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Tag:Warren Zevon
Posted on: March 9, 2011 4:30 pm
 

Fifth rotation spot a battle in Cincinnati

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It is not a stretch to say that rookie Mike Leake was a key spark that helped light Cincinnati's baseball Renaissance during the first half of 2010.

So how could it be, then, that the young right-hander is scratching and clawing for a rotation job here this spring ... and has a better than 50/50 chance of opening the season at Triple-A Louisville?

Well, circumstances broke just right for Leake last year at this time and he completely skipped the minor leagues, jumping from Arizona State to the bigs. He was the first starting pitcher in the majors to accomplish that since Jim Abbott with the Angels in 1989.

But a couple of things are at issue this year: One, the length of last season eventually wore him down and the Reds wound up pulling him from the rotation late in the season. And two, behind Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto, the Reds have a growing number of other good young arms.

Essentially, it's a three-person battle for the last two slots in the rotation among Leake, Homer Bailey and Travis Wood. One disadvantage facing Leake is that Bailey is out of options (meaning, the Reds now have to place him on waiver and risk losing him before they can send him back to the minors). Consequently, Bailey probably has a job won unless he turns in an absolute clunker of a spring.

At roughly 5-10 and 175 pounds, Leake, who went 8-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) last year for the Reds, remains a wisp of a guy.

"You hope he's getting stronger," manager Dusty Baker says. "He was a little kid [last year].

"I was always told there are kid muscles and there are man muscles, and he don't have his man muscles yet."

The Reds still value Leake, 23, and appreciate that he helped launch them early in 2010 toward their greatest heights since 1995. But like other very young pitchers, he still hase some developing to do.

"He was our best starter over the first eight or 10 weeks and he was on the worst schedule," Cincinnati pitching coach Bryan Price says. "Because we were trying to limit his innings, he wasn't on an every-five-days schedule."

Whenever the Reds had an extra off day, they pushed Leake back, and he often started with five or six days' rest, rather than just four. As Price says, those are not optimal conditions for a starting pitcher.

"I think we have a chance to start [the season] with Mike because he's a winner," Price says. "We have a good problem [with many talented, young arms], but it's going to be a bad problem for one of the guys."

There is a chance the odd man out among Bailey, Wood and Leake could pitch out of the bullpen, but those circumstances would have to be extenuating. The Reds' first choice would be to send whomever does not make the big league rotation to Triple-A Louisville so the kid can continue to develop.

Sunblock Day? SPF 50, baby. Warmest day yet in Arizona, in the 80s, with the 90s right around the corner.

Likes: Eric Davis in uniform as an instructor in Reds camp. ... Joe Morgan visiting. ... The fried chicken and biscuits at Culinary Dropouts in Scottsdale. ... The Fennville, Mich., boys high school team winning an emotional district tournament opener after the unspeakable death of one of its players last week following a game-winning shot to cap a 20-0 season. Former colleague Jeff Seidel captured the heartbreak and the optimism nicely in this story.

Dislikes: None today. How can there be any after reading the gripping story above? Just prayers and thoughts.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
"Keep me in your heart for awhile
"If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
"Keep me in your heart for awhile
"When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
"Keep me in your heart for awhile
"There's a train leaving nightly called when all is said and done
"Keep me in your heart for awhile"

-- Warren Zevon, Keep Me in Your Heart

Posted on: October 9, 2010 10:36 pm
 

Bear Hunting Davis looking for kill in Texas

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- So now AL East champion Tampa Bay hands the ball for its Game 4 start to ... The Bear Hunter?

Yes, meet big right-hander Wade Davis, 6-5 and 220 pounds, who, when he's not pitching for the Rays, lives the kind of life that makes Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon confident when Davis is pitching for the Rays.

Aside from the fact that Davis pitched very well for Tampa Bay toward season's end -- 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA over the last month -- Maddon notes, "He's kind of cold-blooded."

Come again?

"He shot a bear recently in Toronto," Maddon was saying before Game 3. "Came out ... with a bow and arrow and put it down, so I really think he has taken off since that's occurred.

"An off day in Toronto, and the boys went bear hunting. That's a nice off day right there. Wade was the only one who came back with the 300-pound plus black bear.

"If he can stay eye-to-eye with a black bear, I think [Sunday] is not that big of a deal."

That's what the Rays hope, at least.

For the season, Davis was 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA over 29 starts. Whether an Airborne Rangers lineup featuring Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero will cause that hunting feeling, we'll see.

"I hope it is nothing like that. I hope it is really different," Davis says, adding, "That was a heart-pounding moment."

By the way, the Rangers are not throwing a bear hunter in Game 4 -- at least, not that we know of. But right-hander Tommy Hunter, 24, is a pretty darned good pitcher (13-4, 3.73 ERA), especially in The Ballpark in Arlington (7-0, 3.06 in 12 games, 11 starts).

The reason for his success at home?

"I like throwing here," Hunter said. "The fans are great and just the way they play defense behind me has been pretty impressive all year. So, hopefully things don't change."

Likes: Johnny Oates' grandson -- Johnny Oates II -- throwing out the first pitch before Game 3 of the Rays-Rangers here. The late Rangers manager was a terrific man, and it was nice to see the Rangers remember him through his grandson. ... Texas infielder Michael Young in the postseason. ... Really, I'm professionally neutral on this Tampa Bay-Texas series, but it's nice to see some life in the Rays and a series turn interesting. ... Seeing Nancy Mazmanian, who was callously and unconscionably laid off by the Angels last winter after many years as a first-class media relations pro in Anaheim, helping with PR here in Texas for this series. ... The Murray's Steak Sandwich in Minnesota's Target Field. Best ballpark concession I think I've had. And at only $10.50, it's shockingly reasonable. ... Razzoo's Cajun joint in Fort Worth. Excellent seafood gumbo and crawfish etouffee the other night. ... Congratulations to Don Middlebrook, tropical music troubadour extraordinaire in Michigan, on 20 years of music. Check him out here.

Dislikes:
Get well soon, Tony Gwynn. That's tough news, salivary cancer. Here's to a full recovery.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well, he went down to dinner in his Sunday best
"Excitable boy, they all said
"And he rubbed the pot roast all over his chest
"Excitable boy, they all said
"Well, he's just an excitable boy
"He took in the four a.m. show at the Clark
"Excitable boy, they all said
"And he bit the usherette's leg in the dark
"Excitable boy, they all said
"Well, he's just an excitable boy"

-- Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy

Posted on: February 24, 2010 4:47 pm
 

Sliding feet first with Nyjer Morgan, + Strasburg

VIERA, Fla. -- On the other side of the Stephen Strasburg Watch here -- and I'll get to that in a minute, because the kid is DEFINITELY worth watching -- the Nationals, believe it or not, actually are spending time on a few other things.

One of those is teaching outfielder Nyjer Morgan -- and others -- how to slide feet first.

If you've ever been one of those guys (or gals) watching a game when a player injures himself sliding head first into a base and you're reaction is, "Why do they risk getting hurt by doing that?!", then Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is going to be your kind of skipper.

Morgan missed the final 34 games of the season last summer when he broke his right hand sliding headfirst into third base against the Chicago Cubs in late August. To that point, he had been terrific in Washington, hitting .351 with 24 thefts.

The Nats were a completely different team with him gone, going 13-21 to finish the season.

Thus, this spring's project. Riggleman is the point man and his coaching staff is right there with him.

"Collectively, we're all encouraging it, and he's all on board," Riggleman says. "He was coming into camp saying, 'I've got to do this.' We want to get it done before games start."

Morgan isn't alone. Outfielder Justin Maxwell and anybody else who fancies sliding head-first is being asked to change, too.

"Our message to the guys, not just Nyjer, is, we'd like to get you to go feet first," Riggleman says. "If it's causing more problems than it's solving and you can't do it, then OK. But we've got to give it an effort."

Riggleman, an old school baseball guy, has made sliding feet first his pet project before in other places at other times.

"It's been an emphasis for me, personally," Riggleman says. "When I was the Cardinals' minor-league field coordinator, I asked my bosses and received permission to institute it throughout the system. From the '05 draft on, it was mandatory: You slide feet first.

"From the day they were drafted, we got them off of the plane and it was, 'Hello, how are you doing? You're going to slide feet first.'"

Riggleman says that Pete Rose always has been one of his favorite players, but he thinks a "generation" of players has grown up not knowing how to slide because everybody was too busy imitating Rose, figuring that headfirst slides are one way to show you're hustling.

Morgan, who grew into the Nats' sparkplug after they acquired him from Pittsburgh last summer, has been looking fairly natural going into the base with his feet, Riggleman says.

*****

Now, Strasburg.

I stopped in Viera on Tuesday while driving across the state, just in time for the top overall draft pick from last summer to throw his second bullpen of the spring.

And?

"I thought he threw good the other day," Riggleman said. "Today was off-the-charts good."

Only after a rocky beginning, though, because, truth be told, even the kid who is being talked about as possibly the greatest pitching prospect ever in the draft isn't completely built of steel. For a second, he buckled when he saw who was catching him: Pudge Rodriguez.

"It was a little nerve-wracking at first," Strasburg said. "He's a future Hall of Famer. I was thinking, 'Don't throw one at his ankles first pitch' and, sure enough, I did."

The nerves didn't last long, and Strasburg recovered quickly enough to go off the charts, in Riggleman's words.

In Strasburg's words, he learned a few things from Rodriguez during the bullpen session. He said Pudge worked with him on his sinker and changeup, suggesting a few approaches such as working both sides of the plate with the changeup rather than just the "arm side."

In college at San Diego State, Strasburg said, because of the aluminum bats, "the changeup is only a pitch you throw to left-handers." But with wood bats and precise execution, he said, that pitch should be one he is able to develop and throw to right-handers in the pros.

Already, he throws a four-seam fastball that touches 100 m.p.h., the change-up (clocked around 90), and a breaking ball in the high-80s and the sinker. He's been working with a circle-change as well, and he says he's getting some "good, consistent sink" on it.

Conventional wisdom still has Strasburg, 21, opening the season in the minors -- probably Class A Potomac, because it's Virginia (Woodbridge) location offers better weather than the colder early season conditions at Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.) or Triple-A Syracuse (N.Y.).

Sunblock Day: Not really. Gray skies and rain have moved back in, and the forecast for this weekend in central Florida is for chilly temps in the 50s and low 60s. Ugh.

Likes: Under general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman, there is a decidedly different air in Nationals camp this spring. It's by far the most professional atmosphere I've seen since the club moved to D.C. for the 2005 season. I'm not saying they're ready to contend, but I think they've got the right people in place in management and some really good young talent. Strasburg and Drew Storen, the club's future closer who also was a first-round pick last year, both are wickedly talented and have outstanding character. ... My favorite transaction of the spring so far is Jack Curry to the YES Network. Curry, the former New York Timesman who took the buyout, has too much to offer to disappear into the sunset. ... Didn't stop for Gator Jerky while whizzing past the stand on the Bee Line Expressway here the other day, but thought about it. ... Great steak the other night at Runyon's in Coral Springs, Fla., with one of my all-time favorite editors, Craig Stanke.

Dislikes: There's a dead fish in the parking lot of my hotel. A smallish guy, just laying there, all dried up and disgusting. Head on, eye looking up, the whole shebang.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I got a part-time job at my father's carpet store
"Laying tackless stripping, and housewives by the score
"I loaded up their furniture, and took it to Spokane
"And auctioned off every last naugahyde divan
"I'm very well aquainted with the seven deadly sins
"I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
"I'm proud to be a glutton, and I don't have time for sloth
"I'm greedy, and I'm angry, and I don't care who I cross"

-- Warren Zevon, Mr. Bad Example

Posted on: February 24, 2008 4:27 pm
 

It's a game of timing ... and contracts

FORT MYERS, FLA. -- Among the politics of a manager's new contract -- and the specific example, of course, if that of Boston's Terry Francona -- is timing.

Managers hate going into a season with just one year left on a contract because if things start poorly, then the contract quickly becomes the story and they lose authority in the clubhouse. In a place like Boston, you can see where that could be a huge potential problem.

Francona certainly deserved the extension, having helped deliver two World Series titles in the past four seasons, and that he was going to get one really was never in question. He did, though, admit to a couple of nights of worry recently, before his three-year deal was finished.

And amid the relief of finally knocking it off, the first thing Francona spoke of Sunday was the relief he feels that the issue won't be dragging into the season -- or, even, any further this spring.

"None of us wanted this to go into what we're doing down here," Francona said. "There was a lot of hard work and we were able to get it done to where everyone was comfortable and we can concern ourselves with baseball -- which is what we should do."

General manager Theo Epstein said that the club wouldn't have let the talks drag into the season.

He also offered an interesting insight into how he's seen Francona grow into the job since 2004, Francona's first season in Boston.

"Where he's grown, I think, is in dealing with confrontation," Epstein said. "That's one area that doesn't come naturally to him. I've seen him through the years become more and more comfortable saying what needs to be said, especially in the clubhouse to players."

Francona is a nice guy who was genuinely embarrassed -- to a degree -- by the negotiations.

"I'm not very comfortable doing this," he said. "The minute (the negotiations) started, I wanted it to be over, and that's just not practical."

Likes: The Marlins looking for "plus-size" guys (read: fat guys) to form an all-male cheerleading cast (to be called the Manatees) on Friday and Saturday nights. How great is that? ... The Brewers setting a single-day ticket record by selling 98,000 of them for the 2008 season. Nice to see people care about baseball in Milwaukee again -- and nice to see the Brewers give them something to care about. ... Nearly 2,000 folks at Boston's practice facility watching the Red Sox's first day of full-squad workouts the other day. And the 1,500 or so folks who came to watch the pitchers and catchers work out for a few days running. ... No, I don't think the Mitchell Report or steroids has dampened enthusiasm for the game. ... Seeing a Toyota Prius hybrid and a Hummer H2 parked next to each other at Boston's facility the other day. ... Memphis-Tennesee on Saturday night. Great ending. ... The Drift Inn near Bradenton Beach. Met a friend there the other night, and what a wild place that is.

Dislikes: Hey Florida, how about you join many other states and pass a law prohibiting smoking in public buildings (restaurants and bars, especially)?

Sunblock day? Absolutely beautiful here Sunday. Warm sun and 80-some odd degrees.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"I started as an altar boy
"Working at the church
"Learning all my holy moves
"Doing some research
"Which led me to a cash box
"Labeled 'Children's Fund'
"I'd leave the change
"And tuck the bills inside my cummerbund"

-- Warren Zevon, Mr. Bad Example


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