Giants land Beltran

Earlier this month during Major League Baseball’s annual midsummer classic in Arizona, Carlos Beltran sat side-by-side with National League and San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, chatting about what the slugger’s role in the All-Star Game would entail.

Now, the relationship between Beltran and Bochy is dashing in a straight line toward October.

According to MLB.com, the New York Mets have dealt Beltran and a wad of cash to the Giants in exchange for right-handed pitcher Zack Wheeler Thursday.

“This is just a situation that everyone has anticipated, whether we liked it or not,” Mets skipper Terry Collins said, according to the article. “We knew it was going to happen.”

The struggling Mets, who are 12 1/2 games out of first place in the National League East division with a record of 53-51, were going to deal Beltran one way or another. The six-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner is in the final year of his seven-year $119 million contract, and the Mets most likely would’ve passed on re-signing him.

The deal went public Wednesday, but because Beltran had a 24-hour window to approve of the trade, it wasn’t finalized until Thursday.

Many may think the Mets got gypped. Think again. The Mets unloaded a bunch of payroll and will have more flexibility this winter by ridding Beltran, and in the process acquired the sixth overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, in Wheeler.

The 21-year old is 7-5 with a 3.99 ERA for San Francisco’s Class A Advanced San Jose affiliate this season, fanning 98 batters while walking 47 in 88 innings.

The heavily coveted youngster, with an explosive fastball, was 3-3 with an identical ERA in his professional debut with Class A Augusta last summer.

According to MLB.com’s rankings, Wheeler was the Giants’ No. 2 prospect and 33rd-best prospect in baseball.

The exchange ends a long, drawn out 6 1/2 seasons with the Mets, as Beltran looks to power the defending World Champions back into late October.

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Indians acquire Fukudome from Cubs

According to multiple MLB.com, the Cleveland Indians have acquired Chicago Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.

The Cubs will exchange Fukudome for two Minor Leaguers Thursday, according to the report.

One source says that Fukudome is expected to waive his no-trade clause to approve the deal to the Indians.

Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer, tweeted at approximately 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning that “the Indians are paying $775K of Fukudome’s remaining salary, which would leave about $3.9M for the Cubs.”

Fukudome, 34, has had a quite season with the Cubs, batting just .273 with three home runs, 15 doubles, two triples and 13 RBIs in 87 games, tallying an on-base percentage of .374.

The fourth-year Fukudome is owed about $4.7 million for the remainder of the season, and the Cubs are likely to eat most of his salary.

Fukudome departed Japan to sign with the Cubs in December 2007.

***

Fukudome’s career statistics:

GP: 513

AB: 1651

R: 236

H: 432

2B: 98

3B: 12

HR: 37

RBI: 169

BB: 284

SO: 340

SB: 27

CS: 24

AVG: .262

OBP: .369

SLG: .403

OPS: .772

Blues re-sign Bishop

The St. Louis Blues announced the re-signing of goaltender Ben Bishop Tuesday. The one-year, two-way contract, enables Bishop to battle it out with Brian Elliott for the back-up role behind starter Jaroslav Halak.

Bishop, who will make $600,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL, will keep the competition level high among the reserve goaltenders on the Blues roster.

A third-round draft pick in 2005 by the Blues, Bishop, 24, owns a 4-5-1 record in 13 career NHL games. With a 2.83 goals-against average and a .896 save- percentage, there’s plenty of room for improvement for the six-foot-seven youngster, who has shown flashes of great potential in his short stint with the big club.

In his 121-game minor league career, Bishop has a 57-50-8 record, with a 2.70 GAA and a .904 save-percentage.

Fireworks could erupt as Carpenter squares off with Cueto

What a better time to celebrate the Fourth of July by having the Cincinnati Reds in town. Downtown St. Louis will be concluding its annual Fair St. Louis with concerts and fireworks, and oh, did I mention that Chris Carpenter will go head-to-head with Johnny Cueto for the first time since last August’s brawl in Cincinnati?

The Cardinals enter the first of three games with their division rivals in a first place tie with Milwaukee, while the Reds sit two games behind the Cardinals. After the smoke clears and the dust settles, a statement will be made by one of these contending teams.

After a 4-2 road trip, the Cardinals return to Busch Stadium, where they’ve posted a 21-18 record this season. The Reds have dropped three of their last five games, are 1-5 against the Cardinals this season and have tallied a 20-21 record away from Great American.

For the Cardinals, another golden opportunity to beat up on a divisional opponent is within their grasp. Taking two of three or better yet, sweeping the Reds would give the them a huge boost heading into the All-Star Break.

Lineups:

Cardinals:

1) Theriot, ss

2) Jay, rf

3) Holliday, lf

4) Berkman, 1b

5) Freese, 3b

6) Rasmus, cf

7) Molina, c

8) Schumaker, 2b

9) Carpenter, p

Reds:

1) Lewis, lf

2) Phillips, 2b

3) Votto, 1b

4) Rolen, 3b

5) Bruce, rf

6) Hernandez, c

7) Stubbs, cf

8) Renteria, ss

9) Cueto, p

Cards and Rays showcasing 50’s night at Tropicana Field

Game two of three between the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays will feature a throw-back wardrobe. Each team will show off a retro uniform from the 1950’s.

The Rays will sport their Tampa Smokers jerseys from ’51 when they were a part of the Florida International League, while the Cardinals will be flashing their road grey jerseys from ’53.

***Cards face one of league’s most intimidating pitchers…There are only three active players who compare with Rays’ starter Jeff Niemann (2-4, 5.58 ERA). At 6-foot-9, the Cardinals will matchup with one of the tallest pitchers in the game.

Niemann will be making his third start since being activated from the disabled list after suffering a strained lower back, and looks to shake off the cobwebs and give his team a win against the Cardinals, who have won four straight.

***McClellan makes first career start against Rays…Kyle McClellan (6-4, 4.02 ERA), the converted starter from reliever will be facing the Rays as a starter for the first time in his career. McClellan saw a glimpse of the Rays in 2008 in a relief appearance, but ultimately blew his first save. After a superb 5-0 start to the season, the right-hander has gone 1-4 over his last seven outings. Despite the latter stat, the Cardinals are 9-5 when McClellan is on the bump.

***Lineups:

Cardinals:

1) Punto, ss

2) Jay, rf

3) Holliday, dh

4) Berkman, lf

5) Freese, 1b

6) Rasmus, cf

7) Molina, c

8) Descaslso, 3b

9) Schumaker, 2b

Rays:

1) Damon, dh

2) Zobrist, 2b

3) Longoria, 3b

4) Joyce, rf

5) Upton, cf

6) Kotchman, 1b

7) Ruggiano, lf

8) Shoppach, c

9) Brignac, ss

Cards back on top of NL Central

It’s been a roller coaster for the St. Louis Cardinals over the past two weeks. At one point, the team had dropped 12 of 15 games, a mid-June stretch that dealt the them chunks of misfortune, bad-luck and injuries, most notably Albert Pujols, who landed on the disabled list with a fractured forearm.

In baseball, it takes just a game or two for a team to get hot, and that’s exactly what the Cardinals have been over their past four games. A three-game sweep over the American League East division Baltimore Orioles at Camdon Yards landed the Cardinals a share of first place in the National League Central division with the Milwaukee Brewers, who have lost four straight, including falling victim to a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees, also of the AL East.

The Cardinals continued to roll Friday night, when they took the first of three games over the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-3. Starter Jake Westbrook (7-4, 4.92 ERA) tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits, while fanning seven to walking three.

Colby Rasmus launched his third home run in four games for the Cardinals, dealing the ultimate blow to the Rays, who entered the series having won four of their last six contests.

The win gave the Cardinals sole possession of first place in the Central, as the Brewers were handed yet another defeat, a 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.

For now, it appears the Cardinals’ worst rut of the season has been forgotten, as they are heating up during the summer’s hottest month.

***

Here’s what the Cardinals have done over their four-game winning streak:

1) The offense has found its groove, scoring 25 total runs for manager Tony La Russa, taking pressure off the starting rotation and the bullpen. Colby Rasmus, who has been on fire of late, has recorded five hits, including three home runs, driven in seven and has drawn four walks over his last seven games. He is clearly seeing the ball better, giving the offense extra boost in the middle of the order…Lance Berkman, who will no doubt be a starter in this summer’s All-Star Game in Arizona on July 12, continues to have a career-season. Puma, who is hitting .296, with 20 home runs, 58 RBIs and a .407 on-base-percentage, has tallied three hits, including two home runs and four RBIs in his last four games. Berkman is third in the NL in home runs, just two behind Prince Fielder, who leads the league with 22 long balls. The Cardinals’ switch-hitter also ranks fifth in the NL in RBIs and fourth in OBP…Matt Holliday‘s .322 batting average ranks third in the league as well.

2) The starting rotation is coming around too…Over the club’s last four games, starters Kyle Lohse (8-4, 2.78 ERA), Chris Carpenter (3-7, 4.00 ERA), Jaime Garcia (7-3, 3.33 ERA) and Westbrook have all picked up wins for the Cardinals. Lohse, Carpenter and Westbrook have ¬†allowed one earned run or less in each of their last outings, lasting at least five innings.

For those who thought the Cardinals were slumping, well, they were. In fact, they were in the middle of their worst slump of the season. Now, with their 11-15 mark in June behind them, the Cardinals are heating up as the Mid-Summer Classic lingers on the horizon.

Blues ink Oshie, D’Agostini

The Blues announced early Thursday morning a contract extension for forward T.J. Oshie. The initial word had many die-hard St. Louis hockey fans thrilled about the return of their most energetic and exciting young forward. But, after hearing of what the extension consisted of, a one-year $2.35 million deal, many were quick to question why the Blues didn’t add more to the pact.

The answer to all of the questions is simple: Oshie, who has yet to play a full season up to his potential, still has to prove himself not only to the National Hockey League, but to team president John Davidson, general manager Doug Armstrong, and the rest of the Blues organization.

The deal will give Oshie time to prove he’s worthy of the Blues’ top dollar, as the organization wasn’t quite willing to make a larger investment in the fourth-year forward.

Oshie, who held arbitration rights, will be paid slightly more for one season annually than forwards Patrik Berglund ($2.25 million) and David Perron ($2.15 million), who remain on their two-year contracts.

Oshie, 24, who missed significant time in two of his first three seasons due to injury, will need to perform at his highest level yet for the Blues to cash in on him 12 months from now.

“It’s a contract that I believe is right in a lot of ways,” Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “With the arbitration rights he had, he obviously had different rights than some of the other players that we’ve negotiated with to this point.

“But I think coming off the (ankle) injury, it’s important that T.J. comes in and establishes himself with a healthy season and contributes at a 75-plus game mark. Then we’ll move on to looking at a longer-term deal after that.”

In 182 career games with the Blues, Oshie has tallied 121 points, and said he was grateful that a deal was finalized.

“I couldn’t imagine playing anywhere else,” Oshie told the Post-Dispatch.

But, it has yet to be seen what Oshie can do when 100-percent healthy for an entire 82-game season.

“I think there’s more to spell out,” Oshie said. “I think I’ve done pretty well in the defensive zone. I think I need to excel in the offensive zone. I think that comes with a lot of video, a lot of realizing when you can and can’t make plays and just building chemistry with the players.”

Oshie has yet to eclipse 50 points in his three years in the league, and his career-best 18 goals and 30 assists came in his lone full season (2009-10). In 49 games in 2010-11, Oshie recorded just 12 goals and 22 assists, missing 31 games after breaking his ankle, which eventually required surgery, on Nov. 10 in Columbus.

Armstrong believes Oshie is “certainly a top nine NHL forward,” and is optimistic about Oshie becoming a top six or top three forward. Typically, a top six forward is a consistent 60-to-65 plus point player, while a top three forward is a 70-to-75 plus point player.

Early Thursday morning, Matt Oates, Oshie’s agent called him, asking if him if he “wanted to go for more (money).”

Oshie responded by saying, “That’s plenty, that’s all I need.”

***

Less than 24 hours after signing Oshie, the Blues agreed to terms on a two-year, $3.3 million deal with fellow forward Matt D’Agostini, eliminating him from free agency. D’Agostini will earn $1.5 million in 2011-12 and $1.8 million in 2012-13.

“Matt had a solid year for us last season,” Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch.¬†“We look forward to his continued growth as a Blue and in this league.”

D’Agostini, who was acquired via trade with Montreal for Aaron Palushaj during the 2009-10 season, posted a career-high 21 goals and 46 points last season for the Note.

The Blues payroll for the upcoming season is $44, 758, 332, according to a source.