Tag:Jimmy Buffett
Posted on: October 7, 2011 1:13 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 1:20 pm
 

Brewers' last playoff manager looks to go deeper

MILWAUKEE -- If Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke needs any sort of reference points for the last time the Brewers were in the postseason, back in 2008, he doesn't have to travel far to find the manager from back then.

In a testament to the family atmosphere that surrounds this fun bunch of Brewers, Dale Sveum continues his work with the organization as hitting coach, his time in charge largely forgotten in the dustbin of history.

When the Brewers nearly folded down the stretch in '08, they fired manager Ned Yost in a shocking move in mid-September, with just 12 games left in their season.

Sveum took over on an interim basis for those 12 games, then managed in the playoffs as the Brewers were eliminated in four games by the Phillies.

After that, Sveum was considered as full-time manager but didn't get the job. The Brewers instead hired Ken Macha, who ran the club in 2009 and 2010. When they didn't renew his contract, they plucked Roenicke off of Mike Scioscia's Angels staff.

So here we are, three years later, and there's Sveum, working behind the batting cage, offering this bit of advice to Prince Fielder, that bit of help to Ryan Braun.

Surely, he had to swallow some pride when he was passed over as manager. Why did he stay?

"It was a very unfortunate situation at the time," Sveum, 47, told me when we spoke here a couple of weeks ago. "I only managed for 12 days and then the playoffs. It wasn't like I was there for three months or something. It wasn't the norm where you think you deserve the job."

Given that feeling, the strange circumstances and his affinity for the young core group of players in '08 -- most of whom will play this afternoon in what could be Prince Fielder's final game as a Brewer -- Sveum never gave serious thought to leaving. Maybe others would have walked away in a huff, but not this guy.

"I've been with quite a few organizations, but the Brewers have been great," said Sveum, who played for the Brewers, Pirates, White Sox, Athletics, Mariners and Yankees during his 12-year major-league career. "I love it here. I love the city.

"There would be nothing more gratifying than winning one here. I played here. I coached here. We have a great owner [Mark Attanasio] who is not afraid to spend money and keep guys. We drew three million fans this year.

"This is not a bad place to be. And these jobs don't come around very often."

While Sveum said the run in '08 with CC Sabathia was a whole lot of fun, he said this year has been better because "we have a complete pitching staff, and whenever you have a complete pitching staff, you have a chance to go deep into the playoffs."

"The fans are not stupid," Sveum said. "They know there's a window here to go deep into the playoffs, and that's what brings electricity."

Those fans, on edge since Arizona evened this series 2-2 on Wednesday night in the desert, only hope the window to go deep into the playoffs doesn't slam shut prematurely later tonight.

Likes: Three Game 5s. How great is this? ... Fabulous Tigers-Yankees Game 5, and what a job of managing in that series by Jim Leyland. ... The folks who work for Southwest Airlines are some of the friendliest and most helpful in the business. The other day, a little portfolio-type thing I carry that has a ton for frequent-flier cards, numbers and receipts in it, fell out of my workbag on a flight. I didn't notice until I got to the baggage claim area, and a terrific lady for Southwest in the baggage claim area jumped on the case immediately, phoned the gate and had it back to me within 15 minutes. The folks cleaning the plane had found it and, phew, what a relief. ... Mo's steakhouse in downtown Milwaukee. The "McAlpine" Horseradish Crusted Prime Ribeye, white cheddar mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach ... now that's a meal. ... Culver's frozen custard, a Wisconsin staple.

Dislikes: Another week of great baseball, 75 degrees in Milwaukee today, beautiful sun, sailboats on Lake Michigan ... what's not to like?

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Reading departure signs in some big airport
"Reminds me of the places I've been.
"Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
"Makes me want to go back again.
"If it suddenly ended tomorrow,
"I could somehow adjust to the fall.
"Good times and riches and son of a bitches,
"I've seen more than I can recall
"These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes,
"Nothing remains quite the same.
"Through all of our running and all of our cunning
"If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Posted on: August 8, 2011 10:41 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 12:54 pm
 

"People are understanding how good we are"

LOS ANGELES -- Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino declined Monday to address his three-game suspension for his role in Friday night's brawl in San Francisco.

But he was happy to discuss the latest test the Phillies passed with phlying colors, winning three of four games over the weekend and beating the Giants at their own game, pitching.

Statement series?

Naw, let's not go there Victorino said. But as the weeks roll by and the Phillies blaze on toward what is shaping up to be another very special season, let's just say that leaving the Giants in ruins over the weekend just reinforced what some folks have been believing for a long time.

"Best team in baseball," one scout says.

"I don't want to use the word 'statement'," Victorino said. "But it shows we can do it. Not that we ever doubted that we can, but they're the champs. To be the champs, you have to beat the champs.

"In October, it's all about 5-7-7 [the round-by-round best-of series']. We tip our caps to the Giants for beating us last year. But I think this was a test for us, and we're good.

"I think people are understanding how good we are. We won in San Francisco because of our pitching. And they didn't even face our No. 1."

Instead, Roy Halladay was slotted to pitch the series opener against the Dodgers here Monday night, and the Phillies are making Jimmy Rollins look conservative. It was Rollins who predicted in February the Phillies would win 100 games.

It made headlines at the time because, well, in February, any sort of bold statement makes headlines.

But all you can say as the Phils maintain a pace to win 103 games is, the season is playing out just as many thought it could for them.

Winners of nine of their past 10 heading into this Dodgers series, they owned the game's best record at 74-40. Last time they had played at least 113 games and suffered only 40 losses, it was 1976.

Charlie Manuel's club is an equal opportunity outfit, shredding left-handed starters (against whom they're 21-9) and right-handers (53-31) alike.

Though they're only seventh in the NL in runs scored, their pitching is so dominant that their run differential (+127) is third-best in the game, trailing only the Yankees (+167) and Boston (+144).

Phillies starters lead all major-league rotations in wins (55), ERA (2.96), strikesouts (640), complete games (14, six from Halladay), quality starts (76) and fewest runs allowed (261).

Are the Phillies reaching their potential that, as far back as spring training, was set in the stratosphere?

"It's hard for us to say because we're striving to get to the World Series and win it," starter Cole Hamels said. "It's definitely a good question for when we're in the World Series.

"We definitely like our chances. We're confident. Guys are at their peaks. In '08 when we ended up winning, we were trying to find it and we ended up finding it."

As for the San Francisco series, Hamels said, "We're playing the right type of baseball. That's what you have to do in August. It's very tough for teams. It's 100 degrees, you've been pitching for 22, 24 starts [Hamels is 13-6 with a 2.53 ERA in 24 starts], your body's fighting it, and you have to keep pushing.

"It's the countdown."

He meant for stretch-run baseball in September, and playoff ball in October.

But for the Phillies, there's a lot of counting going on right now.

And the numbers are adding up impressively.

Likes: GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland extended in Detroit. They've earned their keep by keeping the Tigers relevant. ... A few days off in early August right after the trade deadline, summer sun still warm, the days long and free. ... Sandy Point in Ferndale, Wash., quarterback Jake Locker's land, right down there on Puget Sound. Beautiful. ... The oh-so-fresh halibut and salmon at Barlean's fishery down the road. Few things finer on the grill with the sun dropping behind the ocean water. ... The burritos at Chihuahua's in town. ... Jimmy Buffett's Encores disc. ... The new disc from John Hiatt, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. Not as good as Slow Turning or Perfectly Good Guitar, but that's setting the bar awfully high. Check out I Love That Girl, Detroit Made and Adios to California.

Dislikes: All the best to Colorado right-hander Juan Nicasio. One minute, you're pitching in the majors. The next, you've got a broken bone in your neck after being hit by a line drive, and you don't know if you'll ever pitch again. Tough summer for the Rockies. Hope we see Nicasio back soon.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Wrote a note, said 'Be back in a minute'
"Bought a boat and I sailed off in it
"Don't think anybody's gonna miss me anyway
"Mind on a permanent vacation
"The ocean is my only medication
"Wishin' my condition ain't ever gonna go away
"Now I'm knee deep in the water somewhere
"Got the blue sky breeze blowin' wind thru my hair
"Only worry in the world
"Is the tide gonna reach my chair
"Sunrise, there's a fire in the sky
"Never been so happy
"Never felt so high
"And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise"

-- Zac Brown Band, Knee Deep

Posted on: July 10, 2011 10:45 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 12:09 am
 

Harper, Machado, Trout: They're getting younger

PHOENIX -- They're making the prospects younger than ever.

Consider this: Had the Angels not promoted Mike Trout, 19, on Friday, the U.S. team in the Futures game here Sunday probably would have had one, two and three hitters aged 19 (Trout), 19 (Baltimore shortstop prospect Manny Machado) and 18 (Bryce Harper, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft by Washington).

As it was, with Trout a late scratch because of his sudden promotion from Double-A Arkansas, Machado batted second and Harper third.

Of anybody in the game, of course, Harper was the focal point. The No. 1 overall pick, a five-tool phenom, a controversial brat, the game's next great player ... Harper is many things to many people.

"I try and go out and play the game, I try to have fun," Harper said. "If it's not fun, you shouldn't be out there."

Some would say blowing a kiss at a pitcher after drilling a home run, as he did earlier this summer while playing for Class A Hagerstown, might be having a bit too much fun.

Machado, his friend since the two played together on an 18-and-under U.S. team in Venezuela two winters ago, says that's "the only thing I give him [grief] about, for blowing that kiss. It was pretty awesome."

Awesome, funny, whatever from a young player's perspective.

But Machado said he sure would never do something like that himself.

"This game is rough, and I play shortstop," Machado said. "Somebody would take me out."

On a serious note regarding Harper, Machado said, "He's a great player. He's got the tools. He was obviously producing at Hagerstown. To me, he has the tools to be up there [in the majors] right now. It depends on how he does ... he could easily be up there this year."

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo pretty much has put the kibosh on the idea that Harper could land in the bigs yet this summer. And 2012 is not guaranteed, though odds would suggest that if Harper continues to produce, it's certainly not out of the question.

The Nationals promoted Harper to Double-A Harrisburg on the Fourth of July after he hit .318 with a .423 on-base percentage, 14 homers, 46 RBIs and 19 steals in 72 games. Even though the Angels called up Trout on Friday, Harper said he isn't drawing a direct line from Trout and the Angels to his own situation.

As for whether he thinks his success may accelerate his own timetable, Harper shrugged.

"I have no clue," he said. "I'll let 'em make that decision. Mike Rizzo has done a great job with everything. I'm going to play this year like I know how to play and let them make the decision."

Machado said he and Harper still talk an average of once a week since their time together in Venezuela, when they were kids far from home talking about stuff teenagers talk about.

"Girlfriends back home, what was going on when we were in Venezuela when we were in the middle of nowhere," Machado said.

While Machado was happy to be reunited with Harper for a day, he was disappointed not to see Trout -- but very happy for Trout.

"I was excited for him -- when the GM calls, that's the best call you could ever get in your life," Machado said.

Considered the best shortstop prospect in the minor leagues, Machado, like Harper, should have one of those phone calls in his near future as well.

Likes: Fun seeing all of the baseball people gathered in one location. Very impressed with the way Orioles prospect Manny Machado carries himself. ... Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, the former general manager and current special assistant to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, intently watching batting practice and infield at the Futures Game. Even into his 70s, his mind is still incredible. Looking forward to seeing him inducted into the Hall along with Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar in a couple of weeks. ... Very cool lightening storm Sunday night in the desert. No rain, but the sky was lit up for a couple of hours. ... The sour cream enchiladas and frozen strawberry margaritas at Los Olivos Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale. ... The Tee Pee Mexican joint in Phoenix, though we haven't been there yet.

Dislikes: Man, so many scratches from the All-Star Game. Sunday's Celebrity Softball Game was "celebrity" in name only -- it was a bunch of B-listers -- but that star power still might wind up being higher than Tuesday's game. ... OK, you wonder, who was in the Celebrity Softball Game? Among others, Chord Overstreet (Glee), James Denton (Desperate Housewives), Jennie Finch (former Arizona State softball pitcher and a gold-medal winner at the 2004 Olympics), Erin Andrews (ESPN), Kate Upton (Sports Illustrated swimsuit model), Nick Jonas (of the Jonas Brothers) and Larry Fitzgerald (receiver for the Arizona Cardinals).

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I rounded first, never thought of the worst
"As I studied the shortstop's position
"Crack went my leg, like the shell of an egg
"Someone call a decent physician
"I'm no Pete Rose, I can't pretend
"Though my mind is quite flexible, these brittle bones don't bend"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Growing Older (But Not Up)



Posted on: March 16, 2011 7:49 pm
 

Lincecum strong (and hungry)


PHOENIX -- Word of warning to opposing hitters: San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum already looks in midseason form.

After striking out seven Chicago White Sox hitters in 5 1/3 innings of the Giants' 5-3 Cactus League victory here, Lincecum said "I don't think I've felt this good all spring in any year."

Looking to increase his strength, he said he's added "10 or 11 pounds" from last year, up to 168. That's come through protein shakes, recovery drinks and good, old-fashioned eating.

Lincecum's most impressive revelation Wednesday afternoon: He regularly hits In-N-Out Burger, and his typical order is three double-doubles, two fries and one milkshake (half chocolate, half strawberry).

That's roughly 2,940 calories, according to the (delicious) In-N-Out web site.

Overall, Lincecum said, at 26, he's got a better idea of what he needs to do to get his body ready for the season, taking into account the workload of a major-league season, what's worked and what hasn't worked from past workouts and his "through the roof metabolism."

He lifts weights for upper body strength and runs stairs the day after he starts, his hardest workout day. He eschews long jogs now for sprint work on other days between starts.

He still does not ice his shoulder, one of the only pitchers in the game to bypass that.

"It's something I never got into," Lincecum said. "I'd rather have my blood flow get, what do you call them, lactic acids out freely rather than freezing them up."

Forget, though, the lactic acids.

How about his cholesterol, given all of those burgers?

"It's probably not too good," he said, chuckling.

But say this for him: He's not taking dieting third baseman Pablo Sandoval on his In-N-Out runs.

"No," he said, chuckling again. "I go solo."

Sunblock Day: Whew boy, high of 90 on Wednesday. Hot, hot desert sun. Love it.

Likes: In-N-Out, double-double, animal style. ... Tom Waits, Darlene Love and Leon Russell into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Way overdue. ... The Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High basketball team beating Manchester 47-36 to advance to Wednesday night's Regional tournament game against Hillsdale.

Dislikes: Man, that's tough news that Atlanta minor league manager Luis Salazar had his left eye removed after getting drilled with the line drive while he was in the dugout recently. Just one more warning to fans: If a coach who obviously is paying close attention can still get smoked with a foul line drive mid-game, it is imperative for fans sitting close to the action to be heads-up for foul balls.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I like mine with lettuce and tomato
"Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes
"Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer
"Well, good God Almighty, which way do I steer"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Cheeseburger in Paradise

Posted on: January 28, 2011 7:14 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2011 8:36 pm
 

Jim Joyce's road from October

It's been a process for umpire Jim Joyce, moving from the mental exhaustion of the 2010 season and the Armando Galarraga Game last June to the point where now he's anticipating this spring training more than any recent camp.

What Kay Joyce most has noticed about her husband of 28 years is that he was very quiet for the first month or so after he returned home last October.

"Very, very quiet," Kay says. "I got him to go to Home Depot once, and four different people came up to him.

"I thought, 'Oh, now I know why.' It's all good, but. ..."

But the guy she noticed following her husband around a grocery store one day, up and down multiple aisles, she wasn't sure that would be good.

Turned out, though, it was simply the store manager.

"He just wanted to shake Jim's hand," she says.

Yes, it's been strange the way a man working in a profession in which the perfect day is to go unnoticed has been, well, regularly noticed.

"It has turned into a phenomenon," Jim Joyce says. "We're not perfect. We're not perfect people. I just happened to be imperfect at the wrong time."

Though he's intent on moving past 2010, two of the items he's kept from last summer are way cool: Baggage tags that were on his luggage when he traveled from Detroit to Philadelphia after the Galarraga game on which unidentified handlers scribbled personal notes.

One one tag was written, "You gave your best. God bless. (signed) DTW baggage"

On the other: "We are all human. Good luck. (signed) DTW."

"That was a shock to me," Joyce says. "So many people have been supportive. I couldn't be more happy that it still is a positive."

Likes: Not surprising, the notes on those baggage tags. As someone who hails from that area -- about 30 minutes north of Joyce's hometown of Toledo, Ohio -- the spirit of the good Midwestern people remains with me to this day. Joyce and I discussed that Friday. "They talk about Southern hospitality," he says. "It's definitely a Midwest thing, too, supporting a Midwesterner." ... Speaking of which, great news that Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band will tour beginning in March. Rock and roll never forgets, baby. ... Keith Richards' autobiography "Life" is a great read. Loved it. ... Tyler Kepner's New York Times piece on Gil Meche retiring and leaving $12 million on the table the other day. ... If you're looking for a good movie this weekend, check out The King's Speech. Outstanding. Great story, and what acting from Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.

Dislikes:
Get well soon, Jimmy Buffett. Here's the tale from the doc who tended to him.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I've got fevered dreams
"Mighty plans
"Need a black top road
"I need a wheel in my hands
"So long Arizona
"So long desert sands
"I need to face the promise
"Of the promised land"

-- Bob Seger, Face the Promise

Posted on: November 1, 2010 2:24 am
Edited on: November 1, 2010 2:27 am
 

Giants own firm grip on Series with 3-1 lead

ARLINGTON, Texas -- How good a position are the Giants in following their 4-0 whitewashing of the Rangers in Game 4 here Halloween night?

Teams that have taken a 3-1 series lead are 38-6 in World Series play.

And of those six teams that came back to win ... well, nobody's done it since the 1985 Kansas City Royals.

"We're one game away," Giants outfielder and postseason hero Cody Ross said. "We can all feel it. We can smell it, taste it, everything ... all the senses.

"We just have to keep grinding."

That, or keep pitching. With Tim Lincecum lined up to start Game 5, the Giants already have shut the Rangers out in two of these four games so far. Texas thus becomes the first team since the 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers to get shut out in at least two games during one single World Series.

A strong Orioles staff featuring Dave McNally, Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker pitched three shutouts against the Dodgers that fall.

A Rangers' lineup that led the American League in batting average and ranked fourth in both runs scored and on-base percentage has been completely overwhelmed.

"It's certainly pitching as advertised," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Co. "Those guys pound the strike zone. They've got good stuff. They've got velocity. They can spin the baseball, they can change speeds and they keep their defense engaged. And that's what you like to see out of pitching, keeping the defense engaged.

"They've done a great job. We've got to figure out some ways to put some runs on the board against them."

With Cliff Lee slated to start Game 5 on Monday, C.J. Wilson Game 6 on Wednesday and Colby Lewis Game 7 on Thursday, the Rangers have the starters they want going. But if they can't score, it's not going to do much good.

Likes: San Francisco closer Brian Wilson's "Aqua Man" T-shirt he was wearing Sunday. ... Hank Aaron in the house to present the Hank Aaron award to Cincinnati's Joey Votto and Toronto's Jose Bautista. Great to see Aaron still connected. ... Cooper's Old Time Pit Barbecue in Fort Worth. Biggest pork chops I've ever seen (thus the "Home of the Big Chop" monikor). And outstanding beef brisket. ... Lyle Lovett. ... Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central opening the Michigan state football playoffs with a 62-14 cruise over Dundee on Friday night.

Dislikes: Missing Halloween. ... The three minutes between innings of postseason games. Yes, baseball needs to make its money, but, yaawwwwn, man does that make these games stretch out.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"So many dragons lurking out in the fog
"So many crazy people mumblin' monologues
"It's not the tales of Stephen King that I've read
"I need protection from the things in my head
"Like...
"Vampires, mummies and the Holy Ghost
"These are the things that terrify me the most
"No alien, psychopath or MTV host
"Scares me like vampires, mummies and the Holy Ghost"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Vampires, Mummies and the Holy Ghost

Posted on: June 3, 2010 8:26 pm
 

A few final thoughts on the travesty in Detroit

Let's start with this: If you have not heard umpire Jim Joyce's agony in the aftermath of his blown call to rob Detroit's Armando Galarraga of a perfect game Wednesday night, you owe it to yourself to listen. Especially if you're hopping mad, looking for somebody to slug and your blood pressure is through the roof:

Listen to Jim Joyce here.

And if some of your hardness doesn't begin to melt just a little after listening, then I imagine you've never made a mistake in your life. It's darn tough not to feel for the man.

Meantime, with the wreckage still smoldering in Detroit, the important thing now is to figure out what lessons can be learned.

Me, I see several (besides baseball needing to look seriously at implementing more replay and better umpires).

I see Galarraga offering an incredible example of class and sportsmanship. "Nobody's perfect," he said Wednesday night. Imagine! This from a 28-year-old man immediately after he <em>was</em> perfect. From a man who is fighting for a permanent spot on Detroit's roster -- he was recently recalled from Triple-A Toledo.

I see Joyce, heartsick and temporarily broken, offering a gut-wrenching apology and exemplifying courage at its finest. Awful day at the office, yes. We all have those. But not all of us are strong enough to shoulder a colossal mistake. Not only did he seek Galarraga out to apologize after he viewed the replay on Wednesday night, he worked the plate for Thursday's series finale, shrugging off baseball's offer to take a sabbatical. And Cleveland manager Manny Acta afterward said Joyce had a great game.

I see class from the Tigers and manager Jim Leyland, who said before the game, "This is not a day to boo a bad call. This is a day to cheer integrity." And: "This is a day for Detroit to shine."

I saw Detroit shine when some of the 28,169 fans in Comerica Park applauded the umpires when they took the field, causing Joyce, a jangle of raw emotions, to cry.

It's terrible the way this all went down. But I'll tell you this: If not for the class of Galarraga, Joyce, Leyland and others, this could have been a whole lot uglier. In a bad situation, they all took the high road and, maybe, made us all think a little bit and re-examine a little bit of ourselves.

For that, baseball owes all of them a debt of gratitude.

Likes: June and San Diego, Texas, Cincinnati and Atlanta are in first place with Oakland lurking nearby. Can never get enough Cinderella stories. ... The Braves are making Bobby Cox proud. ... Glad to hear Ken Griffey Jr. is going to be working for the Mariners sometime soon. The only thing worse than when a superstar's career ends is when he disappears completely. Good for the game when they stay around and remain visible. ... Radical changes to Friday Night Lights as the fourth season is underway (for those of us who don't have DirecTV), and the show continues to crackle with great writing and superb acting.

Dislikes: Too bad Ken Griffey Jr.'s retirement was overshadowed by the non-perfect game fallout. I mean, the Commissioner's Office wound up releasing a statement on the Detroit brouhaha Thursday before it issued a statement congratulating Griffey for a great career. ... Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow lobbying Thursday for baseball to reverse umpire Jim Joyce's blown call and award Armando Galarraga the perfect game he lost. How about you two politicians concentrate on Michigan's future and lowering that unemployment rate?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Yesterday's over my shoulder
"So I can't look back for too long
"There's just too much to see waiting in front of me
"And I know that I just can't go wrong"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

 

Posted on: March 22, 2010 7:31 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2010 8:57 pm
 

Reds hold breath with Chapman's stiff back

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A breezy and optimistic spring training for the Reds paused hard Monday when Cuban sensation Aroldis Chapman was removed from his Cactus League outing against Colorado early because of a stiff lower back.

Chapman, a favorite to win the Reds' fifth slot in the starting rotation, said his back has been bothering him much of the past week -- though later he amended that and indicated that the issue just came up. He also said he has never before had back problems.

"We don't think it's anything serious," Reds manager Dusty Baker said following the Reds' 9-1 loss to the Rockies. "We took him out before it got any worse."

The Reds issued a statement later Monday that Chapman left Monday's game because of back spasms. He will be treated and re-evaluated later this week.

Chapman, through translator Tony Fossas, the pitching coach at Class A Dayton, said he is "not really hurt" and described it as "a little problem with my back I've had all week."

As long as it is a "little" problem, the Reds will breathe easy. Chapman, in competition with Mike Leake, Travis Wood and Justin Lehr for the final rotation spot behind Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey, had allowed only one run in seven spring innings before Monday, striking out 10 and walking only two.

Coming in after Bronson Arroyo to start the sixth, Chapman mowed down Troy Tulowitzki (swinging strikeout), Miguel Olivo (pop to shortstop) and Melvin Mora (grounder to third) on just eight pitches -- six strikes.

But during a 31-pitch seventh, he suddenly changed gears and started throwing more sliders and change-ups than fastballs. And where his fastball ranged from 93 to 97 miles an hour in the sixth, it was mostly in the 91-93 m.p.h. range in the seventh. In his previous outing, he had touched 102.

"The warning signs were I didn't think he was attacking the hitters," said Reds pitching coach Bryan Price, who visited Chapman on the mound a couple of batters before he returned with Baker and Reds trainer Paul Lessard. "He was trying to get guys out with his change-up and slider.

"I wanted to remind him, 'You've got a good fastball. Use it.'"

Not long after that mound visit, Price and the Reds' staff noticed Chapman stretching on the mound. When Price, Baker and Lessard went to the mound at that point, Chapman at first wasn't too forthcoming.

"I guess guys in Cuba are taught not to say much or complain," Baker said of Chapman, who signed a six-year, $30.25 million contract with the Reds on Jan. 11. "He really didn't have the same stuff. He really didn't have the same fastball, anything. We went out, and it was hard to pull it out of him."

Chapman, who wound up allowing four unearned runs, two walks, a wild pitch, a single and a double in 1 2/3 innings, was to be further examined by doctors later Thursday -- again, more precautionary than anything, the Reds hope.

As for how it may affect the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation if Chapman has to be shut down for a few days, well, let's say that's not first on the list of things Baker would like to think about right now.

"I don't know, man," Baker said. "Let's not speculate until we find out [if he has to miss time]."

Sunblock Day? Lovely day in the 80s in Arizona. Dare we declare that the cold stuff is past us and it's baseball weather from here on out.

Likes: Joe Mauer in Minnesota, long-term. ... Albert Pujols in St. Louis short-term, for now, and long-term later (it's gotta come eventually, right?). ... Vin Scully back at work. And his tremendous description of doctor's orders for him reducing his activity: "I'm supposed to cut back on dangling participles and I'm not allowed to split an infinitive for at least another week, but otherwise, no." ... How's this for percentages: There were 13 people on the writers' side of the press box for the Reds-Rockies Cactus League game in Goodyear on Monday, and two of them are in the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Hal McCoy, now blogging on the Reds for his old paper, the Dayton Daily News, and Tracy Ringolsby, who's got a regular gig on the Rockies' pre- and post-game telecasts for Fox Sports Rocky Mountain. ... Reds media relations director Rob Butcher, one of the very best in the business, training for the Boston Marathon on April 19. ... Fine, fine production of The Beauty and the Beast at Calavera Hills Middle School over the weekend in Carlsbad, Calif. The kids weren't simply acting, they became the characters. The sets were terrific. The sound was exceptionally clean. The production was top-shelf. The costumes were Academy Award-caliber. Phenomenal enough that I'm going to have to get to know some of these folks. Oh wait ... was the costume director really my wife? And one of the crack backstage crew members really my daughter? Man, I need to get home more. ... Jimmy Buffett and the Zac Brown Band on Crossroads, currently running on CMT. Fabulous pairing.

Dislikes: The guy in front of me in the airport security line Monday morning who was so clueless that, as he was removing the change out of his pockets, his belt and other metal objects actually had to remove suspenders from underneath his shirt as well. He had absolutely no idea. Airport security basically had to guide him through everything as he held up the line for at least five minutes. It was Airport Security for Dummies, to be sure. ... Sure do hate to see Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas sidelined the rest of the way.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When I left I wasn't thinking
"That I wasn't coming home
"But first Al Green
"And then Barry White
"Convinced me not to go
"And I didn't come home for fighting
"I came to bandage up my hand
"And if you're gonna talk to me like that
"Then I'll just go back out again
"Wipe that chip right off your shoulder
"We ain't getting any younger
"Some things are getting bigger
"Some things are falling off
"Some things they seem much harder
"Some other things stay soft"

-- The Hold Steady, Cheyenne Sunrise

 
 
 
 
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