Tag:Juan Miranda
Posted on: August 12, 2011 3:12 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 5:11 pm
 

Beat Down: Nick Piecoro on the Diamondbacks



By C. Trent Rosecrans

If newspapers still existed and you opened one up this morning, you'd open up the sports section and see that the Arizona Diamondbacks were in first place in the National League West. It's one of those things that nobody really expected to see on Aug. 12, but there it is. I sure didn't expect it, and wasn't sure I knew exactly how it happened. So, I figured I could research the whole thing and write something about it, or I could go to someone who has been there the entire season, so I e-mailed my buddy Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

Piecoro is in his fifth season covering the Diamondbacks. I first met him in the press box at Chase Field in 2007 when he was surfing my iTunes library from his computer and sought me out to talk music. Since then, we've had numerous pizzas and beers together, talking baseball and, more often, music. So when I thought about the Diamondbacks, I quickly thought of Nick. And then I thought this might be a good weekly feature looking at some of the teams around MLB from the people who see them the most and know them the best. So, for the first installment of the Beat Down, here's Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic:

Eye On Baseball:  So, really, first-place Diamondbacks? Really? Give me the short version of how this happened...

Nick Piecoro: I know, right? Well, there are a bunch of reasons. I’ll start with the emergence of Justin Upton, who has turned into a force in the middle of the lineup, a threat to do damage every time he’s up. They lead the league in home runs, so there’s a real element of a quick-strike offense. And if you look at their Baseball-Reference page, pretty much everyone in the lineup is at least close to a 100 OPS+, meaning there are no black holes in the lineup.

Then there’s the pitching staff. Ian Kennedy has pitched like a No. 1, and Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter (he of tomahawk-throwing fame) have slotted in well behind him. In the bullpen, they no longer cough up leads every night, and that’s thanks mainly to Kevin Towers acquisitions David Hernandez and J.J. Putz.

EOB: Did you see this coming? I sure didn't. I will say, our senior writers -- Scott Miller and Danny Knobler -- did say the D-Backs would be interesting this year, but I don't think any of us expected this.

NP: No way, not me. In spring training, they were a disaster. Part of the reason they’ve been able to turn it around is because they were quick to act to make changes with guys who weren’t getting the job done, and the list is long: Armando Galarraga, Barry Enright, Russell Branyan, Melvin Mora, Aaron Heilman, Juan Miranda, Zach Duke. Some got more rope than others, but the point is, anyone making predictions before the season was looking at a completely different roster than what they have now. Heck, Ryan Roberts, who has 15 home runs, wouldn’t have made the team in spring training if not for Geoff Blum’s injury.

EOB: How much of this is Kirk Gibson? Is the attitude he brought real? Has it actually changed things?

NP: You have to give him credit, certainly. You hear people talk about a manager’s personality rubbing off on his team, it’s hard not to see some of that with this group of guys, particularly when it comes to their penchant for comebacks and the whole never-say-die stuff. They’re a hard-nosed bunch and that’s exactly the kind of player Gibson was and manager he is. Personally, I’ve always been skeptical of a manager’s impact; I mean, all the stuff above explains their status as contenders well enough in my mind. (That and the fact the NL West and the NL as a whole is mostly devoid of good teams.) A friend likes to say that players win games, managers lose them and umpires ruin them. Well, if that’s the case, Gibson is doing an excellent job of not losing them.

EOB: Is Justin Upton your MVP?

NP:  Maybe not yet. But he could be.

EOB: I'm guessing he's not on the trade market this winter...

NP: Uh, no. I’m not sure I understand why he was out there last winter.

EOB: Are they set up for the long haul?

NP:  You would think so, yeah. They have literally no bad contracts -- not a one -- and they have a bunch of guys coming in the system, namely a few potential frontline-type starting pitchers in Jarrod Parker, Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer. They’ll have a few decisions to make in the next couple offseasons with core guys like Kelly Johnson, Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero set to become free agents, but they’re in great position to retain who they want to retain and even should have money to spend to plug whatever holes might exist.

EOB: Finally, you're perhaps the hippest beat writer in the loop, what are you listening to right now?

NP: Heh. Is that like saying someone’s the MVP of the Pacific Coast League? I’ve been fairly obsessed with the new Handsome Furs album (link to "Serve the People" with a note that the album art has a nekkid lady). And -- how’s this for timing? -- I’m actually going tonight to see Cut Copy, an awesome band from Australia that have this catchy 80s-dance-pop thing going on (link here to "Far Away"). I’ve also been really into the new ones from Cults, Destroyer, Foster the People and others I can’t think of right now.

Thanks to Nick and you can check out his blog here and on Twitter @NickPiecoro.

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Posted on: July 9, 2011 11:34 am
Edited on: July 10, 2011 1:07 pm
 

On Deck: Marcum/Cueto battle, Gonzalez hurt

On Deck

By Evan Brunell

RedsBrewersBEST MATCHUP: There's a real nice game brewing in Milwaukee, with Johnny Cueto's breakout season going up against the stingy Shaun Marcum. While Cueto had an extended stint on the disabled list earlier this season, he's been nothing but incredible when on the mound, as his pristine 1.77 ERA in 11 starts indicates, with two complete games. The 25-year-old could finally be putting it all together. Meanwhile, Marcum has done all he can to keep the Brewers in contention despite an offense missing depth -- in addition to a brutal defense. Marcum has a solid 3.32 ERA and needs to win to avoid the potential eye-popping occurrence of the Pirates being tied for first place this late into the year. The Cardinals are also just a game behind while Cincy is trying to scrape itself out of a 44-46 hole that has them in fourth. Reds vs. Brewers, 7:10 p.m. ET (Watch live)

GonzalezGONZALEZ DINGED: The Rockies will not have Carlos Gonzalez as he will sit out Saturday's game -- and possibly Sunday's -- with a sore right wrist, as the Denver Post reports. His wrist was originally injured this past Sunday and Friday was his first day back. The wrist started hurting when he turned on an inside fastball in Friday's game, and the pain hasn't dissipated. On Saturday, the Rockies will toss Ubaldo Jimenez against Jason Marquis. Despite similar ERAs and team records, Jimenez's record sits at 3-8 while the Nationals' hurler is 7-3. With a win and a Mets loss, Washington could move to within a half-game of third place while Colorado is in the midst of a losing streak that has them in danger of slipping to fourth place. Rockies vs. Nationals, 7:05 p.m. ET (Watch live)

CarpenterHOT CARPENTER: Chris Carpenter stepped up during the absence of Albert Pujols and has pitched like the Carpenter we've become used to, allowing just two runs over his last three starts which comprise 24 innings. On Saturday, he'll go after Arizona, a team he last faced on April 12, surrendering eight runs in just four innings in what was easily his worst start of the year. For Arizona's part, it could possibly be one of the final games for either Juan Miranda or Xavier Nady, as GM Kevin Towers appears to be leaning toward making a move at first base, as the Arizona Republic reports. Unhappy with their production at first base, Brandon Allen or Paul Goldschmidt could get the call from the farm after the All-Star break. Daniel Hudson will oppose Carpenter. Diamondbacks vs. Cardinals, 7:15 p.m. ET (Watch live)

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Posted on: May 29, 2011 11:33 pm
 

Bullpen leads D-backs into first place

By C. Trent Rosecrans

J.J. PutzWelcome to first place, Arizona Diamondbacks.

Yep, you read that right, the Diamondbacks have ridden a six-game winning streak -- all on the road -- to the top of the National League West standing, moving past the Giants with their victory over the Astros and San Francisco's loss in Milwaukee.

"This is good right now, but we've got a long way to go," manager Kirk Gibson told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. "We've talked about playing good baseball. It's hard to sustain it."

But the Diamondbacks have in the last 16 days, going 14-2 since dropping five in a row earlier this month.

As for the short-term changes, Piecoro pretty much nailed it in this piece -- Josh Collmenter into the rotation, Armando Galarraga out. Juan Miranda in at first base, Russell Branyan out. And then he adds the improvement of starter Joe Saunders and second baseman Kelly Johnson.

More than just the last two-and-a-half weeks, the Diamondbacks have been much better than they were a year ago, when they were 65-97, the third-worst mark in the big leagues.

First off, a lot of credit has to go to Kirk Gibson, in his first full year as a manager. His team is playing like he did -- all out, all the time.

Secondly, the bullpen is night-and-day better, and the thanks there has to go to general manager Kevin Towers.

Last season the bullpen had a 5.74 ERA -- the worst mark in the National League since divisional play began.

This year it's 3.40 ERA. The teams four blown saves are tired for fourth-fewest in the big leagues.

Closer J.J. Putz is perfect in his 15 save attempts and has struck out 20 in 22 innings, allowing just four earned runs. He's been joined by left-hander Joe Paterson (one earned run in 22 games), Sam Demel (three earned runs in 21 appearances) and David Hernandez (five earned runs in 24 appearances). Esmerling Vasquez has been pretty good, going 0-1 with a 3.32 ERA.

Demel and Vazquez were in the team's bullpen last season, but Towers worked on remaking the team's bullpen in the offseason, signing Putz as a free agent and getting Hernandez in the trade that sent Mark Reynolds to Baltimore. Paterson is a rookie who was taken by Towers in the Rule 5 draft out of the Giants' system.

In the end, the Diamondbacks may not be able to hold onto this lead -- especially against the defending World Series champs and the powerful Rockies. But they could -- nobody thought Cleveland would still lead their division on Memorial Day, yet the Diamondbacks and Indians are, and that's pretty fun.

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Posted on: April 5, 2011 3:43 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 5:03 pm
 

Gibson offers first-base clarity for Arizona

By Evan Brunell

MirandaThe first-base situation in Arizona got a little clearer Tuesday when manager Kirk Gibson said that Juan Miranda would get the bulk of playing time at the position.

On the heels of declining to call Miranda his starting first baseman on opening day, he opened up now that a few games have gone by.

"He’ll probably get most of the starts, the majority of them right now,” Gibson said of Miranda to the Arizona Republic. "I want to give him a chance to see how he can play. He’s been behind [Mark Teixeira] in New York for a while."

Miranda was acquired by GM Kevin Towers this offseason from the Yankees. Towers spent a year as a scout for the Yankees after being let go from his longtime gig as GM of the Padres. Miranda is clearly someone Towers had his eye on, which has led to his spot in the majors for Arizona. Over the last three years, the 27-year-old cobbled together just 94 plate appearances, hitting .253/.330/.458. In Triple-A, the left-hander cranked 15 home runs in 340 PA last season, hitting .285/.371/.495.

Miranda entered Tuesday's game with two hits in five at-bats and as of this writing is still hitless in the Cubs afternoon game after two trips to the plate.

"I’ll keep mixing it up, though," Gibson said, noting that the team has Russell Branyan on the bench, plus Xavier Nady can play first base. “With Russell, he’s dangerous off the bench. He’s a veteran guy. He’s always had a back issue and I don’t want to push him right now. We’ve got cold weather and everything. But he’ll be ready coming off the bench."

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Posted on: March 28, 2011 10:37 am
Edited on: March 28, 2011 10:38 am
 

Pepper: Learning curve for Dominicans

Dominican Republic

By Evan Brunell

Imagine being thrust in a new country where you don't know the language and are expected to perform at the top of your game in the job assigned to you. Should you fail, embarrassment awaits you back home.

Such is the life of teenaged Dominicans who make the leap to full-season ball in the United States. The Giants' Gabriel Cornier is no exception, but he's receiving a lot more assistance these days than ex-Giants manager Felipe Alou did when he went to the United States to pursue baseball. While Alou would eventually be called up in 1958, and enjoy a productive career both on and off the field, the early going was not easy.

Back then, Spanish was barely known, and Alou didn't know English at all. So when his manager told his team certain information one day, Alou pretended to understand.

"I come to the park with nothing but the clothes I was wearing, and I saw other players bring suitcases and I thought, 'What's going on here?' " Alou reminisced. "There was a bus parked outside and I see all the players get inside the bus, so I get in the bus. I had nothing.

"We went on a nine-day road trip. Nine days. I don't say anything because you don't want to sound stupid, but the guys figured it out and bought me another pair of pants and another shirt."

While Cornier has more support around him, with Spanish-speaking coaches and an English trainer on hand, even in the U.S. and received basic English training in the Dominican. However, it is still difficult for players, who are terrified of being released.

"You come over here, you leave your family there, they're putting all of their future on you making it," Alou said. :Every time their name is called, they think it's to be released. How do you tackle that? You cannot tell the kid, 'We're not going to release you' because maybe you do next week.

"If the Latinos go back home, what do they have there? Baseball is the only thing they have." (San Francisco Chronicle)

CINDERELLA STORY: Tom Wilhelmsen is 27 years old, has never pitched above Class A and was out of baseball from 2004-08 before pitching in indy ball in 2010. That leaves just 2003 and 2010 as seasons of experience with a major-league team, but the righty is one of eight candidates left for seven relief spots. (MLB.com)

LABOR PEACE: Worried that the labor negotiations for baseball could end up as contentious as the NBA and NFL negotiations? Don't worry -- an agreement could possibly be reached by season's end, and even the player's union is willing to talk about changes in revenue-sharing formulas. Even the mild hint of a work stoppage would be a shocker. (Boston Globe)

RIGHTY, LEFTY: The Yankees appear poised to move forward with a lineup that will have Brett Gardner leading off against right-handers. Derek Jeter will lead off against lefties as the team takes advantage of platoon splits. Also, coming Monday will be a majority of the final roster decisions for the Yankees. (The Journal News)

STADIUM ISSUES: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim can opt out of their stadium lease in 2016, but that's unlikely to happen given the process of building a new stadium would have to start by 2012 at the absolute latest. Angels owner Arte Moreno for his part believes the current 45-year-old stadium is viable, simply requiring structural upgrades. One potential issue is the city refusing to assist in renovations due to the team's name change that embarrassed the city. (Los Angeles Times)

PLAY THE MAN: The Diamondbacks have a power-hitting first baseman, but insist on not giving him an extended shot. Instead, Arizona will go with aging Russell Branyan and Yankees minor-leaguer Juan Miranda. That leaves Allen yet again on the outside looking in even as he brims with talent. It's time for Arizona to let Allen go to another organization to get his shot, Eric Seidman opines. (Fangraphs)

WANTED: LEFTY RELIEVER: The Mets are looking for a second left-handed reliever to help combat the potent lefty bats in the division. My suggestion? Take a look at lefty Ron Mahay, who was cut by the Dodgers Saturday. (Sports Illustrated via Twitter)

A TASTE OF CHICAGO: The Cubs have switched hot dog and pizza vendors, electing to remain with Chicago staples for each. Vienna Beef returns as the hot-dog supplier after last representing Chicago in Wrigley Field back in 1981 while D'Agostino's pizza replaces Connie's, which also lost out on acting as the White Sox's pizza provider, who will go with Nestle's DiGiorno's. The Cubs are emphasizing Chicago vendors to give fans -- of rough around 37 percent are from outside Illinois a year -- "an authentic Chicago experience." (Chicago Tribune)

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PHOTO: July 13, 2009; St. Louis, MO, USA; National League players Hanley Ramirez (second left), Albert Pujols (second left), Francisco Cordero (right), and Miguel Tejada (second right) pose with Dominican Republic minister of sports Felipe Payano during the 2009 All-Star workout day at Busch Stadium.

Posted on: March 7, 2011 9:24 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Pepper: Raise a glass


By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Orioles are a trendy pick to be better in 2011, and they should be. But no matter how the Orioles do on the field, things will be better this season in Baltimore because Natty Boh is back.

Before the take-over of the beer industry by the big brewing companies, regional beers were king -- be it National Bohemian (known as Natty Boh in Baltimore) in the mid-Atlantic, Hudepohl in Cincinnati or Hamm's in Minnesota.

These were different than the great microbrews of today, they were the macrobrews of yesterday. It's what you remember your grandpa dinking, whether it was an Olympia in Washington or an Old Style in Chicago. These were American, working-class beers. And they belonged with baseball, at the ballpark and at home, listening along to the local nine on the radio.

Well, one of these greats, National Bohemian, is back where it belongs, at the ballpark at Camden Yards. And for that, America and baseball are better than they were before. (Baltimore Sun)

For more fun, check out this video of old Natty Boh commercials (with an added bonus of Maryland history):

GARDNER MAY PUSH JETER FROM LEADOFF: The Yankees front office wants Brett Gardner, not Derek Jeter, leading off, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes.

Jeter has batted first or second for most of his career, but it seems natural to put the speedy Gardner atop the lineup. Gardner had a .383 on-base percentage last season, along with 47 stolen bases. He also saw an MLB-best 4.6 pitchers per plate appearance, giving him a good case to bat first for the Yankees.

HOLD 'EM OR FOLD 'EM: Boston's Mike Cameron had his name thrown around a bit this weekend after Philadelphia lost Domonic Brown to a hand injury, but with J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury roaming the outfield, is it wise for the Red Sox to get rid of any outfielder?

Although Cameron is making $7.5 million this season, that would hamper many other teams, but not the Red Sox. Cameron is also a rarity in the Red Sox clubhouse, a right-handed hitter. (Boston Globe)

HART SIDELINED: Brewers right fielder Corey Hart missed the last week after straining a muscle in his side. He was expected to miss two weeks, but after a setback during a throwing exercise on Saturday, Hart said he doesn't expect to be back in the original timeframe.

However, manager Ron Roenicke said he expects Hart to be ready for opening day. (MLB.com)

MOM KNOWS BEST: Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli said he was feeling sorry for himself after suffering a broken bone in his left foot, until his mother set him straight.

"I woke up positive and [said] 'Let's do it,'" Cervelli told the New York Daily News. "That's it. Start the work, the therapy and get better. A lot of people in the world don't have legs or arms; I'm healthy. I just have something in my foot, but it's going to be OK."

MONTERO MAY BACKUP: Cervelli's injury may have opened the door for Yankees top prospect, Jesus Montero.

Many thought the Yankees would want him to play every day and not have him break camp just to back up Russell Martin. One who doesn't buy that theory, apparently, is Brian Cashman.

"There is a lot of knowledge that a catcher has to absorb that you just won't get at Triple-A," Cashman told FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. "If it's the second week of April and he has only pinch-hit or started one game, I won't consider it a lost week. There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that he has never experienced before.

"He can watch, see how [Martin] goes through it -- pre-game, advance scouting meetings, all those things. When he gets in there in the future, he'll be fully prepared, rather than just sink or swim."

The Yankees know Montero's bat can play right away, but many question his ability to stick behind the plate.

TRADE STUNG SAUNDERS: Former first-rounder Joe Saunders said he was upset last season when the Angels traded him to Arizona.

"I was pissed off. I'm not going to lie to you," Saunders told the Orange County Register.

Saunders said it was weird heading into the visitor's clubhouse at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Angels' spring training home.

MULLET MANIA: Travis Schlichting has the greatest mullet in baseball history, and Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan has the story.

AUTHOR-PITCHER: Rays reliever Dirk Hayhurst -- better known as the author of The Bullpen Gospels than anything he's done on the field -- said he's walked a fine line between being truthful and writing a tell-all.

Hayhurst's often hilarious characters in the book (really, it's worth checking out, a fun, quick read), are real, but he doesn't name names. He's also working on a second book and has a contract for a third, but those will also be done in his particular style, where the only specific player you get dirt on is Hayhurst himself.

The Rays seem like a perfect fit, if only for the fact that when asked about Hayhurst, manager Joe Maddon used the word "ameliorated" in his response. (St. Petersburg Times)

OLIVO CONFIDENT: Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo had a scare on Saturday when he pulled up lame with a hamstring injury and had to be helped off the field. Olivo will have an MRI today, but he told reporters on Sunday that he's confident he'll be ready for opening day. (Seattle Times)

BOOF REMAINS A MYSTERY: Even Boof Bonser doesn't know how his name came about, even though he's legally changed it. (Star-Ledger)

FORTUITOUS CUT: Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is pretty happy he cut reliever Cristhian Martinez last year when both were with the Marlins. Martinez was optioned to Triple-A at the end of spring training last season and then designated him for assignment on April 3. The Braves signed him and now he's competing for the final bullpen spot.

Martinez struck out five in two innings against the Nationals on Sunday. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

MAYBIN MAY RETURN: San Diego's Cameron Maybin may return to action today after suffering concussion symptoms when he hit his head on a post during Wednesday's practice.

Maybin, the team's newly acquired center fielder, took batting practice on Sunday and said he felt good afterwards. (MLB.com)

D-LEE STILL OUT: Derrek Lee won't make his debut with the Orioles in the Grapefruit League until Wednesday at the earliest. (Baltimore Sun)

PEAVY TO MAKE SECOND START: White Sox starter Jake Peavy said he's sore from Saturday's start, but he's good enough to start on Wednesday. (Chicago Tribune)

FIRST BASE BATTLE: Here's something you don't hear very often -- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said defensive will be a key component to the team's search for a regular first baseman.

Russell Branyan, Brandon Allen and Juan Miranda are the other leading candidates for that job. (Arizona Republic)

ZAUN TO RETIRE: Veteran catcher Gregg Zaun is set to retire after 16 seasons in the big leagues.

Zaun, 39, was in the Padres camp. He's a career .252/.344/.388 hitter, but better known for his defense, spending most of his time as a backup catcher.

His retirement gives Rob Johnson the inside track at the Padres' backup job. (Sportsnet.ca)


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More MLB coverage
Posted on: February 16, 2011 6:46 pm
 

D-Backs add Branyan

Russell Branyan
With Mark Reynolds and Adam LaRoche out the door, there was a need for power in Arizona, and the Diamondbacks on Wednesday addressed that by signing journeyman first baseman Russell Branyan. He gets a minor-league deal with an invitation to big-league camp, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com.

Branyan, 35, has averaged 28 homers the past two seasons in Cleveland and Seattle. While he doesn't really help Arizona's strikeout problem, he should find home run success in the confines of Chase Field. There also should be starts available at first base, with Juan Miranda and Brandon Allen currently listed at the spot.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: December 15, 2010 3:31 pm
 

Diamondbacks to ink Blanco, Nady

Nady The Diamondbacks are on the verge of adding Henry Blanco as backup catcher as well as Xavier Nady as a platoon player, as John Gambadoro of 620 KTAR reports.

The Blanco signing is not a surprise, as there has been interest between the two parties. Blanco hit .215/.271/.300 in 144 plate appearances for the Mets in 2010. He can't hit much anymore but is still a strong defender and leader at age 39.

Meanwhile, Nady (pictured) will be platooning with Juan Miranda at first base and Gerardo Parra in left. Nady hit just .256/.306/.353 in 347 plate appearances after missing a year thanks to Tommy John surgery. However, in 2008, Nady bashed 25 home runs and hit .305/.357/.510 between the Pirates and Yankees.

While the Diamondbacks hope to contend, it seems abundantly clear that GM Kevin Towers is just plugging the gap with average veterans as he attempts to rebuild the team in his image and wait for minor-league prospects to hit the show.

-- Evan Brunell

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com