After 30 years, Lance Niekro is finally getting into the family business.
12/19/2008 11:30 AM ET
Lance Niekro joining the family business
Former first baseman trying comeback as knuckleballer
Once a top prospect as a power-hitting first baseman, the son of knuckleball pitcher Joe Niekro and nephew of Hall of Famer Phil Niekro is learning the family's signature pitch in an effort to comeback as a pitcher with the Braves organization.
"It's going to be an adventure," Lance Niekro told the San Francisco Chronicle, "but it's going to be a fun one."
"I don't think you'd ever undertake anything unless you felt it could develop into something," said Kurt Kemp, the Braves' director of player development. "We all feel it's definitely one of those things like, what have we got to lose? We surely aren't looking at it as a novelty, but as something non-traditional. We're legitimately going to set a course of action to develop his knuckleball and give him a chance to pitch through Spring Training and see where we are."
Niekro will be a non-roster invitee in Spring Training.
Baldelli gets change in diagnosis: Free agent Rocco Baldelli's condition may be treatable, after all.
After further testing, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic diagnosed his condition, previously thought to be mitochondrial disorder, as less-severe and treatable channelopathy. Baldelli's medication has been modified and he is optimistic about his future.
"It's definitely an encouraging development," Baldelli told the St. Petersburg Times. "Knowing this is a treatable condition, I feel this is a very positive thing for me and my baseball career. With this less-severe diagnosis, I hope to be on the field on a much more regular basis."
Mijares making noise in Venezuela: Jose Mijares appeared in just 10 games last year for the Twins -- all in September -- but in that time he posted a 0.87 ERA and has continued that dominance this winter in the Venezuelan Winter League. In 21 innings for Tigres de Aragua, Mijares is 3-1 with a 0.86 ERA and 25 strikeouts.
"He was exciting in September," Minnesota general manager Bill Smith told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "He's doing very well in winter ball. We need to see him come to Spring Training ready to step up and take one of those positions in the bullpen."
Boone to help shore up third base for Astros: Needing to fill a void at third base, due to the departure of Ty Wigginton, the Houston Astros agreed on terms of a one-year contract with Aaron Boone. He will likely platoon with Geoff Blum at the hot corner, but he can also play first base, potentially serving as a backup to Lance Berkman.
"We see him factoring in the third base picture," general manager Ed Wade told the Houston Chronicle. "We can envision a way where he and Geoff share time at third. It gives us another veteran player who is experienced in a lot of different positions and a good bat off the bench, but we also think he can start."
Capuano back with Brewers: After being non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers, Chris Capuano and the team worked out a Minor League deal. Capuano will be invited to Spring Training but will likely start the 2009 season in the Minors.
Capuano underwent his second Tommy John surgery in May, rehab from which usually takes one year.
"Chris is excited to be back with the Brewers," his agent, Mike Moye, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He looks forward to being back as part of the team at some point of the season."
Padres have eye on trio of infielders: As the offseason progresses, the San Diego Padres are still in the hunt for a middle infielder. The team apparently has turned its attention to three players -- Omar Vizquel, David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek -- general manager Kevin Towers told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
"We've got to keep our options open, and we certainly need middle-infield help," Towers said. "We provide opportunity, but to be financially aggressive on players right now, we can't do it. Our hope is that the later we get in free-agent season, there will still be inventory out there and people who need jobs."
Gathright brings speed to Cubs outfield: Joey Gathright, now a member of the Chicago Cubs, is well known as a prolific base-stealer when he's healthy, and as recently as 2007 posted a .307 batting average with Kansas City.
"He's arguably one of the fastest guys in the game, if not the fastest," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry told the Chicago Tribune.
Bruce ready to build off rookie campaign: Jay Bruce is ready for his sophomore season following a year that saw plenty of streaks -- including a stretch in May where he was 13-for-22 (.591) in his first six games.
Through it all, he managed to bat .254 with 21 home runs and 52 RBIs in 108 games.
"A lot of ups and a lot of downs," Bruce told MLB.com. "I was glad that I was healthy and got to build on quite a few at-bats in the big leagues. I wasn't satisfied at all. I was a little disappointed in the way the year ended. I took it for what it was and look forward to next year and getting this thing right."
Rodney could step into closer role: Fernando Rodney hasn't been a full-time closer in the Majors, but the brass in Detroit are open to the idea of him stepping into that role at some point.
"Hey, if Fernando Rodney throws the ball great, he can close games -- if he throws strikes," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told MLB.com.
Everett got positive reviews on Tigers: Adam Everett had some good advice-givers when he was weighing his options -- and they gave him no reason to shy away from heading to Detroit.
"Two good friends, Brian Moehler and Mike Maroth, both played for the Tigers organization and both loved it," Everett told MLB.com. "Not only that, but you're playing for a winner. Anytime you get a chance to play for who I consider to be a Hall of Fame manager in Jim Leyland, you take that opportunity when it's there."
Hunter big on bringing back Teixeira: Torii Hunter is keeping his eye on the Mark Teixeira bidding, hoping the Angels can retain perhaps the top offensive prize in this year's player market.
"I definitely want him to come back," Hunter told the Los Angeles Times. "He made us complete. I know we were up by 11 games when we got him, but he made us that much better."
"What the Angels did was spectacular -- they gave him an offer that blew everyone away, and it shows how badly they want this guy," Hunter said of the team's eight-year offer for Teixeira. "I'm so happy they did that. I can sleep better at night. We can't let Teix go. He's very special on this team."
Ibanez grateful for time in Seattle: Even though he is now a member of the Phillies, Raul Ibanez still has warm feelings for his former team in Seattle.
"The people embraced us," Ibanez told the Seattle Times, "not just as players, but as people. And that, believe me, makes a difference and is something I'll never forget."
Vazquez had his eye on Pirates early: Newly signed Ramon Vazquez felt wanted by the Pirates.
"The Pirates were interested in me from the beginning, and they put an offer on the table really early," Vazquez told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "This is where I want to be."
Vazquez knows his role is off the bench but would be happy to play more if he's asked to do so.
"I really haven't talked to the Pirates about playing every day," he said. "I'm ready whenever and wherever they need me. I'm really comfortable everywhere in the infield."
-- Red Line Editorial