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 25, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 9:04 pm
Major league clubs are scoring the fewest runs per game since 1992, and the drought out west is particularly to blame.
The Angels were shut out Saturday and Sunday by Boston and take a 19-inning scoreless streak into Monday night's series opener against Oakland. No wonder Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter were among those taking early batting practice in Anaheim at 3 Monday afternoon.
The Mariners rank 12th after, in 2010, scoring the fewest runs during a season (513) of any team in the designated-hitter era (since 1972).
Over in the NL, the Padres were shut out in back-to-back games last Thursday and Friday by the Phillies and have scored the fewest runs in the league. If you want to know how feeble to Padres' sticks are, just check in with tonight's starter, Dustin Moseley: The Padres have not scored one single run during the 25 2/3 innings Moseley has been on the mound this season. He's 0-3 with a 1.40 ERA.
The Padres hitters' 186 strikeouts is the most in the majors. Already in games in 2011, the Phillies' Roy Halladay has fanned 14 Padres and the Giants' Tim Lincecum 13. Brad Hawpe has whiffed 22 times in 51 at-bats.
As for the Angels and Athletics, who are set to open a three-game series in Anaheim tonight, the Angels, having been shut out in each of their past two games, have only been blanked three times in a row once in club history. That happened in June, 1978. They've never been shut out three in a row at home.
"Right now, particularly guys we've been counting on to hit in the middle of the lineup, guys are struggling," Angels manager Mike Scioscia says. "We have a few 3 for 30s -- Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Howie Kendrick ... we've got a pretty strong grouping in the middle that has been struggling for probably the last 10 games collectively.
Dislikes: Jose Contreras to the DL. Just when he was in the process of reinventing himself yet again. What a job he's done as a closer. Though for you pitch count aficionados, there's this: Contreras was DL'd after throwing 81 pitches over a five-day span. And the Phils allowed Cole Hamels to throw 126 pitches on Friday and Roy Halladay to throw 130 on Sunday. It was, though, only against the Padres. So it wasn't like every pitch was taxing.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"To workers I'm just another drone
-- Bob Seger, Feel Like a Number
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: April 2, 2011 1:10 am
LOS ANGELES -- For the Dodgers, the most important thing to kick off their season was so subtle you might have missed it if you don't know your history.
Matt Kemp was 1 for 1 on Thursday -- with three walks.
Now. That's not exactly as dramatic as Ramon Hernandez's game-ending homer for Cincinnati on Thursday. Or John Mayberry's game-winning single Friday as Philadelphia crushed Houston in its last at-bat.
But for Kemp, coming off of a season in which he batted .249 and his on-base percentage fell 42 points, the plate discipline during those walks was all the action the Dodgers needed to see.
"We know what he's capable of," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We've talked about just be focused, you know? ...
"We know the upside with Matt. Matt knows the upside with Matt."
But in 2010, Kemp's concentration was in and out, like the reception on an AM radio.
Now, there is no guarantee that he can or will repeat his opening-day focus 160 more times.
But in the Dodgers' 4-3 win Friday in their second game of the season, Kemp keyed a three-run rally in the sixth with a beautiful, heads-up base-running play, streaking from first to third on a grounder to third. Of the Dodgers' first four runs this season, Kemp scored three and knocked in the other.
As Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti often says (along with many others), the Great Wall of China wasn't built in a day. It was built by laying one brick, and then another, and then another. ...
As for Thursday's season-opening 2-1 win, Kemp had never walked three times in any of the previous 626 games in his career.
He did, though, set a franchise record with 170 strikeouts last season ... after previously setting a franchise record of 153 whiffs in 2008.
Kemp scored both runs in Thursday's 2-1 win after reaching base via a walk. Two of his three walks were drawn against ace Tim Lincecum.
"Definitely he was more patient," Lincecum said. "I think he's trying to be more aggressive on the pitches he wants than on the pitches the pitchers want."
Exhibit A came in the sixth inning of Thursday's game when Kemp managed to lay off of a full-count Lincecum slider that broke just outside of the strike zone.
"He threw me some really good pitches," Kemp said. "That 3-2 pitch was a really good slider. I almost bit, but I laid off of it.
"The key for me to be good is to be consistent."
Right now, the sample size is way too small to draw final conclusions. But early evidence in 2011 is that, perhaps as he enters what will be his fourth full season, Kemp, at 26, might have the experience now not only to formulate a plan with each plate appearance, but to stick with it. In his first two games, he's now 3 for 5 with three walks, three runs scored and an RBI.
"You've got to have a plan up there every time," he said. "When I don't get my pitch, don't swing."
As Mattingly said, everybody -- Kemp included -- knows his upside.
"But sometimes that's the curse we talk about," the manager said. "It can be a curse, too: 'If you do all of this, you can do that. And if you do all of that, what else can you do?'
"We expect more and more. But it's day to day. That game's over. Worry about today."
Kemp does that, the Dodgers will have much less to worry about themselves.
Likes: Final Four Saturday. Go Butler! ... Vin Scully in the Dodger Stadium press box. Still. ... Day baseball in April. When you've been starved for baseball all winter, nothing like being able to watch baseball during the day before the night games. Highly entertaining Astros-Phillies game Friday. ... I have a whole bunch of favorite places to run while on the road, and right there among them is the route through the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, along the Rose Bowl and then next to the golf course. A beautiful run, with mountains surrounding, and so peaceful through there. Great run midday Friday before Giants-Dodgers game. ... Bob Seger back on tour and breaking out Shinin' Brightly from the Against the Wind album. One of his most underrated songs from one of his greatest albums.
Dislikes: Aside from the legendary organist Nancy Bea Hefley, most of the in-game production stuff in Dodger Stadium is brutal, and has been for the past three or four years. Pounding music, awful mash-ups of songs, too much noise for the short-attention span crowd and Thursday they brought the fan who acts out the lyrics to Journey's Don't Stop Believin' onto the roof of the Dodgers dugout to do it. Total amateur hour. Entertainment capital of the world, my eye.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Roll down the window, put down the top
-- Randy Newman, I Love LA
Posted on: March 16, 2011 7:49 pm
Looking to increase his strength, he said he's added "10 or 11 pounds" from last year, up to 168. That's come through protein shakes, recovery drinks and good, old-fashioned eating.
Lincecum's most impressive revelation Wednesday afternoon: He regularly hits In-N-Out Burger, and his typical order is three double-doubles, two fries and one milkshake (half chocolate, half strawberry).
That's roughly 2,940 calories, according to the (delicious) In-N-Out web site.
Overall, Lincecum said, at 26, he's got a better idea of what he needs to do to get his body ready for the season, taking into account the workload of a major-league season, what's worked and what hasn't worked from past workouts and his "through the roof metabolism."
He lifts weights for upper body strength and runs stairs the day after he starts, his hardest workout day. He eschews long jogs now for sprint work on other days between starts.
He still does not ice his shoulder, one of the only pitchers in the game to bypass that.
"It's something I never got into," Lincecum said. "I'd rather have my blood flow get, what do you call them, lactic acids out freely rather than freezing them up."
Forget, though, the lactic acids.
How about his cholesterol, given all of those burgers?
"It's probably not too good," he said, chuckling.
But say this for him: He's not taking dieting third baseman Pablo Sandoval on his In-N-Out runs.
"No," he said, chuckling again. "I go solo."
Sunblock Day: Whew boy, high of 90 on Wednesday. Hot, hot desert sun. Love it.
Likes: In-N-Out, double-double, animal style. ... Tom Waits, Darlene Love and Leon Russell into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Way overdue. ... The Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High basketball team beating Manchester 47-36 to advance to Wednesday night's Regional tournament game against Hillsdale.
Dislikes: Man, that's tough news that Atlanta minor league manager Luis Salazar had his left eye removed after getting drilled with the line drive while he was in the dugout recently. Just one more warning to fans: If a coach who obviously is paying close attention can still get smoked with a foul line drive mid-game, it is imperative for fans sitting close to the action to be heads-up for foul balls.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I like mine with lettuce and tomato
-- Jimmy Buffett, Cheeseburger in Paradise
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 26, 2010 11:07 pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans have plenty of gear to choose from at the concession stands, from Pablo Sandoval "Kung Fu Panda" hats to Tim Lincecum wigs, but one T-shirt you see around town is only sold on the streets.
It reads "Let Tim Smoke", which neatly ties together Lincecum's arrest on a misdemeanor marijuana charge last winter along with the ballot initiative in California next Tuesday to legalize pot.
Lincecum, preparing to start Game 1 of the World Series, was asked in a news conference Tuesday about "those funny T-shirts that you see people walking around the streets with" and his folk hero status.
"It's a really good atmosphere," Lincecum said, "As far as the shirts go ... [it's an] it is what it is kind of thing. I'm having fun with it. You see all the Pablo hats or the Panda hats and the Brian Wilson 'Fear the Beard' shirts and things.
"It's just something for them to play on and have fun with, and it's good. I think it gets them involved, and I feel like they're part of the team."