Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:06 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 7:17 pm
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Quick glimpse, small sample. Two innings, first impression:
Yu Darvish's Japanese legacy and World Baseball Classic dominance looked for one day Wednesday like they will translate beautifully into the major leagues.
Or, if you prefer, you could take it beyond one spring outing.
"They're going back to the postseason," Padres second baseman Orlando Hudson said of a Rangers team with Darvish in their rotation. "That's a no-brainer."
Darvish surrendered two hits -- doubles to Hudson and Will Venable -- no runs and whiffed three Padres in Texas' 6-3 Cactus League win on a cold, windy Arizona afternoon.
He rose to the occasion when needed, handcuffing the Padres to 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position. He backed off when the situation suggested, getting Carlos Quentin to swing out of his spikes with a 79 m.p.h. curve to end the first.
He threw first-pitch strikes to seven of eight batters faced, including each of the first six major league hitters he saw. He got nine swing-and-misses, and threw 26 strikes and just 10 balls.
He does not dawdle like Daisuke Matsuzaka, and he does not nibble like C.J. Wilson. He comes right at hitters, and he's got the stuff to do it.
"He's got some deception and he's got some velocity," Texas' Michael Young said. "If he commands the heater, he's going to get outs."
Scouts said he threw six different pitches: Two variations of his fastball, two types of curveballs, a slider and a change-up. Texas catcher Yorvit Torrealba says he throws seven pitches. In a game in which everything plays off of the fastball and changing speeds, though, who really can count?
"At one point, I was thinking about taking my glove off and using two hands" to flash signals while calling pitches, Torrealba joked.
With a fastball that hit 95 and an even slower curve than the one Quentin saw, clocked at 67 m.p.h. to Will Venable, Darvish possesses an exceptional ability to keep hitters off-balance. His fastball ranged from 92 to 95 m.p.h.
Though Hudson yanked a double between Young and second baseman Ian Kinsler in the first, it was Venable's booming double in the second that was the attention-getter. Venable blasted a 2 and 2 fastball some 420 feet off of the batter's eye in dead center.
Not only was it the hardest-hit ball against Darvish, the moment also later provided some pretty good insight into just how stubborn, determined and proud Darvish is.
"The dry air in Arizona and the wind blowing out carried the ball pretty far," Darvish said through an interpreter. "To me, it didn't seem that it was hit very squarely."
To which, a couple of Padres called bull. Mark Kotsay chortled that during his 16 years in the majors, he hasn't seen a ball blasted 400-and-some feet high off of a "50-foot wall" that wasn't exactly, um, smoked.
"Maybe his perception of reality isn't as right on as ... I don't know," Venable said. "No comment."
Translation: Yes, Venable thought, he not only squared that fastball up, he CRUSHED it.
So file that one away. If Darvish is as dismissive of other hitters who take a bite out of him as he was of Venable, well, some awfully entertaining rivalries are about to be born. Or, a bit of a humbling process is about to begin.
Mostly, Darvish said, he was happy to get his first Cactus League start out of the way. He said his teammates teased him a little about being nervous before the game, and "I told them, no, I'm not." He was very happy with the way his secondary pitches were working, though he acknowledged that throwing into the teeth of a strong wind aids the movement of his pitches.
He opened some eyes with two impressive defensive plays, showing some quickness while covering first base on one play and leaping high to grab a high chopper up the middle. He threw home, and Torrealba tagged the runner coming in from third.
Defense-loving Texas manager Ron Washington said those plays were the most impressive things he saw the 6-5 Darvish do.
"That's a big Asian dude," Hudson said. "What's that guy who played basketball for the Rockets? Yao Ming? I looked at him and thought, that dude is big. ...
"Watching him on TV I thought, he's big. Then when I saw him, I thought he's not as big as I thought. Then I got to the plate and I thought, damn."
Hudson had no qualms about admitting his excitement to face Darvish. He said he even had trouble sleeping Tuesday night.
Interestingly, the Rangers picked up on Hudson's eagerness.
"I thought Hudson grinded out his at-bat," pitching coach Mike Maddux said of Hudson's first-inning double. "It looked like one of those emotional at-bats where it's like, 'I'm going to show this guy.'"
One other impression: Darvish worked both innings entirely from the stretch, not the wind-up. Even with nobody on base. He works both ways randomly, he said.
Maddux said he was given two DVDs, one from a game last July in which Darvish worked from the stretch, another from a game last October in which he worked entirely from the windup.
"The biggest pitches you make come from the stretch," Maddux said. "If you want to hone that craft, by all means, I'm all for it."
Hone it Darvish did, as his homeland studied through a microscope. Four different networks beamed Darvish's two innings back to Japan live, according to Rangers' PR guru John Blake. ESPN News showed the first four hitters live. Some 150 media members packed the press box in what had to be some sort of Cactus League record.
Yeah, you could see why Darvish and the Rangers were just as happy to get this one behind them.
As the Padres' Hudson said, that's a whole lot on the back of a 25-year-old who is moving to a new country to change jobs, no matter how talented he is. First time you surrender a home run, everyone wants to know what happened. First time you get knocked out of the box after three innings, everyone demands explanations.
Of course, that all comes with $111.7 million -- the $60 mil the Rangers are paying Darvish, and the $51.7 mil posting fee.
"Ichiro kind of set the bar high getting 900 hits a year," Hudson said. "[Darvish] has got to go win a Cy Young."
Posted on: October 25, 2011 2:41 am
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's been called his wedding proposal swing. It's been called crazy, uncanny and several other things.
And Adrian Beltre broke it out again in clubbing a Chris Carpenter curveball over the left field wall in the sixth inning to erase a one-run Cardinals lead and help Texas pull within one win of clinching this World Series with a 4-2 Game 5 triumph Monday night.
In launching into the breaking pitch, Beltre got so low in his swing that his right knee was actually on the ground when he connected.
"I don't know, I can't explain it," Beltre said. "It's been a bad habit since the minor leagues."
That's many years worth of bad habits, being that Beltre is completing his 14th season in the majors with this World Series.
"I was trying to find a pitch up in the strike zone and put a good swing on it," Beltre said. "I know that Carpenter is not a guy who leaves a lot of things up. But he threw me a couple of breaking balls in the at-bat before that I was able to see, so when I saw him throw me another breaking ball. ..."
Ka-boom! Indeed, Beltre saw two curveballs in his fourth-inning at-bat, which resulted in a ground ball to third base. The curve on which he feasted in the sixth was a 75 m.p.h. breaking ball Carpenter left up.
And Beltre went down, to a knee.
"I don't know anyone else in the game who can do that," Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We've seen highlight after highlight. I don't know where it came from.
"He doesn't practice it in the cage."
Posted on: October 18, 2011 7:20 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 7:24 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Adrian Beltre has played a long time for a guy who has never reached the World Series.
A long, long, long time.
"You got that right," Beltre says. "It took me 14 years. But I'm here, man."
Beltre's 1,959 regular-season games are the third-most among active players for a guy who has never set foot in the Fall Classic, trailing only Bobby Abreu (2,247) and Miguel Tejada (2,118).
But as that great baseball man, Branch Rickey, once said, luck is the residue of design. And Beltre's splashdown in St. Louis for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday is more design than luck.
When he signed a five-year, $80 million deal last winter to play third base in Texas, he had plenty of other options. One was with the Los Angeles Angels, though, as he told me this spring, he spurned them because he thought the Rangers had a better team and, as such, a better chance to go to the World Series.
Beyond the Angels, Beltre had a few other options as well. Oakland. Baltimore.
"If it was the money, I'd be somewhere else," he said. "Money wasn't my main issue. I could have had more money [elsewhere] or I could have stayed home in L.A.
"It was a hard decision to come here, but it's been the best one."
Beltre was everything the Rangers were hoping for. He played Gold Glove defense. He hit .296 with a .331 on-base percentage. He slammed 32 homers and collected 105 RBI in 124 games. Only a hamstring injury slowed him late in the year.
Now that he's back strong, the Rangers' lineup is as dangerous and deep as there is in the game. Their second consecutive World Series appearance proves that.
Beltre said he never felt pressure in Texas because he was surrounded by so much talent, guys like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli.
"I came here, but I wasn't the guy," says Beltre, who played exceedingly well in Boston in 2010 before signing with Texas. "I was just one of the guys.
"It's different when they bring you in to be the guy."
Asked about the Red Sox's meltdown and ongoing drama, Beltre quipped: "Why? What happened to the Red Sox? I don't watch TV."
Posted on: October 28, 2010 11:14 pm
Their first World Series threatening to get away from them, the Rangers were dropped 9-0 by the Giants thanks to a wicked combination of Matt Cain's continuing postseason brilliance, one jaw-droppingly bad break, a couple of missed opportunities and another searing bullpen meltdown.
Bottom line is, the Rangers are in trouble unless they figure out this masterful Giants pitching. You can rip the Texas bullpen if you wish -- and you should -- but San Francisco pitching is shredding this Texas lineup like wet toilet paper.
Anybody who's not yet ready to give San Francisco's pitchers full credit, maybe you'd better go back to whatever it was you were doing before this postseason caught your attention.
Cain entered the game as the first pitcher to not allow an earned run in either of his first two postseason starts since Atlanta's Steve Avery in 1991. He departed after 7 2/3 innings having not allowed a run in his first THREE postseason starts.
The Rangers went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position against Cain, who now is up to 21 1/3 scoreless postseason innings. Think October agrees with this young man? Opponents now are 0 for 17 against him this postseason with runners in scoring position. He's produced more bagels than Einstein's the past three weeks.
And the one time the Rangers thought they had him, well, that's where the jaws dropped. Ian Kinsler slugged a deep fly to center to start the fifth that appeared to be gone. But in an impromptu test of gravity, physics and geometry, the ball bounced off the top of the wall, and somehow angled itself off the padding to bounce backward toward center fielder Andres Torres.
Instead of a homer and a 1-0 Texas lead, Kinsler got a double. Then he got left at second when David Murphy, Matt Treanor and C.J. Wilson were mowed down behind him (Mitch Moreland was intentionally walked before Wilson grounded out).
The Giants broke the scoreless tie with Edgar Renteria's solo homer in the fifth, tacked on a run in the seventh after Wilson left with a blister and then turned it into a laugher with seven runs in the eighth against four 'B'-league level Rangers relievers with manager Ron Washington inexplicably slow to the switch.
Now, it's tough to tell which needs a change of venue more, the Texas Rangers or this World Series.
We'll get one for Game 3, back in Texas on Saturday. But unless the Rangers figure a few things out, this Fall Classic is destined for all the drama of a Saturday afternoon oil change.
Posted on: October 12, 2010 2:51 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2010 4:54 pm
There is nothing like a Game 5 (or Game 7) in sports, and nothing like the pitch-by-pitch tension that builds in an elimination baseball game with the October leaves changing and Halloween costumes in the stores.
-- Texas can say what it wants about having Lee on the mound, and there is no question he's The Man. But it would be more of a guarantee if Tampa Bay was pitching some slob not named Price. Unless you're wearing a Rangers uniform, you'd much rather be in the Rays' cleats tonight: Price on the mound, bats coming back to life, the momentum of winning the past two games in your back pocket and what will be a thunderous, sold-out crowd behind you.
-- Crazy how things work out, and how perfect is this: Price, the man who sparked a controversy in Tampa by criticizing the Rays' fans via Twitter for not showing up on a potential clinching game in late September, pitching in front of not only a sold-out crowd tonight, but a crowd that voraciously snapped up those extra 5,000 tickets. This is a chance for burned bridges to be rebuilt, a chance for Price, 25 and as good a pitcher as there is in the game, to stand tall now that Tampa fans have put their money where Price's mouth is.
-- Maybe you don't realize this, but here is how rare a Game 5 is: We haven't had one since 2005, when the Los Angeles Angels beat the Yankees 5-2 in Anaheim to advance to the ALCS against the Chicago White Sox. Not only that, there's been very little drama in the Division Series' since '05, period: Entering this fall, a total of 11 of 20 series since then have been 3-0 sweeps. Last fall, Game 163 between the Tigers and Twins -- not a Game 5, but an elimination game nonetheless, was by far the most exciting game of the entire postseason. It was all downhill after that.
-- The home team has yet to win in this series. Only once before has a team won the first two games of a best-of-five postseason series on the road and then gone on to lose: the 2001 Oakland A's, who played the New York Yankees. Texas will do everything tonight to make sure that changes, and don't be surprised to see manager Ron Washington call on starter C.J. Wilson if, for some reason, Lee is off.
-- This either works in Tampa Bay's favor -- or in Texas', if you figure odds are that this eventually will change: Never before in major league baseball history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, has there been a postseason series in which the road team has won every game in a best-of-five series.
-- In Game 1, Lee threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 hitters, and threw 76 strikes out of 104 total pitches. The Rays ranked third in the AL this season with 802 runs scored, but only 13th with in hits -- only Seattle, in the AL, had fewer. That partly explains why the Rays were no-hit twice this summer. And it explains how steep their challenge is tonight: They cannot expect to get extra runners on base via walks. They must be aggressive in swinging at Lee's strikes -- but it's a fine line between being aggressive, and coming too far out of their game.
-- From Texas' perspective, taking an early lead is a must. That would take the Tampa crowd out of the game, it would allow the Rangers to settle in and it might give Lee all he needs. "I think it depends on how many runs is put on the board when you score first," Rangers manager Ron Washington said Sunday in Texas while looking toward Game 5. "If you put one run on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. You put two runs on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. As long as it doesn't get past a grand slam, I think you're in good shape."
-- More Washington: "This was a five-game series when it started, now it's a five-game series. They proved they can beat us on our field, we proved we can beat them on their field. This is what it's about now. They have the right person they feel that's going to be throwing ... and we certainly feel the same way. So it's a matter of going out there, getting Cliff some runs, and if we get him some runs, he'll take it to the finish line. That's what it's all about."
-- Great stuff from Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena agreed that there will be no ejecting bases in Tropicana Field tonight, but, as he said, "I can't deny it, it's going to be pretty exciting. It's not as easy to control your emotions. It's fun. It's fun to be a part of it."
-- Tampa Bay's attitude? "We came here facing our elimination," catcher John Jaso said as the Rays dressed after Game 4 to fly home to St. Pete for Game 5. "And we still are facing our elimination." So far, so good with that.
-- The Rangers, for one more day at least, remain the only team in baseball never to have won a playoff series. Someone asked Lee the other day about pitching for a team with such a "sorry history." "I've heard something about that," Lee deadpanned during a post-Game 4 news conference the other day. "But that really doesn't matter to me that much, to be honest. This is a different team than has ever played here. It's a whole different set of circumstances."
Likes: Game 5, for "all the marbles" (as Texas third baseman Michael Young says). ... Bobby Valentine in line to manage again, either in Florida or Seattle. Great fit in either place, but especially the Mariners with their Japanese ownership and Bobby V's ties to Japan. ... Sandy Alderson interviewing with the Mets as a potential general manager. I disagreed with many things Alderson did as president of the Padres, but he would be a great fit with the Mets, who need an adult to run that sorry franchise. Allard Baird, who interviewed Monday, would be a very fine choice as well. ... The Jim Joyce Twitter controversy that erupted on Tuesday. Suddenly, the umpire showed up with a new Twitter account and several tweets that looked authentic -- until MLB-PR tweeted that it was not the real Jim Joyce. ... Baseball working with Stand Up 2 Cancer. ... I don't plug a whole lot of things like this, but if you have a minute to vote in this Pepsi Refresh Project, Gabby's Ladder is a terrific organization for bereaved children in Michigan and Ohio that could really use a helping hand.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"If the businessmen drink my blood
-- Arcade Fire, Ready to Start
Posted on: July 30, 2010 3:35 pm
The high-flying, first-place Texas Rangers, leaving their fingerprints all over this year's trade deadline, have scooped up infielder Cristian Guzman from Washington as a replacement for injured second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Guzman, 32, has played second base and shortstop for the Nationals this season and, occasionally, right field. A former shortstop who came up in the Twins' organization, Guzman has lost range at second and is considered by scouts to be better suited for second base at this stage of his career. He was hitting .282 with a .327 on-base percentage for the Nationals, who are expected to assume most of the pro-rated portion of his $2.87 million salary for this year.
The Rangers, leading second-place Oakland by 8 1/2 games in the AL West, need a short-term fix at second base Kinsler, who landed on the 15-day disabled list the other day with a strained groin.
Posted on: March 10, 2009 4:41 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2009 12:46 am
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cool spring sight on Wednesday: The Texas Rangers took the field for their Cactus League game against San Francisco wearing actual, real stirrup socks.
"We're bringing back old school," said one of the instigators, reliever Eddie Guardado.
Stirrups, that old baseball staple, have gone the way of flannel uniforms over the past decade or so. Guardado recalls wearing them when he broke into the majors with Minnesota in the mid-1990s but, not long after, they went away.
Players started wearing regular socks, some with a stripe on the side modeled to look like a stirrup and others simply one color, so eventually clubs stopped ordering the stirrups.
"I guess they were like clothes that go out of style, you know?" Guardado said. "They look good, huh?"
No question. The Rangers' stirrups are blue with the good-looking "T" logo just above the ankle. Second baseman Ian Kinsler obtained a pair first, and that's what caught Guardado's attention.
Together, Kinsler and Guardado started the movement in the clubhouse. You even could say there now is a movement afoot, I suppose.
"You go around and the kids are like, 'What are you doing?'" said Guardado, who, at 38, is here as a nonroster invitee looking to extend his career into a 15th major-league season.
Here's wishing Kinsler and Guardado well in their efforts to keep the Rangers in stirrups for '09. And here's hoping the old-school custom catches on throughout the game.
Likes: Love hearing the legends of young future ace pitchers Tommy Hanson (Atlanta), Rick Porcello (Detroit) and Daniel Bard (Boston) build. There is a lot of buzz around all three of these young guys, and it seems inevitable that we'll see each in the majors at some point this summer. ... It sure would be entertaining if the Netherlands eliminated the Dominican Republic from the World Baseball Classic when they play on Tuesday. ... Hope Omar Vizquel sticks around for awhile in Texas. ... The sesame seed Ahi with blueberry salsa at Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico the other night. ... Dairy Queen. ... The chicken parmesan and the sautéed spinach at the Italian Grotto in Scottsdale.
Dislikes: I know Arizona is a state that never changes its time. I know when Daylight Savings Time hits, Arizona's clocks don't move. I know this. So what happens Saturday evening? I click out the light in my hotel room and then think, "spring forward." So like a dope, during this moment of temporary insanity around midnight, I move the bedside alarm clock forward. What's worse, is I arise Sunday morning with the sound of that alarm clock, shower, start to get dressed ... and that's when it hits me. Wait just a minute. No time change. It's only 6:30 a.m., not 7:30. Unbelievable.
Sunblock day? Yep. After a couple of cool days, it's back up in the mid-70s with a nice, warm sun here in the desert today.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day
"Everyone I know, everywhere I go
-- Jackson Browne, Running On Empty