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Tag:Jack Curry
Posted on: February 24, 2010 4:47 pm
 

Sliding feet first with Nyjer Morgan, + Strasburg

VIERA, Fla. -- On the other side of the Stephen Strasburg Watch here -- and I'll get to that in a minute, because the kid is DEFINITELY worth watching -- the Nationals, believe it or not, actually are spending time on a few other things.

One of those is teaching outfielder Nyjer Morgan -- and others -- how to slide feet first.

If you've ever been one of those guys (or gals) watching a game when a player injures himself sliding head first into a base and you're reaction is, "Why do they risk getting hurt by doing that?!", then Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is going to be your kind of skipper.

Morgan missed the final 34 games of the season last summer when he broke his right hand sliding headfirst into third base against the Chicago Cubs in late August. To that point, he had been terrific in Washington, hitting .351 with 24 thefts.

The Nats were a completely different team with him gone, going 13-21 to finish the season.

Thus, this spring's project. Riggleman is the point man and his coaching staff is right there with him.

"Collectively, we're all encouraging it, and he's all on board," Riggleman says. "He was coming into camp saying, 'I've got to do this.' We want to get it done before games start."

Morgan isn't alone. Outfielder Justin Maxwell and anybody else who fancies sliding head-first is being asked to change, too.

"Our message to the guys, not just Nyjer, is, we'd like to get you to go feet first," Riggleman says. "If it's causing more problems than it's solving and you can't do it, then OK. But we've got to give it an effort."

Riggleman, an old school baseball guy, has made sliding feet first his pet project before in other places at other times.

"It's been an emphasis for me, personally," Riggleman says. "When I was the Cardinals' minor-league field coordinator, I asked my bosses and received permission to institute it throughout the system. From the '05 draft on, it was mandatory: You slide feet first.

"From the day they were drafted, we got them off of the plane and it was, 'Hello, how are you doing? You're going to slide feet first.'"

Riggleman says that Pete Rose always has been one of his favorite players, but he thinks a "generation" of players has grown up not knowing how to slide because everybody was too busy imitating Rose, figuring that headfirst slides are one way to show you're hustling.

Morgan, who grew into the Nats' sparkplug after they acquired him from Pittsburgh last summer, has been looking fairly natural going into the base with his feet, Riggleman says.

*****

Now, Strasburg.

I stopped in Viera on Tuesday while driving across the state, just in time for the top overall draft pick from last summer to throw his second bullpen of the spring.

And?

"I thought he threw good the other day," Riggleman said. "Today was off-the-charts good."

Only after a rocky beginning, though, because, truth be told, even the kid who is being talked about as possibly the greatest pitching prospect ever in the draft isn't completely built of steel. For a second, he buckled when he saw who was catching him: Pudge Rodriguez.

"It was a little nerve-wracking at first," Strasburg said. "He's a future Hall of Famer. I was thinking, 'Don't throw one at his ankles first pitch' and, sure enough, I did."

The nerves didn't last long, and Strasburg recovered quickly enough to go off the charts, in Riggleman's words.

In Strasburg's words, he learned a few things from Rodriguez during the bullpen session. He said Pudge worked with him on his sinker and changeup, suggesting a few approaches such as working both sides of the plate with the changeup rather than just the "arm side."

In college at San Diego State, Strasburg said, because of the aluminum bats, "the changeup is only a pitch you throw to left-handers." But with wood bats and precise execution, he said, that pitch should be one he is able to develop and throw to right-handers in the pros.

Already, he throws a four-seam fastball that touches 100 m.p.h., the change-up (clocked around 90), and a breaking ball in the high-80s and the sinker. He's been working with a circle-change as well, and he says he's getting some "good, consistent sink" on it.

Conventional wisdom still has Strasburg, 21, opening the season in the minors -- probably Class A Potomac, because it's Virginia (Woodbridge) location offers better weather than the colder early season conditions at Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.) or Triple-A Syracuse (N.Y.).

Sunblock Day: Not really. Gray skies and rain have moved back in, and the forecast for this weekend in central Florida is for chilly temps in the 50s and low 60s. Ugh.

Likes: Under general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman, there is a decidedly different air in Nationals camp this spring. It's by far the most professional atmosphere I've seen since the club moved to D.C. for the 2005 season. I'm not saying they're ready to contend, but I think they've got the right people in place in management and some really good young talent. Strasburg and Drew Storen, the club's future closer who also was a first-round pick last year, both are wickedly talented and have outstanding character. ... My favorite transaction of the spring so far is Jack Curry to the YES Network. Curry, the former New York Timesman who took the buyout, has too much to offer to disappear into the sunset. ... Didn't stop for Gator Jerky while whizzing past the stand on the Bee Line Expressway here the other day, but thought about it. ... Great steak the other night at Runyon's in Coral Springs, Fla., with one of my all-time favorite editors, Craig Stanke.

Dislikes: There's a dead fish in the parking lot of my hotel. A smallish guy, just laying there, all dried up and disgusting. Head on, eye looking up, the whole shebang.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I got a part-time job at my father's carpet store
"Laying tackless stripping, and housewives by the score
"I loaded up their furniture, and took it to Spokane
"And auctioned off every last naugahyde divan
"I'm very well aquainted with the seven deadly sins
"I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
"I'm proud to be a glutton, and I don't have time for sloth
"I'm greedy, and I'm angry, and I don't care who I cross"

-- Warren Zevon, Mr. Bad Example

Posted on: April 7, 2009 12:00 am
 

New year, and Dodgers loaded

It's a miniscule sample size, but the snapshot following game one of 162 for the Los Angeles Dodgers is that they should have the best lineup in the NL West this season and, possibly, as good as there is in the National League.

Against San Diego ace Jake Peavy, the first inning played out perfectly. Leadoff man Rafael Furcal punched a single, and second baseman Orlando Furcal followed with another.

So Peavy was staring at two speedsters aboard, none out and Ramirez at the plate.

"That's what we're hoping for at the top of the lineup," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "That they can make the pitchers pitch to Manny.

"Manny didn't get any hits today. But I believe his presence is important."

No kidding. Ramirez didn't do any damage in the inning, popping to center. But two batters later, with two out and Russell Martin at the plate, Furcal and Hudson took off, successfully completing a double steal.

After Martin walked, Loney cracked a two-run single. The Dodgers never came close to trailing after that.

Peavy was impressed, not only with a deep Dodgers lineup in which the six-seven-eight hitters are James Loney, Matt Kemp and Casey Blake, but with the one-two punch of Furcal and Hudson at the top.

"Both can run," Peavy said. "Both are switch-hitters, table-setters, All-Stars. They can run, they can hit-and-run, they can get on base and steal. They can run around the bases, and when you've got Manny up there. ..."

Trouble.

It's a miniscule sample size, but if the Dodgers get some pitching, and if Furcal avoids further back trouble and they stay away from key injuries, then these Dodgers are going to be extremely dangerous.

Likes: Day baseball at this time of year. Nice to watch the Mets-Reds before heading to the park later Monday. And nice to listen to Thom Brennaman and Jeff Brantley on XM radio. I'll tell you, though, when they started talking about Montgomery Inn, it made me wish I was in Cincinnati for opening day this year. Might be the best ribs in America right there. ... Writing out the first lineups of the year on my scoresheets. ... 75 degrees at game-time in San Diego on Monday. ... Spring break. Nice to have my daughter home from school. ... Cruising through the park on my daily run and seeing the rabbits out. Ah, spring. ... My wife's homemade pizza on Saturday night as the NCAA semi-final games were going. I may be one of the more boring guys around, but I'll tell you what: It's still really hard to find a more enjoyable evening than a good ballgame on television at home with pizza.

Dislikes: Longtime New York Times baseball columnist and buddy Jack Curry getting hit by a car while in Philadelphia on Sunday for the Phillies-Braves opener. Thank God he escaped with "only" badly bruised ribs and several scrapes. Get well soon, Jack. ... Ichiro out with an ulcer. ... San Diego's crack media relations gal, Leah Tobin, leaving for a job with the Red Sox. Don't get me wrong, good for Leah and great move for the Red Sox. Personally speaking, I'll miss her. She's good. Congratulations, Leah. ... Michigan State getting clocked in the NCAA title game. And, worse, a lopsided title game.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

With respect and eternal admiration to Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who regularly ushered in the new season in his first spring broadcast each year with this:

"For, lo, the winter is past
"The rain is over and gone
"The flowers appear on the earth
"The time of the singing of birds is come
"And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land"

-- Song of Solomon, Solomon 2:11-12.
 

 

Posted on: September 21, 2008 7:19 pm
 

Now paging Rudy Giuliani's wife

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Everybody's checking in with their Yankee Stadium memories, but here's one you're not going to hear anywhere else.

You know how former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani spends more time in Yankee Stadium than some of the box seats?

Well, before the first game of the 2002 playoffs, Los Angeles Angels bench coach Joe Maddon -- now generating a few stories as the manager who turned the Tampa Bay Rays around -- approached. But not necessarily to see Guiliani.

Maddon's motive: He went to high school with Judith Nathan, who was Giuliani's girlfriend at the time and now wife.

"Graduated together in 1972 in Hazelton, Pa.," Maddon says. "Her mom and my mom were buddies. I'm not saying we were great friends in high school. ..."

Anyway. ...

"I walked toward him and go to introduce myself and the goons started coming over and said, 'Hey, slow down!'" Maddon says. "I said, 'I just want to introduce myself to Mr. Giuliani.'"

So he did, told the mayor he was from Hazelton and Giuliani replied, "Hey, that's where Judy's from." Maddon told him they went to high school together and he just wanted to say hello, and Giuliani said she was running late and should be there in about 15 minutes.

Maddon didn't get to see her that night, nor has he seen her since.

That's one of his Yankee Stadium memories, but not the most vivid. No, that came in August, 1963.

"My dad took me with my Uncle Pete and Hank Toth to a Yankees-White Sox game," Maddon says. "The Yankees won 3-0, Whitey Ford pitched, Johnny Blanchard hit a home run, we exited out the center field gate by the monuments and when we walked outside my dad asked if I wanted a hat.

"I said yes, and I chose the St. Louis baseball Cardinals hat. That's the year I became a Cardinals fan. St. Louis Blues, Hawks, football Cardinals, even the St. Louis Billikens for awhile.

"All from that hat."

Likes: Been a lot of fun to watch baseball fans develop a crush on the Tampa Bay Rays here during the past week. ... The New York Times coverage of the closing of Yankee Stadium, including reminiscences Sunday from singer Paul Simon, director Penny Marshall and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, among others. ... Also, the memories of two of the Times' terrific, long-time baseball writers, Jack Curry  and Tyler Kepner. ... Another W for the Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High football team, this one 49-21 over New Boston Huron on Friday night. The mighty Falcons are 4-0, and all of those young sophomores they're starting are gaining some experience.

Dislikes: So many teams are fading that there's little drama shaping up during the season's final week. Milwaukee, Minnesota, the White Sox, Arizona ... just one of those years.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Hey Frank won’t you pack your bags
"And meet me tonight down at Liberty Hall
"Just one kiss from you my brother
"And we’ll ride until we fall
"We’ll sleep in the fields
"We’ll sleep by the rivers and in the morning
"We’ll make a plan
"Well if you can’t make it
"Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive
"If you can
"And meet me in a dream of this hard land"

-- Bruce Springsteen, This Hard Land

 

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