told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

“It’s about getting him to where he can start working and not come back just … dying,” manager Ron Gardenhire added. “That’s where we are at. Hopefully, this medicine will take care of it.”

PAPELBON RIPS MANNY: Jonathan Papelbon didn’t back down from his comments in the April edition of Esquire in which he called Manny Ramirez a “cancer” the Red Sox clubhouse.

Naturally, the Boston media went to Papelbon once the issue appeared, and he went so far as to call Jason Bay, acquired in the three-way Ramirez trade, “our chemo treatment. I mean (Bay) was our cure. He was our cure for the disease we had in our clubhouse. I guess you could say he was our chemo treatment. I don’t know. It’s just there’s no secret here. It is what it is.”

Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers on July 31, and ithe Red Sox mplied at the time that Ramirez had been malingering to force a trade.

Papelbon told the magazine, “It takes one guy to bring down the entire team and that’s exactly what’s happening. Once we saw that, we weren’t afraid to get rid of him. It’s like cancer. That’s what he was. Cancer. He had to go. It (stunk), but that was the only scenario that was going to work. That was it for us.”

To reporters after the story appeared, Papelbon said: “I think that it’s the truth and I’m not afraid to speak the truth about anything. I mean everybody knows what happened. There’s no secrets here. So I’m not coming up with some new, big hidden secret that noboidy knows about. This is something everybody’s been knowing about and it’s old news.”

My question is this: If Ramirez is such a cancer, how come his teams win wherever he goes? Cleveland made two World Series with him, and would have won one if Jose Mesa had protected a ninth-inning lead in Game 7 against the Marlins. The Red Sox won two World Series with him, and he single-handedly led the Dodgers to the NLCS last year. Joe Posnanski makes the same point more eloquently here.

KUDOS TO JON LESTER: His five-year, $30-million deal finally became official today. The Puyallup product, who overcame cancer that was diagnosed in 2006, went 16-6 with a no-hitter last year. The contract has been in the works for awhile, but the Red Sox conducted very thorough testing of Lester’s arm before signing off.

PORCELLO FEVER: The Tigers are increasingly excited about 20-year-old Rick Porcello, who is batting Dontrelle Willis, Zach Miner and Nate Robertson for the No. 5 starter’s job. So far, Porcello has out-pitched all three by a wide margin, but considering he has just 125 innings as a professional, the Tigers might resist the temptation to keep him on their roster. On the other hand, this is the same organization that promoted Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya at a similar age.

DUTCH TREAT: Yurendell De Caster, who drove home the winning run for the Netherlands in the game that eliminated the Dominican Republic from the World Baseball Classic, is property of the Tigers. He signed a minor-league deal with them in December. The Tigers’ coordinator of minor-league operations, Avi Becher, is a naative of Curacao (which is under the Netherlands’ umbrella) as is De Caster.

“For the international part of baseball, I would personally say this would have to top the Miracle on Ice,” Becher told the Detroit Free Press. “It would have to – especially because it happened twice in four days. How could it not?”

According to the Free Press, Becher’s father, Ivan, told him on Wednesday that “the island was going nuts,” with “fireworks lit all over.”

TALL TALES: Japan’s 6-4 win over the Giants in a WBC tuneup on Wednesday didn’t count against San Francisco’s Cactus League tally.

“Good. We could still win this Cactus League and win that free TV,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters.

Huh? Bochy then related the tale of his days managing in San Diego, when he told the Padres’ players one spring that the team with the best Cacus League record received televisions for all the players. Wouldn’t you know it, the Padres finished with the best record — and discovered that Bochy had been pulling their leg.

“They were so pissed off at me,” Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle.

CHAVEZ AILING AGAIN: You’ve got to wonder if Eric Chavez, once one of the more productive third basemen in the American League, will ever be close to the same player. He’s had two surgeries on his right shoulder and one on his back, and he’s been experiencing shoulder discomfort in recent days. Chavez is getting shockwave treatment to break up scar tissue. Bobby Crosby, displaced from shortstop by the acquisition of Orlando Cabrera, will get a look at third, and could also be a factor at second base, where Mark Ellis is also coming back from shoulder surgery.

(Seattle Times file photo)

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