Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Justin Masterson
Posted on: May 9, 2011 11:53 pm
 

Short Hops: 3 thoughts on the Marlins (and more)

The Florida Marlins are off to the best start in club history, Josh Johnson is pitching like a Cy Young winner and Anibal Sanchez is threatening to re-visit No-Hitter Land. A lot is going right for the Marlins, and it couldn't be coming at a better time. This summer isn't just about this summer for Florida. With a new stadium set to open in 2012, these aren't your typical cut-rate Marlins. They need to stir interest and sell tickets and bring a strong product into their new ballpark to set a solid foundation.

This isn't to say the Marlins are looking to flex their financial muscle. But they're definitely looking to win, and behind Johnson, Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco, they've got three starters going in the right direction. And, in Leo Nunez, they've got one closer consistently nailing things down.

Three thoughts on the Marlins as they tangle with Philadelphia this week:

1. Johnson is incorporating a slower curve with the help of Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire in an effort to work deeper into games. He's thrown more than 200 innings in his career just once, in 2009, and both Johnson and the Marlins would like to get him to that level consistently. Already, he throws a fastball, slider, sinker and change-up. With a fastball that already kills at 94, 95 m.p.h., the curve that is clocked around 77, 78 is leaving hitters with little chance.

2. The Marlins are off to their best start with All-Star Hanley Ramirez off to one of his worst, which bodes well for them for later this summer. Because, as one scout says, "Hanley will hit. He always hits." The man who has hit the most home runs of any major-league shortstop since 2006 started the season with none in his first 23 games. He's currently hitting just .195 with one homer and 13 RBI. While the Marlins wait, first baseman and team leader Gaby Sanchez, plugs along as one of the game's most underrated players.

3. Without question, the biggest difference in this year's Marlins is at the back end of games. Florida's bullpen is second in the NL with a 2.59 ERA. Last year's Marlins ranked ninth in the league with a 4.01 ERA and ninth in saves (39). This year, Nunez's 11 saves (the Marlins' total) are tied for third in the NL. Brian Sanches, Randy Choate and Ryan Webb have been instrumental in the improvement.

-- The Marlins are expected to pursue a third baseman at some point this summer, but veteran Greg Dobbs has been outstanding there in the wake of the fractured elbow prospect Matt Dominguez suffered late in spring training. Dobbs' steady glove and .359 batting average and .411 on-base percentage have eased some of the Marlins' pain.

-- One scout, who was in Seattle for this weekend's White Sox-Mariners series, on Milton  Bradley being designated for assignment Monday: "He was going through the motions. Good for Jack [Zduriecik, Mariners' general manager]."

-- Among the reasons to believe Cleveland is for real: On Monday, the Indians' +48 run differential was best in the majors. Next-closest in the American League: The Yankees, at +38. Next-closest in baseball: St. Louis at +44, followed by the Phillies, who were even with the Yanks at +38.

-- Those watching closely the final two months of last season know that Cleveland right-hander Justin Masterson's 5-0 start is no fluke. Masterson's 2.86 ERA from Aug. 4 through season's end in 2010 ranked ninth in the AL. Currently, his 2.11 ERA is fifth in the AL. "The last six weeks last year, he was able to repeat his delivery more often," Indians manager Manny Acta says. Part of that is, pitching coach Tim Belcher has helped him institute a series of checkpoints in his windup and deliver, which allows the 6-6 Masterson to be more efficient at making in-game adjustments. It's also allowed Masterson to reduce his walks. Over 47 innings pitched this year, he has 34 strikeouts and just 13 walks.

-- The Twins' -68 was by far the game's worst run differential. Nobody's even close: Next-worst are the Dodgers and Houston, each at -35.

-- One scout on the Cubs: "They have no speed, and not much power."

-- The Padres have been shut out a stunning eight times in 34 games, twice as much as anybody else (the Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox and Athletics each has been shut out four times). Indications are, Petco Park is getting in the heads of newcomers like Brad Hawpe (signed over the winter) and Ryan Ludwick (acquired at last July's trading deadline) and others.

-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on Petco, where he's also managed several games as Colorado's skipper: "I think the worst damage it did when it was first built was to the home team. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth you could hear from across the other side when this thing was first built. I think it's been tinkered with since. I think perception is so huge in this game. The first thing hitters look for are flags and distances. Actually, I just try and get them focused saying, 'Look at all that grass out there. There's room for all kinds of hits. Let's focus on that.'"

-- More Hurdle on Petco Park: "I've got to believe if you put Tony Gwynn in here, you know what? He'd get a lot of hits in here. I do believe that, unfortunately, there's this thing called the male ego, and if that number's big out there [on the outfield fence] and you think, 'I’m still going to hit it out', before you know it, you're doing more grunting and manipulating your swing just to try and hit it out rather than just hit it hard."

-- Outstanding: Angels outfielder Torii Hunter's at-bat music for his first trip to the plate at home each night is the theme from Sanford & Son, the old television show. It started as a joke last week when Hunter was in a slump.

-- Great line from Larry Stone, the excellent baseball writer for the Seattle Times, on the rise of Justin Smoak: "The Mariners are trying to coax Pat Meares out of retirement so they can do it with Smoak & Meares."

-- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on counterpart Mike Scioscia earning his 1,000th win managing the Angels on Sunday: "You manage for 100 years, you will have 1,000 wins." Seriously, Guillen added, "I think it's a great thing, especially when you manage the same ballclub."

Likes: The "20 Greatest Games" on MLB Network is a cool feature. Watched the network's treatment of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Jack Morris' 1-0 classic for the Twins over Atlanta, with Morris and John Smoltz in studio. It's worth seeing. ... White Sox outfielder Mark Teahen says he still keeps in touch with some of his ex-Royals' teammates -- the few left from when he was there. ... Glad to see LaTroy Hawkins (shoulder surgery) back in Milwaukee's bullpen. ... Latest CD rave: The Sound of Love: The Very Best of Darlene Love. Man, that woman can sing.

Dislikes: Gatorade used to be so easy. You worked out, you sweated, you rehydrated. But now, there's Gatorade for before your workout (Prime), during/after your workout (Perform) and post-workout (Recovery). What if you drink them in the wrong order. Then what happens? ... So now Kate Hudson is in this Something Borrowed? Does she choose her roles, or handlers? And to think, there was such hope for her after Almost Famous.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You're the reason I changed to beer from soda pop
"And you're the reason I never get to go to the beauty shop
"You're the reason our kids are ugly little darlins'
"Oh, but looks ain't everything
"And money ain't everything"

-- Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, (You're the Reason) Our Kids Are Ugly

 

Posted on: April 27, 2011 5:38 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 5:39 pm
 

Love Letters: The Boston Stinks (or Not) edition

I picked the Red Sox to win the World Series this year. They started 2-10, so a bunch of folks flooded me with notes. So now, with the Red Sox having won five of their past six and charging toward .500 (10-12) I'm sharing those notes (along with some reaction to other things). As for Boston, how about now we just see what the rest of the season brings?

From: Jeff P.

Scott you're high. The Red Sox won't even make playoffs.

Not high. It's Mountain Dew.

From: Shawn

Your Red Sox pick isn't looking very good.

Great thing about Boston is, so far nobody's noticed I picked the White Sox to win the AL Central, too.

From: Voodoo

BoSox worst team in baseball at 2-9.

They've gone 8-3 since then, and I noticed I haven't heard from you.

From: Rebecca

If the Yankees are the best second-place team $200 million can buy, then it follows that the Red Sox are the best last-place team that 160 million can buy!

It followed for about a week. So you've got that going for you.

From: Jeff

Really ... you think predicting Doc Halladay as a Cy Young winner [last year] was impressive? Come on ... and Boston? Lots of hype, but no pitching help.

Matter of fact, I think picking both Halladay and Felix Hernandez for the Cy awards in pre-season last year, and correctly picking Zack Greinke as the AL Cy winner coming out of spring training in 2009, is darned impressive. Yes.

From: Chuck

Season predictions: BoSox will grab most trophies, including W.S. Heh, heh, heh.

I hope all you folks taking the time to needle check back with me six months from now.

From: Amie T.
Re. These Virginia sluggers miss more than they connect

Come on, Scott! What was it a slow news day or something? If you compare the amount of talent in all college and professional sports that come out of the Tidewater area, my hometown, and compare it to a few MLB guys who strike out a lot -- the strikeouts are but a small drop in the bucket. Have you ever spent a spring weekend observing at any organized Little League baseball park in Hampton Roads? What you would see is dedication and love of the sport. We are a hard-working, military and industrial community -- very blue collar -- and we deserve better than this. I have always enjoyed reading your articles, but I take GREAT exception to this! You can do better.

Loosen up, Amie. The column was written in good fun, and it's clear that Michael Cuddyer, David Wright, Justin Upton and the rest enjoy teasing each other. They're class acts and you're lucky to have them.

From: Mike C.

As a point of interest, the Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge played for U of Virginia Commonwealth. I enjoy your columns.

Yes he did, and thanks for bringing him into the conversation, Mike. But he's not nearly as adept at whiffing as the others!

From: Bill H.
Re. Baseball the best medicine for Padres coaches battling cancer

Scott,

Great story on the Padres coaches. The kind of behind-the-scenes piece you do really well. I enjoyed your spring training reports, as always.

Thanks, Bill. And the best part is that bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds learned the other day that the tumor on his pancreas has continued to shrink, so hopefully he'll be a candidate for surgery soon.

From: Joe W.
Re.: Oblique injury is in, so beward of the sneeze

Acid wash to skinny (jeans)? Even your 80-year-old community college prof would have picked up on your lack of concern for details. Don't rush the color, Scott.

Must admit, I've never been scolded before over the subject of blue jeans. But I feel lucky to have a job where that sort of thing can come up.

From: Jim B.
Re.: For a team with no expectations, Indians are making headway

Hey Scott,

Pitching and defense win games. The Tribe has had great pitching and defense this year. Signs are that Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson will take their excellence deep into the season. Expect Carlos Carrasco to be good all year, too. The injury bug is always an issue for pitchers, and it will likely bite them this year, too. Being a young staff does suggest less risk. With David Huff waiting in the wings, they have a high-quality backup ready to enter center stage. Over the long season, depth becomes important. After passing the quality arm test, the starting rotation will have to pass the endurance test before they can be considered top-notch.

True. But, at least, so far, so good.

From: Matt B.

Mr. Miller,

Indians fan here, getting the MLB package on cable. Trouble is, I can't watch my team when they play the O's or the Nat's because somehow Cary, NC -- near Raleigh -- is in the viewing market for D.C./Baltimore. We are approximately 300 miles from the D.C. area, or 73.12 hours if you drive it. Plus, there are no cable stations in my area that show either Nats or O's games. Does MLB care about its fans?

I think the answer is yes, but you sure couldn't tell it by the blackout areas on the Extra Innings package. That's long been controversial and so much of it seems to make no sense. I'm pretty sure that the blackout areas and TV areas were drawn up for MLB by untrained monkeys. I'll pass along your complaint.

Posted on: April 14, 2011 8:53 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

Cabrera Tales, and other outtakes from the red- (downgraded from white-) hot Indians. ...

-- The last time Orlando Cabrera played second base for more than one game in a season, it was 1998, he was 23 and the name on the front of his jersey said "Montreal."

So other than the fact that he needed a job and spring training was about to begin, what possessed him to agree to move full-time from shortstop over to second base and sign with Cleveland this season?

"It was a matter of playing every day," says Cabrera, now 36. "I know I can do the job [at shortstop], no doubt. But I don't want to move over to second base for a guy I don't respect at shortstop."

Asdrubal Cabrera is not that guy. Orlando respects him a bunch.

"This kid is going to be one of the elite players at this position for many years to come," Orlando says.

The switch to second seems to have rejuvenated Orlando as well, and not just because he's batting .295 with a .333 on-base percentage over his first 12 games.

"It feels like when I just came up to the big leagues," he says.

-- Without using the word, designated hitter Travis Hafner likens Orlando Cabrera and his veteran skills to a quarterback.

"He's brought a lot of leadership," Hafner says. "He's really helped solidified the middle infield. Both he and Asdrubal have played great up the middle. Both are swinging the bat well. That's been a big part of our success."

-- Justin Masterson (2-0, 1.35 ERA), 26, who was one of the key pieces acquired from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade two summers ago, starts against Baltimore on Friday night as the Indians open a brief, three-game homestand before heading back out for a seven-game trip to Kansas City and Minnesota.

He's got a pretty good handle on the process these Indians will go through if they can keep winning.

"It goes from people saying, 'Who cares about these guys' to 'Oh, it's not going to last too long' to 'Oh, they've put it all together'," Masterson says. "We're not trying to prove people wrong. We're just trying to do what we know we can do.

"We know we're talented. We just have to ride the highs and not stay too long in the lows."

Likes: Figuring out which early surprises are for real in the game and which are mirages is always one of the fun parts of April and May. ... Cleveland manager Manny Acta, looking to build on some promise the Indians showed during the second half of last season, sounds a lot like Bud Black and the Padres last summer as they were winning 90 games following an August-September surge in 2009. That's not to say these Indians will win 90, but one thing in their favor is, the White Sox, Twins and Tigers all are kicking it around a little bit early in the season. No dominant teams right now in the AL Central. ... This video showing Tim Lincecum pitching in super-slow motion. ... The latest from the Drive-By Truckers, Go-Go Boots. Country blues, and it sounds so good. Used To Be a Cop is tremendous, and have alwayed loved the Eddie Hinton number, Everybody Needs Love.

Dislikes: The Bonds Trial. Manny. It never ends.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Riding in your top-down Mustang
"Taking me out to the beach
"Your eyes matched the skies
"I believe I saw your shadow looking like 1967
"Percy Sledge on the radio
"Or maybe Spanish songs
"All my troubles swept away
"The ocean on my scraped-up knees
"You could never stand to be away from me too long"

-- Drive-By Truckers, I Do Believe

Posted on: March 15, 2010 10:51 am
 

Masterson master of destiny with Cleveland

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Justin Masterson is off the yo-yo string. His days of bouncing back and forth between the bullpen and rotation in Boston are over.

Now, all he has to do is prove he can start in Cleveland.

The Indians have plenty of questions as they turn things over to the kids, and how Masterson fares is high atop the list. Acquired as part of the Victor Martinez trade last July, the 25-year-old right-hander is hoping to complete his first full season as a starter this summer since 2007.

Boston's second-round pick in the 2006 draft, Masterson made his major-league debut just two years later, appearing in 36 games and starting nine for the Red Sox. That fall, in '08, he became the seventh-youngest pitcher ever to win a postseason game for the Red Sox (23 years and 208 days).

With the Red Sox loaded with pitchers, he broke camp with the team in 2009 as a reliever but moved into the rotation after only four relief appearances when Daisuke Matsuzaka was disabled. Masterson wound up appearing in 31 games for the '09 Sox, starting six of them.

He was traded to Cleveland on July 31, whereupon he made one relief appearance before finishing the season with 10 consecutive starts. He went 1-7 with a 4.55 ERA for the Indians, putting him in a classic spring position now: Happy to be given a clean slate in a new place, where the sky is the limit

"It's a real fun place," Masterson says. "What's also interesting is that there's a lot of energy here, but not the nervousness that comes with it. These guys believe they can play."

Sunblock Day? It's into the 70s and predicted to be into the 80s by week's end. Better late than never.

Likes: Cubs manager Lou Piniella, in describing pitcher Ted Lilly's low-key rehabilitation from arthroscopic shoulder surgery over the winter: "We want to keep him under the radar gun and not talk about it much." Not sure if Lou wants to keep him low profile this spring or keep Lilly's velocity down. ... Gotta love that spring training team bonding. There was a signup sheet on the door to the Indians' clubhouse the other day entitled "Bull Riding Event" at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale. And there were 17 Indians' players signed up to attend. ... Arizona manager A.J. Hinch says that Conor Jackson, who missed almost all of last season with Valley Fever, is swinging to well this spring that he wishes he could put Jackson "on ice" until opening day. I don't think he meant that literally, but you get the drift. ... Cool that actress Betty White will host Saturday Night Live's Mother's Day show in May. ... New discovery: Frank & Lupe's Mexican joint in Old Scottsdale. Outstanding fish tacos there the other night. ... Exactly how Bob Dylan came to record the old children's song This Old Man, I don't know. But it's here, and it's highly entertaining.

Dislikes: RIP Merlin Olsen, who seemed like one of the nicest men on the planet.


Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"He's going back to New York, pack it up and let everyone know
"It was something that he should have done such a long time ago
"Still time to start a new life in the palm trees
"Ah, Billy Clyde wasn't insane
"And if it doesn't work out
"There'll never be any doubt
"That the pleasure was worth all the pain"

-- Jimmy Buffett, The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful

 

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