Braden Looper has been a reliever throughout his Major League career.
That might change, however, with the 2007 St. Louis Cardinals. Recently, pitching coach Dave Duncan has floated the idea of Looper auditioning for a role in the starting rotation.
"I thought he was joking," Looper told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "At the time, it was just real casual. I thought we were fooling around with each other and he was having a little fun with me. Then he said, 'No, no, I'm serious.'"
Duncan is indeed serious, and he fully believes that Looper could easily step into such a role.
"I don't think there's any question that physically he can handle the demands of being a starting pitcher," Duncan said. "The question is, 'Does he have the pitches to be an effective starting pitcher?' [General manager Walt Jocketty and manager Tony La Russa] had to think about it. I can understand that. We felt it was not that crazy of a thing to do. It's just something that has enough of a chance to work that it's worth trying."
"He's durable. He's stronger," Jocketty said. "He has three or four quality pitches that he could better use in a starting role. Dave Duncan feels very strongly that he has all the assets it takes to be a quality starter."
But the more Looper thinks about it, the more he thinks that maybe it's not so crazy.
"That was my first reaction," Looper said. "The more I thought about it, the more I have thought about, the more excited I get about the possibility. I'm giddy, really."
Aurilia will play first base for Giants: The Giants plan to play longtime shortstop Rich Aurilia at first base this season. Aurilia got his first exposure to first base last season, while playing for the Reds. He had to get used to the new position and the new mitt.
"The hardest adjustment for me was using the big glove and getting the ball out and turning the double play," Aurilia told the San Francisco Chronicle. "At first I had a hard time finding the ball in there because my other gloves are small."
First basemen always talk to runners who get on base. When they saw Aurilia there last season, they would ask him about what a shortstop was doing playing first base.
"I don't know," Aurilia would tell them. "They just gave me this big crab claw and stuck me down here."
Aurilia, who wore number 35 previously, will wear number 33 unless he can persuade Matt Morris to relinquish his number.
Trade is bittersweet for Donnelly: The Angels traded reliever Brendan Donnelly to the Red Sox in exchange for reliever Phil Seibel. Donnelly spent 10 seasons in the Minor Leagues before making the Majors with the Angels in 2002, when he helped the team to a World Series title.
"It stinks that I'm leaving the Angels, because they were the only team that gave me a chance, and we did some good things together," Donnelly told the Los Angeles Times.
"I'm going to miss the clubhouse, the fans. ... They seemed to respect the fact that I left everything on the field every time I went to the mound.
"The flip side is, I'm going to Boston, and the fans there embrace baseball like no other. I'm excited about getting a fresh start, being with a team that's going to win. I'm leaving a good rivalry with the Angels and Oakland and going to the biggest rivalry of all, Boston-New York."
Wells a happy Blue Jay: Center fielder Vernon Wells will be wearing a Toronto Blue Jays uniform for a long time after agreeing to a seven-year extension Friday. The extension kicks begins for the 2008 season and has an opt-out clause after the 2011 season.
"How can you not be happy?" Wells told the Toronto Sun. "Like I said, my family comes first. Obviously this gives me an opportunity to set my family up for a couple of generations. That's the biggest part of this thing. And this gives me a chance to do something special in Toronto that hasn't been done in awhile."
Wells had perhaps his best year in 2006, hitting .303 with 32 home runs and 106 RBIs. The average, home runs and RBIs were just shy of his career-high .317 average, 33 home runs and 117 RBIs in 2003. However, Wells also stole a career-high 17 bases and had a career-high 54 walks.
Iwamura joins Devil Rays' infield: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have a new infielder after agreeing to a three-year deal with Japanese third baseman Akinori Iwamura. A former Gold Glove winner with the Yakult Swallows, the Rays are not yet sure what position Iwamura will play.
"Let me cut all this off and say I would not put a specific position on any of our guys," executive vice president Andrew Friedman told the Tampa Tribune. "It's Dec. 15. All we've done is add versatility and flexibility to our roster. The way we look at it, it's a very good problem to have. Things will sort themselves out over time."
While there are still questions about Iwamura's position, there should be no question that he will field it well. He won six Gold Gloves in Central League, while at the plate, he was a career .300 hitter. In eight-plus seasons with the Swallows, he hit 188 home runs. In the last three seasons, he has hit 44, 30 and 32 home runs.
Friedman admits the power Iwamura showed in Japan won't carry over here in the United States. And then there is the concern of Iwamura adjusting to a new culture.
"There's always some risk with an international player coming over here, just as there is with a U.S. player going to play in the Japanese league," Friedman said. "We've spent a lot of time getting to know him. We're very confident that he's going to assimilate well and play good baseball.
Sisco's role yet to be defined: Andrew Sisco, who was acquired by the Chicago White Sox over the weekend from the Kansas City Royals, may be used as either a starter or a reliever.
"Without talking with him, I'm not sure which direction to run with him," general manager Ken Williams told the Chicago Tribune. "His growth as a starter was stunted a couple of years ago. I want to hear from him where he sees himself. What we've seen is that guys have a lot more success if you put them in a position where their heart is or where they have confidence.
"If he wants to pursue starting, we may have to take a step back and afford him the opportunity to grow at Triple A. It's intriguing on both ends to think of the possibilities."
In the Mexican winter league, Sisco did work out of the bullpen and enjoyed some success.
"He threw the ball well in Mexico, and I think he's going to have a fine career," said Royals general manager Dayton Moore.
Trade opens more playing time for Gload: Ross Gload, acquired over the weekend by the Kansas City Royals from the Chicago White Sox, gives the Royals another much-needed option at first base.
"He's very versatile, he's an above-average first baseman, an above-average outfielder," Royals general manager Dayton Moore told the Kansas City Star. "He was in the situation there because of a lot of veteran players around, he was just not able to break away in the everyday lineup. But when he did get in there, he was able to contribute."
In 2006 with the Sox, Gload batted a career-best .327 in 77 games. Over parts of five big-league seasons, Gload has a career average of .298.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.