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NL East Update: 3/30

Over at Talking Chop, the announcement of Jason Heyward being named the starting right fielder has sent Atlanta into a frenzy. The 20-year old is batting .347 in Spring Training which was enough to convince manager Bobby Cox that he was ready for the show.

Great news for Braves fans and baseball fans, as the new generation of Atlanta baseball is set to commence. Though he may have been overshadowed by the attention given to Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, Heyward has drawn comparisons to Fred McGriff, Cliff Floyd, and even Hank Aaron. Whoever he becomes, it is nice to finally get some news about a young player from the NL East making the opening day roster as Strasburg and Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia will likely start the year in the minors.

Lots of buzz coming from Marlins camp as FishStripes addresses a potential problem looming for Opening Day and the demotion of lefthander Andrew Miller. Josh Johnson, the obvious pick to be the Opening Day starter for the Fish’s game against the Mets at Citi Field has recently come down with some flu like symptoms that could keep him out of the game set for April 5.

The demotion of Andrew Miller gives Florida a potential all righty starting rotation, with Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chad Volstad, and possibly Clay Hensley.

Not having Johnson toe the rubber in Game 1 of the season is not the end of the world. The Marlins should be happy that he is not dealing with a serious injury and in the worst case scenario, would have their ace miss just one start.

Looking back on the “blockbuster” trade that sent Miquel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in exchange for Miller and other young prospects has not paid off for either team as much as they hoped. Cabrera, the lone player to find any sort of success with their new team has put up MVP type numbers, but Willis immediately fell off the map making 14 starts in his two years as a Tiger and only has 1 win and a 8.27 ERA to show for it. As for the Marlin newcomers, Miller has just been demoted to AAA still trying to find his way, Cameron Maybin, though only 22 has not been playing up to snuff having lost his starting centerfield spot early last season, and the other three prospects involved have made little to no impact with the team. Though only 24 years of age, Florida knew he was going to be a project when the trade went down, the only thing is they didn’t think it would be this big of a task entering his 5th year in the bigs.

Metsblog details the recent roster moves by the Mets clearing up their bullpen situation. Submariner Sean Green and flame throwing Bobby Parnell are both expected to start the year off in AAA Buffalo, meaning that right hander Nelson Figueroa may fill one of the voids left on the 25-man roster.

For those who don’t follow the Mets and are unfamiliar with Figueroa’s story, you cannot fully understand what this means not only to the Mets, but Nelson and his family. Growing up a Mets fan in nearby Brooklyn, Nelson was an immediate fan favorite upon his debut with the Mets in 2008 and has publically called out the Mets for not always giving him a fair chance, even stating this spring that he would refuse a trip to the minors in order to explore other options around the league. This is a wise move by New York as Figgy, being blessed with a rubber arm, has shown he has the stuff and makeup to be an effective major league pitcher, as well as being an emergency spot starter if needed.

As for Green and Parnell, two players who got significant playing time in 2009, there is no argument here as they are probably the best two options to send down in 2010. Green, acquired last year in the JJ Putz deal, simply cannot throw strikes and was painful to watch with his unorthodox delivery giving you nothing but walks and hit batters. Parnell, who on a good day can hit 100 mph on the radar gun, struggles with his command as well. This is a make or break season for Bobby as he needs to show the organization that not only can he can control his pitches, but show that he can be resilient after being sent to the minors a year after making 68 appearances with the Mets.

Although centerfielder Shane Victorino has been one of the league’s best in the number two slot, manager Charlie Manuel plans on using Victorino seventh in the order to make room for Placido Polanco and to give the Phillies a reliable hitter to knock in the likes of Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard.

I have said it before about Philadelphia and I will say it again; I simply do not like the idea of messing around with a good thing, but that being said, I actually feel like this could work. Manual has said he believes that Victorino has the ability to hit 20 home runs and GM Ruben Amero stands by the idea stating “He may be in a position to try to be a producer rather than setting up a lineup, and that’s a little bit of a different mind-set…He’s not necessarily working on getting on base, so to speak as a complete priority. He will be called up to produce a little more RBI-wise. [Carlos Ruiz] has done a pretty good job but he’s not necessarily a run producer. That’s not what he’s paid to do . . . What you are counting on is guys like Shane or Raul to produce runs.” If there is one thing I’ve learned the past few seasons it is not to doubt the makeup and chemistry of the Phillie lineup. Having been the class of the National League the past two years makes me think that they could have Ryan Howard leading off with Jimmy Rollins batting in the cleanup spot.

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