Posted on: July 13, 2010 8:39 pm

Setting the stage at the All-Star Game

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A few things as we get set for the 81st All-Star Game:

-- National League pitching plans: Florida's Josh Johnson and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay will follow starter Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound. After that, manager Charlie Manuel plans to review the game situation, see where the AL lineup is and go from there. With lefties Joe Mauer, Robinson Cano and Carl Crawford hitting 7-8-9, you could see one of a couple of lefty relievers, Hong-Chih Kuo or Arthur Rhodes if the situation dictates.

-- AL pitching plans were unclear as for who would follow Tampa Bay's David Price to the hill. But in Price, Texas' Cliff Lee, Boston's Jon Lester and the Yankees' Andy Pettitte, the AL is loaded with lefties. Which could mean right-handers Justin Verlander and Phil Hughes will be interspersed with them.

-- Boston's David Ortiz on the legacy of the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner: "Unbelievable. When you give a team that many dreams, that many possibilities to win, that's something you've got to respect no matter what."

-- This is how stacked the AL is: Mauer, last year's MVP, is hitting seventh. Last time he did that? "The minor leagues," Mauer said. His reaction to hitting seventh? "Where do you want to put everybody?" Mauer said. "Somebody's gotta bat down there."

-- The pressure is on Padres closer Heath Bell if he pitches late in a close game. San Diego has provided three of the past four losing pitchers: Bell last year, Chris Young in 2007 and Trevor Hoffman in 2006.

-- Atlanta's Omar Infante, the most unlikely of All-Stars, is having a ball. His favorite moments? Tuesday afternoon in NL clubhouse, and Monday watching the Home Run Derby on the field, holding his one-year-old son, taking as many photos as he could. As for the game? "It's very important," said Infante, whose Braves are in position to benefit if the NL can win home-field World Series advantage. "Everybody's psyched."

-- The turf is in good shape here in Angel Stadium. But it almost was in even better shape. The rock band U2 was scheduled to play Angel Stadium in early June, after which the contract called for new sod to be laid at Angel Stadium. Instead of a new playing surface, however ... well, Bono underwent emergency back surgery, U2 canceled its tour and the turf remains the same.

Posted on: May 26, 2010 10:00 pm

Can U2 hit the curveball?

Cardinals pitcher Brad Penny and U2 front man Bono each went on the disabled list in the past few days with a bad back.

Guess which one may have the widest-ranging repercussions on the baseball schedule?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the havoc U2's summer tour wreaked on the 2010 baseball schedule.

Well, with U2 now having had to postpone 16 dates on the North American leg of its world tour this summer following Bono's emergency back surgery, tour promoters are talking about rescheduling the dates for 2011.

Which means, as for those postponed concerts in Angel Stadium (June 6-7), the Oakland Coliseum (June 16), Toronto's Rogers Centre (July 3) and Florida's Landshark Stadium (July 9) ... uh-oh.

The 2011 baseball schedule has already marched on with or without U ... 2.

"It's way too late in terms of blocking dates for the 2011 schedule," says Katy Feeney, one of baseball's long-time senior vice-presidents and a point person in the scheduling process. "The first draft should hopefully be in clubs' hands by mid-June.

"People need to tell the promoters to cool their jets. I'm sorry Bono had back surgery, but it's way too late. To block dates right now is nearly impossible."

Because of the sheer magnitude of the stadium stage show, U2 requires roughly 10 days to set up, play the show and then break everything down. With the Angels, Blue Jays, Athletics and Marlins all requesting specific road dates in 2010 so they could host U2 (and make gobs of money in the process), baseball officials had to work overtime on this summer's schedule.

Because of all of the moving parts, the trickle-down affected other clubs as well.

For example: The Dodgers agreed to flip-flop home dates of their interleague series this summer with the Angels, who needed a long road trip to schedule Bono and Co. Consequently, the Dodgers were rewarded with an extra weekend homestand -- they now have 14, where most other clubs have 13. The Angels agreed to lose a home weekend series in the swap, giving them 12 instead of the normal 13.

So the Angels are on the road from May 31-June 13 in Kansas City, Seattle, Oakland and in Dodger Stadium ... to make room for a band that now needs to reschedule.

Because the concert promoters work with the individual clubs, and not directly with baseball, Feeney isn't quite sure of the band's makeup plans. But the Athletics already have checked in with her about rescheduling their U2 show next summer, and it is Feeney's understanding that the concert promoters are hoping to keep the same or similar dates in the baseball parks, only for 2011 instead of 2010.

But the rough draft of the 2011 schedule -- which must be presented to the players' union by July 1, by the way -- is already finished. And it does not include 10-day dark periods in Angel Stadium, the Oakland Coliseum or anywhere else.

"Maybe somebody needs to go and tell them to scale down their stage," Feeney suggested. "We've scheduled around several other bands over the years -- the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and nobody has needed that kind of time.

"If Bono's doctors are telling him to stop jumping around, maybe he could just play sitting down."

Hmmm. ...

Maybe a few day-night doubleheaders would work for U2?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Through the storm we reach the shore
"You give it all but I want more
"And I'm waiting for you"

-- U2, With or Without You

Posted on: April 29, 2010 12:17 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2010 1:37 pm

U2, the DH and the baseball schedule

Don't know whether or not Bono favors the designated hitter rule, but based on U2's summer concert tour, they're definitely American Leaguers.

The band is playing Angels Stadium (June 6-7), the Oakland Coliseum (June 16) and Toronto's Rogers Center (July 3) before, finally, landing in NL Florida's Landshark Stadium (or whatever they're calling it now, on July 9).

And it wreaked havoc with the 2010 schedule.

"They've become my least-favorite band -- which has nothing to do with their songs, talent or anything else," jokes Katy Feeney, the longtime National League media specialist who now helps handles major league baseball's club relations and scheduling issues.

Putting together the major-league schedule is always a chore because it has an incredible number of moving parts, and this year's was even more difficult based on the band from Ireland.

Because of the magnitude of the tour and sheer size of the stage, Feeney says, "they require 10 days to set up the concert and then break it down. That's an unusually long period of time [compared to other concerts].

"And that means a team has to be on the road for three series' over a week-and-a-half."

The problems, for example, didn't necessarily occur with sending the Angels on the road for a 14-game trip from May 31-June 14 to make room for U2, or with sending the A's on a nine-game trip from June 11-21 to accommodate Bono and the boys.

"Unfortunately, everything has a ripple effect," Feeney says. "And the number of actual teams hosting the concert, other than those 10 days, may not feel as many consequences as some other clubs."

It could have gotten more dicey. St. Louis initially asked to hold dates for U2, but for whatever reason, the band didn't fit Busch Stadium into its itinerary. And while the band is playing major-league cities Denver (June 12), Seattle (June 20), Minneapolis (June 27) and Chicago (July 6), those concerts are all in football stadiums.

"It wasn't as bad as the year the Republican National Convention was in Houston," Feeney says of the 1992 gathering. "The Astros had to be on the road for a month that year.

"Every year has something. Hopefully, everybody enjoys the U2 concerts in baseball stadiums. And hopefully, the stadiums will be full."

Maybe Bono will write about it in one of his New York Times Op-Ed columns.

Likes: Colleague Mike Freeman's column lobbying baseball to consider moving 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona if the state does not change its new immigration law. ... Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo, the game's next superstar. ... Baltimore wins two in a row this week! ... Former Indians pitching coach Carl Willis as the roving pitching coordinator for the Mariners' minor-league system. He'll be back in the bigs soon. ... First three episodes of HBO's Treme have been solid. Very promising New Orleans-based show right there. From David Simon, who did Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. ... New release from The Hold Steady next week. ... New DVD coming in June from Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, London Calling. ... Finally started reading Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked. Not too far in yet, but anytime I'm reading a Hornby book, it's good with me.

Dislikes: The Giants' ninth inning Wednesday following Tim Lincecum. ... The Brewers' ninth inning Wednesday with Trevor Hoffman. ... The Royals' eighth and ninth innings Tuesday following Zack Greinke. ... Regarding the above on David Simon, I still haven't caught up with The Wire, which I hear is superb. It's on my list.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The more you see the less you know
"The less you find out as you go
"I knew much more then, than I do now
"Neon heart, day-glow eyes
"A city lit by fireflies
"They're advertising in the skies
"For people like us"

-- U2, City of Blinding Lights

Posted on: March 29, 2010 4:33 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2010 6:22 pm

Sabbatical over, Edmonds zeroes in on Brewers job

MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Is it actually possible to get younger by taking a year off?

Jim Edmonds, 39, sure looks it. He's about to complete one of the spring's most impressive comebacks, winning a spot on the Milwaukee Brewers' opening day roster after taking the entire 2009 season off.

Mexico? Margaritaville?

"Kids and golf," he says. "Spent some time on the beach with my kids.

"I haven't gotten a chance to do that in 15 years."

He's leaner than when we last saw him in 2008, fading away with San Diego and the Cubs. He's toned. He's hitting .293 with a .383 on-base percentage in the Cactus League with two homers and 12 RBI in 16 games.

"I think the year off not only helped me get healthy, but it gave me a fresher mind and body," says Edmonds, a four-time All Star who has eight career Gold Gloves. "I was able to get all the negativity out of my mind.

"Now, I'm not worrying about whether it's a lefty or righty pitching, matchups, anything."

When we last saw him, he had a strained calf, suffered a concussion, got into it with Tony La Russa, his former manager in St. Louis. He was flat-out worn out.

"Trying to keep up with all the doubters and the negativity, it was tough to hit," he says.

Now, he's been one of the most pleasant surprises in the Brewers' camp. He's not going to win a starting job, not with slugger Ryan Braun in left, Corey Hart in right and speedy Carlos Gomez in center. But in a right-handed-heavy lineup, Edmonds' lefty bat will find plenty of playing time the way things stand now.

"I can see him getting 250 at-bats," Brewers manager Ken Macha says. "I don't think that will be a problem. If he plays two or three times a week against right-handed pitching, that's 75 games right there, times four at-bats ... 250 at-bats, I can see that happening easily.

"His defense has been terrific. I'm good with him in left field, center field or right field. His arm is still very good, and accurate."

Macha already is envisioning Edmonds hitting second in the lineup when he's in there.

"I just want guys who will get on base for Braun and Prince Fielder," the manager says.

Besides, there's precedent for this sort of thing in Milwaukee. Outfielder Gabe Kapler did the same thing as Edmonds in 2008, winning a job after not playing in '07, and hit .301 with eight homers and 38 RBI. Kapler wound up parlaying that into two more one-year, $1 million-plus contracts in Tampa Bay.

Sunblock Day: Oh man, temperatures in the 80s. Are we sure spring training is wrapping up this week? It's just starting to heat up. Only problem is, so are the allergies.

Likes: Ricky Weeks, healthy. ... Milwaukee starter David Bush getting past the arm fatigue issues that plagued him in 2009 as he was coming back from a micro tear of his right triceps muscle that sidelined him from June through August. Bush right now probably slots in as the Brewers' fourth starter behind Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Doug Davis. Fifth starter? Brewers manager Ken Macha still has a lot of ifs, but it's between Manny Parra and Chris Narveson after Jeff Suppan was put on the disabled list with a sore neck. ... Prince Fielder going over his iPod with Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins and recommending tunes early Monday morning. ... Brandon Morrow feeling great after throwing the simulated game for Toronto the other day. Would love to see him take advantage of his new gig in Toronto after pitching out of Seattle's bullpen the past few years. ... Livan Hernandez in the Nationals rotation? Love to see old people still productive. ... Colorado is looking for a middle reliever, ala what Oakland will get with Chad Gaudin. ... Can't wait for the Butler-Michigan State Final Four game Saturday. ... Ya know, if you get your spinach sautéed with olive oil and garlic, it's not bad.

Dislikes: All these ads I keep seeing about the World Cup this summer on ESPN, the only thing that makes them tolerable is the music, U2's City of Blinding Lights. That's as much attention as I will be paying to soccer for the summer, thank you very much. ... Spring is almost over and I have not even been to Waffle House once.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Just 'cuz I don't run my mouth
"Don't mean I got nothing to say"

-- Drive-By Truckers, Marry Me

Posted on: August 25, 2009 10:00 pm

Twins dealt Santana because of $, not arm trouble

MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Mets prepare to face life without ace Johan Santana for the foreseeable future little more than a year after acquiring him from Minnesota, the Twins have a clear conscience.

When Minnesota declined to deliver a jumbo-sized contract to Santana and traded him to the Mets before the 2008 season, how much did the hint of arm problems for the left-hander factor into their decision?

"Zero," Mike Radcliff, Minnesota's vice-president of player personnel, said Tuesday. "Our ownership and our management didn't think that long of a contract was good business. It was just the length. That's always risk for a pitcher, whether it's a one-year deal or a 20-year deal. But we had no knowledge of any injury.

"It was the outlay that was required. And that goes along with that kind of a deal. Pitchers get hurt.  That kind of length of contract is very risky, especially for a pitcher. It's just common sense. Logic tells you that."

Upon obtaining Santana, the Mets immediately struck a six-year, $137.5 million contract with him. As he heads for season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, Santana is still owed a minimum of $98.5 million over the next four years.

"There is a differentiation between a pitcher and a position guy," Radcliff said. "[Santana] throws 200 innings a year, but he's not the biggest guy, and he's not the strongest guy. He does throw more changeups and off-speed stuff, so you can lessen the risk with him.

"But with a No. 1 guy like him, the risk is exponential."

And quite simply, that's where baseball's more economically challenged teams must make the hard decisions, must separate reason from emotion when dealing with a franchise player who is about to become a free agent.

One contract like Santana's can cripple a team with limited resources for years if the player is injured for any length of time. Meantime, while a major inconvenience for a richer team, it doesn't necessarily reduce them to non-competitor status.

"That's the small-market, big-market discussion in a nutshell," Radcliff said. "The larger-market teams have money to overcome mistakes that others of us don't. They can say, 'We'll take the risk, no problem.' For teams like us and the Royals, it can be a problem."

This will be Santana's second surgery since becoming a Met -- he underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus when the season ended last October.

His only significant injury while with the Twins came in 2001, when he was sidelined from July 12-Sept. 21 with a partial tear of the flexor muscle in his elbow.

In Minnesota, Twins players, staff and officials were saddened to hear about Santana's impending surgery.

"I hope he's healthy as soon as possible and ready to go," Radcliff said.

Likes: Great picture here from the weekend reunion of the 1979 world champion ("We Are Fam-a-lee") Pirates in Pittsburgh. Great to hear that Chuck Tanner, the manager of that team, is doing well after suffering a heart attack and undergoing surgery this spring. Tanner is 80 now, and he was one of the centerpieces of what several players said was an emotional and touching reunion. "I can't believe after reminiscing that we didn't beat the Orioles in four games," cracked pitcher Bert Blyleven. "Everybody was 5-for-5, I won five games in that series, Jim Rooker won four. ... Just seeing everybody was great. We're still family." ... The Rockies beating San Francisco on Ryan Spillborgh's 14th-inning grand slam on Monday night? They're developing into the best story in baseball. ... Who else was waiting for the Tigers to blow that 10-0 lead in Anaheim on Monday night? Closer Fernando Rodney entered in the eighth inning for the first time all year and, based on the way he handled the ninth, that might not be the last time manager Jim Leyland summons him in the eighth. ... Nick Hornby with a new book due this fall, Juliet, Naked. ... Adele's frozen custard stand in Excelsior, Minn. The Fresh Peach was outstanding today. And the Coconut Cream was exquisite on Sunday. ... The ribs and chopped pork at Famous Dave's barbecue shack.

Dislikes: The way I figure it, if you're looking for a sure thing in this ragged economy, you could do a whole lot worse than owning one of the food joints behind security at the airport. You're unable to bring liquid through security, so you've got to buy water -- or something -- on the other side. And now that they don't feed you on flights, you've got to grab some food (unless you pack it at home, which would be a nightmare trying to get through security. So, basically, for any food or drink, you're held hostage by whatever prices (or they charge or crap they serve. And at the airport near me, the Starbucks now says they will not take regular Starbucks gift cards. Apparently because they're independent and can make their own rules. So that'll be $12 for a cup of coffee, bottle of juice and a yogurt parfait to take on the plane for an early morning flight. And as if that's not enough of a rip-off, the spot where you can really use a gift card won't accept them. Traveling is so much fun.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"One love
"One blood
"One life
"You got to do what you should
"One life
"With each other
"One life
"But we're not the same
"We get to
"Carry each other"

-- U2, One

Posted on: April 24, 2009 12:21 am

Tigers no longer need map for strike zone

 One of the most impressive transformations in the majors this season is taking place in the Detroit pitching staff where, through Thursday, the Tigers had issued the fewest walks in the American League (42), and the second-fewest walks in the majors behind Philadelphia (40).

This after walking more hitters a year ago than every AL team except Baltimore.

There are several reasons why the Tigers were 8-6 and tied with Chicago and Kansas City for first in the AL Central heading into their series finale in Anaheim Thursday night -- as opposed to 4-10 and dead last after 14 games a year ago.

But the fact that their pitching staff is pumping strikes -- Edwin Jackson's rocky fourth inning later Thursday night notwithstanding -- is among the biggest.

"I don't say, 'We're not going to walk guys', but I want them throwing strikes," first-year pitching coach Rick Knapp says. "I want them to attack the strike zone.

"I want them to think analytically how they're going to approach each guy in the strike zone with their strength, not necessarily pitching to a hitter's weakness."

The Tigers hired Knapp from Minnesota, where he spent the past 12 seasons as the Twins' roving minor-league pitching coordinator, after firing Chuck Hernandez following the '08 season. While manager Jim Leyland is reluctant to praise Knapp excessively because he does not want to disrespect Hernandez, it's clear that the fit has been a good one.

"When a guy is in the minor leagues for 12, 13 years, you know one thing: He likes baseball," Leyland says. "He's going to work his ass off because he loves the game. That's one thing I really liked about him."

Part of the Tigers' early strike-zone sharpness is because of winter changes, such as the additions of starters Jackson (acquired from Tampa Bay) and Rick Porcello (Detroit's first-round pick in 2007) and reliever Brandon Lyon (signed as a free agent). Part of it is the program Knapp has incorporated with those who were here last year, such as veterans Justin Verlander, Zach Miner and Armando Galarraga.

"One of his things is to avoid the three-ball count," backup catcher Matt Treanor says. "He keeps an unofficial stat on three-ball counts, that there are a lot more foul balls on those. And then you get a couple of foul balls, then you try and trick somebody and you go away from your game plan."

Too, as Knapp says, "One sure-fire way not to walk a batter is, don't throw three balls. If you don't get to ball three, there's a pretty good chance you're not going to walk the guy."

Another thing the Tigers pitchers do several times a week is "touch the mound."

Translation: "All of the pitchers have the opportunity to throw off of the mound every day," Knapp says. "Not top-speed, eyeballs-popping-out."

It's from the practice-like-you-play philosophy. Knapp likes his pitchers to throw at least every other day from a mound, even if it's just playing catch, so that they can work on their deliveries. Lyon, for example, has a higher release point with his curve than with his fastball, and in a recent game he lost track of his arm slot on the fastball. He was a prime candidate after that to cruise by Knapp a day or two later and say, as Tigers pitchers do now, "I need to touch it today."

"You have to tip your cap to the pitchers, they've worked very hard," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski says. "And it's something Rick Knapp has brought along with him."

Together, it's worked very well. But it remains way early, and this newfound familiarity with the strike zone, of course, will remain a work in progress. Thursday night in Anaheim, Jackson, who went to a three-ball count just once against 26 batters in his Saturday start in Seattle, walked two Angels home during a rocky fourth inning.

No doubt, he'll get a few subtle reminders from Knapp long before his next start, Tuesday in Detroit against the Yankees.

"When you get into an advantageous count, you can dictate what they swing at," Knapp says. "There's not much you can do when it's 2-and-0. But there's a whole lot you can do when it's 0-and-2."

More often than not, Detroit pitchers have been living that first-hand this season.

Likes: Did you see Milwaukee third baseman Bill Hall's spectacular play in the eighth inning as David Bush was gunning for a no-hitter against Philadelphia Thursday? The Phillies' Greg Dobbs smashed a bouncer down the line, and Hall absolutely robbed him.. ... Interesting watching the subtle changes in Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera. He's been around so long it seems like he's older than 25 (he broke in at 19), but now in his second season with Detroit, it's clear he's more comfortable with the organization, the American League and with himself. "He considers this his team now," Tigers batting coach Lloyd McClendon says. McClendon also adds that Cabrera "thinks he had a bad year last year." This after leading the AL with 37 homers, collecting 127 RBI but hitting only .292. So how does McClendon respond to that? "I told him I dreamed of years like that," McClendon says. ... Bob Verdi's column in the Chicago Tribune on late Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas brings it on home. ... National Public Radio's Don Gonyea, proud son of Monroe, Mich., on Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. ... U2 heading out on tour this summer. ... Claritin. If we had allergy medicine like this back when, I would have set some serious cross country records in high school (ha! hahaha!). It helps to run when you can breathe. It helps to do anything when you can breathe.

Dislikes: The NFL draft is proof that if you're a clever enough marketer, you can sell anything. The draft might be the single-most overrated thing in the country. I'd rather weed a garden for 12 hours straight in 100-degree temperatures than watch even one round of that thing.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well some say life will beat you down
"Break your heart, steal your crown
"So I started out for God kno ws where
"But I guess I'll know when I get there"

-- Tom Petty, Learning to Fly


Posted on: March 25, 2009 5:29 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2009 6:29 pm

It was always swell listening to George Kell

 Some of you older readers heard about the passing of Hall of Famer George Kell this week and no doubt flashed back to his slick fielding and quick bat for five clubs over 15 seasons in the 1940s and 1950s.

Some of you younger readers saw the news and wondered, who's George Kell?

Then there's a third group, those who lived in Michigan in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and knew him as the television voice of the Detroit Tigers.

That's when and where I cut my baseball teeth, and that was my good fortune.

Ernie Harwell is the legendary radio voice from that part of the country, and I always thought that partly because of Ernie, Kell was underrated for what he did.

Kell, too, helped teach baseball to a generation of fans, describing and illustrating the Tigers with that soft, lilting Arkansas accent. He, too, was part of your extended family each summer if you watched and cared for the Tigers.

He was as pleasant in the summer as Dairy Queen and the county fair, and along about late February or March, often more eagerly anticipated.

Among other things, Kelly represented stability. He worked during the time before broadcasts bounced around the radio dial and the television channel lineup like a free agent utilitymen. Every single season in the 1980s, George Kell and Al Kaline were in the booth. With them on television and Harwell and Paul Carey on WJR radio, things were covered.

Not only was Kell's delivery and accent as addicting as peach cobbler, it was easily imitated. I bet every Michigan high school kid who even had a passing interest in baseball did some version of Kell at some point in his youth.

In 1983 and 1984, George Baier of WRIF radio did a hilarious, spot-on impersonation of Kell and Kaline, culminating in a send-up of The Police's Every Breath You Take. Baier's version, as "George Swell", was Every Swing You Take.

Sample lyrics:

Every Sweet Lou (Whitaker) stab
Every (Chet) Lemon grab
We'll be watching you

I don't know whether or not Kell enjoyed it -- I hope he did, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery -- but for those of us young baseball fans with a bit of a rock 'n' roll tilt, we loved it.

We're all a part of where we came from. I know I'm not alone in being grateful that Kell brought a little bit of Arkansas into Michigan on so many warm, enjoyable summer nights, with the ballgame on television and the thought that anything was possible on the other side of that screen door.

Bless you, George.

Likes: Burgers. ... The World Baseball Classic championship Monday night between Japan and Korea. Textbook baseball and a great atmosphere. My ears are still ringing. ... A boy who looked to be about 7 or 8, walking with his dad (both of them wearing Cubs caps) and opening a pack of baseball cards outside of Peoria Stadium before Wednesday's Indians-Padres game. ... Roster decisions being made daily now. Shouldn't we be to opening day by now? ... Cole Hamels back on the mound in Philadelphia. ... John Smoltz ahead of schedule in Boston. ... U2's new disc, No Line on the Horizon. Not a classic, but some good stuff. ... Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band in rehearsals, preparing for the new tour to begin April 1. What a treat, we get two opening days this year. The baseball version, and the new Springsteen tour version.

Dislikes: OK, I get it, that some Roman Catholics in Detroit are upset that the Tigers' home opener is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. on Good Friday. It's not optimal. But here's a thought: If you're offended, don't go to the game. And don't watch on television or listen on the radio.

Sunblock Day? Warm sun, but temps only in the high 70s. Which isn't bad. It can be over 90 at this time of year in the desert.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The more you see the less you know
"The less you find out as you go
"I knew much more then than I do now"

-- U2, City of Blinding Lights




Posted on: May 9, 2008 11:22 pm

Yankees' plane done left

DETROIT -- How are things going for the New York Yankees right about now?

Well, let's see. Reliever Chris Britton was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday. He had a 9 p.m. flight out of Detroit.

Reliever Jonathan Albaladejo worked 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief Friday night before departing with a 2-and-0 count on Placido Polanco in the sixth inning here Friday night with a sore right elbow.

"I think that occurred around 9:10," Yankees manager Joe Girardi noted.

So the Yanks were sending word to Britton: Abort flight!

"He'll turn around and come back now," Girardi said.

And Albaladejo will fly to New York for an MRI on his elbow.

"At first the pain was like a needle going into my elbow," Albaladejo said. "I just couldn't do it no more. It was kind of like a burn."

According to Girardi, it's either a strained muscle or sprained ligament. Either way, the Yankees' bullpen took another hit.

Oh, and Hideki Matsui's 17-game hitting streak came to an end. OK, so he wasn't exactly close to the club-record 56 put together by a fella named Joe DiMaggio back in 1947. Still ... Matsui was 0-for-4 when he came up to bat in the ninth with Bobby Abreu on second base, two out and the Yanks trailing 6-5.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland called for closer Todd Jones to intentionally walk Matsui. Shelly Duncan ended the game with a fly ball to center.

"I wasn't surprised at all," Girardi said of Leyland's interesting strategical maneuver which involved putting the go-ahead run on base. "You're talking about a veteran player who has been in this situation a long time vs. a young man who hasn't been in it much at this level."

Oh, and entering the game? Matsui led the AL with a .426 on-base percentage, and his .345 batting average was second in the AL to Minnesota's Joe Mauer, who checked in at .346.

Likes: Toronto's Roy Halladay already having pitched four complete games this season. ... Detroit's home whites. ... The out-of-town scoreboard -- in whatever stadium you're sitting in. ... Former umpire Bruce Froemming now hanging around press boxes. ... The cheeseburgers at Miller's Bar in Dearborn are fabulous.

Dislikes: Interstate 75 closed for a couple of miles just south of Detroit as Michigan's never-ending road construction continues.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It's a beautiful day
"Don't let it get away"

-- U2, Beautiful Day

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