Tag:The Baseball Project
Posted on: March 6, 2011 12:30 pm
 

Prior commited to winning job in Yanks' pen

TAMPA -- The corner locker in a big-league clubhouse is the perfect location for a player who enjoys sitting back and observing.

In the Yankees' clubhouse, Mark Prior occupies one of the corner lockers. But he's done enough observing over the past several years, thank you very much.

Here to win a job in the club's bullpen, Prior knows there is every chance he may open the season in Triple-A. And that's OK by him, as long as his troubled right shoulder stays intact and allows him what probably is this one last chance to finish a career on his terms, and not those of his shoulder.

Adding a touch of nostalgia to the spring is that Prior is reunited with new Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. The two worked together for five seasons in Chicago, nearly helping to push the Cubs into the World Series in 2003.

"So far, he's been good," Rothschild said. "Arm-wise, he's feeling good. ... We need to go in progression to build him up.

"The bullpen is where he's going to be, I think. It's what his arm can handle."

In two spring innings so far, Prior has allowed neither a hit nor a run. He's struck out three, and walked one.

"If he's right, he's going to win some games for the Yankees this year," one big-league scout who saw Prior pitch last summer said.

From his perch at the corner locker after another morning of work recently, Prior was pleased with the way things are going. His latest comeback started in earnest last summer pitching for an independent league team in Fullerton, Calif., where he showed enough that the Rangers signed him to a minor-league deal. He pitched one minor-league inning in a Triple-A game near season's end, and then one inning in a minor-league playoff game.

"I think it's there," he said. "Like everybody, there are things I need [work on]. I'm trying to find the release point on my breaking ball."

The good?

"I feel like the ball's coming out of my hand free," he said. "I'm not pushing it."

Since cranking it up in Fullerton last summer, Prior said he's throwing the ball "a lot better. I'm more efficient. I'm not on top of the ball."

Prior, still just 30, has not pitched in the majors since 2006. Rothschild believes his shoulder has never been the same since his '03 collision with infielder Marcus Giles. Then, in '05, he suffered a compression fracture in his elbow when he was drilled by a line drive comebacker by Colorado's Brad Hawpe.

"Not to get melodramatic, but after '05, I was just battling to get out there every fifth day in '06," said Prior, who made only nine starts that year. "Then, '07 was a nightmare [exploratory surgery by Dr. James Andrews revealed structural damage to the shoulder]."

He could have packed it in -- he's earned nearly $13 million during his career, according to baseballreference.com -- but, well, a pitcher pitches. Until, at least, he no longer can. And despite his checkered injury history, Prior still wasn't ready for a life of "what could have been?".

His time on the mound last summer confirmed that in his mind.

And where he once pitched in All-Star Games and NL Championship Series' (2003), now he gauges his progress differently.

"I saw that, steadily, things were getting better and better," he said. "When I faced St. Louis' farm system in the playoff game, St. Louis always has great hitters and I held my own. I was thinking, 'Hey, I can do this.'"

This spring, he's still thinking the same thing.

"I think that my starting days are definitely on the back burner," he said. "From what I know of my shoulder, and from what they know of my shoulder, this is my best situation to come back."

Sunblock Day? Surely, you jest. More great weather this spring. Keep the Banana Boat well-stocked.

Likes: Mark Prior as healthy as we've seen him in several years. I don't know if his shoulder is going to last, but it would be a nice chapter in his career if he can stay on the field and pitch out of the Yankees' bullpen. ... Our Ear on Baseball podcast featuring C. Trent Rosecrans with two members of The Baseball Project, Scott McCaughey (most famous for his work with REM) and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3). The Baseball Project has just released their second disc and will be touring, including a handful of Cactus League ballpark shows the latter half of March. Good stuff musically and good listening. You can get it here. ... Clarence Clemons, sax man for the E Street Band, playing on a new Lady Gaga song. What a combination they must have been on recording day. ... As far as fast food pizza goes, I'll take Papa John's.

Dislikes: That I left Tampa right before a special theatrical screening of Smokey and the Bandit at which Burt Reynolds was to appear. Now what a hoot that would have been. No word whether the Trans-Am was going to show.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"James Dean in that Mercury '49
"Junior Johnson runnin' through the woods of Caroline
"Even Burt Reynolds in that black Trans-Am
"All gonna meet down at the Cadillac Ranch"

-- Bruce Springsteen, Cadillac Ranch

Posted on: October 7, 2010 2:44 am
 

Back outdoors, same result

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mark Teixeira slugged a bad Jesse Crain seventh-inning slider deep into the Minnesota night, high over the right-field fence, and the Target Field crowd went silent.

Just as you imagine the Metropolitan Stadium crowd did on Oct. 5, 1970, when pinch-hitter Rick Renick grounded to short to force Rich Reese at second in the ninth, allowing the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the Twins out of the ALCS.

The last time they played an outdoor playoff game in the Twin Cities.

The to-be-continued part following Renick's grounder, when the October outdoor baseball chapter of Twins' history resumed, picked back up with Twins starter Francisco Liriano fanning Derek Jeter to start Game 1 of the Twins-Yankees latest Divisional Series tussle here.

It was a gorgeous fall night, 63 degrees at game-time, shirt-sleeves weather for much of the evening.

But much like that old Metropolitan Stadium crowd from 1970, these Twins fans went home disappointed, too.

Of course, they've seen it before against the relentless Yankee machine.

"We play nine innings," New York shortstop Derek Jeter said of another comeback, this one after the Yanks trailed 3-0 in the sixth inning. "It's what you have to do. Whether you're ahead of behind, it's what you have to do."

Likes: Watching Roy Halladay was electric even from several hundred miles away. ... Perfect autumn day in the Twin Cities on Wednesday. Temperature around 70, gold leaves, textbook fall weather. ... Great noon-time run on a path along the Mississippi River. ... Former pitcher Jack Morris on the field before the game telling stories. ... Derek Jeter eating at Murray's home of the "Silver Butter Knife Steak" on Tuesday night, the eve of Game 1.

Dislikes: No expanded instant replay for these playoffs. Delmon Young's two-out single in the ninth should have been an out -- television replays showed that Greg Golson, inserted by Yankees manager Joe Girardi as a defensive sub for Nick Swisher in the ninth inning, made a diving catch on Young's sinking liner. Umpires wrongly awarded Young a single which, in a 6-4 game, could have been problematical. But Jim Thome popped up the next pitch to third and the game was over. Had Thome deposited a game-tying, two-run homer against the Yankees, you wouldn't have heard the end of this debate for weeks. And being that it came against the Yankees, I guarantee expanded instant replay would have been put in place well ahead of next season's playoffs.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"From Mankato up to Brainerd
"From Burnsville to Bemidji
"Now we're playing outdoor baseball
"And that's the way it should be"

-- The Baseball Project with Craig Finn, Don't Call Them Twinkies

Posted on: September 29, 2010 1:45 am
 

Hitless Padres threatening to go out with whimper

SAN DIEGO -- Adrian Gonzalez made a bold prediction on Sept. 15, after his squad took two of three in Colorado: If the Padres scored four or five runs a game the rest of the way, they would win the NL West.

Since then, the numbers have conspired badly against Gonzalez and his Padres.

They have mustered just four or more runs only five times in 12 games since that day.

In those five games, they're 4-1.

In the seven games in which they've scored three or fewer, the Padres are 1-6.

Emphasizing the struggle, San Diego has managed only a total of four runs over its past 27 innings.

Since Aug. 24 in spacious Petco Park, the Padres are 0-9 when they allow four or more runs at home.

San Diego's 5-2 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday night was devastating to the Padres not just because they now trail the Giants by two games in the NL West and Atlanta by 1 1/2 games in the wild-card chase. No, the loss also was devastating in the method.

The normally sure-footed Padres committed three errors. Mat Latos failed to field a ball in the fifth and, three batters later, Miguel Tejada, ranging into the hole to field Starlin Castro's grounder, threw the ball into the dugout when he had no play.

Gold Glover Adrian Gonzalez booted a ground ball in the seventh and failed to cover first base on a play in the ninth (second baseman David Eckstein threw to pitcher Edward Mujica for the out as Gonzalez stood frozen, watching).

"Baseball works in funny ways," said Latos, now 0-4 with a 10.13 ERA over his past four starts. "The only way I could honestly put it is, we could be like the Giants and go and change our whole lineup, put guys with 'San Francisco Giants'  across their jerseys. We didn't.

"We added two guys [Tejada and Ryan Ludwick, now hitting .221 with five homers in 54 games with the Padres]. We've been the same team all year. We haven't just gone and grabbed guys from other teams."

In the season's final week, the contenders making the least number of mistakes emerge to play another day. It's that simple.

And when you're dragging around an anchor of an offense the size of the Padres', your margin for error is minimal.

Likes: The Cincinnati Reds store staying open all night at Great American Ballpark on Tuesday after they clinched. Very cool. Good for the Reds. ... The Baseball Project and Craig Finn (of The Hold Steady) with their new song Don't Call Them Twinkies. Great stuff, with a clear eye for the history of the Twins. Make sure to check it out.

Dislikes: Come on. The guy who owns the Segway company dies when ... he apparently accidentally rides his Segway over a cliff in England? How ironic is that?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You gotta grow, you gotta learn by your mistakes
"You gotta die a little everyday just to try to stay awake"

-- Gerry Rafferty, Get it Right Next Time

 

 
 
 
 
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