Posted on: April 5, 2010 2:31 pm
Unless you were watching it already: Fabulous running catch by Pittsburgh left-fielder Lastings Milledge to rob Andre Ethier of extra bases with one out in the third inning Monday. Milledge had a long run before making the grab practically over his shoulder on the left-center warning track.
Pretty cool way to spend his 25th birthday, by the way. Milledge, not Ethier.
Posted on: April 5, 2010 2:07 pm
This is why the groans in Los Angeles:
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the first in Pittsurgh. Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, rocking and rolling just like last year.
Bottom of the first, Padilla gives it right back. He left a belt-high fastball over the plate to the always dangerous Garrett Jones, who promptly deposited it into the Allegheny River for a two-run, game-tying homer.
Padilla knew it immediately, jerking his head down in disgust and making a waving, snapping motion with his arm.
See, the difference between an ace and others is that an ace specializes in slamming the door in innings after his team scores to give him a lead. Granted, it doesn't always happen that way. But it does more often than not.
Maybe Padilla winds up slamming the door more often than not as 2010 rolls along.
But he didn't in the first inning on opening day, and first impressions are, that's only going to reinforce the questions surrounding the Dodgers' sketchy rotation.
Posted on: March 4, 2010 9:54 am
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Andy LaRoche feels the locomotive steaming toward him, but what's he going to do? Run?
He will open the season as Pittsburgh's third baseman.
Whether he closes it that way is an entirely different story.
Over there in the wings, Pedro Alvarez, one of the top five prospects in the game, is sharpening his defense, honing his hitting and preparing for a long future as Pittsburgh's third baseman (or, perhaps, first baseman -- Alvarez's bat is by far his most intriguing tool).
"No matter if I play with A-Rod, Pedro or nobody behind me, I have to get the things done that I need to do," LaRoche says. "It's not going to make me work any harder, or work any less.
"That's all I can focus on."
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, Alvarez hit .288 with 27 homers, 32 doubles and 95 RBI in 126 games last season between high-Class A and Double-A.
He likely will not break camp with the Pirates and probably won't arrive until June, July or later -- partly because the organization thinks he still needs seasoning, and partly because stashing him in the minors until then will delay the clock on his major league service time and stop him from being eligible for arbitration until after the 2012 season.
"It's easy to get excited about Pedro," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington says. "You see the strength in his bat, and what he did last year. But it's also easy to forget that he hasn't swung the bat above Double-A. Triple-A pitchers are going to teach him some lessons he needs to learn."
So the good people of Indianapolis (locale of Pittsburgh's Triple-A team) are in for a treat early this season. How long he remains there -- and how long LaRoche remains in the lineup -- right now is only a matter of conjecture until what most people think is the most fearsome bat to come out of the draft for Pittsburgh since first-round pick Barry Bonds in 1985 is ready.
"Obviously, he's a great player," says LaRoche, 25, who hit .258 with 12 homers and 64 RBI last season for the Bucs. "All the publicity he gets, it's not just hype. He's the real deal. He's a great hitter and a solid third baseman.
"It would be nice to play on the same field with him one day -- even if he's at third base and I'm at second."
Sunblock Day? If things don't change around here, I'm going to have to remove this category from the blog entirely. Not to keep bitching, but according to the St. Petersburg Times, this is the coldest winter in the Tampa area since the 1950s. According to the newspaper, so far this season, "Tampa and St. Petersburg have had 26 and 28 days respectively that haven't climbed above 60 degrees — the second-highest number in recorded history. And we're only a few days away from the record, which was set in 1958 when St. Petersburg had 31 days below 60 and Tampa had 30." Brrr.
Likes: Love the blue and orange paw print pattern throughout the carpeting in the Tigers' Lakeland clubhouse. ... Pittsburgh's Pirate City, about a mile away from McKechnie Field in Bradenton, is totally first class. The Bucs have done a great job incorporating their history, with photos and nods to men like Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Danny Murtaugh and Roberto Clemente throughout. Love the Clemente quote painted onto the wall above the door through which the Pirates exit to head toward the fields: "I want to be remembered as a ballplayer who gave all he had to give." ... If you're on vacation to see the Pirates and just couldn't find a pet-sitter, there's a place just down the very rural street on which Pirate City is located that offers dog obedience training. Lessons are Tuesdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Woof. ... Mixon's Fruit Farm also is just down the road from Pirate City, and it's a must-stop for lunch. The fresh orange juice is out of this world. The deli sandwiches are solid, but what's really a must-have is the orange swirl ice cream cone, made with Mixon's fresh orange juice. Mmmmm.
Dislikes: Not that I was ever tempted to watch, but sure am glad I missed The Marriage Ref the other night. Based on the awful reviews and some of what we've seen lately, this painful question needs to be asked: Has Jerry Seinfeld jumped the shark?
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
Exhibition games start this week, and in tribute to Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who would open the Tigers' first Grapefruit League broadcast each spring with this poem, I've gotta go with this today:
"For, lo, the winter is past
-- Song of Solomon
You can listen to Ernie himself recite this verse from the Song of Solomon here, from his Audio Scrapbook (a cool four-disc set that is extremely well done). Just click play and it's the first up in the Harwell tribute video.
Posted on: December 7, 2009 1:38 pm
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Twins continue their dialogue with veteran pitcher Carl Pavano and, though talks so far have not led to a contract, the veteran right-hander is expected to accept the Twins' offer of salary arbitration by tonight's midnight EST deadline.
Though a handful of other clubs have shown interest in Pavano, sources told CBSSports.com, his clear preference is to return to the Twins because they have a chance to win and he enjoyed his stint there last August and September.
The thinking if he does accept arbitration is that, once salary figures are exchanged, he and the Twins still could agree on a two-year deal before the arbitration date later this winter. Pavano went 14-12 with a 5.10 ERA in 33 starts for Cleveland and Minnesota in 2009. Perhaps most attractively, he worked 199 1/3 innings.
Tom O'Connell, Pavano's agent, declined to comment on specifics Monday afternoon here. He and the Twins are scheduled to meet again tonight.
"We'll let the arbitration process play out," O'Connell said.
If the Pavano talks fall through, the Twins' next choice is believed to be free agent left-hander Jarrod Washburn.
-- Atlanta hopes to land a middle-of-the-order bat by the time it leaves Indianapolis this week, and the Braves have made it known that they will trade either one of two starting pitchers to get it, Javier Vazquez or Derek Lowe.
-- The Dodgers are pushing hard to trade for a starting pitcher. Among others, they have approached Pittsburgh about Paul Maholm, and the Pirates also have indicated a willingness to clubs to listen to offers on Zach Duke.
-- The Orioles are looking for a third baseman and a closer.
Posted on: July 12, 2009 8:06 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2009 8:47 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Freddy Sanchez's inclusion onto the National League All-Star team Sunday inches him a little closer toward guaranteeing his 2010 contract.
Which could make Pittsburgh's ongoing efforts to trade him a little more difficult.
There is no question that the Pirates, one of the most active teams in the trade market this summer, are looking to capitalize on their second baseman's hot start by dealing him.
But one mitigating factor that unquestionably will make general manager Neal Huntington's job more difficult as he works to re-shape the Pirates is that, with Sanchez having been selected as an All-Star, his current contract now vests for 2010 with 600 plate appearances.
At that point, Sanchez, more than halfway there with 342 plate appearances into Sunday, is guaranteed an $8 million salary for 2010.
As one major-league executive noted Sunday, that's a lot of money for a player who gets hurt quite a bit. Most recently, Sanchez missed a week with a sore back.
If he doesn't reach 600 plate appearances this summer, the Pirates own an $8 million club option, and the Pirates can buy him out for $600,000 if they choose to not pick it up.
Among the teams that have been linked to trade talks with the Pirates are San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle and Tampa Bay.
The Giants, leading the NL wild-card hunt at the break, make a lot of sense because they are starved for offense.
You probably can discount the Twins, however. Industry sources say they're focusing on bullpen help. And $8 million is pretty pricey for them, unless the player's name is Justin Morneau or Joe Nathan.
Posted on: April 26, 2009 8:46 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2009 1:48 pm
A baseball season is a series of tests, and even with its pitching going gangbusters, Pittsburgh is being tested right now. The Pirates lost catcher and cleanup hitter Ryan Doumit to a broken wrist last week and then disabled shortstop Jack Wilson on Sunday with a sprained left middle finger.
Meantime, outfielder Nate McLouth missed the weekend series in San Diego after suffering a strained right oblique during batting practice Friday.
"We're going to have to really pull it together," manager John Russell says.
The Pirates did so in Sunday's 8-3 win over San Diego. Shortstop Brian Bixler, recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis, punched a two-run double and catcher Robinson Diaz singled home two more runs.
The Pirates can't necessarily plan on that sort of success every day from their role players, and losing Doumit, especially, for what is expected to be eight-to-10 weeks will hurt. But the Pirates do appear built better this year to withstand such injuries with veterans such as Eric Hinske, Craig Monroe and Ramon Vazquez and rookie catcher Jason Jaramillo.
"Neal (Huntington, Pittsburgh general manager) has done a great job," Russell says. "Depth is one thing as an organization we've focused on. Acquiring talent, developing our talent and having good drafts. It was tough to trade Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady last year. But coming out of spring training, there's a lot more depth than last year."
The Pirates especially will lean on Jaramillo, acquired last December for Ronny Paulino, with Doumit out for an extended period.
"It's tough," Pirates pitcher Zach Duke says. "He's our guy. He's our leader. We want him back there. J.J. is a capable catcher. He works his butt off and we're comfortable with him behind the plate. He's stepped in nicely.
"You can ask anybody in here, if he hits .250 and calls a good game and blocks everything, we'll be more than happy."
-- After taking the first two games of their series with the Yankees before heading into battle one more time Sunday night, more good news is on deck for the Red Sox: Shortstop Julio Lugo is through his rehabilitation period and is expected to be in the lineup Monday night in Cleveland. And while Lugo hasn't exactly come close to living up to expectations since he signing with Boston, there is this: Among the 11 American League shortstops with at least 300 plate appearances in 2008, Lugo's .356 on-base percentage was second only to Derek Jeter's .360.
-- We'll never know if there would have been the usual scouts or SAT administrators behind the plate, but we just missed a matchup of Princeton University products over the weekend when Russ Ohlendorf started for Pittsburgh on Sunday while San Diego's Chris Young will go Monday in Colorado. When Pittsburgh played San Diego last September, Young and Ohlendorf missed each other by just a day as well. They are two of only three pitchers in Princeton baseball history to be named Ivy League rookie of the year (Young won in 1999 and Ohlendorf in 2002).
-- Maybe a day off last Wednesday against Detroit helped Los Angeles Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who homered and had a career-high four RBI in Sunday's 8-0 win over Seattle. Kendrick has been having a miserable time this season and is still hitting just .258 after his 4-for-5 day Sunday. Most noticeable has been his strikeout total -- 14 in just 66, a rate of one per 4.7 at-bats as opposed to the one per 5.9 at-bats last year. Manager Mike Scioscia said it was a combination of mechanical flaws and Kendrick pressing. And what bothered the manager as much as the whiffs were the weak, rollover ground balls Kendrick was sending to the left side of the infield.
-- Update on two disabled Angels starters: John Lackey worked two innings' worth of an extended spring training game in Tempe, Ariz., on Saturday, same as Ervin Santana a day earlier. The duo each will have another extended spring training outing this week, Santana on Wednesday and Lackey on Thursday, and if it's still all systems go, they'll each likely report for rehabilitation assignments at Class A Rancho Cucamonga. The program would put Lackey and Santana back in the Angels' rotatoin sometime around mid-May.
Likes: Glad to see Pittsburgh pitching coach Joe Kerrigan back in the game. ... Watched San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the probably No. 1 pick in this June's draft, on Friday night and the kid is the real deal. Very, very impressive. Column coming on him later this week. ... Somehow managed to miss the entire NFL draft. Aw, shucks ... not. ... Closer Trevor Hoffman activated in Milwaukee. ...
Dislikes: Detroit catcher Matt Treanor about to undergo hip surgery? Say it ain't so! Now he and wife Misti May-Treanor, the Olympic gold medalist, can rehab together. She's still recovering from a ruptured Achilles heel suffered on Dancing with the Stars. Another reason why I don't dance.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Our house is a very, very fine house
-- Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Our House
Posted on: April 3, 2009 2:58 pm
Spring training, that's a wrap. From the Grapefruit League to the Cactus League, a few of my favorite things:
Future song lyricist: At a Mariners' game in Peoria last week, they gave a public address microphone to a fan between innings for a daily contest in which the contestant must finish the lyrics to a Jimmy Buffett song, with the prize being a $25 gift certificate to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant.
So they play part of the song Margaritaville, then cut it off. The guy successfully finished the line "Searching for my lost shaker of salt."
So far, so good.
Then he ad-libbed, singing something along the lines of "Yeah, and we don't have Richie Sexson anymore."
The red-faced Mariners quickly grabbed the microphone away from the dude, but not before it elicited quite a laugh from the Peoria Stadium crowd.
The joke, though, was on the contestant:
Quoth the Mariners: No way you're getting that gift certificate now, buddy.
Or, as manager Bud Black referred to him, "The Joker."
For those of you not old enough to remember the old Batman television show, the Joker was played by Cesar Romero.
If I'm the Padres, I make Ramos pitch with that evil red grin painted onto his face. Not many hitters could deal with that.
So what is it, then? Everyone knows Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia, maybe the best in the business right now, creates his own culture inside his team's the clubhouse.
But he took creating the Angels' world to new extremes last week when downplaying ace John Lackey's sore right forearm.
"It's not really an injury," Scioscia said. "It's tightness and inflammation."
Uh, OK. The Angels had to scratch Lackey from his opening day start. He will open the season on the disabled list.
But it's not really an injury.
Forget "Save the Manatees", somebody save the Pirates: We know Pittsburgh has precious little at the major-league level. The Pirates are embarking upon what will be a record 17th consecutive losing season.
Judging by Thursday's exhibition game against Manatee Community College in Bradenton, Fla., the Pirates' immediate future doesn't look so hot, either.
Manatee beat the Pirates 6-4 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton.
Did I mention it's a community college, not a four-year baseball factory offering scholarships?
The Pirates' regulars were elsewhere. It was a team consisting mostly of players who will play for Pittsburgh's Triple-A Indianapolis.
Still. Manatee is a community college.
As a chat-room poster going by Dubers 15801 noted on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Web site:
"Another great moment in Pirates baseball!
"Schedule only gets tougher with Bradenton Central High School tomorrow. They have a kid who throws, like, 85."
Pizzeria Bianco: Knocked one more thing off of the spring training to-do list this week in Phoenix when I finally dined at the place that has gotten notoriety from coast to coast, thanks largely to rave reviews by Oprah and Rachel Ray, among others. Apparently, the Food Network did something from there recently as well.
Pizzeria Bianco is a tiny joint -- seats maybe 40 for dinner -- that has such buzz that, routinely, the wait is two or three hours. I mean, it's absurd. They're not open for lunch, and they do not do take-out pizzas, either. We got there early the other night -- 4 p.m., an hour before they open at 5 -- and there were 25 people waiting outside the doors at that point. We got in at 5 -- arriving that early apparently is the only way to wait an hour, instead of half the night.
It is very, very good. They have a white pizza, fennel sausage and sweet onions, that is incredible. We had that, and the salami pizza, which was mouth-watering. And we had the margherita pizza, which was world-class. The ingredients are as fresh as you'll find, and they make the mozzarella right on site.
Part of the experience is the wait, and the scene. But I'll tell you this: Bring a book to read. And if you're starving, or actually have things going on in your life that maybe make waiting two or three hours for dinner not so enticing, maybe there's other pizza alternatives in town you'd like to investigate.
Likes: Atlanta's Derek Lowe starting against Philadelphia's Brett Myers on Sunday night. Play ball!. ... Derek Jeter and David Wright competing for charity with their batting averages this year. ... Still love pulling Sports Illustrated's baseball preview issue out of the mailbox every year. ... Absolutely thrilled to see television's Friday Night Lights get extended for two more years. ... The MLB Network is off to a terrific start. Check it out. If you get cable television, you get the network. ... Baseball-Reference.com. ... Texas president Nolan Ryan attempting to make men out of his boy pitchers. ... Peter Gammons, still healthy and productive after suffering that aneurysm a couple of years back. For a lion in the industry, Peter always has been remarkably humble, and so many people are so happy he's not only recovered, but thriving. ... Leonard Cohen, one of the best songwriters of our time, on tour. Wish one of his shows would line up with my schedule (or vice-versa). ... Go Spartans this weekend in the Final Four. ... Getting home after seven weeks on the road. I can actually walk down to the park and watch my daughter's softball game this evening. Very cool, and about time.
Dislikes: Is there ever a good time to block out to get your taxes done? Short answer: No.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day
"Fat bottomed girls
-- Queen, Fat Bottomed Girls