Tag:Tony La Russa
Posted on: May 16, 2011 10:26 am
Edited on: May 16, 2011 10:08 pm
 

Pepper: Red Sox sweep Yanks; Varitek on Posada



By Evan Brunell


WALK A MILE IN THESE SHOES: Jason Varitek has been the Red Sox's answer to Jorge Posada for over a decade and has already undergone his own transition from starting catcher to backup. While Posada remains in the lineup as DH, Varitek wonders if his transition was easier to undertake.

“Jorge’s really had to go from focusing and doing the things that you have to do behind the plate -- the constant reminders, this and that, the maintenance, what’s going on -- and now you’re almost like, ‘Well what do I do with my time?’ ” Varitek said.

'Tek says the fact that he still starts games or has to stay mentally engaged in case he is needed in the middle of the game has allowed his transition to be easier and forces him not to worry about his slow bat. While Varitek's bat is waking up, he's still at a poor .164/.258/.218 in 63 plate appearances. Posada doesn't have that luxury, as his lousy line is as starting DH. But the Red Sox captian isn't ready to anoint Posada's career dead in the water.

"[Saturday] he had one of the few hits against Buchholz, and Buchholz had his top notch stuff,” he said. “You go through the Xs and Os and you don’t look at the batting average.” (New York Times)

RETURN OF THE TEHERAN:
Looks like Julio Teheran will get another spot start Wednesday. The Braves only need a fifth starter Wednesday and May 31, so can go with a four-man rotation for the time being. Obviously, Atlanta would have preferred Brandon Beachy not get hurt, but he kind of had decent timing. Beachy will take about a month to return, so Minor could still grab a few starts in June. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution via Twitter)

PRICE MOTIVATED AGAINST YANKS:
The first-place Rays have yet to do battle against the Yankees, but that changes Monday as both teams begin a two-game set in Tampa. David Price will draw the ball to start and admits he is always just a bit more motivated against the Bronx Bombers. "That just happens," Price said. "Whenever you're pitching against the pinstripes, you have a little more. That's how it is, that's just from their success forever in baseball." (St. Petersburg Times)

ACTA PART OF Indians SUCCESS:
Manny Acta, by all appearances, has been everything the Indians want in a manager. He's driven closer community-player relations, encouraging players to take part in Twitter. (Dusty Baker, take note.) But he's also made an impact on the field by setting expecations in spring training of contending and using all his tools at his disposal to make decisions. That's put him in the early bid for manager of the year. (New York Times)

LA RUSSA STILL WAYS AWAY:
Tony La Russa remains away from the Cardinals with a bout of shingles, missing six games to date. La Russa is unclear when he can return to the team and will hold a meeting with GM John Mozeliak Monday to try to answer that very question. (FoxSportsMidwest.com)

INCHING CLOSER:
Chase Utley played in his first full minor-league game on Sunday and is getting ever-closer to returning to the majors. GM Ruben Amaro indicated that Utley needs to get more at-bats, but would not rule out a return during the upcoming week-long homestand starting Wednesday. Sounds a bit optimistic, but it looks like Utley will give fantasy owners a jolt by returning before the calendar flips to June. (Philadelphia News)

WALKING ON 3-1:
A few eyes widened Sunday when Daniel Murphy of the Mets walked on what was thought to be a 3-1 count -- except umpire Angel Hernandez had called Houston's Aneury Rodriguez for a balk prior to what ended up being the fourth ball.  "I don't know. I wasn't paying attention," Murphy said. "I heard, 'Balk.' And then, '3-1.' I guess that's what Angel said -- ['ball']. It went from 2-1 to 3-1. It was a four-ball walk." (ESPN New York)

STAY WITH US:
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen wants fans to know that the team will turn things around. “Hopefully, we go home and play better for our fans,’’ Guillen said. “They deserve that. We owe them one after that last homestand. Hopefully, we continue to play the way we’re playing now.’’ The White Sox are 6-3 in their last nine games, but are still a discouraging nine games out of first place. (Chicago Tribune)

ALVAREZ STAYING:
There are no plans to demote third baseman Pedro Alvarez to the minors, Pirates GM Neal Huntington revealed on the radio. "He's a slow starter," Huntington said. "We're seeing signs he's getting to where he needs to be. He's squaring up some balls. He's not getting himself out or getting into pitcher's counts." Alvarez is hitting .210/.277/.286 in 130 plate appearances. Even rebuilding teams give up on prospects with that stat line at this point. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

AYBAR RAKING: Erick Aybar is less patient at the plate, which is allowing him to go after good pitches more and has a .351 batting average to show for it. Sure, he's playing a bit over his head, but he seems to turned a corner offensively at age 27 and is looking like 2009 is the norm, not exception. Aybar struggled to a .255 batting average last season, which he says was in part due to being too patient at the plate. (Los Angeles Times)

GREAT ESCAPE: Those who play SplinterCell for X-Box will notice a move taken right out of the game. An Astros fan ran on the field and evaded security guards by leaping over the center field wall and scaling a berm in a way that would make Sam Fisher proud, then vaulting yet another wall and escaping... until Houston's forces caught up with him outside the park. (Youtube)

PEACOCK ON FIRE: No, not the animal. Nationals' right-handed prospect Brad Peacock has taken his game to another level and currently has a 2.13 ERA in six starts for Double-A. Credited for his success is his curveball, which is being thrown near fastball velocity which is causing hitters to miss the adjustment needed to hit a breaking ball. (MLB.com)

ATTENDANCE ISSUES: Yeah, the weather hasn't been great and it's hard to get excited about a perennial loser no matter the state of the rich farm, but the Royals have noticed their poor attendance this year. The play on the field is surprisingly strong so far, plus the constant influx of young players over the next couple of years should fix the issue. For now, though, K.C. has to worry a little bit about lack of fan turnout. (Kansas City Star)

HEYWARD RETURNING: Jason Heyward is hoping his return to the lineup will happen Tuesday. Sidelined with a sore shoulder, Heyward has reported progress and will be available to pinch-hit in Monday's game. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

SCOUT PASSES: Dick Wiencek, one of baseball's most successful scouts, passed away due to complications from a heart attack. Wiencek signed a record 72 players, including Bert Blyleven, Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire, Jim Kaat and Graig Nettles. Thoughts and condolences to friends and family. (MLB.com)

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Posted on: May 13, 2011 10:26 am
 

Pepper: Rivalry weekend in MLB



By Matt Snyder


BASEBALL TODAY: Excited about rivals getting together? Danny Knobler joins Adam Aizer to look at some exciting matchups as the weekend approaches. Watch the video above.

FOUR INNINGS FOR WEBB: Brandon Webb made another start in extended spring training Thursday and pitched four innings. The big issue thus far in his rehab progress has been velocity, specifically a lack thereof. Thursday he reportedly averaged around 84 m.p.h. and topped out at 86. That's still pretty bad for someone who wants to be an effective major-league pitcher -- unless he plans on being a great knuckleballer -- but it is an improvement from what we've heard over the course of the past month, when he was sitting high-70s and low-80s. Considering he's still pain-free, maybe some progress is being made. (ESPN Dallas)

SQUEEZED: Based upon data from PitchFX, BaseballAnalytics.org checked out which pitchers have had the fewest percentage of called strikes within what is supposed to be the strike zone. It's pretty interesting, because one of the biggest problems with the strike zone is how many of the umpires seem to have their own interpretation. Topping the list of the people who have been the most squeezed is Nelson Figueroa. As the site pointed out, if we had robot umpires, maybe he'd still be pitching for Houston instead of Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Cardinals BULLPEN SORTED OUT: Since removing Ryan Franklin from the role, the Cardinals had not really named a closer, but it's a pretty foregone conclusion at this point that young Eduardo Sanchez is the closer, as he's saved four games in four chances. Hard-throwing right-hander Jason Motte is their put-out-the-fire guy. "Last year he was very successful doing that, coming in in the middle of an inning and pitching out of it," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "You have to kind of remember what he did there. Because there is a need for a guy like that." (MLB.com)

WHAT ABOUT THE Braves? After Craig Kimbrel went out and blew his third save of the young season Wednesday night, a Braves beat writer (AJC.com) brought up the subject of having Jonny Venters be the closer -- or at least be part of a committee with Kimbrel. He makes a good piont that Kimbrel is the long-term closer and has elite-closer stuff, but that Venters has been so dominant and the Braves are trying to win now. So it's a conundrum. It wasn't a save situation, but Kimbrel's outing Thursday night should stave off any temporary concerns for the time being. He struck out all three batters he faced in a tie game and ended up getting a win.

BUMPED: This is at least mildly humorous. The Mets were forced to stay an extra night in Colorado due to a rainout (I'm sure Carlos Beltran is now fine with the decision), but they had to relocate to a new hotel because they were bumped ... by the Padres, who face the Rockies in a weekend series starting Friday and arrived a day early. It really does seem like the weirdest stuff always happens to the Mets, whether it's due to self-sabotage or uncontrollable outside factors. (ESPN New York)

WALK-OFF WALKS: The boys over at Big League Stew have put together a compilation of everything you've ever wanted to know about walk-off walks. For example, did you know two pitchers issued four walk-off walks in their respective careers? Hall of Famer Goose Gossage did it three times. As for hitters, Jorge Posada is the active leader with three career walk-off walks. I better stop now, lest I reach my allotment of saying "walk-off walk" for the entire season in one paragraph.

GREAT SKIPPERS: ESPN.com's Sweetspot blog ranked the top 10 managers of all-time. The highest active manager (well, the only one) on the list was Tony La Russa, who checked in at sixth. Interestingly, Joe Torre was eighth while Bobby Cox was third, rankings sure to draw the ire of the people who put a good amount more stock on the postseason than the regular season.

WORST HAT EVER: Jim Caple of ESPN.com offers up his pick for the worst cap in major-league history -- the Seattle Pilots' 1969 monstrosity -- and he'll certainly get no argument from me. Man, that thing is awful.

CASHMAN'S CONTRACT: While everyone is concentrating on CC Sabathia's contract situation at the conclusion of this season, when it comes to the Yankees, there is another contract negotiation that will occur. General manager Brian Cashman's deal is going to expire after the season. Though both Sabathia and Cashman figure to stay put, the always-thoughtful River Blues Avenue opines that the Cashman negotiations will be "messier," most notably because ownership went over his head in the Derek Jeter and Rafael Soriano signings.

ANOTHER SLOW START: Adam LaRoche has been pretty terrible for the Nationals thus far, but he's trying not to worry about it from an individual perspective. There's a good reason for that, as he's been there, done that. “I wouldn’t say I’m stressing over it, because I’ve been there so many times in my career,” LaRoche said (Washington Times). “But the frustrating part is not what the average is, it’s the fact that you look back and think, ‘Man if I’d have been doing a little more, we may have won two or three extra games.’” Not only does LaRoche have several awful starts under his belt, but he's one of the most drastically streaky hitters in baseball. He'll get hot. And then he'll go stone cold again. It's a cycle with LaRoche.

HUMBLED STAR: Andrew McCutchen was benched Thursday night for not running to first on a dropped third strike the previous night. It was a good move by manager Clint Hurdle to make sure it didn't become a recurring problem, and it doesn't appear it will. "I know that's not the type of person I am," McCutchen said on Thursday. "I let my emotions get the best of me. I took it out on my bat and myself when I shouldn't have been mad. I was just frustrated at the time and not focused on the game, not focused that the ball was in the dirt with two strikes and I needed to run to first." (MLB.com) I feel like it's important to note that McCutchen is generally a hustler and this shouldn't be discussed any further. He's a good guy and a good player who made a mistake. End of story.

NO RETIREMENT: Dodgers relief pitcher Hong Chih-Kuo is one of the better relievers in the game when he's mentally right. It's just that he seems to suffer from the yips on occasion. He's currently on the disabled list with anxiety disorder as the Dodgers have reported he's too scared to take the mound right now. Kuo's agent did say Thursday that there are no plans to retire, though, and he's going to battle his way back. It's one of Kuo's traits, actually, as he's had four surgeries, including Tommy John surgery twice. He always comes back, so this time won't be any different. (MLB.com)

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Posted on: May 11, 2011 10:01 am
 

Pepper: Lackey struggling for Red Sox



By Matt Snyder


'OUT OF REASONS': John Danks is 0-6 this season and he can't figure it out.

"I’m out of reasons. I don’t know. I’ve done the same thing I’ve done my whole career. I feel good. It’s just not working out. I don’t have any other way of putting it. But I’m back at it for my next start, whenever it is (May 17 against Texas). We’ll go from there.” (Chicago Tribune)

Could I make a suggestion? How about pitchers -- and the fans/media still clinging to the same notion -- quit acting like wins and losses are the defining individual pitching stat. Look at Danks' individual game logs. On opening day, he gave up two runs in six innings and lost. On April 13 he threw eight innings and allowed just one run and took a no-decision (there are guys with three or four wins who haven't had an outing this good). On April 19, he threw seven innings and gave up two runs, taking the loss. May 4, Danks worked eight innings and gave up three runs, taking the loss. Five of his eight starts have been quality starts. With better run support or bullpen help, he could easily be something like 4-3. Now, Tuesday night he was terrible, but that alone should be the discussion following the game, not how he's 0-6. That record alone suggests he's been terrible all season, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

FREE SPEECH? Pirates prospect Tony Sanchez is in trouble over a tweet he sent Monday night, where he complained about the umpiring -- even suggesting they decided "to blow a game." Obviously, Eastern League officials weren't too happy about the suggestion the umpires purposely changed an outcome. Sanchez ended up apologizing. (Hardball Talk) Much time has been spent discussing how athletes -- and, really, anyone -- should be careful when going to Twitter while emotional about anything. You're sending your thoughts to everyone who wants to see. That's not always a great idea. But what bothers me more than anything in these discussions is how few peolpe actually understand what "freedom of speech" means. The First Amendment begins, "Congress shall make no law." So you can't be punished by the legal system for speech. You most certainly can get fined, suspended or fired in any profession for something you say.

SPEAKING OF SOCIAL MEDIA: Jeff Sullivan over at SB Nation takes a look at the presence all major-league teams have on Facebook and Twitter. All use both outlets, but the numbers of fans vary and could correlate to how well the social media department of each franchise is run.

HUNTER UPDATE: Monday we passed along the news that Tommy Hunter of the Rangers had re-injured his groin. The good news now is that the strain is less severe and he'll only be set back about two to three weeks in his rehab. "I was more upset [Monday]," Hunter said. "It might just be scar tissue. It was just a little tweak. It's just a little setback." (Star-Telegram.com)

HUGHES UPDATE: Injured Yankees' starting pitcher Phil Hughes is expected to start a throwing program Thursday and could return in six to eight weeks. (MLB.com via Twitter) It will be interesting to track his progress, namely the great velocity question.

AN INNOCENT EMBRACE: If Albert Pujols does leave the Cardinals at the end of the year as a free agent, one major player for his services moving forward will most certainly be the Cubs. They lack power, will have an opening at first base and have about $50 million coming off the payroll before 2011. So, of course, when Cubs general manager and Pujols hugged before the Cubs-Cardinals game Tuesday night (look right for the evidence), it set off a media/social media firestorm. See, look, he's recruiting him already! Hendry, of course, said there was nothing to it.

"I can't win. I like Albert. We've always gotten along. He's a great, great player. I admire the heck out of him. He plays the game the right way every day," Hendry said, also noting he hugged former Cub Ryan Theriot, too. (CSN Chicago)

Pujols went out and had a 4-5 day as the Cardinals won.

BEST STUFF: What pitcher in baseball has the best pure stuff? Not who is the best or who has the best control, but the best arsenal of pitches that can baffle hitters. Fangraphs.com uses the criteria of "velocity, movement, intent and simply how hard it is for opposing hitters (of all types) to produce against what they're thrown" to determine Felix Hernandez has the best stuff. A healthy Ubaldo Jimenez, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander round out the top five.

SLOW STARTER: Mat Latos was lights-out for a stretch last season. In fact, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. From May 7-Sept. 7, Latos was 13-2 with a 1.58 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 153 strikeouts in 136 1/3 innings. He did finish quite poorly and has started this season off poorly as well, so maybe that's why it's easy to forget last season he started out pretty poorly as well, as he took a 6.20 ERA into May. SignonSanDiego.com points out it's possible Latos is simply a slow starter and wore down late last season.

BEHIND THE DISH DEFENSE: There are lots of defensive metrics out there for defense in the field, such as range factor and zone rating. It's a bit tougher to judge catchers with stats, though, considering range doesn't factor in. They're parked behind the plate. Of course many have come up with methods over the years, and the thoughtful boys over at Beyond the Box Score have come up with their own methodology based upon tweaking parts of other metrics. So, in terms of saving runs for his team, the best defensive catcher so far in 2011 has been ... Matt Wieters. Of the 75 they ranked, Josh Thole was last. Interestingly, Yadier Molina -- who is hyped by many as a great defensive catcher -- checks in at No. 62, just ahead of Jake Fox and Ryan Doumit while trailing Mike Napoli. Small sample size? Maybe.

THE LEMONADE GUY: I had no idea who Kenny Geidel was before he passed away earlier this week, but apparently he was known to Pirates' fans as simply "the lemonade guy" and was pretty beloved. Big League Stew put together a tribute to the popular vendor.

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Posted on: May 10, 2011 10:31 am
 

La Russa sidelined with shingles

By Matt Snyder

As the Cardinals take on their biggest division rivals, beginning Tuesday night, they'll do so without their manager. Tony La Russa will reportedly miss at least the first game of the series, as he's suffering from shingles. (StLtoday.com )

The long-time manager has been dealing with the viral infection in the area surrounding his right eye for most of the season and was examined at the Mayo Clinic Monday. He described the pain as "miserable" after Sunday's game against the Brewers and his eye has been swollen the point of nearly being shut on some days.

La Russa initially planned to work through the issue, but it has gotten worse and day games -- three of which are included on the upcoming six-game road trip -- are especially tough on him. Upper management has reportedly told La Russa he is free to take a leave of absence to get well several times, so maybe he's finally taking them up on the offer.

Bench coach Joe Pettini, third-base coach Jose Oquendo and pitching coach Dave Duncan will be the brain trust with La Russa out, and there's no word on if the Cardinals will promote someone from within the system to fill a role if La Russa's leave is extended.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: May 8, 2011 9:43 pm
 

Viral infection plaguing La Russa

By Matt Snyder
 
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has been suffering for weeks with a viral infection on his face, in the area around his right eye (check out a picture that captures it well on StLtoday.com ). It's been painful, caused discoloration and was even so swollen it nearly completely closed his eye at one point. Before Sunday's game against the Brewers, La Russa said he felt "miserable," noting day games are worse than night games because of the sunlight.

Monday, the Cardinals are off and La Russa was planning on heading to Arizona anyway, relating to his duties with Animal Rescue Foundation. While he's there, he's going to have his infection examined at the Mayo Clinic.

La Russa reportedly reiterated that he wouldn't be going on the trip if it wasn't for his commitment to the ARF and that he fully intends to keep managing the Cardinals.

"I trust the doctors," he told the Post-Dispatch . "But I trust they're going to tell me, ‘See you Tuesday night''' in Chicago.

The long-time manager said he doesn't believe his condition is affecting his ability to manage the team during games, though he did say that's about all he is able to do.

"I'm not doing much. (Other than the games) I shut it down. I don't do much of anything else. It's been very hard to do anything else. The adrenaline of the game makes that better than anything before or after. It's the before and after that's been the hardest. It doesn't bother you that much during the game. That game is the best time."

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Category: MLB
Posted on: April 26, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 4:36 pm
 

Pepper: Contentious homecoming



By Matt Snyder


Lance Berkman played in parts of 12 seasons for the Houston Astros. When he joined, he was the new member of the "Killer B's," along with Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. He was a five-time All-Star and finished in the top five of MVP voting four times. The Astros' career leaderboard is peppered with Berkman's name. He's first in OBP, second in slugging, fourth in batting average and second in OPS. Only Biggio, Bagwell and Jose Cruz played more games for the club. He ranks third in runs, fifth in hits, third in doubles, second in home runs and third in RBI.

Or, put more succinctly: Lance Berkman is one of the greatest Houston Astros of all time.

But things aren't exactly peachy now. Berkman was having the worst season of his career in 2010 -- still a 122 OPS-plus, by the way -- before being dealt to the Yankees. Now, Berkman is playing for Houston rival St. Louis.

As a Cardinal, he's back to his old mashing ways. He's Big Puma again, hitting .377 with a 1.173 OPS, six home runs, 15 RBI and 19 runs through 19 games. He leads the NL with a .725 slugging percentage.

The big start drew the ire of a Houston-area sportscaster, who suggested Berkman didn't work hard his "last few years" for the Astros and now he was back in shape. (Eye on Baseball )

Tuesday night, the Cardinals visit the Astros at Minute Maid Park for the start of a three-game series. Needless to say, Berkman isn't exactly looking forward to it.

"I'm not crazy about going back in there. I felt like I've kind of turned the page and part of me just wants to be done with it. But I know I'm going to have to go back in there and face a lot of questions."

"I guess it's inevitable. When I signed here, I knew we were going to go in there three times, so I'm ready to go and to get all the hoopla, if there is going to be any, out of the way." (stltoday.com )

For whatever it's worth, Berkman did note he's in better shape, though he pointed out it was because his knees are finally healthy again.

It's certainly going to be interesting to see what kind of reception he receives and how he plays.

BASEBALL TODAY: Will Andre Ethier extend his hitting streak tonight? Will Roy Oswalt and Aaron Harang remain unbeaten? C. Trent Rosecrans joins Lauren Shehadi to answer those questions and more.

FEAST OR FAMINE GUYS: When you think of guys who either hit home runs or strikeout -- the Rob Deer All-Stars, if you will -- the names Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn are among those who come to mind. Carlos Pena, too, though he has been only famine thus far in 2011. Who are the ultimate feast or famine guys in the young season this time around? Beyond the Box Score took a look at the guys who are striking out or collecting extra base hits at the highest percentage. At the top? Jorge Posada, Kevin Youkilis and then ... Reynolds.

Rangers ROTATION UPDATE: The Texas Rangers have gotten pretty good starting pitching this season, other than from Colby Lewis -- who certainly isn't going to be removed from the rotation. Thus, they're pretty close to having an embarrassment of riches. Brandon Webb threw two hitless innings at an extended spring training game Monday. Scott Feldman is slated to throw three innings in extended spring training Thursday, while Tommy Hunter is going to throw in an extended spring game Saturday. Collectively, the Rangers' starters have a 3.56 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 103 strikeouts to 43 walks. The one expected to lose his rotation spot when someone comes back from injury is Alexi Ogando -- the guy who is 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA and astounding 0.79 WHIP. So are the Rangers going to remove him? Or Matt Harrison (3-1, 1.88, 0.94)? Or Derek Holland, C.J. Wilson or Lewis? It's quite a log-jam, once Webb, Hunter and Feldman return, particularly if Harrison and Ogando continue to throw the ball well. (Star-Telegram )

VOTE OF CONFIDENCE FOR OZZIE: On the heels of a 1-10 stretch, the White Sox got a close win Monday night in Yankee Stadium. It had to partially lift a big weight off their collective chests. Still, Guillen had recently put a target squarely on his own back, by saying if anyone should get canned, it should be himself. It was a noble move by Guillen, playing shield for his hitting and pitching coaches. Regardless, general manager Kenny Williams has now said it wasn't necessary. "The coaching staff is not throwing the baseball and not hitting the baseball," Williams said. "They’re doing what they’ve always done." (Chicago Sun-Times )

Mariners FUTILITY: The always-solid Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times discusses how bad the Mariners' offense is, and why it's going to get even worse. In fact, he argues there's a legitimate shot they'll score even fewer than last season's record-low 513 runs.

JAPANESE CONNECTION: Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki go back a long way. In fact, they first met in high school when Matsui committed a breach in bathing etiquette -- and Ichiro questioned him about it a decade later. Yes, seriously. There's a lot more in there about the relationship between the two, and it's definitely worth a read. (ESPN's West Coast Bias )

LA RUSSA IN OAKLAND: No, not Tony. His daughter, Bianca, has made the Raiders' cheerleading squad for the upcoming NFL season. (Shutdown Corner )

MANNY IN HIGH SCHOOL: Manny Ramirez hit .650 with 14 home runs in 22 games his senior year in high school. Oh, and check out this description of him in high school: "He was the shy, happy-go-lucky boy with the perfect swing who everyone knew was going to the major leagues. The boy who loved to hit more than anything else. The boy who worked harder than anyone else. The baby-faced boy who never drank anything stronger than the nonalcoholic Puerto Rican eggnog from the corner bodega he chugged to bulk up." The writer begs the question, which is the real Manny? An interesting quandry. (New York Times )

HEAT MAPS: NESN is using heat maps for Red Sox's broadcasts. I like the general idea, but there are a million possible variations. What would be best? Personally I'd want OPS by pitch location. (Baseball Analytics )

ATTENDANCE WOES: We're going to hear about this all season if things don't significantly pick up during the summer when the weather gets better. Yahoo! columnist Jeff Passan writes about how bad it looks for several teams and the league as a whole. A lot of numbers look really bad, but it's important to note the drop across the entire league through April 24 was only 1.77 percent. You could easily use the economy and some pretty awful weather to account for that. I'll stick with that for now. Let's revisit the topic in late July. Now, if you're down more than 20 percent (like the Rays and Mariners are), that's a problem. A big one.

A VISITOR'S TOUR OF WRIGLEY: page/COL">Rockies%3A+Blog%29" target="_blank">Troy Renck of the Denver Post took video to give fans a tour of the visitor's dugout at the historic Wrigley Field. Obviously I'd much rather experience things of this nature in person, but for now this'll do.

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Posted on: April 25, 2011 5:47 pm
 

Astros broadcaster rips Berkman

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Milo HamiltonAt 35, first-year Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman looks as good as he has in years, and long-term Astros radio announcer Milo Hamilton is not happy about it. Hamilton, who has called Astros games since 1986, said Berkman didn't put in the off-season work the last couple of years that he did for the Cardinals this winter.

Berkman said he worked with a trainer in the offseason for the first time in order to return to the outfield for the first time since 2007. Hamilton said when he saw Berkman in spring training, he was in better shape than he'd seen the Big Puma in the last five years.

"If he'd done that the last couple of years he was here, he could have finished out a really fine career in Houston if he'd have given it that same dedication," Hamilton said Monday on SportsTalk 790 AM in Houston. "I just what a simple answer, why did you not think it was necessary to get in shape for the Astros?"

Hamilton questioned Berkman's leadership qualities, saying Berkman didn't do his rehab work in the last couple of years and the veteran players weren't upset when he was traded to the Yankees and the younger players thought they could get away with not working hard, because they saw Berkman do it.

Hamilton spoke highly of Berkman off the field, but said he was upset to hear Cardinals manager Tony La Russa call Berkman the leader of the Cardinals, since Berkman said in Houston it wasn't part of his personality to lead. Hamilton said he owed Astros owner Drayton McClain not only to be in shape but also to lead after signing a six-year, $85 million contract in 2005.

After a slow start, Berkman has been red-hot, hitting .377/.449/.725 with six home runs in his first 19 games of the season.

If this is the general sentiment around Houston, it will be interesting to see how Berkman is greeted at Minute Maid Park when the Cardinals start a three-game series there on Tuesday.

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Posted on: April 24, 2011 5:50 pm
 

Volquez to start against Cardinals tonight

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Edinson VolquezEdinson Volquez will make the start for the Reds tonight against the Cardinals, two days after he was scratched from his start following a rain delay. Jake Westrbook starts for the Cardinals.

Reds manager Dusty Baker was upset with some deception and gamesmanship by Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on Friday, when the Reds-Cardinals game was delayed by rain just two batters into the game. Because the home team controls the start time, La Russa started reliever Miguel Batista for those two batters before coming back with scheduled starter Kyle McClellan more than two hours later. After Volquez warmed up for the regular game time, Baker decided to put long man Matt Maloney in after the delay to protect the arm of Volquez.

The Reds listed the starter for Sunday night's game as TBA yesterday before announcing Volquez would start today.

Right-hander Sam LeCure, whose spot in the rotation was coming up on Sunday, will instead pitch Wednesday in Milwaukee.

Volquez has struggled in first innings this season, so that will be something to watch when he does make his start. His ERA in the first inning this season is 29.75 and 1.93 afterward.

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