Sure it might be a bit too early to catch the smell of a fresh-cut lawn, but come Thursday afternoon the familiar phrase “Play Ball!” will be called across the country as the 2011 MLB season gets underway.
Not long ago, most of the northern states were blanketed under three, four and even five feet of snow which is slowly melting away, making room for the baseball diamond to surface once again for another season. As we spent many hours digging ourselves out and battling our way to work, you might have missed some important offseason moves. Here are a few transactions that took place.
The Philadelphia Phillies were one of the biggest stories this offseason, signing Cliff Lee out of free agency. Lee takes his 102–61 career W-L record back to Philly in hopes for a World Series championship. He joins three more all-star caliber starting pitchers in Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.
Although the Philly pitching seems unstoppable, their lineup may have some holes, which might give the Atlanta Braves the edge in the NL East. All Star second baseman Chase Utley is battling a knee injury and may be out until the All-Star break. Slugger Jason Werth left town to sign with Washington, and Ryan Howard comes off a 31 HR, 108 RBI season. Aside from him, there is not much to talk about.
Former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez succeeds 20-year manager Bobby Cox and inherits a balanced lineup. Second-year outfielder Jason Heyward came in second place in voting for the NL Rookie of the Year award and hit .277 with 18 HR and 72 RBI last year. Martin Prado, the second baseman who is moving to left field to make room for newly acquired Dan Uggla, led the team with 184 hits and 100 runs scored, and slugging catcher Brian McCann led the team with 21 home runs in 2010. Uggla, who joins the Braves from a trade with the Marlins, adds a nice punch to their lineup coming off a 33 HR, 105 RBI season. Starting pitchers Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Tommy Hanson combined for 43 wins, 575 strikeouts and a 3.39 ERA.