Johan Santana, winner of two of the last three AL Cy Young Awards, thinks he can be even better.
Santana won his second Cy Young Award Thursday, after collecting all of the first place votes. Santana won 19 games and posted an ERA of 2.77 in 2006.
"We are still making adjustments," Santana told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I still believe I can get better."
Pitching coach Rick Anderson believes Santana might be right.
"It's hard to imagine he can get better," Anderson said. "I think it consists of all three of his pitches. You talk about if all three of his pitches are in the top five in baseball. Definitely his fastball and changeup. His slider is in the top 10, so it could get better."
At only 27 years old, it's not out of the question to think that Santana has not yet entered his prime. If that's the case, his best years may indeed be ahead of him.
"I wouldn't say that [this season] was easier, but you have a better idea of what you want to do and where you are in order to win games," Santana said. "I definitely felt more comfortable this year, and it is a great feeling. It is a learning process and I am still learning and can get better as the years and the seasons go."
Manager Ron Gardenhire says that Santana just continues to impress.
"Two years ago he was as good as you can ever be," said Gardenhire. "Last year I thought he got robbed, not mocking anyone else. I thought he was the best pitcher in the game.
"This year, I think the only way I can put it is for you to name me a pitcher you like to have on the mound in a big game other than Santana. I'll tell you no chance. For me, I'd rather have Santana."
Ring is one happy Padre: Relief pitcher Royce Ring was one happy person earlier this week when he learned the San Diego Padres had acquired him, as well as reliever Heath Bell from the New York Mets, for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins.
Ring was a closer at San Diego State and is more than happy to be returning to Southern California to play baseball.
"I couldn't ask for anything more," Ring, a San Diego County native, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I really wanted to play here. And knowing the importance the Padres place on their bullpen makes it all the better."
Padres general manager Kevin Towers had a simple reason acquiring Ring and Bell.
"This trade goes a long way toward solidifying our bullpen," said Towers, who eventually sees Bell becoming a setup man. "Ring and (Alan) Embree would give us two left-handers and improve our flexibility."
A first-round selection of the White Sox in 2002, the Mets used Ring as a left-handed specialist. Ring did well in the role as left-handed hitters hit only .150 against him.
"It was a role I was effective at," said Ring. "But if the Padres want me to throw three innings, I'll do it."
Helms earns everyday shot: Wes Helms parlayed a strong season as a bench player for the Marlins into a multi-year contract to be the starting third baseman for the Phillies.
"I do feel that with what I've done this year I've probably opened some eyes in some other organizations," Helms told the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel .
Helms batted .329 with a .965 on-base plus slugging percentage in 240 at-bats for the Marlins in 2006.
"I loved playing for the Florida Marlins," Helms told the Miami Herald. "[But] for me it's about playing every day."
Soriano happy with Acta hire: The first player to contact new Nationals manager Manny Acta was free agent Alfonso Soriano. Acta managed Soriano during the World Baseball Classic, but he ended up benching the then-second baseman for his 0-for-12 start.
"We're from the same area, a couple sugar cane factories next to each other. We get along real good," Acta told the Washington Times. "We just [sat him] the right way. We communicated with him. We talked to Fonzie and told him, 'Hey, [the World Baseball Classic] only lasts eight games, and you're a power hitter and it might take you longer to get in shape. We can't wait until December when you start hitting here, so we're going to make a move here.' He accepted it. I have always kept a good relationship with him."
But Acta's hiring does not mean the Nationals have the inside track to sign Soriano.
"I think my presence will help, but I think we all know that it might take more than my presence over here to bring Alfonso [back]," Acta said. "We're good friends, but I don't know how good of a friend I am to bring him over here on my presence alone."
Street excited by Geren hire: New A's manager Bob Geren has at least one fan on the team in closer Huston Street. Geren served one season as the team's bench coach and the three previous years were spent as the A's bullpen coach, where he had a big impact on Street.
"I'm pretty excited about it," Street told the San Jose Mercury News. "(Geren) already has a feel for the team. He knows personalities and guys' capabilities. It will definitely benefit him knowing us. We just have to adjust to him being the manager and him being in charge. He's one of the more well-liked coaches on the staff."
One of Geren's duties as bullpen coach was to go over the scouting reports with the relievers warming up, reminding which pitches to throw to hitters they would face.
"He will always be prepared," Street said. "He'll be committed to all his players and make sure their needs are met. He takes care of details."
Surgery won't keep Edmonds from Spring Training: St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds was scheduled to undergo arthroscopic on Wednesday to have bone shaved from near the arthritic joint of his right shoulder blade and collarbone.
The procedure, which should not keep Edmonds from being ready for Spring Training, was to be performed by Dr. George Paletta.
"It's not a major deal," Edmonds told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I wanted to take some time to clear my head a little bit, then come back to get it taken care of. I've gone through it before with the other shoulder, so I know what to expect."
Paletta said that this procedure is a little bit different than the work he did on Edmonds' left shoulder in December 2003.
"This is on his non-dominant shoulder and it's being taken care of earlier," Paletta said. "There's certainly some rehab involved, but the expectation is for Jim to be ready for Spring Training."
Cubs Nation was an attraction for DeRosa: Addressing a need at second base, the Chicago Cubs have signed Mark DeRosa to fill that void after he batted .296 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs for Texas last season.
DeRosa told the Chicago Tribune that the chance to play second base and the atmosphere at Wrigley Field were a big part of his decision to come to the Cubs. In 2003, he saw all he needed to see of Wrigley while playing for Atlanta in the playoffs.
"I remember everything like it was yesterday," he said. "I saw for myself in '03 that that place is electric ... Even at Turner Field, the Cub fans dominated in our ballpark. I felt like the Cubs had five home games."
While DeRosa came up as a shortstop and played a lot of third base last year in Texas, he is glad to have the chance to play second base. "I just feel more comfortable there," he said. "It's a position I felt comfortable playing in Texas."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.