Tag:Japan
Posted on: April 13, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: April 13, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Pepper: Huston Street off to fast start

Street

By Evan Brunell

HOT HUSTON: The Rockies have zipped out to a 7-2 start, and closer Huston Street has nailed down five of those victories. The early success has enabled Colorado and Street to put aside a frustrating 2010 season. Meanwhile, Street is reaching milestones in Colorado as he ranks third on the franchise list for total saves, but also tops the list in save percentage.

Part of Street's success -- no blown saves this season -- has to do with his changeup, which wasn't really a factor last year.

"A lot of it has to do with the weapons that [Street] has available to him when he has hitters in counts that he wants to get them into," manager Jim Tracy said. "It's a combination of two things, actually. His put-away pitches are there where we saw them in the past. That's No. 1. And No. 2, the fact that his ball is doing exactly what he wants it to do. I'm throwing it here, it goes there. That is what makes him so special. When the guy is right, he can thread needles. That's exactly what he's been doing these last few times out. The performance in Pittsburgh the other night, when he threw three innings and threw only 27 pitches, is indicative."

Street feels this season has gone perfectly so far. While he'd always be confident, the road's been a bit easier in the early going as he hasn't really had a roadblock put in his way so far.

"You always carry confidence out there. You always expect to get the job done," he said. "It's frustrating when you don't. It's more so when you're not executing because of mechanics or a lack of a feel for a pitch at a certain time. I felt that this year I had the perfect Spring Training. No setbacks, just gradually build, turn up the velocity and the intensity, and it's allowed me to develop all three pitches nicely. At the same time you've got to go out and execute, and I've been making some good pitches, and I've had some good plays behind me to help out in some big spots. It's a team game and we're winning as a team." (MLB.com)

BASEBALL TODAY: Josh Hamilton is injured again, the Red Sox lose again and the Orioles get a big early season test. Tony Lee of NESN.com joins Lauren Shehadi to discuss the latest.

BACK OFF: Manager Ozzie Guillen isn't happy about the hometown fans giving mock cheers to White Sox outfielders for catching balls hit to them. Hey, after five flubs so far in the early going, can you really blame them? (Chicago Tribune)

JUST WIN, BABY: Jayson Werth knows how it works. After bashing a home run against his former team to lead Washington to victory, Werth spoke about how important it is for the Nats to beat the Phillies -- and really, everyone else. Winning will change the culture and bring fans to the ballpark. Doesn't take a mad scientist to figure that out, but at least Werth has the right mentality after signing his lucrative contract. (MASN)

A LEGEND GROWS: Sam Fuld's incredible night Monday was not lost on the masses, who propelled him to Twitter stardom. ESPN even came calling for a couple interviews after he stroked four extra-base hits to catch everyone's attention. The outfielder came back down to earth in Tuesday's game, but his name is already out there. (St. Petersburg Times)

POWER: Justin Upton flashed some power in Tuesday's game by blasting a 478-foot home run against the Cardinals. (Matthew Leach on Twitter)

SWITCHING IT UP: Aubrey Huff and Brandon Belt could be switching positions, with Huff returning to his more familiar first base while Belt takes a crack at right. Manager Bruce Bochy has been displeased with the team's defense. But what do you expect when you play a first baseman out of position in right and a DH (Pat Burrell) in left? (MLB.com)

MORE BEER: There is a second outdoor beer garden opening a couple blocks from Nationals Park. Hey, fans need a nice stiff drink before watching a team that could lose 90 games, right? (MASN)

LONGORIA PROGRESSING: Evan Longoria has experienced no setbacks in his recovery from a strained left oblique. He'll need a few rehab games but should be able to return on schedule at the end of the month. (MLB.com)

ONLY JAPAN: Ever had to try to hit a pitch thrown by someone in midair after jumping off a trampoline? Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi had to deal with this on a trip to Japan a while back. (Fangraphs)

THANKS, CARLOS: If Indians pitchers want to thank someone for their early suggest, manager Manny Acta suggests thanking catcher Carlos Santana. Acta praised Santana's game-calling in the early going and believes getting the additional work now and seeing more teams and players that he wasn't familiar with is really helping his progression. (MLB.com)

BLAME THE JERSEY? A Pittsburgh sports columnist recently wrote an article centered around Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who was critically beaten at the hands of two Dodger fans. The two takeaways from the articles? Adults wearing sports jerseys are creepy and weird, and Stow basically had it coming. Big League Stew rightfully excoriates the article. (Big League Stew)

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Posted on: April 12, 2011 10:13 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:14 pm
 

Pepper: Baseball returns to Japan


By C. Trent Rosecrans

Sendai, Japan, had something to cheer about on Tuesday -- baseball.

The northern Japanese city that was ravished by last month's earthquake is home to the Rakuten Eagles, who opened the Japanese baseball season with a  6-4 victory over the defending champion Chiba Lotte Marines.

The game was played a bit south in Chiba and the Eagles' stadium won't be ready until April 29, but TV showed people in shelters watching the game and each fan in the Chiba cheering section held up signs that said, "Stay Strong Japan."

"Despite the difficult conditions, we are able to open the season because everybody helped us to do it," former big leaguer and current Eagle Kaz Matsui told the Associated Press. "I want to carry this feeling of appreciation for the whole year by playing baseball."

Former National and Yankee, and current Eagle Darrell Rasner said he thought fans were happy to see games played, the Central League also started with the Yokohama BayStars beating the Chunichi Dragons 5-4.

"It is a sense of normalcy for them," Rasner told the AP. "It's something that's ingrained in them and, you know, I think this is going to be a healing process. This is going to be a great thing for them."

Not everyone aggress. 

"Watching baseball is not the first thing on anyone's mind in Tokyo either," reporter Kozo Abe told author Robert Whiting, writing for SI.com. "The Japanese feeling at the moment is that they are not ready to root for the revival of Japanese baseball from the bottom of their heart."

One estimate says there are 30,000 people dead or missing and as many as 400,000 are homeless from the earthquake and tsunami. Half of the 12 NPB teams play in areas affected by the disaster. With many still without power, there's a debate whether using power on baseball games is the best way to use resources. Even though teams are playing more day games, enough power is used one day game at the Tokyo Dome to power 6,000 homes.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper, has had many call in and cancel their subscriptions to the newspaper that also owns the country's most popular team, the Yomiuri Giants, who publicly were against pushing back the season's starting date to today. The Giants will not play at home until next month in hopes of conserving energy.

It will be interesting to see how many people show up to games. Going to baseball games requires discretionary income, right now that's not exactly in abundance, and if it is, there's better use of that money in Japan.

Baseball did have to return to Japan, a country that loves the game as much (or more) than we do, but the start seems awkward, even though there was no easy way to avoid it. 

TALKING PITCHING -- I join Lauren Shehadi to talk about some of the game's best pitchers. I don't like to overreact to one or two starts at the start of the season, so you know. But hey, you get the picture of me with my beard at its fullest.


NICE TOUCH -- Really nice scene last night when the Giants and Dodgers got together in a  presume ceremony for Bryan Stow, who was beaten in the Dodger Stadium parking lot earlier this month. [Los Angeles Times]

ROAD DOGS -- The first nine games of yesterday were won by the road team and the Blue Jays took an early 7-0 lead on the Mariners before coughing up the lead and giving the home team its first victory of the day. Only once before -- on July 30, 1890, had all the road teams win on a day with 10 or more games.

WRIGLEY'S FOR THE BIRDS -- Flocks of ring-billed gulls have made Wrigley Field one of their favorite feeding spots. At times you'll see more birds than fans in the stands. [Chicago Sun-Times]

NO-HITTER -- Trey Haley, Francisco Jimenez and Clayton Ehlert combined for a no-hitter for the Class A Lake County Captains in a 3-1 victory over the Dayton Dragons on Monday. The Captains are the low-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. [MiLB.com]

EVEN PUJOLS SLUMPS -- St. Louis really is America's best baseball towns, and its newspaper, the Post-Dispatch understands that. The P-D has one of the best baseball teams in the business, including Derrick Goold. I say this just to point out the work Goold did on his blog for Monday. Goold took a look at Pujols' slumps in his career and what followed. The moral of the story? You don't want to be a Diamondbacks or Dodgers pitcher this week.

AND JETER -- Derek Jeter's .206 average through his first nine games is the second-worst start of his career. The only time he started worse was 1998, and he had one of his better seasons following that start. However, he was 23. [New York Times]

JIMENEZ CLOSER -- Ubaldo Jimenez threw a bullpen session on Sunday and is on track to re-join the rotation on Monday. Jimenez will throw in an extended spring training. [MLB.com]

DAVIS TO DL -- Blue Jays center fielder Rajai Davis is expected to go on the disabled list today with soreness in his right ankle. He had been playing with the injury, but the team decided he needed rest to fully recover. [MLB.com]

FRIDAY DUNN'S DAY? -- Adam Dunn took batting practice on Monday, less than a week after his emergency appendectomy, but don't expect him back in a game until Friday. [Chicago Sun-Times]

GOOD GENES -- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was a proud big brother on Tuesday as his sister, Prosha, was taken by the San Antonio Silver Stars in the third round of the WNBA's draft that was held on Tuesday. The younger Phillips played at the University of Georgia. Her big brother had signed to play baseball at UGA before being drafted. [Twitter]

YOU'D NEVER GUESS IT -- If you had to guess which American League player has a triple in every season this century, how long would it take for you to guess David Ortiz? [Providence Journal]

SUPER SLO-MO -- This video of Tim Lincecum is just killer.

Hat tip to Big League Stew.

YOUTH MOVEMENT -- We all know the Cubs' Starlin Castro is young, but did you know that's he's nearly four months younger than the next-youngest player in MLB, Florida's Mike Stanton. Royals lefty Tim Collins is the youngest -- and shortest -- player in the American League. How about the minors? Braves phenom Julio Teheran is the youngest player in Triple-A, while the Rangers' Jurickson Profar is the youngest player in a full-season league in the minors. He was born Feb. 20, 1993. [Baseball America]

DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE -- Sam Mellinger defends Royals owner David Glass. [Kansas City Star]

SPEAKING OF BAD OWNERS -- Frank McCourt's former attorneys are suing him. [Los Angeles Times]

RETIREMENT INCREASING -- No, not Manny Ramirez, but maybe 99 or 24. Anyway, here's a cool article from Chris Jaffe at the Hardball Times about retired numbers and it has a list of the players with the highest WAR for each franchise without their number retired. Looking at the list, my guess for next to have his number retired is probably Ken Griffey Jr. ANother Cincinnati kid, Barry Larkin isn't on the list, but his number is likely going to be retired soon, too. 

$2 MILLION TACTIC -- Is Buck Showalter's tactic of teaching his players to try to break up a double play when a ball is hit right at the second baseman worth $2 million a season? [Sabermetric Research]

HERO WORSHIP -- Nearly 12 years after the last game he pitched in the big leagues, Jim Abbott is still inspiring others. [Orange County Register]

REDDICK MAKING ENEMIES -- Buffalo Bisons general manager Mike Buczkowski can't be much of a fan of Red Sox prospect Josh Reddick. It's not just that Reddick hit .327 with four homers and 10 RBI in 12 games against the Bisons in 2010, or that he homered in his first game against Buffalo in 2011. No, Reddick added to the misery he's caused Buczkowski on Saturday when on the pitch before his homer, Reddick hit a foul ball that shattered the windshield of Buczkowski's car. Pawtucket play-by-play man Dan Hoard has the details and photos on his blog. [Heard it from Hoard]

PRESIDENTIAL VISIT -- The Nationals' Abe Lincoln mascot made a visit to Lincoln's Cottage in Washington last week. [Lincoln Cottage Blog]

LUCKY CATCH -- A former minor leaguer won a $1 million jackpot in a scratch-off lottery. Joel Torres was released by the Indians this spring and wants to continue his career. [New York Post]

BAY AREA BASEBALL FEVER -- The Giants' run to the World Series title has made an impact on the participation of Bay Area Little Leagues. There are now waiting lists in some leagues. [New York Times]

LINEUP SHOW -- This is an interesting bit of marketing from Japan, a TV program invited all six Pacific League managers to present their opening day lineups and talk about them. I could see that working on MLB Network -- teams know who they're facing and what they're going to do, it only helps build excitement for the hard core fans (and for silly complaints about lineup construction, if you're into that kind of thing.) [YakyuBaka.com]

PUT ME IN COACH -- The Omaha World writes about the best baseball songs. As a huge fan of the Hold Steady, I appreciate any list that includes not only that band, but also its singer. That said, I prefer "Pasttime" from the Baseball Project's first album to "Don't Call Them Twinkies." But my favorite baseball song is still probably "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request" by Steve Goodman. All in all, a pretty darn good list -- especially with the inclusion of "Talkin' Softball."

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Posted on: March 31, 2011 8:20 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:33 am
 

Pepper: Opening day excitement

Yankee Stadium
By C. Trent Rosecrans

No day in the year probably evokes as many cliches as opening day. Several times today you'll hear of hope and optimism and that's total crap.

There's no reason for the Pirates fans or Astros fans or Royals fans to think 2011 will be any different than 2010. But the thing is, the beauty of the baseball season isn't that every team has a chance. It's that there are 162 games and no matter how bad the team, they'll still win three times out of every eight games. 

Even watching the Mariners for 162 this season, you'll still have walk-off wins, reasons for hope, shutouts thrown, home runs hit and a whole lot of baseball. It's a beautiful thing.

And then there's a team that you don't think has a chance that somehow stays atop the standings. Sure, they may not win it all, or even make the playoffs, like the Padres last season. But they still bring some excitement and reasons to watch through August and September. The ride isn't half the fun, it's all the fun.

Even without a spot at the top of the standings, there's a reason to go to the ballpark -- heck, going to the ballpark is reason enough. A hot dog, a beer and an afternoon game in the bleachers? Heaven, even if two also-rans are on the field.

Then there's rookies to watch and dream about their potential or the veteran to remember him in his prime.

Yeah, baseball is full of the cheesy cliches, but that's another part of the fun. I'm cheesy about the start of baseball season and I just don't care. (Of course, this is coming from someone who spent the last minutes leading up to a NCAA National Championship game back in the media room watching a Royals opener on TV right up until tipoff when I reluctantly went to my courtside seat to the game, so I may be a little messed up in the head.)

TENSION: Imagine going into the last day of the exhibition season unsure of your fate and then throwing a pickoff move into right field with two outs and a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning that leads to the losing runs. That can't feel good.

And then, well, being called into the manager's office right before the final cuts are announced. Really, really not good.

Except, after A's manager Bob Geren went over Bobby Cramer's gaffe, he then congratulated him on making the team.

Cramer, a 10-year minor league veteran, made his first opening day roster and will be the A's long reliever. (San Francisco Chronicle)

TICKETS AVAILABLE:  The guys who brought you last year's Mets help wanted video with not-John Ricco, are back trying to sell Mets opening day tickets.

While not as good as their last Mets video, it's still pretty good.

 

MO BETTER: We know Mariano Rivera has been really good for a really long time, but check out his run as the Yankees' closer against all the other closers since he took over in New York in this great graphic from the Washington Post.

HOPEFUL HAPP: Astros lefty J.A. Happ still hopes to get back to pitch on his turn in the team's rotation, Sunday against the Phillies. The former Phillie, Happ, would be facing former Astro, Roy Oswalt in the final game of the opening series. (Houston Chronicle)

VIVA ANAHEIM: I think I've already named about three "best promo ever" winners, but this is my current favorite -- the Angels' Mexican wrestler mask. I so wish I could be in SoCal in May, instead I'll be in Ireland. Oh well. (Orange County Register)

MEET THE METS: The Mets are trying to embrace their blogging community and hosted a conference call with manager Terry Collins on Monday. (Networked Blogs)

BURNETT SICK: Yankees starter A.J. Burnett is dealing with the flu, but says he still expects to make his scheduled start on Saturday. (New York Daily News)

BASEBALL HEALING: I lived in Japan for a couple of years and I've told people many times about the high school baseball tournament and the best way I've been able to describe it is the NCAA basketball tournament -- but only better, because it's baseball. It's even more important this year. (Associated Press)

PIRATES LIKELY TO BEAT PREDICTION: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Joe Starkey doesn't have high hopes for the Pirates this season. That's understandable. That said, I think they'll do better than his 9-153 perdecition.

TATER TROT RETURNS: Larry Granillo is bring back the Tater Trot Tracker. For those of you who missed it last year, the blogger tracked the time of every home run trot i the majors last season. He's doing the tracker for Baseball Prospectus this year, check out what he learned last season.

UNIWATCH: The always awesome Uniwatch baseball preview. There aren't too many changes this year, except for the Dodger throwbacks and the end of the Blue Jays' powder blues.

SAFETY FIRST: MLB is taking steps to help protect players against concussions, but the players can choose to do more, and Justin Morneau is doing that. Morneau will wear the Rawlings S100 helmet this year. The oversized helmet offers more protection for a batter's head, but is the subject of ridicule by other players and fans. Some players, such as David Wright, have worn it briefly only to go back to a regular helmet after hearing the jokes. Morneau apparently doesn't think concussions are funny, and he's right. (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

BACKPEDDLING: Andre Either's agent says he'd love to stay in Los Angeles long-term. Of course he would. (Los Angeles Times)

AN APPLE A DAY: One of the most injured teams last season, the Red Sox are hoping prevention can help them beat injuries. (Boston Globe)

EXPRESS LINE: Putting aside the vogue bigger, badder, fatter concessions, two minor league clubs -- Richmond and Lehigh Valley -- are going with faster, allowing you to use your smartphone to preorder and pay for your concessions. (Ben's Biz Blog)

PREVIEW: Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper were on display at NatsFest at Nationals Park. Strasburg said he's hoping to start opening day 2012 for the Nats. Harper said his ankle is fine, even though there's still concern he may miss his minor league team's April 7 opener. (Washington Post)

SPEAKING OF PROSPECTS: The Kansas City Star's baseball preview section is mostly about the Royals of 2012 and beyond, instead of this year's team. Bob Dutton asks if the Royals' influx of talent means Kansas City can return to its winning ways of the 70s and 80s. And then Tod Palmer looks at how it could go wrong -- like the Pirates of the late 90s.

REMEMBERING THE DUKE: The Dodgers will wear a No. 4 patch on their uniforms to honor the late Duke Snider. (MLB.com)

DONE GOOD: Kudos for Dan Haren for his work in helping fund a Miracle League field, allowing special-needs kids a place to play baseball. (Arizona Republic)

MUST READ: This graphic novel biography of Roberto Clemente looks awesome. (Atomic Books)

WELCOME BACK: Hard-core baseball fans wept when MinorLeagueSplits.com was shut down, but a replacement has been founded -- mlsplits.drivelinebaseball.com/mlsp
lits
. Let's just say it's already been bookmarked.

LOW AND AWAY: Our friends the Baseball Project have let us use their music for our podcast, and to celebrate opening day, Yep Roc Records has the MP3 download of their album, Vol. 2: High and Inside on sale for $3.99. (Yep Roc Records)

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Posted on: March 21, 2011 10:40 am
Edited on: March 21, 2011 10:42 am
 

Pepper: Barry Bonds' trial begins

Bonds

By Evan Brunell

BONDS ON TRIAL: Monday marks the first day of the long-awaited trial in which Barry Bonds is charged with lying to a grand jury about his usage of steroids.

Bonds, who has adamantly stated that he never used steroids -- at least knowingly -- has had several legal victories leading up to the trial and it is anyone's guess whether Bonds will be convicted. If he is found innocent, former commissioner Fay Vincent believes his chances of making the Hall go up, but any conviction is "the end of the discussion for at least 30 years."

The anecdotal evidence against Bonds is overwhelming, and even if he's found innocent, it will be difficult to find a person who truly believes Bonds did not knowingly use steroids. It's unclear how much impact this trial will have on Bonds' Hall of Fame hopes. There will be plenty of writers who vote for Bonds if he cleared all the legal hurdles, but there will be just as many who pursue their own brand of vigilante justice, and there are plenty of supporting arguments for each party.

While the government has been limited by Bonds' victories in pre-trial hearings, they do hold a positive steroid test in which Bonds tested positive for the clear and the cream. That will force the trial to devolve into a "he said-she said" argument, with the government prepared to call 52 witnesses -- but none among them will be Bonds' close friend and trainer Greg Anderson, who has already served over a year in prison for contempt of court and could serve more.

While the lurid trial figures to get plenty of ink in the coming weeks, don't forget that Roger Clemens lands on trial in July, and that has the promise to be an even more salacious affair. (San Francisco Chronicle)

TO PLAY OR NOT TO PLAY?: While Japan struggles to deal with the devastation that the earthquake and tsunami wrought, there's a hot debate on whether the Japanese baseball league should begin play. Some look at how baseball was the salve for America's heartbreak after 9/11, some think the comparison is ridiculous. Either way, the Central League will open four days late and play only day games the first week to save power. The Pacific League will start up April 12. (New York Times)

STICKING WITH J.P.: Projected starting catcher J.P. Arencibia has had an awful start to spring training for the Jays, this after finishing last season 1 for his last 30. Even with the news that backup Jose Molina will catch Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek, that's still almost 100 games lined up for Arencibia, and the team is prepared to let the slugger play his way through any struggles. (Canoe.ca)

HUSTLIN': Mark Teixeira wasn't pleased with Ben Francisco Sunday, as the Phillies outfielder bumped into Teixeira on a groundball to first. "That's not a hustle play," Tex sniffed. "He could hurt me or hurt himself." Teixeira has a fair point, as most players will allow themselves to be tagged out on a play in front of them, but it's hard to blame Francisco for this one, who is battling for the starting right field job. (New York Post)

SAME OLD: The disabled list for Jake Peavy? What a surprise. After Peavy suffered a setback and admitted he has been pitching with rotator-cuff discomfort since March 4, manager Ozzie Guillen didn't mince words, saying Peavy is likely to start the season on the DL and will not make his next start Thursday. Peavy needed that start to stay on track to be the club's No. 5 starter on April 6, but Phil Humber will take his place instead. As for when Peavy can pitch again? He'll have to get past Ozzie first. (ChicagoBreakingSports.com)

WANTED: BACKUP INFIELDER: The Padres are on the hunt for a backup infielder, but may wait until next week for prices to drop on available players. Robert Andino of the Orioles and Alberto Gonzalez of the Nationals have caught San Diego's attention, and each should be available for a reasonable cost. (MLB.com via Twitter)

MORE POWER TO SCOTT: Scott Boras has a host of players under contract with the Nationals, including their three faces of the franchise in Jayson Werth, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. That will wield a lot of influence with the Nats, but contrary to popular perception, Boras may actually be able to exert a positive influence. (Washington Post)

WATCH YOUR MOUTH: Joe Maddon heard an Orioles fan yell something racist to Rays center fielder B.J. Upton, so Maddon had the fan removed from the game. (St. Petersburg Times) Upton and other coaches confirmed hearing the comment, but the O's fan has since created a Twitter account to defend himself, saying he did not make racist comments. (Twitter: @AssClownOsFan)

REED WANTS SPOT: Jeremy Reed has a bit of a reputation of having an over-inflated sense of self and the ego to match. However, in camp to fight for a backup outfield spot alongside Chris Dickerson and Brandon Boggs, Reed has done near everything right in the hopes it's enough to land on the 40-man roster and make the team. He has stiff competition in Dickerson, but manager Ron Roenicke is impressed with Reed's work ethic. (MLB.com)

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Posted on: March 13, 2011 7:25 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2011 7:50 pm
 

Baseball dealing with tragedy in Japan

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Brewers pitcher Takashi Saito gave up two runs on four hits in his one inning of work on Sunday, but it was still the best day he's had since an earthquake and tsunami devastated his hometown of Sendai, Japan, last week.

Saito was supposed to pitch Saturday against Arizona, but was given permission to leave after playing catch. He was given the option of whether he wanted to pitch the first inning today or not. 

Takashi SaitoHe pitched and before the game asked for a moment of silence for unaccounted friends and family in the disaster.

"I've gotten more news on what's going on in Japan," Saito told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel through his translator. "Mentally, I was in a better place pitching. Compared to the past two days, I was able to sleep. I have been getting more information and I'm more relieved."

Saito's wife and three children live in Yokohama, far south of where the significant damage was, but there were still aftershocks. His wife and kids are scheduled to come to Phoenix this week.

"The Brewers staff has been very supportive of me," Saito said. "From now on, I want to get into my regular routine."

Saito's parents and two brothers have been accounted for, but there are still other members of his family missing.

"I recognize areas of neighborhoods where relatives live, and I feel terrible," Saito told the Journal-Sentinel's Michael Hunt for his column this morning.  

For a look at the damage in Sendai, see these before and after shots from Google Earth.

One of those missing is a high school teammate, as well as relatives on his father's side.

"I still haven't given up hope," he told MLB.com.

Yankees reliever Kei Igawa's family lives in Orai, Japan, another hard-hit area. According to the New York PostIgawa was able to track down his family in Japan. His family is living in a car, but alive. He was scheduled to fly to Japan yesterday.

Japanese Professional Baseball will hold a special meeting on the 15th to discuss the start of the season and what to do with the Rakuten Eagles, who play in Sendai. Kleenex Stadium isn't in shape to play due to cracks in the structure, water leaks and depressions in the field.

"Ideally, I think it's our job to play games in order to lift spirits and bring courage to everyone in the Tohuku region," Jun Yoneda, an Eagles representative said (via YakyuBaka.com). "But we need to make this decision after taking a look at the big picture; this isn't just about problems with the stadium, but also the growing list of casualties."

Kleenex Stadium is being opened to the public to use the bathrooms, as well as for use to charge mobile phones.

In the United States, the Dodgers will hold a "drive-through" relief effort at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. Dodgers alumni will take donations for the American Red Cross Japan earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

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Posted on: March 13, 2011 11:15 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:35 am
 

Pepper: Gordon's last shot?

Alex Gordon
By C. Trent Rosecrans

Remember when Alex Gordon was the next George Brett? Royals fans sure do.

Now, though, the former second-overall pick in the draft, is an afterthought in the deep, talented Royals system.

Taken ahead of the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki, Gordon has a career line of .244/.315/.355 in 1,641 plate appearances in the big leagues and has since been moved from third base to the outfield.

While no longer one of the core building-blocks of the Royals rebuilding job, Gordon still has some talent (and a little trade value). He's also starting to get hot in the Cactus League, going 8 for 12 in his last five games. He's also shown good plate discipline, drawing 11 walks.

"The timing was off. I was seeing the pitches good, I was just late and not making solid contact," Gordon told MLB.com. "Lately, I've been getting easy earlier and seeing pitches better and making good contact, and that's what it's all about. So definitely a big change in the last week."

Gordon, 27, spent his offseason working with Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, someone who knows a little bit about living in the shadow of the Royals' lone Hall of Fame player. Seitzer's emergence at third base moved Brett from third base to first in 1987 and even made the All-Star team as a rookie. Seitzer has been the team's hitting coach since 2009.

"I think I've pulled my hands back so I'm loaded instead of trying to find the load during the swing. I'm ready to go right off the bat," Gordon said. "I think that's helped, and I'm not late on pitches anymore, and I'm being aggressive."

With the Royals throwing out a placeholder roster for 2011 before the prospects begin to trickle in later this summer, Gordon may be getting his last chance to prove he's more than a Four-A player. Soon, that Royals influx of talent could make him the next Clint Hurdle in Royals history.

SILVA ON THE BLOCK: Three Nationals scouts, among others, watched the Cubs' Carlos Silva in his latest spring training start, ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine writes.

According to Levine, the Nationals and Yankees have had scouts at each of Silva's outings. Both teams are looking to fill their rotation and could afford Silva's $12 million salary.

Chicago has had good spring showings from Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, making Silva expendable.

Dave MartinezHAIR CLUB FOR MEN: With Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez now Rays, manager Joe Maddon wants his team to follow the example of his newest stars.

"I encourage the growth of follicles," Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times. "I want them all to go nuts with their hair this year."

Although Ramirez is known for his long dreadlocks and Damon is now sporting a fauxhawk, the inspiration for his goal of being "the hirsute club" was bench coach Dave Martinez's bushy beard (pictured).

"Sometimes I just go with my instincts, and I just think it could turn into a lot of fun for the group," Maddon said, noting he'll let his hair grow out as much as possible. "So whatever keeps you focused on the field and having fun off it, I'm all for it."

FORMER CUBS OK: The Chicago Tribune caught up with former Cub Micah Hoffpauir, who is now playing in Japan.

"My first earthquake," Hoffpauir told the Trib. "And good Lord willing, it will be my last."

Hoffpauir, now a member of the Nippon Ham Fighters, was in his room on the 26th floor of his hotel in Tokyo when the earthquake hit, approximately 250 miles to the north.

"It felt like someone started shaking the whole country of Japan," Hoffpauir said. "At one point I thought, this building is going to fall down. But I was assured later that [swaying] is what the building was supposed to do."

He said he was evacuated from his hotel and was able to contact his wife in Texas to let her know he was OK. He said he has also been in touch with former Cub teammate Matt Murton, who was training further south in Osaka, and he was OK.

GARFOOSE FUNDRAISER: Author and Rays reliever Dirk Hayhurst will call you up and thank you personally if you donate $50 or more to Mercy Corp Fundraising for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. (DirkHayhurst.com)

HIDDEN TREASURE: Investigators found a jackpot of 1986 Mets memorabilia in a  Port St. Lucie storage facility following their case of former Mets clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels.

Samuels is accused of theft and illegal gambling.

Among the treasure found in the storage facility was signed uniforms from the 1986 Mets team that defeated the Red Sox in the World Series. The collection is reportedly worth "hundreds of thousands of dollars." (New York Daily News)

SIZEMORE GETTING CLOSER: Indians manager Manny Acta said he thinks center fielder Grady Sizemore is scheduled to start running bases today and could be cleared to play in games sometime in the last 10 days of spring training. (MLB.com)

D-TRAIN OFF THE RAILS: Dontrelle Willis left Saturday's game with a sprained ankle, tripping on a bat after backing up the plate on Bobby Scales' two-run single. Willis had a rough outing, allowing two hits and two walks while recording just a single out. (MLB.com)

THANK YOU, COME AGAIN: Commissioner Bud Selig said Saturday that the stake in the Diamondbacks once owned by Padres chief executive Jeff Moorad has been sold. Current Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick absorbed the eight percent of the Diamondbacks  for $21 million. Moorad's group owns 49 percent of the Padres. (MLB.com)

HARDEN OUT OF ROTATION MIX: Rich Harden is officially out of the race for the Athletics' fifth-starter sport. Harden could still find a spot in the bullpen, but it's getting crowded too. Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer are still competing for the fifth starter spot, with the losers then looking to make the bullpen. (San Francisco Chronicle)

STATS FOR DUMMIES: The great Joe Posnanski gives you a primer on advanced offensive statistics. (JoePosnanski.com)

LINEUP CONSTRUCTION: Little has more breath and keystrokes wasted on it more than lineup construction. It's a fan's favorite nitpick to show why their manager is an idiot, yet it doesn't really matter that much in the long term. (Although, it makes the most sense to get your better hitters at the the top of the order, because they get the most at-bats). But anyway, Astros manager Brad Mills discusses his philosophy for filling out his lineup card. (Houston Chronicle)

RAYS RESURRECTION: Former top pick Matt Bush is making a comeback in Tampa's training camp. (Tampa Tribune)

BASEBALL PROJECT: If you missed our Ear on Baseball podcast with the Baseball Project, what's wrong with you? Seriously?

Anyway, you can catch up with Scott McCaughey, who says despite touring the world with various rock bands, he's always kept up with baseball because it's a "a sort of zen thing for me" and reading boxscores is "like meditation" -- I think we can all understand that. (Athens Music Junkie)

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 11:01 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 11:51 am
 

Pepper: Wagner coach at 28; Japan quake fallout

Pepper

By Evan Brunell

These days are certainly different for Ryan Wagner, a 2003 first-round pick of the Reds. He debuted that same year at age 21 and looked as if he would deliver on his promise, but injuries and attrition caused him to struggle over the next two years before being dealt to the Nationals in a contentious deal, with Cincinnati later alleging that the Nationals then-GM Jim Bowden wasn't up-front about the injury issues of reliever Gary Majewski. 

With the Nats, Wagner was nothing more than a fungible reliever who regressed in effectiveness before undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in 2007. After two years of trying to rehab the injury, Wagner called it quits in 2009. And now, he's a 28-year-old manager, accepting a job with the Victoria Generals in the Texas Collegiate League, a college summer league.

"The college level is where I want to be," Wagner said. "I love coaching the younger boys, but it's definitely a slowdown from the big leagues.

"With the little kids, it's fun teaching the fundamentals and watching them grow. But a lot of these kids are D-I players and when you tell them something they are able to make the adjustments." (Victoria Advocate)

DEVASTATION IN JAPAN: While Americans were sleeping soundly, Japan was the victim of the worst earthquake since 1900, measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale. A tsunami developed that will hit Hawaii, but isn't expected to devastate the island. Other places, such as Thailand, may not be so lucky. In the midst of all this, Japan has canceled all professional baseball games for Saturday along with other major sporting events. (Yakyubaya.com)

CONCERN FOR GRANDMOTHER: There are plenty of Japanese ballplayers and media members stateside for spring training that have left many scrambling to contact friends and family. One such player is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has heard from his family and friends but has not been able to reach his grandmother. (Boston Herald)

Yankees LEGEND OK: Yogi Berra suffered a fall at Yankees spring training camp Thursday and was taken to the hospital as a precaution. The Hall of Famer is doing just fine and may even return to camp Friday. (New York Daily News)

STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES: Stephen Strasburg has had a Twitter account for several months but only recently has been tweeting with any frequency. One such tweet yesterday: "Keeping it freaking stupid with coach today!" Who knows what that means, but good to know. (Washington Post)

WILD THING: "Adaptable, even-tempered and not easily rattled" were words used to describe Charlie Sheen. Huh. Interesting. But these words are from the Sheen of three decades ago when he was a relief pitcher for Santa Monica High School. Sheen served as a "very efficient" bullpen ace, coach Jose Lopez recalls. (Los Angeles Times)

MORE Mets MESS: Everyone knows about the Wilpons' struggle to hang onto the Mets in light of the Bernie Madoff scandal, but there's an entirely different scandal being dealt with at this point. Back in November, the Mets fired team employee Charlie Samuels, who admitted to gambling on baseball and also provided mob associates with insider tips. He is also under investigation for stealing memorabilia from the Mets clubhouse and then selling them. The New York Police Department's Organized Crime and Control Bureau was at Mets camp Thursday to interview players and employees about Samuels in the hope of ferreting out more information for the case. Baseball investigators were also on hand to see if illegal gambling is being conducted by other employees and players. Investigators spoke to people with close ties to Samuels, such as  Mike Piazza and Francisco Rodriguez. (New York Daily News)

AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT GAME: Rockies manager Jim Tracy finally got Denver Nuggets basketball coach George Karl in town, with Karl assisting Tracy in managing Thursday's game. While Karl's the basketball guru, he may have had a hand in Todd Helton cracking a double, speaking to the first baseman just before the at-bat. A bit of a stretch, but whatever, it's spring training. (Denver Post)

QUESTIONING COLE: MLB Trade Rumors has a bunch of questions for college pitcher Gerrit Cole, who should be a top-five pick in the upcoming amateur draft. Cole was plucked out of high school by the Yankees, but opted to go to UCLA and doesn't regret the decision. Also in the interview: Cole's relaying of a Charlie Sheen story. (MLB Trade Rumors)

OZZIE'S IMPRESSED: Dayan Viciedo has impressed manager Ozzie Guillen the most at spring training. The Cuban defector is currently converting to right field from third base as he looks unable to field the position and first base is locked up. Viciedo was hitting .476 in spring training games but a fractured right thumb will sideline him about a month and guarantees a ticket to Triple-A, which was likely coming regardless. If he can show some semblance of plate discipline, he could be a nice bat for years to come. (Chicago Sun-Times)

ON THE WAY BACK: Erik Bedard was one of the better left-handed starters in the game but missed all of 2010 and had just 30 games started combined between 2009-10. Clearly, Seattle's trade for Bedard hasn't quite worked out, but the lefty had a strong start Thursday and felt he was approaching how he felt during his 2006-07 run. That's all well and good, but the 31-year-old needs to actually pitch in a major league game multiple times before anyone gets excited. (MLB.com)

BIG SWEAT: Dennys Reyes makes himself known to Red Sox fans, as the portly left-hander appears all but a lock to snag a spot in the Red Sox bullpen as the requisite lefty. Reyes has quite an interesting story of how he dislocated his right shoulder, which forced him to begin throwing left-handed. He didn't get the shoulder treated, which is why his right shoulder has a six-inch hunch over the left and still causes him pain on certain fielding plays. (Boston Herald)

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Posted on: December 22, 2010 8:56 pm
 

Ryal headed to Japan

Rusty Ryal Former Diamondback Rusty Ryal is headed to Japan, signing a one-year deal with the Yomiuri Giants, YakyuBaka.com writes . Ryal was released last week to make room for Xavier Nady.

Ryal, 27, played in 104 games for Arizona, starting 23 in left field, 14 at first base and three at third base. He hit .261/.308/.348 with three home runs and 11 RBI.

Ryal's father, Mark, played in Japan with the Chunichi Dragons in 1991 and 1992. If he makes the Giants, the Ryals will be the second American father-son combo in NPB, joining Marty and Matt Keough.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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