Posted on: April 22, 2011 9:56 pm

From a 13-hitter to (almost) a no-hitter

Only one pitcher in the big leagues has allowed 13 hits in a game this year.

And only one pitcher in baseball has taken a no-hitter into the ninth inning this year.

Anibal Sanchez. And Anibal Sanchez.

And maybe that figures.

Sanchez, after all, is the guy who threw a no-hitter as a Marlins rookie in 2006. He's also the guy who has just two complete games -- and just 25 wins -- in four-plus seasons since then.

He's a guy who can allow 13 hits to the last-place Astros, then come back two starts later and take a no-hitter to the ninth against the first-place Rockies.

Dexter Fowler finally poked a slow ground ball through the right side, for what Colorado's only hit in a 4-1 Florida win. Sanchez fell three outs short of becoming the first pitcher to get a no-hitter but not a shutout since Darryl Kile did it for the Astros against the Mets in 1993.

And he did it two starts after allowing two hits to the opposing pitcher, Houston's J.A. Happ.

"That's a day when nothing good happened," Sanchez told reporters that night in Houston. "The balls just found holes."

It seems they did, although five of those 13 hits went for extra bases.

In any case, two starts later, plenty good happened for Sanchez. Only one of the balls the Rockies hit found a hole.

It wasn't a no-hitter, but it was impressive.

It was Anibal Sanchez.

He wasn't the pitcher you thought might throw a no-hitter this weekend, not with Josh Johnson and Ubaldo Jimenez facing off Sunday in Miami, not with Roy Halladay facing the weak-hitting Padres Sunday in San Diego.

He didn't throw a no-hitter. But he did come close.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 20, 2011 1:43 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2011 2:45 pm

Andrew Miller: Still a prospect at 25?

FORT MYERS, Fla. –- When he was 21, Andrew Miller was already in the big leagues.

Heck, at 21, Andrew Miller was nearly pitching in a World Series.

Four and a half years later, he still hasn’t made it through a full big-league season. As colleague Scott Miller wrote the other day about Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin, Miller is “trapped between Potential and Baseball Nomad.”

Maybin and Miller are forever linked, as the two key players the Tigers traded to Florida for Miguel Cabrera, and also as two big-time prospects who never made it big with the Marlins.

And just as Maybin may have found a welcoming team this spring with the Padres, Miller may have landed at the right place at the right time with the Red Sox.

Scouts following Boston have been impressed with Miller all spring, to the point where some of them believe that he would be the team’s best option as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen. The Sox haven’t made that decision yet, but as of now, Miller remains in big-league camp competing for a job.

“He’s really exciting,” manager Terry Francona said Sunday. “We’re his third team, and sometimes guys just seem to get it. He certainly has a special arm.”

That arm has allowed Miller to throw in the mid-90s, and when you put it together with Miller’s size (he’s 6-7), it always excites scouts. But inconsistent mechanics and command have kept Miller from having big-time success.

Sure enough, when Francona brought Miller into Sunday's spring game against the Cardinals to face the left-handed hitting Colby Rasmus, Miller walked him on five pitches. Later in the inning, he issued a bases-loaded walk, and couldn't finish the inning.

In 79 big-league appearances (54 of them starts), he has a 5.84 ERA and more than five walks for every nine innings pitched.

Before Sunday, Miller had two walks in 7 2/3 innings this spring. The Red Sox are still trying to decide whether he can show enough command to be trusted in the bullpen, and Sunday's outing certainly won't help.

“I don’t think I’ve reached my potential in the big leagues,” Miller said. “If my path takes me to the bullpen, that’s fine. I’m not stupid. I can look at the roster.”

In other words, while Boston’s rotation is set, the bullpen isn’t.

While Miller and Maybin have had similar careers, there are differences. While Maybin expressed some disappointment in the Marlins’ lack of patience, Miller had no such complaints.

“They gave me a bunch of opportunities,” he said. “I was definitely in a different situation than Cameron. Cameron spent more time in Triple-A. They gave me plenty of opportunities.”

Miller believes he’ll fulfill the potential that so many have seen in him. He thinks Maybin will, too.

“I still stand by what I’ve said, that I think one day he’s going to be pretty special,” Miller said. “Maybe [moving on from the Marlins] was a good thing for both of us.”

Posted on: November 3, 2010 2:52 pm

Are Marlins just treading water until 2012?

Nothing against Edwin Rodriguez, but if the Marlins really think he's the right guy to manage their team, shouldn't they be giving him more than a one-year contract?

By doing it this way, by announcing today that Rodriguez was given a contract for 2011 but nothing beyond that, the Marlins leave the impression that they are only treading water until they move into their new ballpark in 2012, and that Rodriguez, in the words of SI.com's Jon Heyman, is only "the longest-running interim manager ever."

One good sign for Florida: The team announced today that Perry Hill will join Rodriguez's staff as first base/infield coach. Hill, who previously worked with the Rangers, Tigers, Pirates and the Marlins (under Jeff Torborg, Jack McKeon and Joe Girardi).

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 26, 2010 10:22 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2010 10:26 pm

Francoeur and Ross: From PR to the WS

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was late June, and the Mets were playing the Marlins in Puerto Rico.

And yes, believe it or not, this story relates to the Giants-Rangers World Series that begins Wednesday night.

Cody Ross was there that night. Jeff Francoeur, too.

"We stayed up playing blackjack in the casino, until 5 in the morning," Francoeur said Tuesday at AT&T Park. "We talk about it now that it was our lucky night."

Two months later, the Giants would claim Ross on waivers from the Marlins. A week after that, the Mets would trade Francoeur to the Rangers.

And now they meet again, in the World Series.

"I was really happy for [Ross]," Francoeur said. "Florida kind of gave him the raw end of the deal. Obviously, I don't want him to win the World Series, but if we're up 8-0 and he hits a solo home run, I'd be OK with that."

With the Giants starting right-handers in the first two games of the World Series, Francoeur will begin the series on the Rangers bench. He's expected to start Games 3 and 4, when the Giants go with left-handers Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner.

And, perhaps, the bearded Francoeur will even get a matchup with Brian Wilson, the Giants' bearded closer.

"He's got thickness," Francoeur said, comparing the beards. "But I can say that mine's natural."

Posted on: August 8, 2010 6:11 pm

3 to watch: The Minor phenom edition

This spring, when all the talk in Braves camp was about Jason Heyward, Bobby Cox was already talking about Mike Minor.

"He could come fast," Cox said, knowing the Minor had only pitched in low Class A.

But Bobby, you're retiring this year. You won't see him.

"I'll come and watch him," Cox said, with a big smile.

Minor has come faster than even Cox expected, so fast that when he makes his big-league debut on Monday night, Cox will indeed come and watch him -- as his first big-league manager.

The Braves need Minor now, because Kris Medlen is on the disabled list, and possibly on the way to Tommy John elbow surgery. The Braves called on Minor, because the 22-year-old left-hander was 4-1 with a 1.89 in six starts in Triple-A, after starting the season in Double-A.

And in a week that also includes the returns of Stephen Strasburg and Carlos Zambrano, first-place showdowns in the National League Central and American League Central and Cliff Lee against the Yankees, Minor heads off this edition of 3 to watch:

1. Minor was the Braves' first-round draft pick in 2009, out of Vanderbilt, where he was a teammate of Tampa Bay's David Price. He was picked six spots behind Strasburg, and one spot ahead of Mike Leake, who starts Monday night for the Reds against the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Minor will be making his debut, in Braves at Astros, Monday night (8:05 ET) at Minute Maid Park . One more Minor fact: He'll be the first left-hander to start a game for the Braves this year.

2. It's tempting to leave a Strasburg start out of 3 to watch for the first time ever, with so many other good games this week. But let's be honest. Strasburg hasn't started a game since he felt tightness warming up for a scheduled July 27 start against the Braves. All eyes will be on him when he takes the mound (assuming he does) for Marlins at Nationals, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Nationals Park . The time to leave him out of 3 to watch could be coming soon, but it's not here yet.

3. Seeing Lee pitch against the Yankees, which he'll do in Yankees at Rangers, Wednesday night (8:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark , will have us looking back and looking ahead. Back at Lee's two wins over the Yankees during last year's World Series, and at the Yankees' attempted trade for Lee on July 9. Ahead at the possibility that Lee stands in the Yankees' way this October, and to a potential bidding war over Lee between the Yankees and Rangers (and no doubt others) this winter.
Posted on: July 16, 2010 10:33 am

3 to watch: The Boss and the Rays edition

This time, the schedule-maker got it right.

On the night the Yankees honor George Steinbrenner, baseball gives us Yankees vs. Rays. In the first game the Yankees will play since Steinbrenner's death on Tuesday morning, the Yankees will play the team that Steinbrenner always insisted they beat.

Yes, of course, he insisted they beat every team. Yes, of course, the series with the Red Sox and the series with the Mets always held special relevance to him.

But so did the series with the Rays, even back when they were the awful Devil Rays. Even when it was a solitary meaningless game in spring training.

Tampa was Steinbrenner's adopted hometown. Tampa was where he spent most of his time. He was not going to have his Yankees lose to any team from Tampa (or even St. Petersburg).

Yankees-Rays games are no longer meaningless. The teams enter the second half of the season separated by just two games in the American League East standings, with the Red Sox and the AL Central contenders close enough behind so that a wild-card berth isn't guaranteed to the team that fails to finish first.

The Yankees and Rays will meet 13 times during the second half. And the first meeting kicks off this first post-All-Star edition of 3 to watch:

1. In other places, you can argue about Steinbrenner's legacy. In the Bronx, especially in the moments leading up to Rays at Yankees, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium , you can be sure the focus will be on the championships won and the successes celebrated. The Yankees will have a double-tribute, honoring both Steinbrenner and longtime public address announcer Bob Sheppard, but they've pushed the video tribute to Sheppard to Saturday (which is also Old-Timer's Day). Friday's ceremony will concentrate on Steinbrenner -- who, if he were still here, would be concentrating intensely on Friday's game.

2. Sometime just after Stephen Strasburg's stunning debut, I vowed to include every Strasburg start in 3 to watch, until further notice. It doesn't feel right to end it just yet, not so soon after an All-Star Game that judging by the low ratings could have used Strasburg's star power. Instead, Strasburg will try to awaken a little baseball interest in South Florida, in Nationals at Marlins, Friday night (7:10 EDT) at Sun Life Stadium .

3. When Justin Morneau went on the disabled list last September, it was supposed to mean the end of the Twins. Instead, they went 17-4 in the 21 games he missed, including the memorable Game 163 win over the Tigers that sent them into the playoffs. Now Morneau is out again, on the DL while recovering from a concussion suffered on July 7 in Toronto. The Twins fell into third place the day Morneau was hurt. They're 1-4 since then, more because of poor pitching than because of the Morneau-less offense. The one win came from Carl Pavano, who starts again, in White Sox at Twins, Saturday night (7:10 EDT) at Target Field .
Posted on: July 1, 2010 5:12 pm

Utley's injury leaves door open in the East

The day Jimmy Rollins got hurt, the Phillies took it in stride.

"It's unfortunate, but the show goes on," Jayson Werth said. "We'll be fine."

The Phillies may well say the same things today, in the wake of the news that Chase Utley needs surgery on his right thumb, surgery that is expected to cost him the next six weeks or so.

There's a chance they will be fine. There's also a very real chance that this is one injury too many, and that the Phillies' two-year reign as National League champs is coming to an end.

There's a chance that this is the year it wasn't meant to be.

A few thoughts on what Utley's extended absence will mean:

1. At the very least, the door in the National League East is now wide open.

It's open for the Braves, who just got Jair Jurrjens back in their rotation and are looking more and more capable of giving Bobby Cox the send-off he deserves. It's open for the Mets, especially if they have the prospects and the willingness to part with them to get a Cliff Lee deal done.

It might even have been open for the Marlins, if they hadn't turned the last week into such a circus.

2. Despite all the injuries they've had so far, and there have been tons (Jimmy Rollins, J.A. Happ, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, Joe Blanton, Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz), the Phillies actually have a better record after 76 games (41-35) than they did in 2009, and they're only one game behind their 2008 pace.

But a closer look at that 2010 record shows that Rollins and Utley have been in the lineup together just 16 times in 76 games (and Rollins left one of those games before he even got on the field). The Phillies are 12-4 in those 16 games, which means they're 29-31 without their regular middle infield (30-31 if you include the home opener, when Rollins was in the lineup but couldn't play).

3. Yes, the Phillies could trade for an infielder. They were looking at infielders this week, even before they knew for sure about Utley. As others have pointed out, they have the flexibility of getting a second baseman or a third baseman, because once Polanco returns from the disabled list he could play either position.

They could also trade for a starting pitcher.

But no infielder they get will give them anything close to what Utley does, and it may be that no starting pitcher they could get would make enough of a difference. It won't be a surprise if they make a move, but they could also decide this is a year to hold onto their best prospects.

4. If anything, all these injuries have helped justify general manager Ruben Amaro's decision to trade Cliff Lee last winter. Amaro was trying to extend the Phillies' window for winning beyond this year, and he said this spring that he would have considered it reckless to put all his eggs in one basket. Even if the Phillies had kept Lee, it's possible that the injuries would have kept them from winning this year.

As it is, even if the Phillies don't win this year, they still could go into next season as the favorite to win their division.

5. As a Phillies person admitted today, nobody is going to feel sorry for them. The Phillies have done tons of things right over the last few years, but their back-to-back World Series were also built on remarkable health.

Last year, six of the eight regular position players played 155 or more games -- and the other two played 107 and 134.

Rollins has already missed 56 games this year. By the time he returns, Utley will have missed at least 40 or so.
Posted on: June 23, 2010 5:34 pm

In the end, maybe this is best for all

So maybe this works out best for everyone.

Best for the Braves, who have always had their eye on Fredi Gonzalez as a possible replacement when Bobby Cox retires. Best for Gonzalez, who was never going to completely please owner Jeffrey Loria unless he won the World Series (and perhaps not even then), and now will be free to go somewhere he gets the respect he deserves.

Best for Loria, who in an interview earlier this year described Bobby Valentine as "someone I've known for 25 years," spoke lovingly about his players, and had almost nothing at all to say about Gonzalez.

Already today, just after the Marlins fired Gonzalez as manager, Valentine told his current employer, ESPN, that he now has no interest in the Orioles job, and prefers to "direct my energy in another direction."

That's understandable. The Marlins aren't nearly as good as Loria thinks they are, but they're far, far better than the Orioles. And while the National League East is better than people think it is, it's far, far less challenging than the American League East.

The Marlins job suits Valentine, and perhaps he suits the Marlins, too, as someone who will have expectations every bit as high as Loria's.

The Braves job suits Gonzalez, too. It won't be easy to replace Cox, who has remained hugely popular with his players. But who better to do it than someone who worked as a coach under Cox, operates as much as possible the way Cox does, and would come in with a ringing endorsement from Cox.

There are some in baseball who wonder if the Cox connection would actually hurt Gonzalez's chances with a front office that has battled with Cox in recent times. But people close to general manager Frank Wren suggested that Wren would be happy to hire Gonzalez.

The Braves have long said that they don't want to talk about a Cox successor, because they don't want to do anything to take away from the celebration of Cox's final season. But they don't need to talk about it right now.

The Marlins, who named Edwin Rodriguez as interim manager, should want to move fast on a permanent replacement. Unlike the Orioles, whose season is already lost, the Marlins remain within striking distance in the NL East.

Is Valentine the guy who can pull them back into the race, maybe do what Jack McKeon did when he took over the Marlins in midseason 2003? Perhaps, but despite what Loria thinks, right now the Marlins look no better than the third- (or maybe fourth-) best team in the division.

Valentine has a history of success, particularly early in his stay.

Maybe he takes this job, and it works out best for him, and for the Marlins. And maybe Gonzalez really does take over for Cox after this season, and it works out best for him and for the Braves, too.

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