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Tag:Aroldis Chapman
Posted on: May 12, 2011 10:39 pm
 

How to fix a struggling Aroldis Chapman

Chapman

By Evan Brunell

What's going on with Aroldis Chapman?

"His arm slot gets too low," Reds pitching coach Bryan Price told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He gets across the ball. He's pulling a lot of balls inside to right-handed hitters."

Chapman has been a mess lately, with velocity and command issues cropping up. On the year, his ERA is still a respectable 4.26 in 12 2/3 innings but you see warning signs in the K/BB ratio with a 15/16 mark, which simply won't do.

"You get to those places where you're not throwing strikes and your only focus is to try to throw the ball over," Price added. "Maybe you aim it a little bit. I think that's where he is right now. There's a noticeable difference between how he was throwing the ball in Milwaukee -- in what I thought was his most dominant performance -- and where he was [Tuesday] night in his arm slot. His fingers aren't on top the ball. He's getting a lot of run and pull."

That Milwaukee stint Price is referring to happened on April 27 when he went 1 2/3 innings while striking two out and allowing no baserunners. Since then, it's a whole different story. He's made three appearances since, on April 30 and May 5 and 10. Combined, he's walked eight (!) and struck out just three in one inning, coughing up six earned runs. That's not pretty. So how do you fix it? Obviously, the first part of it is to raise his arm slot.

"The second part is that when he's out there, he's pitching with his confidence," Price suggested. "When you struggle a while, you start to question yourself a little bit. I don't know that he's there, but I know it's a typical response."

Confidence only comes from success, though. That needs to come first.

"It's just a matter of getting back ahead in the count," Price said, "get those guys to chase the high fastball or the slider down. Right now, he's in so many 2-0 and 3-1 counts, he doesn't get a chance to pitch much. He's just trying to throw the ball over. That's not an advantageous spot to be in."

Reds manager Dusty Baker did say that Chapman will not be demoted to the minors and will need to work out his kinks at the major-league level.

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Posted on: May 12, 2011 10:20 am
 

Pepper: Peavy's encouraging return, young guns



By Matt Snyder


BASEBALL TODAY: See the video above for my takes on Justin Masterson, Zach Britton, Daniel Hudson, the Angels without Kendrys Morales and Jake Peavy's encouraging first start of 2011.

OVERTHINK MUCH? Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner had a theory as to why Derek Jeter was struggling earlier in the season. It's that Jeter was pressing due to feeling the pressure of the upcoming 3,000-hit milestone. "I'm not concerned about Derek," Steinbrenner told the New York Post. "Milestones can be difficult. They can be a big weight on a guy." Oh, yeah, and then this: "He's obviously broken through that and is hitting well now." As if right on cue, Jeter went out and had an 0-6 day Wednesday night. So is he feeling the pressure again? Let's all take a deep breath and realize guys are going to have ups and downs over the course of 162 games. You too, Hal.

FIRST OF MANY: Royals prospect-turned-first baseman Eric Hosmer went yard in Yankee Stadium Wednesday night for the first home run of his very young career. To top things off, he came through with the go-ahead RBI on a sacrifice fly in extra innings. He's sure to see some hills and valleys throughout his rookie season, but thus far he's been really solid. Cling to that .250 batting average if you must, as Hosmer's sporting a .409 on-base percentage and a .909 OPS, which is outstanding.

BACK ON TRACK: Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro started the season absolutely on fire, but then drastically cooled. In fact, he recently had a 12-game stretch where he hit .137 with an abysmal .311 OPS. The Cubs' rivals came to town, Mike Quade dropped Castro in the order and things seem to be back where Starlin likes them. In the past two games, he's 6-8 with a triple, four RBI, three runs and a walk.

MORE HUG-GATE: Wednesday in Pepper we discussed the completely meaningless yet somehow blown out of proportion hug between Albert Pujols and Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Hendry laughed about the talk that fateful embrace sparked. Pujols offered up his thoughts on the situation Wednesday afternoon. "I figured that would happen, that they would play with it," Pujols said. "At the end, it's not what you do on the field. It's what kind of person you are off the field. That's the kind of relationship you want to build with somebody you respect. He's on the other side. I'm on our side. I just think it's kind of ridiculous. Three writers came and talked to me about that and the contract. "Are you serious? C'mon." (StLtoday.com) Meanwhile, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times says Cubs fans should forget about Pujols for two reasons: 1. He's not signing with the Cubs; 2. They'll be better off in the long-haul for it.

TORRE SETTLING IN: Joe Torre is ready to attend the first owner's meetings in his new role of executive vice president of baseball operations. The first meeting's agenda doesn't appear to have any impact in terms of on-field play, but there is one interesting nugget in this article: Torre's reason to retire from managing was that he couldn't take losing anymore. "It wasn't balanced out by the winning anymore. I hated it," Torre said. "I was more ready not to do what I've been doing for years. When the Commissioner made this job offer to me, I asked him a few times if he thought I could do it. It was the insecurity of not knowing what the job entailed, even though it's baseball-related. But it has been fun and very energizing for me." Good for him. Honestly, he's 70, who needs that kind of day-in, day-out stress at that age anyway? (MLB.com)

I MIGHT BE A SADIST, BUT ... : Grant Brisbee over at SB Nation asked how much money it would take to step into the batter's box and face Aroldis Chapman right now -- keeping in mind that he can hit 105 on the radar gun and has walked nine of the last 14 batters he's faced. The stipulation is that you could wear a helmet but no "Barry Bonds armor." Honestly, I'd give it a go for free just to see what it looked like from there. My biggest issue isn't so much the fear of getting drilled, but the fact that he's left-handed (I'm a lefty and they always had me mentally whipped when I played). Then again, I haven't been hit with a pitch in probably 11 years and never took one more than 90 mph. Maybe I'll take some cash for the fictional at-bat afterall.

CREDIT WHERE DUE: Tigers manager Jim Leyland was going to give slugging first baseman Miguel Cabrera the day off Wednesday to give him a few days off (the Tigers have an off-day Thursday) before a weekend series to rest his sore back. Instead, Cabrera waved him off and insisted on playing. (MLB.com) Keep this in mind whenever you hear people complaining about how the guys only play for the money and don't really care about the results. Sitting down would have had no effect on Cabrera's earnings. Since the complainers like to use real-world examples, compare this to having your boss tell you to take the day off and you insisting on staying at work (yeah, sure you would). Oh, and he had a two-RBI double in the fifth to give the Tigers the lead. They would win 9-7.

IN THE CINCY AREA AND LIKE SMOKED MEATS? The Reds have put in a new restaurant called Mr. Red's Smokehouse, and it will open Friday for the first game of the Reds' series against the Cardinals. On the menu, you'll find smoked ribs, turkey legs, pulled pork and chicken wings -- in addition to rotating specialty items. This weekend's item is "smoked Cardinal" (it's actually quail). Click here for a video tour of the new smokehouse.

HAIL DELAY: Via Big League Stew, here's a video of the hailstorm that caused an hour-plus delay to Tuesday night's Twins-Tigers game in Minnesota. Yes, that is golf-ball sized hail and a good amount of it.



IF YOU CARE ABOUT DYKSTRA: I'm pretty well over him at this point, and have been for years. If you are interested in what's become of Lenny Dykstra's life, according to this interview, by all means click through and read it. Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com got an exclusive interview with Dykstra's limo driver.

HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN: Roger McDowell's suspension is almost over, as he'll rejoin the Braves Friday and resume his duties as their pitching coach. (MLB.com) I'd encourage fans across America to heckle him and test if those sensitivity classes paid off.

CANADIAN DOLLARS: An interesting discussion here, in that -- as long as the Canadian dollar is valued higher than the American dollar -- players for the Blue Jays are actually earning more money than their contracts dictate, assuming they cash checks in Canada. It's the exact opposite of how it used to be, when players used to get traded to either the Expos or Blue Jays and take a hit. (Slam Sports)

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Posted on: May 11, 2011 2:02 am
 

3 up, 3 down: Kennedy outduels Lincecum

Kennedy

By Evan Brunell


Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks -- Kennedy turned in a sublime performance, matching Tim Lincecum with eight scoreless, whiffing eight and walking just three and allowing four hits. Kennedy has really taken a step forward this season and has a 3.23 ERA so far. It's the fourth time in seven starts that the right-hander has pitched into the eighth and he has only had one stinker this year. The 26-year-old has taken legitimate strides this year and looks to be settling in as a long-term No. 2 or 3 starter.

Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox -- A-Gon was widely hailed as the consensus AL MVP prior to the season. A slow start dimmed that star a bit, but his 3-for-6 night with two walks and three RBI -- oh, and those two home runs -- have put him squarely back in the chase. He's now hitting .324/.375/.541 and looks right at home in Boston and has already flashed his defense. A-Gon now has six home runs which puts him in the franchise lead, just one ahead of Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz.

J.J. Hardy, Orioles -- Hardy played in only six games (one as a pinch-hitter) before hitting the disabled list, so this was really his coming-out game for the Orioles. In his first game back, Hardy went 4-for-5 out of the nine-hole (wanna bet he's moved up Wednesday?) and tacked on a home run and a walk for good measure. Hardy's always had the potential to flash an above-average bat for a shortstop; he just hasn't done so in recent years. The Orioles are hoping he ends their revolving door at shortstop for a few seasons. He's got strong defense and will be a coveted free agent once he hits the market after the year. 



Jorge Posada, Yankees -- And the beat goes on for Posada, who is starting to approach a justifiable benching. Posada's start to the year was rife with home runs and while the power is still there, he's shown zero aptitude for getting a hit. After his 0-for-3 night dropped him to .147/.250/.343, the question must seriously be asked: is Posada done? OK, probably not, but he may be done for a while as a starter. The Yankees could promote Jesus Montero before too long, but it's still a tad early to be asking that question. Given we're in mid-May, though, Posada really only has a couple more weeks to turn it around before there are significant repercussions to his slump.

Francisco Liriano, Twins -- Yeah, so maybe that no-hitter wasn't quite the turnaround point for Liriano. The lefty was right back to being his old lousy self as he lasted just three innings with his control problems re-surfacing with three free passes against just one strikeout. All told, he gave up four runs on three hits (yep, walks will do that to you) to the Tigers. Liriano's no-no has bought him some time, but that leash only got so much longer after his pristine game. If he doesn't turn it around in the next couple of starts, Minnesota will not hesitate to replace Liriano. Oh, by the way, Detroit's Victor Martinez is on fire. A day after being one of the 3 Up hitters, he stuffed the stat sheet with a 3-for-4 performance, driving in four and adding two runs.

Aroldis Chapman, Reds -- Ew. Cincy was on its way toward a whitewashing of the Astros but had to settle for a 7-3 margin after Chapman relieved Homer Bailey (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K), faced four batters and retired absolutely zip. He didn't whiff anyone but walked three and hit another. After walking in a run, Nick Masset came in and drove the final nail into Chapman's night by giving up a two-run single. That's got the fireballing lefty's ERA all the way up to 4.26 and has given up six earned runs and eight walks in his last three appearances. Dude's certainly screaming out that he might be hurt, no?

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Posted on: May 4, 2011 6:07 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 6:11 pm
 

Pepto-Bismol's confusing commercial

By C. Trent Rosecrans 

I'm not sure the folks at Pepto-Bismol (or at least their advertising agency) know what Cinco de Mayo celebrates.

No, it doesn't celebrate fruit in beer and enchiladas -- although that is a perfectly acceptable way to celebrate the holiday. No, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

You know what country had zero to do with the Battle of Puebla? Cuba.

You know where Aroldis Chapman is from? Cuba.

But that didn't stop Pepto-Bismol (or its Cincinnati-based maker, Procter and Gamble) from using the Reds' Chapman in a Cinco de Mayo-themed commercial. Check it out:


Besides the fact Chapman is in it and he's Cuban and not Mexican, it's a decent commercial, I guess.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: April 29, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 11:14 am
 

Pepper: Radar-gun manipulation

By Evan Brunell

BASEBALL TODAY: How big of a surprise has Freddy Garcia been for the Yankees? Will Max Scherzer remain unbeaten? Danny Knobler joins Lauren Shehadi to answer those questions and more.

RADAR GUN SHENANIGANS: As pitch F/X takes hold across all of baseball, it's meant the decline of radar-gun manipulation, which used to be an asset to teams.

While radar guns still vary from stadium to stadium (the Angels and Rangers reportedly run a bit slow), it's become difficult for teams to jigger radar-gun readings on the scoreboard to their advantage.

Current Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers recalled situations in San Diego when the team would purposely reduce the velocity of Brad Penny's fastballs, causing the hurler to get upset that he wasn't throwing as hard as he thought. That made Penny -- with the Dodgers at the time -- start throwing harder, which in turn made his fastball elevate for the hitter's liking.

The pitch F/X system is automatic and feeds directly to the scoreboard, so the lack of a middleman cuts out shenanigans that could otherwise take place. However, some stadiums may still manipulate readings despite annual reminders from the league not to do so.

Radar-gun readings became an issue last week when Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman was registered as throwing 93-94 mph with his fastball. That led to much concern, with many wondering if Chapman was injured. He's back to 100-plus these days, so everything is fine, but one can't help but wonder if San Diego was gaming the system, given their current reputation as a stadium where radar-gun readings are low despite having switched over to the pitch F/X system. (Arizona Republic)

WHAT IT MEANS TO LEAD OFF: A leadoff man is responsible for getting on base. Period. Stolen bases can be a nice luxury, but too many teams act as if the flip's true. (New York Times)

THE STATE OF ELLSBURY: Jacoby Ellsbury is currently in the midst of a hot streak which has seen his return to the leadoff spot in the lineup. But it's still unclear what Ellsbury really is as a hitter. To stay as leadoff man, Ellsbury needs to get on base. (Boston Globe)

BACK TO O'MALLEY? Former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley could be back to the rescue, as he may be gearing up for an eventual run at taking the team back. A Dodgers executive revealed that O'Malley has lined up two "big time" investors if -- or when -- Frank McCourt sells the club. (KLAC 570 AM)

DEFENSIVE WHIZ: Alcides Escobar doesn't even have a month's tenure with the team but is already being discussed as the best defensive Royals shortstop in franchise history. (FOX Sports Kansas City)

SLOW GOING: Chris Snyder now has the ignominious lable of slowest runner in the game now that Bengie Molina has retired (brother Jose and Yadier are, somehow, faster). In fact, Snyder has never stolen a base in a game and should end up in second place by the end of the season behind Russ Nixon, a catcher in the 60s, for most plate appearances without a steal. (Wall Street Journal)

ADJUSTING: Corey Hart has only just returned to the lineup for the Brewers, and he's not pleased with where he is swing is despite collecting two hits in his return. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

LAWN CARE: Former major leaguer and current minor-league manager Delino DeShields knows what its like to have a heralded prospect with his son, Delino Jr., in the Astros system. Funny thing, though -- his former landscaper does, too. Cecil Newton saw his son, Cam, go No. 1 overall in the NFL draft Thursday night. (Dayton Daily News)

HOME RUN! Only in this day and age can you read a story written by a fan -- also a ball-catcher who has over 4,000 baseballs caught -- on how he caught someone's first major-league home run and what it was like to meet the player. That's what happened here, and it's a nice behind-the-scenes telling of what happens when you catch such an important ball. Of course, it helps when the batter, Mike Nickeas, is "genuinely awesome." (MLBlogs.com)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Posted on: April 27, 2011 10:43 pm
 

Chapman impresses beyond radar gun readings

Aroldis Chapman

By C. Trent Rosecrans

It won't grab any headlines because there was no crazy radar gun readings, but Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman had his best outing yet on Wednesday.

It wasn't just that Chapman got the Reds out of a jam in the eighth inning of the team's eventual 7-6, 10-inning victory over the Brewers, but it was more than that. It was that he pitched for the second day in a row and maintained his velocity. It was recognizing a batter (Carlos Gomez) swinging early to catch up with the fastball and giving him a slider. It was having the bases loaded and getting on of the game's best hitters to ground out weakly. And it was also his pickoff move, which stunned and froze Corey Hart on the basepaths.

It was everything. Reds manager Dusty Baker said it's the best he's seen Chapman since he came up at the end of last season.

Baker brought in the left-hander to face the right-handed Rickie Weeks with one out and two on in the eighth inning. Chapman hit Weeks, but then struck out Gomez and retired Braun to end the inning.

With two outs in the ninth, he gave up a hit to Hart in the north, but it also set up his pickoff move, something not too many have seen so far in his career. 

Up until Wednesday, there had been concern about Chapman's ability to pitch in back-to-back games, but his velocity didn't suffer Wednesday (an average fastball of 99.13 mph and a high of 100.8 mph) even though he pitched on Tuesday. Tuesday, Chapman faced just one batter, striking out Prince Fielder.

Wednesday he needed just 19 pitches to get through 1 2/3 innings, and 17 of those pitchers were strikes. He earned the win and has yet to allow an earned run this season.

"I keep saying it and I'm going to say it again: it's unbelievable," Reds closer Francisco Cordero told reporters, including the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay. "I'm real glad I'm here, that I get to see it. It's special. He's a special boy. Nobody else in the history of the big leagues has thrown that hard."

Cordero is still the Reds closer, but ever since Chapman's come up, Baker's been using him in higher-leverage situations that Cordero. While most value in a reliever is assumed to be the closer, Baker is doing a good job of keeping his highest-paid player (Cordero) happy and productive (5-for-5 in save opportunities), while using his best reliever in the situations where he's needed the most.

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Posted on: April 19, 2011 10:20 am
 

Pepper: Super Sam

Sam Fuld
By C. Trent Rosecrans

One of the best parts of any new season is seeing players reach their potential -- or in Sam Fuld's case, exceed it.

With a 4-for-4 performance in Monday's win over the White Sox, Fuld is now the American League batting leader, hitting .396. And he made another fantastic catch, as you can see above.

Fuld was acquired in the deal that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs this offseason and learned a little bit about playing at Tropicana Field with his diving catch in the third inning on Tuesday.

"It felt like someone took a blow torch to [his left hand], and then I look at it and then there's nothing to show for it, no blood," Fuld told reporters, including the Tampa Tribune's Roger Mooney. "Now I know what turf burn is like."

Replays showed starter David Price screaming and clapping his hands after the play, which helped him win his first-ever victory over the White Sox.

The Rays are giving out a Sam Fuld cape later in the season, but it doesn't appear he needs one.

BASEBALL TODAY -- Lauren Shehadi and I talk about the Rockies pitching Cardinals offense.

FASTEST GUN IN THE MIDWEST -- There's little debate now, the gun at Great American Ball Park is juiced.

On Sunday, it had Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan throwing 102, while Pitch F/X had him hitting 98. On Monday, the scoreboard showed Aroldis Chapman hitting 106, when Pitch F/X showed his third pitch to Andrew McCutchen as "just" 102.4.

Last year I had scouts tell me the gun was pretty accurate, but apparently the excitement around Chapman got the Reds greedy, amping up the radar gun. If he does hit 105 mph again, will it say 110 on the scoreboard? Maybe the gun will make Bronson Arroyo feel better about his heater. [MLB.com]

GOOD SEATS -- Nate Schierholtz's brother was sitting 10 feet from where his mammoth shot landed in the third deck at Coors Field, and paid the guy who caught it $25 bucks to get the ball. [San Jose Mercury News]

STREET WATCH -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy is keeping a close eye on closer Huston Street, who hasn't pitched more than two days in a row this year, but has pitched in 10 of the team's first 15 games. [MLB.com]

AXFORD STRUGGLES -- Brewers closer John Axford had another bad outing on Monday, blowing a 3-2 lead in the ninth of an eventual 12-inning Milwaukee victory. The issues has been control, but manager Ron Roenicke said he's not concerned or thinking about any kind of change. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

AND I WANT TO BE COMMISSIONER -- Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said he still wants to play first base. Manager Ned Yost's response? " You know what, I'd like to be an astronaut -- and for some reason they just won't let me." With Kila Ka'aihue is manning the spot until Eric Hosmer comes in to take it for good. [Kansas City Star]

BRING AN UMBRELLA -- Weather has been bad all around baseball early this season, although attendance hasn't been hurt too much. [Associated Press]

GOOD JOBA -- Joba Chamberlain's velocity is down, but his results are up. His slider has become a good pitch, helping his results. [New York Daily News]

NICE SHOT -- Ryan Raburn's pop foul in the first inning on Monday was the first-ever ball to hit the roof at Safeco Field. [MLB.com]

PLENTY OF GOOD SEATS AVAILABLE -- The Mets' bad start is good if you're looking for bargain shopping on the highest-priced seats at Citi Field. [New York Times]

RIOS AILING -- Alex Rios will be getting a break in the White Sox's series with the Rays to try to help his sore left toe fully heal. Rios said the toe has been hurting him for the last five years, so it's doubtful a simple day off will cure him. [Chicago Tribune]

AARDSMA TAKING THE HILL -- Mariners closer David Aardsma is expected to pitching tonight in Triple-A, his firs tame action since his hip labrum surgery in January. The Mariners will likely wait for him to throw three or four games in the minors before taking him off the disabled list. [MLB.com]

MORE SURGERY FOR ZUMAYA? -- The Tigers put Joel Zumaya on the 60-day disabled list and another surgery is possible on his right elbow. [Detroit Free Press]

NICE CATCH -- David Wright played catch with some young fans at Turner Field the other day. Pretty cool stuff. [Big League Stew]

NEW DUCKS UNIFORM -- The Oregon Ducks have added an orange jersey? Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie models the newest Oregon uniform combo. [WhoSay.com/JeremyGuthrie]

VIN SCULLY ON 42 -- Dodger Gene Hermanski had the idea of everyone wearing No. 42 way back in 1948, Vin Scully said. [Sons of Steve Garvey]

TROP VETERAN -- White Sox rookie Chris Sale recalled going to the first-ever Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays game in 1998 when he was 9. [Chicago Tribune]

NOTHING BREWING IN MINORS -- According to the latest Baseball America, the Brewers have the worst minor-league system in baseball. After trading away Brett Lawrie, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi this offseason, their top-ranked prospect is right-hander Mark Rogers -- the team's first-round pick in 2004. On Monday, Rogers lost to former Brewer starter Jeff Suppan in a Triple-A game. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

MINOR LEAGUER HIT IN HEAD -- Eric Hurley, a right-hander with the Rangers' Triple-A team, was hit in the right side of the head in a game against New Orleans on Monday. Hurley, 25, didn't lose consciousness and was taken to a nearby hospital. He left the field over his own power. [ESPNDallas.com]

THROWBACK THURSDAY -- Not only will the Dodgers be breaking out their new throwback uniforms against the Braves on Thursday, Atlanta will throw in throwback duds. No word yet on which Braves throwbacks we'll see. The Dodgers are wearing 1940s-era blue satin-like unis. To announce the promotion the Dodgers sent out a press release on Brooklyn Dodgers letterhead (or maybe the ownership ran out of their regular letterhead and had to find some at the back of the closet instead of ordering new stock.) [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

TODAY IN GLUTTONY -- The Akron Aeros have introduced a helmet sundae. No, not a mini-helmet sundae, a full-sized helmet sundae. [Akron Aeros]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Posted on: April 16, 2011 1:14 pm
 

Pepper: Harper in the spotlight

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Bryce HarperWhat did you do with your days off?

Me, I did what many of you probably did, went to a baseball game. I drove about an hour to go see Bryce Harper play. I was planning on going Monday, but the game was rained out and then I had an off day on Thursday, the last of a four-game series against the Lexington Legends.

On Wednesday, I got a text from a friend that said he just saw Harper's first professional home run. I did not. I did see a double and nearly saw his first fight.

After walking in the third inning, Harper was picked off third and with no chance to score or get out of it, he decided his best chance was to bowl over the catcher, Chris Wallace.

Wallace barely budged, and then got up in Harper's face. Harper, though, just walked away as soon as the umpire got between them. Both benches were warned and nothing further happened.

Harper's going to be a marked man every place he goes this year, that's part of the minor leagues. In the minor leagues you have someone very close yelling very loudly while very drunk. Harper didn't react, and that's for the best. He'll be the target for fans and players. Every pitcher will be giving him their best, every catcher will welcome a play at the plate, and everything Harper does will be magnified.

On Thursday, Harper did the smart thing and walked away. That's not to say he didn't get yelled at by drunk frat boys in the stands, but he was smart. He gains nothing by getting in a fight there, while Wallace could make his name by taking on the millionaire and most famous player in the minor leagues.

I wanted to talk to Harper about that and what it's liked being a marked man -- something he's definitely going to because of the money, his fame and the perceived arrogance (and it'd be fair to say I heard that word used several times on Thursday from folks around the ballpark). But despite the Nationals asking visiting teams to set up a press conference-type table with backdrop for Harper to deal with every night, he declined on Thursday. I'm not upset, I've been stood up by better, but I wish he would have told me earlier. Instead, I waited an hour to be blown off.

That said, I've got to give him some serious credit, as I waited for his whim, he signed autographs and posed for pictures for each of the nearly 50 people waiting by the team's bus. It's certainly going to be an interesting year for a kid who just turned 18 -- I can say I saw him when… Just like I knew I could when I went to see Gregg Jefferies back in the day when he was the top prospect in baseball.

Also, Evan posted this the other day, but here's some video I took (and the picture is from my hipster iPhone app, Instagram -- I'm ctrosecrans, if you're into that kind of thing):

Harper made his home debut on Friday, and the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin was there to see him go 0 for 3. He's now hitting .226 and I was there for his first pro double, if not the homer.

ANOTHER DOUBLEHEADER -- The Brewers and Nationals have already been rained out today and will play a doubleheader tomorrow. [MLB.com]

YOUNG TO DL -- Chris Young is headed back to the disabled list. The Mets placed the right-hander on the 15-day DL, retroactive to April 11, with right biceps tendonitis. The Mets called up lefty Pat Misch. Misch has started one game for Triple-A Buffalo. The team needs a starter for Sunday.

CATCHER NEEDED -- Could Bengie Molina be a fit for the Twins with Joe Mauer on the DL? Another possibility would be Ivan Rodriguez. [St. Paul Pioneer Press]

LUDWICK STRUGGLING -- Many people -- myself included -- killed John Mozeliak for trading away Ryan Ludwick last season to get Jake Westbrook. So far, Mozeliak has looked good as Ludwick has looked bad. Ludwick is hitting .194/.296/.325 since joining the Padres. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

CHAPMAN OK -- Aroldis Chapman says he's feeling fine. His lack of velocity was just from throwing a couple of days in a row. When I talked to Walt Jocketty on Thursday, he said Chapman should be fine to pitch on Sunday. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

SMALL CROWDS -- There are plenty of good seats available at Houston's Minute Maid Parik. [Houston Chronicle]

NO APOLOGY NEEDED -- Cubs manager Mike Quade said he appreciated Carlos Zambrano's apology, but it wasn't needed. Zambrano left the mound before Quade got there when he went to the mound to take him out of Wednesday's game in Houston. [Chicago Sun-Times]

GROUNDSKEEPER OK -- We all saw the YouTube video of the groundskeeper at Kauffman Stadium get run over last week. Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan caught up with Trevor Hogan, who said he wouldn't recommend getting caught under a rolling tarp, but he's fine.

MASCOT INJURY -- In Japan, Carrrasco, the mascot for the Rakuten Eagles injured his leg during a game and had to be rushed to the hospital where he needed surgery. He could miss the entire season. [Yakyu Baka]

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