April 11, 2007
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
The Devil Rays are unique in that they are the only team in the majors
that has a "lights on" bullpen. When opposing batters see
Joe Maddon walk to the mound they are thinking, "whew, I was worried I
wouldn't get a hit today". Edwin Jackson threw a nice game
the Rangers on Monday night but you couldn't tell by the box score.
because after he tired in the sixth inning, the bullpen came in the
and not only allwed his two baserunners to score, but tacked on 4 more
of their own.
That said, if they had reliever who could consistently get people out,
I'd say pick up Edwin Jackson now. Understandably, most people
were cautious about starting him against a formidable Texas offense in
Texas, but after some first inning jitters he was fantastic. Not
only was he hitting 97 mph with his fastball with some consistency, but
he was pitching down in the zone and was able to vary his speeds.
But with that bullpen, I'm reluctant to even recommend Scott Kazmir.
One nice development for the starting pitchers is that Akinori Iwamura
can really play defense. The third inning of Monday's game
belonged to him. He made three excellent defensive plays -
charging a dribbler, gloving a smash liner and a tricky hop grounder -
to retire the side. That defense will be huge for a pitching
staff that is used to seeing most grounders to the left side find their
way into the outfield. On the other hand, Ben Zobrist didn't look
nearly as good as he was last year. He didn't show very much
range laterally and didn't do a good job charging a slow
roller. Zobrist's bat is not enough to keep him in the majors.
he can't be an above average gloveman, the Devil Rays should consider
up Reid Brignac from Double-A by June.
I'm not convinced that Charlie Manuel can manage a bullpen. Ryan
Madson had a tough first two appearances, giving up game-winning homers
in both. That will shake most anyone's confidence. So
Manuel got him back out there in a game against the Marlins that the
were losing 6-3. No pressure, the team is already behind.
walking the first guy he faces, Madson gets lucky when the guy is
out trying to steal. He then retired the next five batters, the
and middle of the Marlins order consecutively, picking up two
on a total of 32 pitches thrown. For a manager who knows how to
his reliever's confidence, that's a good outing for a short reliever
certainly good enough to build on. Give him a nice pat on the
and let someone else finish it out, right? Not if you're Charlie
No, Manuel is like a compulsive gambler who doesn't know how to
when he's ahead. He sends Madson out there for a third inning.
was only after he walked Joe Borchard and surrendered a double to
De Aza that Manuel finally took him out. Both runs would score.
much for the good feelings. Not only that, but because of the
inning Madson's pitch total was up to 44, making him unavailable for
next couple of days when...
The Phillies had the lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning of
Monday's Mets home opener. It was pretty clear from the get-go
that Geoff Geary was not the answer after he gave up singles to Moises
and Shawn Green. After a bunt from Jose Valentin, Geary threw
but breaking pitches to Julio Franco - why not challenge the 48-year
old on a cold day with a fastball? - and promptly walked him loading
bases. After a Jimmy Rollins' error and a wild pitch, the Mets
took a one run lead. So after it was finally clear to Manuel that
isn't going to be able to get out of the inning, who should he bring
in? One of his regular relievers like Antonio Alfonseca or Clay
Condrey? Madson surely wasn't available. Or how about new
hard-throwing acquisition Francisco Rosario? No, he brings in
Jon Lieber, who hasn't pitched in relief since 1997. I know
Lieber will be working out of the bullpen for a while but how about
letting him get his feet wet by starting an inning. Needless to
the game got out of hand very quickly after that and the Phillies went
the postgame clubhouse buffet thankful that the Nationals are in their
because without them they will finish last in the NL East.
Manuel could manage the 1927 Yankees to a .500 record.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Speaking of disappointing managers, Grady Little continues to hit
Betemit eighth in the line-up. In one respect I think the move
done some good because it has forced Betemit to be more patient at the
The result is that he's got more walks than strikeouts right now.
he hasn't had anything to hit so his batting average is pretty
terrible. I expect that will improve as will his standing in the
order. If he can maintain his selectivity there really isn't any
he couldn't be very successful hitting 5th or 6th in the line-up.
course that would depend on Grady recognizing what's happening on the
something that's never been his strong suit. FYI, coming into
season Betemit has a career .271 average with 35 doubles and 22 homers
669 major league at bats.
Florida Marlins vs Milwaukee
Joining Bert Blyleven, Rikkert Faneyte, Robert Eenhoorn and Win
Remmerswaal, Henricu "Rick" VandenHurk became just the fifth player
from the Netherlands to make an appearance in the majors. And
what an appearance it was. I can assure you it will be one of
many. Of all the rookie
pitchers I've seen so far this year, including spring training, this
has been the best. His fastball ranged from 90-94, he had a great
curve and a NICE change-up. His confidence in his ability to
any pitch at any time was made plain as day when he tripled-up with his
change to Geoff Jenkins in the second inning. That's something
that only guys like Trevor Hoffman try. Prince Fielder had
a hard hit single in the first and Jenkins had a solid hit in the
other than that, the Brewers didn't make solid contact with anything.
impressive for a 21-year old who had not pitched above A-ball until
Perhaps most impressive is that his five strikeouts did not come
any one type of pitch. He sent guys back to the bench with each
his pitches. If he comes anywhere close to this kind of poise in
next outing, I don't see how the Marlins will be able to send him down
time soon regardless of when Ricky Nolasco returns. The only
of VandenHurk's outing was that he threw 85 pitches to get 4.2 innings.
He'll have to be more efficient, but I think it's safe to chalk
some of those extra pitches to a little nervousness, seeing as how it
was his debut and, along with his family having flown in, the entire
northern half of Europe was watching.
Not to be forgotten, Claudio Vargas had a pretty nice game. I
hate watching him pitch because he takes so long between pitches and
thinks way too much when he's on the mound anyway. But after he
up a double to Uggla, he kept his emotions in check and did a pretty
job. He still needs to be more aggressive once he's ahead in the
but I understand his reluctance to take a chance on the batters making
contact because... the worst part of watching that game was undoubtedly
the Brewer's defense. JJ Hardy, Craig Counsell and Geoff Jenkins
are really good, but the rest of them... oh my goodness. I
haven't seen that many iron gloves on one field since I went to the
jousting tournament at the Maryland Rennaissance Festival. Bad
technique, bad footwork, bad reads, bad
routes... Oy! They're like a beer-league softball team after the
keg. OK, I'm exaggerating, but they aren't very good with the
gloves. I'm not sure bringing up Ryan Braun will help that, but
at least he will hit enough to make up for some of the mistakes.
One final note about the Brewers/Marlins game... I'm not sure who's
going to be the closer in Florida but it won't be Jorge Julio for very
much longer. It's too bad too because he's really personable and
has the kind of likeable
personality that people really root for. Well, I do
anyways. Unfortunately, he still hasn't
figured a way to control that potent arm of his. My guess is that
Henry Owens will get first shot but after watching him pitch for a save
the other night, I'm not convinced he'll be able to keep it. He
a short delivery which is a little deceptive, but his stuff wasn't that
Matt Lindstrom has better pure stuff. Kevin Gregg and Randy
might be in the mix, too. This might be one of those situations
four or five guys will each get 5-10 saves.
Chalk up Salomon Torres' first blown save to bonehead defense on the
part of the Pirates. Sure, he didn't do himself any favors by
Chris Duncan after giving up a single to David Eckstein. But on
Pujols long fly ball to left field, Jason Bay pulled an "Evelyn"
A League of Their Own?). Just like Bitty Schram's character who
the 'no crying in baseball' speech after she threw to the wrong base
allowed the tying run to get into scoring position, Bay made the same
by throwing to third base rather than keeping Duncan at first base by
to second. Even stranger was Jack Wilson setting up along the
base line to take the throw. What was he thinking?
run was meaningless so throwing to third was a huge blunder that ended
costing Tom Gorzelanny a win and Torres a save. Had Bay done what
was supposed to, Scott Spiezio's subsequent single would have scored
one run and the ensuing Preston Wilson groundball double play would
ended the game. Instead, it went extras and the Pirates lost the
because of something that won't show up in the box score or the stats.
Cincinnati Reds vs Arizona
Congratulations to Josh Hamilton on his first big league homer.
Not that hitting a homer off Edgar Gonzales is any great feat -
he will lead the majors in home runs allowed if given more than 30
starts, unless the Diamondback
decide to give Yusmiero Petit 20 starts - but it was nice to see the
get more positive reinforcement after a pretty rough last couple of
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