Fielder will earn 65,000 every day for 9 years

652134.jpg

Fielder will earn 65,000 every day for 9 years

From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers responded to a jarring injury with an audacious move. Free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder and the Tigers agreed Tuesday to a nine-year, 214 million contract that fills the AL Central champions' need for a power hitter, a person familiar with the deal said. Detroit boldly stepped up in the Fielder sweepstakes after the recent knee injury to star Victor Martinez. A week ago, the Tigers announced the productive designated hitter could miss the entire season after tearing his left ACL during offseason conditioning. CBS first reported the agreement with Fielder. The person told The Associated Press the deal was subject to a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract was not yet complete. The Tigers won their division by 15 games before losing in the AL championship series to Texas. Adding the 27-year-old Fielder gives the Tigers two of the game's premier sluggers, pairing him with Miguel Cabrera. With Fielder now in the fold, general manager Dave Dombrowski and owner Mike Ilitch have a team that figures to enter the 2012 season as a favorite to repeat in the division -- with an eye on winning the franchise's first World Series title since 1984. "Everyone knew Mr. Ilitch and Mr. Dombrowski were going to make a move when Victor went down," outfielder Brennan Boesch said in a phone interview with the AP. "But I don't think anybody thought it would be this big." The move also keeps Fielder's name in the Tigers' family. His father, Cecil, became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990. Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season, and young Prince made a name for himself by hitting prodigious home runs in batting practice at Tiger Stadium. A few years ago, when Prince returned to Detroit as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline recalled that power show. "You can't ever say that you look at a kid that age and say that you know he's going to hit 40 or 50 home runs someday, but Prince was unbelievable," Kaline said then. "Here's a 12-year-old kid commonly hitting homers at a big league ballpark." In an interview with MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, Cecil Fielder said he was "shocked" by the news that Prince was heading to Detroit. "He's been there in Detroit most of his young life so I think he'll be comfortable in that place," Cecil Fielder said. "I know Mr. Ilitch is probably excited because he's been wanting that kid since he was a little kid, so he finally got his wish." With Cabrera and Fielder, Detroit will begin this season with two players under age 30 with at least 200 career homers. According to STATS LLC, that's happened only once before. At the start of the 1961 season, the Milwaukee Braves featured 29-year-old Eddie Mathews (338 homers) and 27-year-old Hank Aaron (219). Several teams had shown interest this winter in Fielder, who had spent his entire career with the Brewers. He visited Texas, and the Washington Nationals also got involved in the discussions. The beefy slugger hit .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs last season. He is a three-time All-Star and was the MVP of last year's event in Phoenix. Fielder has averaged 40 homers and 113 RBIs over the past five years. He's also been among the most durable players in the majors, appearing in at least 157 games in each of the last six seasons. Fielder hits left-handed, while Cabrera is a righty. Manager Jim Leyland will get to decide where to put them in the batting order. "I don't think there's a better right-left combo in any lineup in baseball," Boesch said. "I'm sure Skip's wheels are already turning on how to set them up." The deal is only the fourth 200 million contract in baseball history, following Alex Rodriguez's 275 million, 10-year contract with the New York Yankees, A-Rod's 252 million, 10-year deal with Texas and Albert Pujols' 240 million, 10-year contract last month with the Los Angeles Angels. Among current players, Fielder's 23.78 million average salary is behind only A-Rod (27.5 million), Ryan Howard (25 million), and Cliff Lee and Pujols (24 million each). Dombrowski indicated last week he'd probably seek a short-term solution to Martinez's injury, but he left himself some wriggle room, saying it depended who the replacement was. Acquiring Fielder opens all sorts of possibilities. For now, Detroit has an opening at DH with Martinez out. But Martinez is in the second year of a 50 million, four-year contract. One option could be to move Cabrera from first base to third. He played third base regularly for the Florida Marlins before the Tigers acquired him before the 2008 season. Third baseman Brandon Inge has one year left on a two-year, 11.5 million deal with Detroit. The Tigers reached the World Series in 2006, but they appeared to be in cost-cutting mode when they traded popular center fielder Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees after the 2009 season. It turned out they were simply re-allocating resources. They quickly signed ace Justin Verlander to a five-year deal in early 2010, then added Martinez and standout reliever Joaquin Benoit last offseason.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

bruins_ryan_spooner_120216.jpg

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.