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 13, 2011 7:58 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 7:59 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Say this for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke: He's a man of his convictions.
One day after his Mark Kotsay decision became a flashpoint in Game 3, Kotsay was back in the lineup for the Brewers for Game 4, albeit starting in right field in place of Corey Hart instead of in center field.
Roenicke, meanwhile, steered part of his pre-game news conference back to his decision to play Kotsay in center field a night earlier.
"I know you guys hammered me for Kotsay yesterday, but Kotsay is a good outfielder," Roenicke said. "I didn’t put somebody out there who was a bad outfielder. I just didn't have Carlos Gomez in there. Carlos is a fabulous outfielder."
Roenicke again explained he likes Kotsay's offense and that's what he wanted from Kotsay in Game 3. And Kotsay did deliver: Two walks and a home run against Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter.
Thing is, with Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo starting, there is an argument to be made that you want your best defense behind him. But Roenicke held fast to his reasoning, explaining that part of it, too, is that Gomez "hasn't started against a right-hander in, I don't know, four months?"
"Sometimes you want somebody in there that has a chance to get hot," Roenicke said. "Kotsay did what he was supposed to do yesterday. He got a home run and two walks in front of our big boys. That's what he was supposed to do.
"OK, he got caught off of second base. Kots, I know, wasn't happy about that play. But he did what he was supposed to do."
Likes: The Tigers have had such a good season, it would have been a shame to see them go down to Texas in five games in a heap of injuries. I'm glad to see that go at least six ... and I hope this NL Championship Series between the Cardinals and Brewers goes six or seven games, too. ... Make it seven, for both. ... If Reese Witherspoon truly is "showing her sexy side" in the flick This Means War due out in February, then sign me up. ... The beautiful weather continues in St. Louis. Great run Thursday morning through downtown and around the Jefferson Memorial National Monument, the park area where the Arch is located. ... New Tom Waits is always a good thing. ... The chicken parmesan at Charlie Gitto's Italian joint downtown.
Dislikes: Friendly's closing its doors for good via bankruptcy. I'll always remember those summer nights in 1982 with Jeannie, and other friends, when Friendly's was a post rec-league softball stop and the Reese's Pieces Sundaes were quite the treat. And the Fribbles. All gone now, sadly.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I'm the hat on the bed
"I'm the coffee instead
"The fish or cut bait
"I'm the detective up late
"I'm the blood on the floor
"The thunder and the roar
"The boat that won't sink
"I just won't sleep a wink
"You're the same kind of bad as me"
-- Tom Waits, Bad as Me
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:18 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Are the Brewers now in as large a hole as the Tigers? No, they are not.
It only seems like it.
Following Wednesday's 4-3 Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, Milwaukee, still very much in this series, trails St. Louis only two games to one. But given the way the rest of their rotation is bumbling around, the Brewers are wounded badly when Yovani Gallardo starts and they don't win.
Starting pitchers named neither "Yovani" nor "Gallardo" in this postseason have compiled a 11.52 ERA while going 1-3 in five postseason starts.
Being that Milwaukee's Game 4 starter contains the names "Randy" and "Wolf, the Brewers can only hope that trend changes.
Gallardo, now 1-8 career against the Cardinals, did not pitch like the ace Milwaukee thinks he is. He was lit up for four runs in the first inning before calming down.
Part of that wasn't completely his fault: Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke gambled and lost by starting veteran Mark Kotsay, 35, in center field. He liked Kotsay's numbers against Chris Carpenter (4 for 11, .364 batting average). But Kotsay could not get to a fly ball smacked into the left-center gap two batters into the bottom of the first, a play that Carlos Gomez certainly would have made. That helped fuel St. Louis' early rally.
But Kotsay had nothing to do with Gallardo's back-to-back walks of Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman later in the inning. Those were critical, too.
Bottom line is, this series still should have a very long way to go. Milwaukee is facing nothing like its Midwestern (across Lake Michigan) neighbor. Detroit is down three games to one and on the verge of extinction for 2011.
The Brewers are just one win from evening things up against St. Louis. But with Wolf, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum rolling up next in the rotation, it sure looks as if the Cardinals were licking their beaks, er, chops as they left Busch Stadium late Wednesday night.
Posted on: October 3, 2008 7:02 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Boston manager Terry Francona's Game 2 lineup is in, and injured third baseman Mike Lowell is not in it.
Francona said removing Lowell, whose partially torn labrum in his right hip has reduced his effectiveness, was an agonizingly difficult decision. However, it was not a surprising decision when you consider the numbers.
"That was a hard one for me," Francona said of removing Lowell. The manager said Lowell's condition did not worsen since Game 1, but that it is obvious he's "hurting."
"Getting to that decision was hard for me," Francona said. "That was a tough one."
As for Cora, Francona said he was leaning toward playing Cora in Game 2 entering the series.
"Just style of pitching," Francona said. "Ervin Santana, the way Cora swung, the way Lowrie swung at certain types of pitchers.
"I was leaning more toward that anyway, but you don't need to make that decision until you need to."
Cora has two hits in three lifetime at-bats against Santana. Lowrie has never faced him.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, meanwhile, is going with catcher Jeff Mathis instead of Mike Napoli in Game 2. Santana was 14-4 with a 2.88 ERA this season when pitching to Mathis (16-6, 3.21 ERA overall).
Posted on: August 27, 2008 4:57 pm
Kotsay is 32 with the back of a 42-year-old (or worse), but he's playing and he's good to go for now. He was hitting .289 with six homers and 37 RBI in 88 games for Atlanta. With Drew's status dicey for the rest of the season, Kotsay is the perfect complement to Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Bay and Coco Crisp: An experienced hand who is battle-tested, having playoff experience with Oakland in 2006.
The Red Sox have been in the market for an outfielder since the Manny Ramirez fiasco, before Drew's back began acting up. San Diego's Brian Giles declined a trade to the Red Sox earlier this month for family reasons and because the Red Sox couldn't promise him anything more than an extra outfielder's role at the time. Giles wanted to play every day.
What's changed since then -- and increased the urgency for the Red Sox to acquire another outfielder -- is Drew's injury. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they didn't grant Crisp's desire to be traded this spring. Think how thin they'd be in the outfield if they had.
Not only does Kotsay know his way around the outfield, he's a solid guy to have in the clubhouse for a stretch run. Professional, committed, intelligent and no-nonsense (no Manny comments here, please).
So consider this another test passed for Boston as the Red Sox gallop toward another October. This isn't to grant them a playoff spot yet -- there are still many challenges ahead.
But the Red Sox are better today with Kotsay on their roster than they were yesterday. And thanks to Minnesota's four-game losing streak, the Red Sox have some breathing room (a 2 1/2-game lead) in the AL wild-card race.
This isn't a team that has given up on first place -- they trail Tampa Bay by only 3 1/2 games, and they still play Joe Maddon's club six times in September (three home, three away). A lot still can change.
But the way things are shaping up, the Red Sox have two chances to make the playoffs. And the percentages are rising. Minnesota should have won three of four over the weekend in Anaheim and could have swept the Angels. But the Twins lost the final two games of that series and the first two in Seattle this week.
Not a good way to begin a 14-game trip, and even more disheartening for the Twins after they started 2-0. Being that Ron Gardenhire's club has begun a stretch in which they play 24 of 30 on the road, as Yogi says, it's beginning to get late early.
Meantime, Boston has won five of seven, nine of 13 and life without Manny isn't looking as daunting as maybe it once did.
Likes: Colorado has won four in a row and has pulled to within six games of first-place Arizona in the NL West. You don't think the Rockies will stage another September miracle, do you? … Instant replay on boundary calls are fine, but if baseball officials ever look to expand replay, it'll be time to dig in and fight it. … Watching Randy Johnson pitch. … My Weber grill. … Gates barbecue sauce from Kansas City, right in my fridge and then on the chicken on the Weber grill.
Dislikes: Well, I was just saying yesterday how fun the Mets are to watch lately. Not so much after they blew a 7-0 lead to Philadelphia on Tuesday night while falling with a thud into second place in the NL East. … Florida's Hanley Ramirez with a glove. … Sure, I write a feature piece on Arizona this week and the Diamondbacks promptly go into the tank in San Diego. I hate it when teams don't cooperate. … Come on, Tropical Storm Gustav, let's skip right over New Orleans this time.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"When I think back on all the crap
-- Paul Simon, Kodachrome