Tag:The Eagles
Posted on: May 3, 2011 8:39 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

Outtakes from the land of the Pirates, who aren't yet plundering anybody but at least are coming closer in the season's first month:

-- Part of why the 14-15 Pirates have remained competitive is because their bullpen mostly has been sensational. Closer Joel Hanrahan converted his ninth consecutive save opportunity Monday night in San Diego. Right-hander Jose Veras leads all NL relievers with a 15.32 strikeouts-per-nine innings-pitched ratio and has fanned 15 in his past seven appearances. Overall, Pittsburgh's bullpen leads the majors with a 2.12 ERA.

-- Manager Clint Hurdle's take: "Our starting pitching has been good, our bullpen has been better. Offensively, we're still trying to make sense of things. Defensively, some nights we're very, very good, and some nights we go, 'Ouch.'"

-- Second baseman Neal Walker's take on Hurdle, the new skipper: "Everything he preached, everything he talked about in spring training, he put into effect. That we'd be an aggressive club that played good defense and pitched well. He's a more vocal guy who gets his point across. He's letting us work into things."

-- Budding center field star Jose Tabata came out of Saturday's game with a "tight" right hamstring, sat out Sunday and was not in Monday's lineup. He was, however, in Hurdle's thoughts after Tabata said he figured he'd miss two games. "I have heard a rumor that Jose self-proclaimed two days out," Hurdle quipped. "So not only is he a 22-year-old outfielder, he's a part-time doctor." Looking to make sure Tabata's tightness doesn't become worse, the Pirates were to "re-assess" him on Tuesday.

Likes: Always enjoy talking music with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, and his latest rave is Melody Guy, a folk singer from Oregon. I'm going to check her out. ... Really like Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, not just as a center fielder, but as a personality. The dreads, the speed, the personality, the intelligence and charisma. He's the complete package. Hope he has a long career. ... Checked out the DVD How Do You Know? the other night and it was much better than anticipated. I always like Reese Witherspoon, anyway. Still, wasn't expecting much given how it bombed at the box office, but she, Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd did a nice job.

Dislikes: Shin-Soo Choo becomes the latest in the game to be picked up on a DUI charge. C'mon, fellas, what do you think this is, the NFL?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I turn on the tube and what do I see
"A whole lotta people cryin' 'Don't blame me'
"They point their crooked little fingers ar everybody else
"Spend all their time feelin' sorry for themselves
"Victim of this, victim of that
"Your momma's too thin; your daddy's too fat
"Get over it"

-- The Eagles, Get Over It

Posted on: February 25, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Mets look to former All-Stars for rotation help

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With ace Johan Santana not expected to be ready to roll until at least June, the Mets are going to have to get awfully creative behind Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to hang around in a beastly NL East.

Awfully lucky, too.

It could start with the return to form of a couple of former All-Stars.

Right-hander Chris Young and lefty Chris Capuano are here, both are on the comeback trail and both say they physically feel the best they've felt in years.

Whether that translates into full and productive seasons in the rotation remains to be seen.

But, as first-year general manager Sandy Alderson says, "So far, so good. They've both thrown a number of sides, they’ve thrown live batting practice, they've kept on the same rotation as everyone else."

Young, an All-Star in 2007, missed nearly all of last year following setbacks after he underwent shoulder surgery in August, 2009. After starting a game on April 6, Young did not reappear until mid-September.

So far, he's thrilled with where he's at.

"My arm strength is better and my breaking stuff is sharper," Young said. "My life on the ball has been good.

"I'm very, very happy with my progress. It was great to spend the off-season working on pitching instead of rehabbing."

Capuano, an All-Star in 2006, is nearly 18 months past his second Tommy John ligament transfer surgery. Though he made 24 appearances for Milwaukee last year, he started just nine times.

"Last year was the year I came back from injury," Capuano said. "I pitched a full season with no setbacks. This is not a coming-off-of-injury year for me. That was last year."

Capuano underwent his second Tommy John surgery in May, 2008.

"I'm still primarily a fastball, breaking ball, changeup pitcher," said the former Duke University pitcher. "I try to throw all of my pitches to both sides of the plate, in any count, and not be predictable."

He should fit right in with the Mets, given the utterly unpredictable nature of their rotation. Dickey came out of nowhere last year to go 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA in 174 1/3 innings pitched.

Oliver Perez, meanwhile, is still hanging around the clubhouse, entering the final season of a three-year, $36 million deal, and appears to have as much chance of pitching in the Mets' rotation as Mayor Bloomberg.

While Young and Capuano work on returning to form, there are other candidates floating around for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots: Rookie Dillon Gee, the organization's top prospect who impressed last September, D.J. Carrasco and Pat Misch, to name three.

Young and Capuano have earned the most stripes. Young is 48-34 over seven big-league seasons and Capuano is 46-52 over six years.

"Those are performance guys," Alderson says. "They're not going to light up a [radar] gun, but they've done it [successfully pitched in the majors].

"They're All-Star-caliber players, and if they're healthy, we may be the beneficiaries."

Sunblock Day? Definitely, continuing a perfect streak since mid-February. Sun, 80s ... just like you'd draw it up for spring training. Only change is, there's a lot more wind today.

Likes: Joe Torre as an executive vice-president in the Commissioner's Office in charge of on-field matters. Him, Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella ... these are people who should remain involved in the game. ... Being able to catch the final launch of the space shuttle Discovery from some 150 miles south through my hotel room window. Even from far away, you could clearly see the bright orange fire in the sky launching the rocket into space. Positively breathtaking. ... Late-night Seinfeld reruns while winding down after a long day of work. They're still the perfect tonic. Last night's episode was the one where Elaine was dating a guy obsessed with the Eagles' Desperado. Classic. ... Funny, after seeing Seinfeld for the first time in a long time last night, I rounded a corner today at the Mets' complex and there was Keith Hernandez, sitting on some steps while talking on the cell phone. Wonder if the Hernandez episode is the one that will be on tonight? ... The Oscars this Sunday night. Always look forward to them. I've seen seven of the 10 best-picture nominees. Really liked The King's Speech, The Social Network, Winter's Bone, The Kids Are Alright, True Grit and The Fighter. You can have Inception.

Dislikes: Adam Wainwright is a fabulous pitcher and a class act. I hope his surgery goes smoothly. ... The fried chicken smell dominating the elevator and the hallway in my hotel much of yesterday afternoon and evening. It was like Colonel Sanders had the room down the hall. ...

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
"The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine
"It's hard to tell the night time from the day
"You're losin' all your highs and lows
"Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?"

-- The Eagles, Desperado

 

Posted on: March 12, 2010 5:11 pm
 

Another step forward for Indians' Westbrook

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro will tell you there are three clear keys to the Indians' 2010 season: Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson, who right now are the top three starters.

Shapiro thinks the Indians will score enough runs, he likes their bullpen and they have several candidates -- young, but experienced -- to pick from for the fourth and fifth starters' slots.

As for those first three starters, there are issues with each. Westbrook hasn't started a regular season game in nearly two years because of reconstructive elbow surgery. Carmona has never been able to replicate his 2007 command. And Masterson, after bouncing between the rotation and bullpen in Boston, has yet to prove himself as a starter.

So each time out for that trio is a test this spring, and on Friday, against a Los Angeles Angels' split-squad, it was Westbrook's turn in his second start of the spring. Though the numbers didn't look good (three hits and four earned runs allowed in 2 1/3 innings), Westbrook sailed through in fine form and said he felt "great."

"I gave up four runs total, but I felt 100 times better than when I gave up one run last outing," said Westbrook, who allowed a run on one hit and three walks in 1 2/3 innings against Arizona on March 8 in Tucson. "I feel so much better confidence-wise, and how I attacked the hitters."

Westbrook, who won 44 games for the Indians from 2004-20006, was mainly hurt when he left a fastball up to Mike Napoli, who crushed it for a three-run homer. If you're grading on the curve, Napoli has crushed everything in sight this spring: With 21 total bases in 16 at-bats, his slugging percentage is 1.312 and he's hitting .438 (7 for 16).

After surrendering a double, single and homer to start, Westbrook retired the next six hitters in what mostly was an Angels 'B' lineup -- and seven of the next eight.

"Another step," Westbrook said. "Another step toward getting back to full strength. I feel like I'm definitely back to full healthy."

Sunblock Day? Don't look now but it actually hit 70 degrees here today. Whoo-hoo! Still chilly enough in the shade that jeans are preferable to shorts.

Likes: Woodjock, a charity event hosted by White Sox starter Jake Peavy, went off splendidly Thursday night in Scottsdale. Peavy, a beginning country crooner, held it together and played a couple of songs he's written. Former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams is terrific on the guitar, as you've probably heard. Excellent rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and nice solo on James Taylor's You've Got a Friend. Retired big leaguer Ben Broussard and his band probably was the best -- he's really good. Bronson Arroyo's emo singing  wasn't bad, either. Aubrey Huff? I'll pass. Great crowd, roughly 1,400 folks showed up. You should have seen the line out front just before the doors opened. And fine job by Rick Sutcliffe as master of ceremonies... Love the framed photo in the Goodyear press box with the caption "Did anybody pack the snake?" The photo shows the Indians' press corps hard at work in the old press box in Winter Haven, Fla., where the Indians trained until last year, and it's a reference to the time a snake literally slithered into the press box near Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and scared the poor guy half to death. ... Also like all the airplanes just sitting in the desert far over the right-field fence here in Goodyear. It's a giant parking lot for dozens of airplanes. ... Everyone loves Rerun and the old 1970s television show What's Happening!!, don't they? And, who wouldn't want to watch the classic theme song once more?

Dislikes: The plethora of cameras along the interstate and at red lights in Arizona looking to bust you and take money out of your pocket. It's unbelievable how many there are. I've seen plenty of red-light cameras, but here there are cameras set up along the freeways to catch speeders. Big brother is always watching you in the state of Arizona. Be careful, it's disgusting.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"You bitch about the present
"And blame it on the past
"I'd like to find your inner child
"And kick it's little ass"

-- The Eagles, Get Over It

Posted on: February 18, 2010 3:54 pm
 

Anger management with Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series Most Valuable Player who never lived up to the hype in '09, is working hard this spring on perfecting his change-up and developing a cut fastball.

But what's really important, according to his pitching coach, is that Hamels control his demeanor in 2010.

"The biggest problem with Cole last year, in my opinion, was that he pitched with a lot of anger," Rich Dubee said Thursday after the first workout of the spring for Phillies pitchers and catchers. "With himself, mostly.

"He's such a perfectionist. You don't pitch with anger, especially with yourself."

Dubee and various Phillies, including veteran lefty Jamie Moyer, talked with Hamels about it as '09 rolled on, but once the struggles began with a sore elbow in the spring and then spilled over into lack of results on the field, Hamels never could catch up. He finished 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA -- more than a run higher than his 3.09 ERA in '08.

"His approach wasn't very good last year," said Dubee, who added that "it's been addressed."

Hamels' anger and frustration was evident in the way he snapped at the ball on the field when it was being returned from the catcher, and in the way he stomped around on the mound at various times between pitches after serving up a key hit or missing on an important pitch.

"I think that's where the expectations come into play," said Hamels, who never came close to living up to Cy Young predictions in '09. "You have a lot more expectations, and I let that get to me. I became emotional instead of relaxing and letting it happen."

Hamels laughed when told Dubee said part of the fix might be in Hamels viewing video of his churlish behavior.

"I was there. I remember those times," he said. "I don't need to watch the video. I understand what I did wrong."

Among other things, Hamels started throwing much earlier this winter than he has in the past. Dubee said that's evident simply from watching him play long toss during workouts this week.

"You watch him long toss, and he's far beyond where he's ever been in spring training," said the pitching coach, who added that he's quite impressed with Hamels because, after struggling last year, Hamels "could have gone home and sulked."

"I'm a lot more in shape arm-wise than in recent years," Hamels said.

With new ace Roy Halladay aboard, if Hamels pitches the way the Phillies know he can, then they again think they'll be the team to beat in the NL this season.

"I think what he needed was a breath of fresh air in the off season," Dubee said.

Sunblock Day? Yes because the sun was out, but what was really needed was a wind block. "I'll tell you something: I've got three shirts on," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said following Thursday's workout. "And I needed a jacket."


Likes: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel down 56 pounds from last year, proudly exhibiting his jeans in the clubhouse the other day and calling them "my Nutrisystem jeans". ... Now we see why Indians assistant general manager Chris Antonetti spurned interest by other organizations when they wanted to interview him when they had GM openings. Congratulations to Mark Shapiro's hard-working assistant on being named GM-in-waiting Thursday. And given the cratering economy and attendance, Godspeed, Chris. ... Chien-Ming Wang, Washington National. ... How about the double-overtime Notre Dame-Louisville game Wednesday night, a 91-89 Cardinals win? What a great, great game. ... Early Seger Volume 1 is a terrific -- and lacking -- CD. Lacking because, Bob Seger has got to have far more in the vaults than one small disc. Somebody needs to talk with Seger's manager, Punch Andrews, and scold him to release not only more music, but a DVD of Seger's last concert tour a couple of years ago. That there isn't more available -- video and audio -- from one of the all-time masters is criminal. ... The grilled grouper with mango salsa at Bonefish Grill the other night was very tasty.

Dislikes: Get ready for some serious lobbying for a new stadium for Tampa Bay. Rays president Stuart Sternberg said on local radio the other day that the club's $70 million payroll definitely will be chopped next year and insinuated that it would be below $60 million. Commissioner Bud Selig followed that up with an appearance at the annual Florida Governor's Baseball Dinner on Wednesday, during which he said "It almost boggles my mind that there's a debate. They need a new stadium."

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It may be raining
"But there's a rainbow above you"

-- The Eagles, Desperado

 
 
 
 
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