Posted on: September 13, 2011 11:36 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 11:38 pm
CHICAGO -- Craziest story of the week, non-Manny Ramirez Division:
The man who will attempt to stop white-hot Detroit's 11-game winning streak for the White Sox on Wednesday, right-hander Dylan Axelrod, is the nephew of long-time agent Barry Axelrod.
And in making his first major-league start, the Sox rookie will plug into the rotation in place of Jake Peavy, long-time client of ... Barry Axelrod.
As if that's not coincidental enough, there's more.
Dylan Axelrod was the Padres' 30th round pick in the 2007 draft out of UC Irvine. Then-Padres general manager Kevin Towers is a long-time friend of Axelrod (the agent), and at the time, Axelrod (the agent) told Towers he wasn't expecting any personal favors when the team drafted Axelrod (the pitcher).
Towers, as good a bullpen-builder as any executive, assured Barry Axelrod that Dylan was legitimate and this was no favor.
Then things took another weird twist.
The Padres had let Dylan Axelrod go, and in 2009 he was down-and-out and pitching for the Windy City ThunderBolts of the independent Frontier League. When the White Sox sent four young pitchers to the Padres in a deal to acquire, yes, Peavy ... Chicago needed to replenish its farm system. Axelrod was pitching so well for the ThunderBolts that the Sox signed him.
Then, one more strange turn.
Dylan Axelrod pitched opening day for Double-A Birmingham this season.
Who started the next day? Peavy, on an injury-rehabilitation assignment.
"The irony of the whole situation keeps hitting me in the face," Barry Axelrod says. "It's intertwined all the way through. And Jake's been great to him."
Both Barry and his brother Dennis -- Dylan's father -- are in Chicago and will be watching nervously at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday afternoon.
Posted on: May 13, 2011 1:03 pm
Well, that sure went pffft in a hurry at the Big A.
Angels orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum on May 11: "Kendrys worked as hard as any athlete I've ever worked with in coming back from a devastating injury, and he hasn't been able to do it."
So, to review how this week has gone for the Angels: Morales to the surgeon's table (again), and Vernon Wells to the disabled list (groin). Groan, and grin. What are you going to do? Especially with a big weekend series coming up in Texas.
After Wells left in the fourth inning Monday, Kendrick started each of the next two games in left field.
Total major-league time in the outfield for Kendrick since 2006 until now: Two-thirds of an inning, in center field, last year. Mostly, Kendrick has played second base for the Angels, with some first base mixed in.
"There's no question he can move around," Scioscia says. "Howie's a terrific athlete. He has the speed to play center field. Outfield is a great option for a guy with his athleticism."
The overriding factor is that the Angels want to make sure Kendrick's bat stays in the lineup. He's hitting .320 through the first 38 games, with a .381 on-base percentage. Torii Hunter has been predicting for years that Kendrick one day will win a batting title. Until now, nobody ever figured it could be as an outfielder.
But while Morales is out for the season, the Angels do not expect Wells to be out much more than a couple of weeks. So don't get any ideas about Kendrick permanently moving to the outfield.
"We're doing this purely on a need basis," Scioscia says. "He shags balls, he's fine tracking the ball, he runs good routes ... I don't think it's too far removed to ask a player to do what he's doing."
-- Kendrick's move is a little like that of the Twins' Michael Cuddyer in reverse. When Orlando Hudson went down last year, manager Ron Gardenhire for a time moved Cuddyer, a former high school shortstop, from right field to second base.
-- Three key young players playing unexpected pivotal roles for the Angels each was drafted under Eddie Bane, who was fired as the Angels' director of scouting last fall: Pitcher Tyler Chatwood (second round, 2008), first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo (18th round, 2004) and catcher Hank Conger (first round, 2006). Also chosen under Bane: Mike Trout, currently at Double-A Arkansas and listed by Baseball America as the game's second-best prospect. Just sayin'.
-- Talk to me about that Giants' pitching: Look who's back in first place in the NL West following a picture-perfect homestand in which they swept division rivals Colorado (three games) and Arizona (three more). And as is always the case with San Francisco, the prime reasons for the surge are cats named Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, etc. In making their move this week, the Giants, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, became the first team in major league history to sweep a homestand of six-or-more games without scoring more than four runs in any game.
-- Most stunning statistic of the year: Tampa Bay through midweek had the best bullpen in the American League based on its league-leading 2.71 ERA (fourth-best in the majors). For a team that was forced to replace seven of its top eighth relievers from 2010 over the winter (based on innings pitched), you sure couldn't tell.
-- The flip side of that preceding Rays' bullpen statistic, though, is this: As it so often is with good bullpens, no small part of the Rays' success can be attributed to a knockout rotation that works deep into games and does not overtax the relievers. While the Rays' bullpen ERA is the AL's best, their 93 innings pitched are the fewest of any big league bullpen.
-- A few more things on this crazy White Sox six-man rotation: Pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Ozzie Guillen have instructed the four starters not named Mark Buehrle or Jake Peavy -- that would be John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson and Phil Humber -- to be prepared to work out of the bullpen, if needed, on the second and third days after their starts. "We don't want to use them, and we'll try not to use them," Cooper says.
-- Another benefit, from the Sox's view, of the six-man rotation: "If one of them is at seven innings and 95 pitches, he can go back out there because he'll have an extra day [before his next start]," Cooper says. The pitching coach also has delivered a pre-emptive strike against any moaning by someone claiming to be thrown off rhythm after a loss: He's told each of his starters that "the only people who have a right to be thrown out of whack by this are the opposing hitters, not us."
-- One side benefit of Jake Peavy's last minor-league rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte, at Toledo, last week: He was able to share a beer and catch up with ex-teammate Phil Nevin following the game. Nevin is managing the Mud Hens.
-- Cool promotion of the year: Farmer John, which makes Dodger Dogs, is donating 30,000 pounds of food to local food banks on the heels of Andre Ethier's 30-game hitting streak. Farmer John already is donating 1,000 pounds of food for every Ethier homer this year.
-- News that Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew has entered hospice care and is in the final days of his treatment for cancer is a blow. Killebrew is one of the game's true gentlemen, just a prince of a man who means so much to the Twins family. Prayers for him and family on this incredibly sad weekend.
Likes: The Orioles continue to show grit under manager Buck Showalter. Thursday night's win over Seattle was a terrific game, scoreless into the 12th, and it was one the old Orioles would have lost when the Mariners scored in the top of the 12th. ... Who is this Carlos Beltran man who slugged three homers the other day? ... SiriusXM radio and the MLB package. So cool to be able to listen to every game and each team's broadcasting crew. ... Steve Earle on Treme last week. ... The Cars on tour beginning Thursday night in Los Angeles. What the heck, as long as Ric Ocasek is along for the ride. ...
Dislikes: Ernie Harwell, Sparky Anderson, and now Harmon Killebrew says he is in his final days. We've lost some really special people over the past year, some all-time nice guys.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"As time wore on you proved
-- The Decemberists, The Mariner's Revenge Song
Posted on: May 9, 2011 9:14 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 9:23 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ready to welcome right-hander Jake Peavy back into the bigs on Wednesday, the White Sox are kicking around going with a six-man rotation until they can write Peavy's comeback in ink rather than pencil.
"Hopefully, he stays there for good," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said before Monday night's game against the Angels here.
Just 10 months past extensive shoulder surgery and into uncharted waters, Peavy's comeback this spring has been highly impressive, albeit a bit uneven. The Sox had to put the brakes on when he developed shoulder tenidinitis in late March, and one of his minor-league rehabilitation starts for Double-A Birmingham was cut short because of muscle tenderness three weeks ago.
Consequently, even while re-inserting him into their rotation, the Sox are being cautious. But part of the issue is, they need him to pitch, because they need to win games. His return can't be an experiment just to see if he's ready. They can't baby him.
"You always worry," Guillen said. "I always worry about anybody who goes on the field [to play].
"He's worked so hard. He's put in a lot of hours of rehab. I love to see him pitch. Last year, it was rehab, bullpen [sessions], the minor leagues ... he can't wait to pitch here and stay in the big leagues every five days.
"Nobody wants to be out there more than him."
While Guillen said a six-man rotation is a possibility, he emphasized that it's just something the Sox are considering.
"I don't know," Guillen said.
As of now, Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Edwin Jackson and Gavin Floyd are locked into the rotation. Phil Humber is the man who was viewed by some as keeping a spot warm for Peavy's return, but Humber has been excellent so far in 2011. Though just 2-3, the right-hander has a 2.97 ERA.
Guillen said Humber definitely will start on schedule Friday in Oakland.
"It's not fair for him [to say], 'OK, you pitched good, thank you for coming, goodbye,'" Guillen said. "I'm not that type of person. I'm not that type of manager.
"You throw well, you earn it. And after that. ..."
After that, we'll see. By spotting in a sixth starter, Guillen said, it could take some of the stress off of others in the rotation. Floyd, for example, did not pitch after September 20 last summer because of tightness in the back of his right shoulder.
Peavy is slotted for Wednesday night against Angels rookie Tyler Chatwood. He said Monday he's feeling great after his final rehab outing, pitching for Triple-A Charlotte against the Mud Hens in Toledo last week.
Posted on: March 14, 2011 7:00 pm
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Baseball's most stirring comeback this spring continued to build drama. White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy made it through his third Cactus League start unscathed and is talking about opening the season in the Sox rotation.
Peavy, coming back from major shoulder surgery last July, threw 67 pitches over four innings, "found some flaws out there, worked on some things, fixed 'em" and pronounced Monday just about as good a spring training day as a guy could have.
He got into some trouble in the fourth, serving up consecutive singles and then a two-run homer to Mike Baxter, but found value in that because he had a chance to work out of the stretch and noted "I think that was the most exciting part of my day." He surrendered six hits and three earned runs over his four innings, walking one and fanning two.
Peavy's pitches were clocked between 89 and 93 m.p.h. via the radar guns in the scouts' area behind the plate. Most of his fastballs checked in at 91. The 93 was his highest velocity of the spring.
Some folks who know Peavy as well as anyone were impressed, too.
"I thought Jake threw the ball well," said Padres manager Bud Black, who had Peavy in San Diego. "His fastball looked good, he had a good slider.
"He didn't look to me as though he's lost anything. He looked really good."
Among other things, Peavy was encouraged in that he bounced back well in his third start of the spring after not feeling quite as good last Wednesday against San Francisco.
"I was a little bit nervous after the last start because I didn't bounce back the way we thought," he said. "I tell you, we put in some hours in the trainers' room, and in the weight room. ... I felt quite a bit better today than I did the other day. I think you saw the fatigue starts to set in around the 50-pitch, 60-pitch mark."
The key, Peavy said, was learning how to moderate his workload between starts.
"My volume was so high," he said. "We came in in this rehab mode, and I'm doing this shoulder program that the White Sox have implemented, and I still want to do all of that as well as the exercises that I've been doing all winter.
"I just think my volume was so high there's no rest time. Rehab and pitching at same time, you've just got to maintain your strength. Holding back volume, I think that made a little bit of a difference."
Peavy said he continues to feel as though he's on a normal spring progression, and "hopefully I'll jump into that No. 5 spot [in the opening day rotation]. If we do have a setback, as far as we've come and as far down the road as it's been, I can't see it being much of a setback."
Asked how he would feel if the Sox occasionally skipped him in the rotation to preserve his health, Peavy said flatly, "I want to pitch. I'm going to fight that battle. ...
"If I'm deemed healthy, I want the ball every time it comes around. I'll certainly battle my authorities. I'll put up a pretty good fight."
Posted on: March 4, 2011 4:38 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 6:05 pm
Working two of the most important innings he's ever pitched, Peavy passed a significant test here in his first time back on a major-league mound since tearing his latissimus dorsi muscle completely from the bone under his right shoulder last July 6.
"I'm relieved, pleased," Peavy said after the two-inning outing against the Angels. "It was a good day, a big step in the right direction. To get in a game, I did what I expected, what I hoped I'd do. I was able to turn it up a level.
"I did what I was hoping to do. I got big league hitters out and felt normal doing it."
Peavy faced the minimum of six hitters over the two innings. He threw his fastball, cut fastball and breaking ball, but no change-ups. With his fastball, he pitched in the 90-91 m.p.h. range, with a couple at 92.
Before the injury, his fastball averaged between 92-94 m.p.h.
"I think maybe he's got tiger blood," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen quipped. "Not Tiger Woods. Tiger blood."
"I wasn't airing it out," he said, noting that he's "slowly tried to climb" to higher levels this spring and that "by the end of spring training, there will be some grunts in there and we'll see what's in the tank before the regular season starts."
Peavy threw 16 strikes and 10 balls in his 26 pitches. He obtained only three swings-and-misses, but, as he noted, he wasn't airing it out, either.
"We were looking forward to today, and he passed everything," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "We weren't going to grade him on velocity or even on location. What we were going to grade him on today was, 'How do you feel before, and after?'"
The mental hurdles he's facing in battling back from an unprecedented injury?
"Today was one of those," he said. "It was big to get out on the mound and make big league hitters swing and miss and throw fastballs around 90.
"The last time I threw a fastball, to Mike Napoli [last July 6], it wasn't pretty."
Peavy is the only known pitcher to completely tear the lat muscle from the bone. He told me in this column from last month that doctors said Kerry Wood and Tom Gordon each suffered tears in the lat muscle, but those were only 30 or 40 percent tears.
Posted on: February 9, 2011 7:32 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2011 7:43 pm
Dreamed up by Peavy last spring, Woodjock 2010 was a fundraiser that allowed major league players to play out their rock and roll fantasies. Peavy, Bronson Arroyo, Bernie Williams, Barry Zito, Aubrey Huff, Gordon Beckham, Tim Flannery and others all participated in the Scottsdale, Ariz., concert last March that raised money for Team Focus, Strikeouts for Troops, Autism Speaks and White Sox Charities through the Jake Peavy Foundation.
There was supposed to be a Woodjock 2011, too.
"As cool as it was, as much as I love it, I didn't want any distractions," Peavy told me this week. "I didn't want any distractions for the team or for my teammates.
"I want them to know I'm sold out to the cause. I'll bypass Woodjock this year and it will return bigger and better next year."
About 1,200 people attended last spring's fundraiser. The way Peavy figured it, all sorts of athletes put on charity golf tournaments. But you don't often see a ballplayer hosting a charity concert.
But, alas, with Peavy returning from major arm surgery, he intends to direct all of his energy to the field this spring and low-key everything else.
"We'll have some troops out, still, and we'll have a nice dinner," says Peavy, whose charity work with the military started when he played in San Diego.
As for Woodjock, Peavy says, "Stay tuned for 2012. We're going to bring the house down."
Likes: Pitchers and catchers reporting means spring is right around the corner, doesn't it? Check back here beginning next week to join me for the annual Camp Tours. We'll move from clubhouses to batting cages to restaurants and roadside Dairy Queens with the greatest of ease. ... What a fun story San Diego State basketball has been this winter. Can't wait for the SDSU-Brigham Young game on Feb. 26 on CBS.
Posted on: February 9, 2011 7:02 pm
Chipper Jones, Braves: Strong early indications that Atlanta's leader is recovering well from major knee surgery last August. Just ask the baseballs: Jones has been hitting in Atlanta since the first of the year, and the legend already is growing. Earlier this month, he literally knocked the cover off of a ball -- ala Roy Hobbs in The Natural -- in a Turner Field batting cage.
"There might have been a stitch or two loose," says general manager Frank Wren, who was away on the Braves' Winter Caravan at the time and was told of the feat by club president John Schuerholz.
Where there was talk last summer that Jones' torn knee could have been a career-ending injury, now the Braves are expecting him to be full-go on the first day of spring training.
"I think we all expected him to be back performing at a high level," Wren says. "You're talking about a very gifted player. All the hard work he's put in, you can just see it. You can see it with your eyes."
Justin Morneau, Twins: The 2006 AL MVP did not play after July 7 last year -- one day after Peavy went down -- because of post-concussion syndrome. The Twins missed him badly during their first-round playoff loss to the Yankees, and there's still a weird vibe about this whole situation. Such as, Twins GM Bill Smith told Morneau to skip TwinsFest a couple of weeks ago so he could stay home and concentrate on his conditioning. And as of the end of January, Morneau still had not resumed baseball activities.
What to expect from Morneau this spring?
"We have pledged patience, and we only want him to go when he's ready," Smith told colleague Danny Knobler a couple of weeks ago. "If that's March 1, April 1 or July 1, that's what it will be. We only want him to go through this one time. We don't want this to become a rollercoaster."
Smith says the date he has circled is April 1, because that's Minnesota's opening day. But it sounds like it's in pencil, not pen.
Brandon Webb, Rangers: In danger of falling permanently into the "Whatever Happened To..." category, Webb has a chance to become Texas' sleeper this summer and help ease the Rangers' pain following the departure of ace Cliff Lee. The 2006 NL Cy Young winner, Webb has made only one big-league start since 2008. And that lasted only four innings.
Arizona was hopeful Webb would have helped last year's club, but he couldn't make it back to the mound following shoulder debridement surgery in August, 2009.
"There's obviously a risk, an unknown anytime a guy is coming back from surgery," Texas GM Jon Daniels says. "But the timeline, the 18-months-out from surgery when you think a guy has a chance to bounce back, lines up with the beginning of the season.
"We're betting on the guy."
The Rangers like what they see so far: Webb has been on a conditioning and throwing program, he's worked over the winter with Rangers strength and conditioning coach Jose Vazquez and he's talked with pitching coach Mike Maddux about what everyone expects. His heavy sinker is made-to-order for the Ballpark in Arlington.
"We're going to push him more on the conditioning side than anything," Daniels says. "If he's ready to go, I'd expect him to be in the rotation."
Kendry Morales, Angels: We haven't heard from Morales since his game-winning grand slam last May beat the Mariners and Morales suffered a broken leg when he awkwardly landed on home plate. The injury required immediate surgery and Morales, who led the Angels at the time with 11 homers, 39 RBIs and a .290 batting average, was done for the season.
The injury was one of many things that wrecked the Angels' season, and after a rough winter in which they failed in their quest to sign Carl Crawford, a big comeback season from Morales is a must. The hope is that he can replicate a 2009 season in which he crashed 34 home runs, compiled a .569 slugging percentage and finished fifth in AL MVP voting.
"We're anticipating him to be full go in spring training," manager Mike Scioscia said at the winter meetings in December. "Obviously, once you get on the field and get into some more extensive activities, you're going to take it slow. Does it mean he'll play our first spring training game? I don't know yet. When he comes into spring training, we expect he'll be full go for all the drills. And if not, we'll adjust on that."
Joe Nathan, Twins: The Upper Midwest report on the Twins' closer sounds more promising than it does on Morneau. Nathan, sidelined the entire 2010 season following Tommy John surgery, has been throwing off of a mound and was throwing breaking balls by the end of January. Smith described Nathan as "very upbeat" and noted what a big boost it would be to have a fully healthy Nathan along with experienced closer Matt Capps late in games.
Carlos Santana, Indians: He could have been Buster Posey, or Jason Heyward. Instead, things weren't exactly smooth for the baseball Santana, whose rookie season was ruined after his June 11 recall when he suffered a torn lateral collateral ligament in his left knee during a home plate collision with Boston's Ryan Kalish on Aug. 2.
One of the many bright lights in a stunningly good rookie class in 2010, Santana has been cleared by Indians doctors to resume full baseball activities during spring training. Barring any setbacks, Santana could start playing in games when the Cactus League schedule begins on Feb. 27.
The Indians, losers of 93 games and the worst-drawing team in the majors last season, are not expected to contend in 2011. But in Santana, one of the brightest young prospects in the game, and center fielder Grady Sizemore -- also recovering from left knee surgery -- Cleveland's season could gain traction (or slip into the ditch) depending on how this duo progresses in Arizona this spring.
Posted on: May 4, 2010 1:56 am
SAN DIEGO -- Pitchers were packing heat all over the majors on an extraordinary Monday night, from Toronto's Brett Cecil to the White Sox's Jake Peavy to Texas' Rich Harden to Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez.
In Cleveland, Cecil took a perfect game into the seventh inning before walking Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo and then surrendering an RBI single to Jhonny Peralta as Toronto clipped the Indians 5-1.
In Chicago, struggling starter Jake Peavy worked 4 2/3 no-hit innings until Kansas City's Mitch Maier's single. Peavy, who entered the game with a 7.85 ERA, wound up pitching seven scoreless innings in the White Sox's 5-1 win.
In Oakland, Texas starter -- and former Athletic -- Rich Harden carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before A's center fielder Rajai Davis cracked a one-out double.
And in San Diego, Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez fanned a career-high 13 in the Rockies' 5-2 win.
Amid that constellation of pitching stars, Jimenez is the guy who continues to stand out. If voting were to be conducted for the NL Cy Young right now -- granted, there are five months remaining, everybody knows that, so no wise cracks -- Jimenez easily would be the guy.
"What can I say?" Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "Seven more terrific innings from the ace of our staff."
In allowing one Padre run over seven innings, Jimenez's ERA actually rose to 0.87. Still, that's a major-league low.
"His fastball tonight ranks up there with any of his other starts he's had to this point," Tracy said. "His fastball was explosive."
Jimenez also is the only pitcher in the majors who stands 6-0, and he has not allowed a home run in 41 1/3 innings pitched.
"He's become such a big-game pitcher," Tracy said. "He's grown so much, right before our eyes. He's becoming quite a force. This guy's a dynamic guy. I couldn't be prouder of the young man.
Meantime, as for pitchers bringing the heat, that 17-8 Boston rout of the Los Angeles Angels?
Not so much.
Likes: One thing that gets lost amid the offensive production, Gold Glove and trade rumors: Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is a very good guy. ... So is his first-base counterpart in Colorado, Todd Helton. ... Among other broadcasters, I always enjoy listening to Cleveland's Tom Hamilton on the XM broadcasts. He's very good (and I enjoyed him last winter broadcasting hoops on the Big Ten Network, too). ... About halfway through Nick Hornby's latest book, Juliet, Naked. As expected, very entertaining so far. ... The Leonard Cohen Live in London concert DVD is fabulous. Been meaning to catch up to it for months, finally did over the weekend and I highly recommend it. Classy guy and great sound. ... Very entertaining Kentucky Derby on Saturday, no? I'm not big into horse racing, but I usually make a strong effort to watch the Derby. It's just one more reminder that spring is really here and summer is on its way. ...
Dislikes: So a piece of one of my back teeth just up and chipped off a couple of weeks ago while I was having dinner. Felt something crunchy and, uh-oh. Clean break and no pain, but I suppose I'd better set up a dental appointment just in case. And I just got my very first cavity, a small one, a couple of years ago, too.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
-- Leonard Cohen, Everybody Knows