Posted on: September 8, 2011 6:14 pm
I met this Tony Plush dude in another life.
And I'm here to give the Brewers plenty of advance warning: If he's not fenced in, and soon, this is a guy who will sabotage all the great things happening in Milwaukee this summer.
Know where I got that idea?
From Tony Plush himself.
Yeah, I met Nyjer Morgan's alter ego, sort of, this spring when he was with the Washington Nationals. Back then, Morgan was going to be an important piece of the puzzle for the Nationals. Then-manager Jim Riggleman even said Morgan had been "outstanding" so far in the spring after a disappointing and controversial 2010.
Now, here's what Morgan told me in early March:
"I want to prove to myself and to the organization that the player in '09 is who they're going to get in '11, instead of the immature player from '10. I left Tony Plush behind."
That was my introduction to T-Plush.
"Tony Plush," Morgan told me, grinning. "That's from back in the day. Me and my friend. It's like Jekyll and Hyde.
"It got to the point where it was time to grow up. It's time to turn into a true professional. It's time to kick some ass."
And in Milwaukee, he has been kicking butt. He's hitting .313 with a .360 on-base percentage. He's stolen 12 bags in 15 attempts. He's sparked the Brewers.
But as we saw Wednesday night in St. Louis, Morgan has regressed badly in the professionalism department.
The uncalled for showdown with Chris Carpenter was bad enough. But referring to Albert Pujols as "Alberta" on Twitter later that night? Come on.
Clearly, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin does not plan to tolerate the antics. He said as much during a radio interview Thursday, noting that manager Ron Roenicke would talk with Morgan.
That conversation apparently has happened: MLB.com's Adam McCalvy spoke with Morgan on Thursday afternoon and tweeted that Morgan told him, "I'm Tony Hush today."
The guy is smart and clever (Morgan, not McCalvy, though Adam has his moments, too). He's a wonderful talent and great fun to watch.
But by his own admission to me in March, he needed to mature and he vowed he had "left Tony Plush behind."
Next thing we know, Tony Plush is back, and raging.
Both the Brewers and Morgan need to figure this out and get a handle on it pronto. Because this could be the most special season in Brewers' history.
Or, the man Melvin smartly acquired in late March -- just 3 1/2 weeks after Morgan promised me it was time to grow up -- could torch it all by himself.
Or, all by himselves.
Likes: Stephen Strasburg back in action. ... Texas-Angels, still close (hey, we've got to have at least one good race, don't we?). ... Ian Kennedy flourishing in Arizona. ... The way Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have continued to pitch lights out and not uttered a word about the criminal lack of run support they've received in San Francisco this year. ... Always look forward to Michigan-Notre Dame. ... Looking for my guys at Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central to earn another W this Friday night, over Grosse Ile, and run that record to 2-1. ... Bob Seger back out on the road this fall.
Dislikes: Tim Wakefield's got to get his 200th win one of these starts, doesn't he? Poor guy is 0 for 7 in trying to get No. 200. ... Eddie Murphy hosting the Oscars. What's next, the Yankees starting a game at 11 p.m.? ... Finally catching up to this season's Entourage, which I thought jumped the shark last summer. Through the first couple of shows and it's lackluster enough I may not even finish this season.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"It seems that all my bridges have been burned
"But you say, 'That's exactly how this grace thing works'
"It's not the long walk home that will change this heart
"But the welcome I receive with every start"
-- Mumford & Sons, Roll Away Your Stone
Posted on: May 13, 2011 1:03 pm
Well, that sure went pffft in a hurry at the Big A.
Angels orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum on May 11: "Kendrys worked as hard as any athlete I've ever worked with in coming back from a devastating injury, and he hasn't been able to do it."
So, to review how this week has gone for the Angels: Morales to the surgeon's table (again), and Vernon Wells to the disabled list (groin). Groan, and grin. What are you going to do? Especially with a big weekend series coming up in Texas.
After Wells left in the fourth inning Monday, Kendrick started each of the next two games in left field.
Total major-league time in the outfield for Kendrick since 2006 until now: Two-thirds of an inning, in center field, last year. Mostly, Kendrick has played second base for the Angels, with some first base mixed in.
"There's no question he can move around," Scioscia says. "Howie's a terrific athlete. He has the speed to play center field. Outfield is a great option for a guy with his athleticism."
The overriding factor is that the Angels want to make sure Kendrick's bat stays in the lineup. He's hitting .320 through the first 38 games, with a .381 on-base percentage. Torii Hunter has been predicting for years that Kendrick one day will win a batting title. Until now, nobody ever figured it could be as an outfielder.
But while Morales is out for the season, the Angels do not expect Wells to be out much more than a couple of weeks. So don't get any ideas about Kendrick permanently moving to the outfield.
"We're doing this purely on a need basis," Scioscia says. "He shags balls, he's fine tracking the ball, he runs good routes ... I don't think it's too far removed to ask a player to do what he's doing."
-- Kendrick's move is a little like that of the Twins' Michael Cuddyer in reverse. When Orlando Hudson went down last year, manager Ron Gardenhire for a time moved Cuddyer, a former high school shortstop, from right field to second base.
-- Three key young players playing unexpected pivotal roles for the Angels each was drafted under Eddie Bane, who was fired as the Angels' director of scouting last fall: Pitcher Tyler Chatwood (second round, 2008), first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo (18th round, 2004) and catcher Hank Conger (first round, 2006). Also chosen under Bane: Mike Trout, currently at Double-A Arkansas and listed by Baseball America as the game's second-best prospect. Just sayin'.
-- Talk to me about that Giants' pitching: Look who's back in first place in the NL West following a picture-perfect homestand in which they swept division rivals Colorado (three games) and Arizona (three more). And as is always the case with San Francisco, the prime reasons for the surge are cats named Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, etc. In making their move this week, the Giants, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, became the first team in major league history to sweep a homestand of six-or-more games without scoring more than four runs in any game.
-- Most stunning statistic of the year: Tampa Bay through midweek had the best bullpen in the American League based on its league-leading 2.71 ERA (fourth-best in the majors). For a team that was forced to replace seven of its top eighth relievers from 2010 over the winter (based on innings pitched), you sure couldn't tell.
-- The flip side of that preceding Rays' bullpen statistic, though, is this: As it so often is with good bullpens, no small part of the Rays' success can be attributed to a knockout rotation that works deep into games and does not overtax the relievers. While the Rays' bullpen ERA is the AL's best, their 93 innings pitched are the fewest of any big league bullpen.
-- A few more things on this crazy White Sox six-man rotation: Pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Ozzie Guillen have instructed the four starters not named Mark Buehrle or Jake Peavy -- that would be John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson and Phil Humber -- to be prepared to work out of the bullpen, if needed, on the second and third days after their starts. "We don't want to use them, and we'll try not to use them," Cooper says.
-- Another benefit, from the Sox's view, of the six-man rotation: "If one of them is at seven innings and 95 pitches, he can go back out there because he'll have an extra day [before his next start]," Cooper says. The pitching coach also has delivered a pre-emptive strike against any moaning by someone claiming to be thrown off rhythm after a loss: He's told each of his starters that "the only people who have a right to be thrown out of whack by this are the opposing hitters, not us."
-- One side benefit of Jake Peavy's last minor-league rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte, at Toledo, last week: He was able to share a beer and catch up with ex-teammate Phil Nevin following the game. Nevin is managing the Mud Hens.
-- Cool promotion of the year: Farmer John, which makes Dodger Dogs, is donating 30,000 pounds of food to local food banks on the heels of Andre Ethier's 30-game hitting streak. Farmer John already is donating 1,000 pounds of food for every Ethier homer this year.
-- News that Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew has entered hospice care and is in the final days of his treatment for cancer is a blow. Killebrew is one of the game's true gentlemen, just a prince of a man who means so much to the Twins family. Prayers for him and family on this incredibly sad weekend.
Likes: The Orioles continue to show grit under manager Buck Showalter. Thursday night's win over Seattle was a terrific game, scoreless into the 12th, and it was one the old Orioles would have lost when the Mariners scored in the top of the 12th. ... Who is this Carlos Beltran man who slugged three homers the other day? ... SiriusXM radio and the MLB package. So cool to be able to listen to every game and each team's broadcasting crew. ... Steve Earle on Treme last week. ... The Cars on tour beginning Thursday night in Los Angeles. What the heck, as long as Ric Ocasek is along for the ride. ...
Dislikes: Ernie Harwell, Sparky Anderson, and now Harmon Killebrew says he is in his final days. We've lost some really special people over the past year, some all-time nice guys.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"As time wore on you proved
-- The Decemberists, The Mariner's Revenge Song
Posted on: April 8, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 12:52 pm
The season following their 2005 World Series triumph, the pitching-strong White Sox were flat.
The season following his World Series MVP appearance, Philadelphia's Cole Hamels was flat.
There's no question that an extra month's pitching in October, with intense pressure riding on every pitch, sometimes grinds down even the best rotations.
And as the world champion Giants head toward their home opener Friday following a tough (2-3) opening trip, they're determined that their most precious asset -- their starting pitching -- will remain their strength.
Tim Lincecum, with a second consecutive impressive start in Wednesday's 8-4 pummeling of the Padres (13 strikeouts and no walks over seven innings), already is strong out of the gate. As for the overall rotation, while the Giants aren't taking any drastic measures, they've been subtly watching things all spring.
"We didn't push [the starters] once the games started in terms of pitch count," Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "We kept it to a minimum."
Specifically, Righetti said, the Giants monitored their pitchers when runners were on base this spring and throwing from a stretch was required. They also kept Lincecum to 22 2/3 spring innings and Jonathan Sanchez to 20. Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito each worked 27 1/3, while Matt Cain, who was slowed by a sore elbow early in camp, worked just 13 1/3 Cactus League innings.
"We're all in the business. We've been in it our whole life," Righetti said. "We understand that pitching that extra month is a grind. The effects, when the effects are going to happen, we'll see. You can't avoid it."
One thing the Giants are doing now is to stay on a five-man rotation in the early part of the season even with five days off within the season's first 31 days. Instead of skipping the No. 5 starter -- Bumgarner in this case -- San Francisco is opting for an extra day's rest for Lincecum, Sanchez, Cain and Zito.
Plus, there might be another benefit to that later, too.
"If there are any effects, you'll see it toward the end of the year, not now," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We'll keep a watchful eye.
"That's one reason we put Bumgarner in the fifth spot. We felt if we needed to give him a break, it would be easier to do from there.
"We'll monitor where we're at during the season, and who may need a break."
Though they are heading into the unknown this season in that they've never defended a World Series title since moving to San Francisco in 1958, the one thing the Giants hope they are certain of is how to handle pitching.
"Arms are precious," Righetti said. "You've got to watch every practice, every day. That doesn't change."
Likes: The Pirates donating leftover food from concession stands to local shelters and soup kitchens to feed the hungry. Best idea of the season, and I hope other teams follow. ... Day baseball in April. ... Home openers. ... If you're not checking out our Eye on Baseball blog several times a day, you're missing out. ... The Lincoln Lawyer. Very enjoyable flick.
Dislikes: Tough break for the Twins, losing second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioki to a fractured left fibula.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You can't have any pudding
-- Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall
Posted on: November 1, 2010 2:24 am
Edited on: November 1, 2010 2:27 am
Teams that have taken a 3-1 series lead are 38-6 in World Series play.
And of those six teams that came back to win ... well, nobody's done it since the 1985 Kansas City Royals.
"We're one game away," Giants outfielder and postseason hero Cody Ross said. "We can all feel it. We can smell it, taste it, everything ... all the senses.
"We just have to keep grinding."
That, or keep pitching. With Tim Lincecum lined up to start Game 5, the Giants already have shut the Rangers out in two of these four games so far. Texas thus becomes the first team since the 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers to get shut out in at least two games during one single World Series.
A strong Orioles staff featuring Dave McNally, Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker pitched three shutouts against the Dodgers that fall.
A Rangers' lineup that led the American League in batting average and ranked fourth in both runs scored and on-base percentage has been completely overwhelmed.
"It's certainly pitching as advertised," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Co. "Those guys pound the strike zone. They've got good stuff. They've got velocity. They can spin the baseball, they can change speeds and they keep their defense engaged. And that's what you like to see out of pitching, keeping the defense engaged.
"They've done a great job. We've got to figure out some ways to put some runs on the board against them."
With Cliff Lee slated to start Game 5 on Monday, C.J. Wilson Game 6 on Wednesday and Colby Lewis Game 7 on Thursday, the Rangers have the starters they want going. But if they can't score, it's not going to do much good.
Likes: San Francisco closer Brian Wilson's "Aqua Man" T-shirt he was wearing Sunday. ... Hank Aaron in the house to present the Hank Aaron award to Cincinnati's Joey Votto and Toronto's Jose Bautista. Great to see Aaron still connected. ... Cooper's Old Time Pit Barbecue in Fort Worth. Biggest pork chops I've ever seen (thus the "Home of the Big Chop" monikor). And outstanding beef brisket. ... Lyle Lovett. ... Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central opening the Michigan state football playoffs with a 62-14 cruise over Dundee on Friday night.
Dislikes: Missing Halloween. ... The three minutes between innings of postseason games. Yes, baseball needs to make its money, but, yaawwwwn, man does that make these games stretch out.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
-- Jimmy Buffett, Vampires, Mummies and the Holy Ghost
Posted on: October 28, 2010 11:14 pm
Their first World Series threatening to get away from them, the Rangers were dropped 9-0 by the Giants thanks to a wicked combination of Matt Cain's continuing postseason brilliance, one jaw-droppingly bad break, a couple of missed opportunities and another searing bullpen meltdown.
Bottom line is, the Rangers are in trouble unless they figure out this masterful Giants pitching. You can rip the Texas bullpen if you wish -- and you should -- but San Francisco pitching is shredding this Texas lineup like wet toilet paper.
Anybody who's not yet ready to give San Francisco's pitchers full credit, maybe you'd better go back to whatever it was you were doing before this postseason caught your attention.
Cain entered the game as the first pitcher to not allow an earned run in either of his first two postseason starts since Atlanta's Steve Avery in 1991. He departed after 7 2/3 innings having not allowed a run in his first THREE postseason starts.
The Rangers went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position against Cain, who now is up to 21 1/3 scoreless postseason innings. Think October agrees with this young man? Opponents now are 0 for 17 against him this postseason with runners in scoring position. He's produced more bagels than Einstein's the past three weeks.
And the one time the Rangers thought they had him, well, that's where the jaws dropped. Ian Kinsler slugged a deep fly to center to start the fifth that appeared to be gone. But in an impromptu test of gravity, physics and geometry, the ball bounced off the top of the wall, and somehow angled itself off the padding to bounce backward toward center fielder Andres Torres.
Instead of a homer and a 1-0 Texas lead, Kinsler got a double. Then he got left at second when David Murphy, Matt Treanor and C.J. Wilson were mowed down behind him (Mitch Moreland was intentionally walked before Wilson grounded out).
The Giants broke the scoreless tie with Edgar Renteria's solo homer in the fifth, tacked on a run in the seventh after Wilson left with a blister and then turned it into a laugher with seven runs in the eighth against four 'B'-league level Rangers relievers with manager Ron Washington inexplicably slow to the switch.
Now, it's tough to tell which needs a change of venue more, the Texas Rangers or this World Series.
We'll get one for Game 3, back in Texas on Saturday. But unless the Rangers figure a few things out, this Fall Classic is destined for all the drama of a Saturday afternoon oil change.
Posted on: October 25, 2010 10:33 pm
Moving away from Philadelphia's left-heavy lineup, Bochy is slotting the right-handed Cain in for the Game 2 start, with Sanchez starting Game 3 in Texas.
The Giants lined up with Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez against Atlanta in the Division Series. But in the NL Championship Series, they went Lincecum, Sanchez, Cain and rookie Madison Bumgarner. Bochy wanted the lefty Sanchez to pitch Game 2, partly to break up his righties and lefties in the rotation and partly so that Cain, a fly ball pitcher, would not be exposed to the home-run trap that can be Citizens Bank Park.
Like Philadelphia's park, the Ballpark in Arlington is notoriously friendly to hitters who launch fly balls, and that probably factored in to the Giants' thinking. One reason Bochy voiced: Cain last started before Sanchez, back on Oct. 19, and he wants to get the big right-hander back on the mound.
"We'll start it out with Timmy against Cliff, and then we'll go to the next game," the mellow righty said.
As for pushing Sanchez back, it's got nothing to do with the lefty's rough (two-innings-plus) start in Philadelphia in Game 6.
"The guy had a hiccup," Bochy said. "We're here because of what Jonathan Sanchez did down the stretch. He had an off night. It's going to happen."
"It doesn't matter," Sanchez said of when he pitches. "You're just going to pitch one game. I've just got to throw a bullpen when I have to."
The way things set up now, Sanchez could pitch Games 3 and 7, but he said he hasn't thought about that.
"We'll see what happens," Sanchez said.
As for Lincecum, as he made adjustments following his rough August, he mostly stopped throwing between-starts bullpen sessions. Of his three-batter relief outing in Game 6 of the NLCS, Lincecum said he did not -- and will not -- do any extra bullpen work.
So the relief appearance serves as his between-starts bullpen session?
"I suppose," he said.
Posted on: October 20, 2010 7:14 pm
Nothing against the Yankees, understand.
But the Giants still love Bengie Molina.
"We're very, very excited for him," San Francisco starter Matt Cain said before the Giants and Phillies tangled in Game 4 here Wednesday. "We're loving watching him. It couldn't happen to a better person. He was great with us. I'm sure it's the same over there."
Cain and the other Giants hurlers pitched to Molina for nearly 3 1/2 years, from 2007 until Molina had to go when the Giants traded him to Texas on July 1 to make room for rookie Buster Posey.
Nothing personal, just the way baseball works.
Posey helped change the Giants season. And, as things turned out, Molina, 36, was the perfect addition for the Rangers.
Especially in New York Tuesday, when he crashed a three-run homer to help put away Game 4.
"Good for him," Giants shortstop Edgar Renteria said. "He's a good man. He deserves everything good.
"He helped a lot of guys in here."
One of them is Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval. Molina took Sandoval under his wing after Panda broke in with the Giants in 2008.
"He helped me with everything," Sandoval said. "Inside and outside of the field. How to deal with fans. People."
Molina entered Game 5 Wednesday hitting .417 against the Yankees in the ALCS with a .462 on-base percentage.
Likes: The Brewers could do worse than hiring Pat Listach as manager. He interviewed Wednesday. ... The pitching in this Giants-Phillies series has been a treat, just as expected. We've barely gotten over the Game 1 hype and here come Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay to hook back up for a Game 5 duel Thursday. ... Edgar Renteria may be at the end of his career, but he sure is going out strong. The guy is playing in this NLCS despite a completely torn biceps muscle in his left arm. Ouch. ... Credit Giants manager Bruce Bochy with maneuvering his lineup with the skill of an expert watch-man. ... Always a good thing when Clint Eastwood has a new movie out. Looking forward to seeing Hereafter.
Dislikes: First June Cleaver, now Mr. C. Tom Bosley, who will always be Happy Days' Howard Cunningham, passed away on Tuesday. Peace, Mr. C. I'll see ya on reruns. ... Look out, we're about to get Huey Lewis for the Game 5 national anthem here.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I keep a close watch on this heart of mine.
-- Johnny Cash, I Walk the Line
Posted on: October 19, 2010 9:58 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 11:01 pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- You've got Tim Lincecum, with his two NL Cy Young Awards, sizzling fastball (even with this year's reduced velocity), killer slider and mind-bending curve ball.
You've got lefty Jonathan Sanchez, who has a sneaky fastball, wicked slider and solid curveball.
And you've got Matt Cain, who spots his fastball that creeps up to 94.
All along, the Giants were the one team in the NL that could hang with the Phillies' killer front-three of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels if things broke right. And so far, especially after San Francisco's 3-0 Game 3 win, things are breaking right for them.
So, rookie catcher Buster Posey, which of those three is the easiest to catch?
"I'd have to say probably Cain," Posey says. "Johnny and Timmy's stuff is just so electric. Tim's fastball moves a ton. Jonathan's tremendously deceptive.
"Matt's command, he's pinpoint a lot of the time."
With the Phillies sticking with Joe Blanton for Game 4 -- despite some calls for Roy Halladay on short rest -- their hitters will get a crack at Giants rookie Madison Bumgarner, who went 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA this season.
Bumgarner is riding a pretty good wave of momentum: The Giants' shutout in Game 3 -- Cain, Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson combined -- following Tim Lincecum's Game 1 shutout of Atlanta last round gives the Giants two shutouts at home in the same postseason for the first time since they blanked the White Sox in Games 3 and 4 of the 1917 World Series.
The Big Three," Wilson said. "Or you can call them the Fab Four, I don't know. Madison shouldn't be counted out.
"You never know. At 21, he might be our secret weapon."
Likes: Tuesday afternoon by the Bay was so gorgeous it makes you wonder why every October playoff game isn't in the afternoon. Oh, yeah, the television money. My bad. ... San Francisco really has become a great baseball city. Loud, loud crowds. ... Robinson Cano's home run in Yankee Stadium against Texas should have been reviewed via replay, but it was not comparable to the Derek Jeter/Jeffrey Maier disputed homer in 1996. Maier reached over the fence into the field of play. These fans Tuesday night did not. ... Mike Quade as the new Cubs manager. He did a fantastic job after Lou Piniella left. Here's a column I did on him in late September. ... Gorgeous shot of Bay Bridge and San Francisco Bay on jumbo board in center field before seventh inning started Tuesday. ... The gnocchi at Umbria Italian Ristorante in San Francisco. Great find, that place. ... Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie singing the national anthem. Great voice.
Dislikes: Obese mice.
"To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
-- The Byrds, Turn, Turn, Turn