Tag:Kerry Wood
Posted on: July 1, 2011 2:31 pm
 

Short Hops: All-Star Soria back on track (& more)

This isn't about Mariano Rivera. It's about the Royals' Joakim Soria. But as with so many other things regarding closers, it makes Old Man Rivera look even more sensational than he already is.

OK, here goes: If I were to ask you coming into this season whose save conversion rate since July 31, 2007, is second in the game to Rivera's, whom would you say?

Yes, the answer is Soria, a two-time All-Star whose 92.4 rate since that date is second among all major-league closers to Rivera's 92.9.

Now, here's just one more piece of evidence that Rivera is superhuman: In late May, Soria suddenly fell into a hole and blew five of his first 12 save opportunities. It got so bad that after he blew consecutive save opportunities in late May, he admirably went to manager Ned Yost and essentially removed himself from the role. Something that in all of these years Rivera has never had to do.

Yost handled the situation superbly: He gave Soria a few days off to clear out his mind, eased him back into non-save situations in which he could pitch two innings at a time (to work on his fastball command) and then plugged Soria back into the ninth in early June.

The results, again, have been spectacular: Soria has worked 12 shutout innings in his past 10 games and is six-for-six in save opportunities, while holding opponents to an .098 batting average (4 for 41).

"It was not a big change at all," Soria says. "It was just a mind-set, getting my confidence back. Mechanics-wise, there was nothing to change. I looked at video, and I'm not doing anything different."

Soria isn't a closer with overpowering stuff, nor does he have one lethal weapon like Rivera's cutter. Instead, he throws all of his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and change. Because he depends on location, problems can arise if he goes four or five days between outings.

"He's a command-guy closer," Yost says. "Command guys rebound so much better from that than stuff guys do.

"I've never had stuff guys who have gone through this rebound -- Derrick Turnbow, Danny Kolb, even Eric Gagne."

Soria, 27, right now is reinforcing Yost's history.

"Bad things make you stronger," Soria says. "If you've always been good, maybe you don't realize what it takes to be good until you go bad."

As for Rivera, who mostly has been immune to slumps throughout his Hall of Fame career, Soria, like everyone else, just marvels.

"He's the best," Soria says. "He's done everything in his career, and I don't think he's ever struggled."

-- Soria and Rivera have met once, at the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium in 2008. But they did not exchange trade secrets. "We didn't talk about the game," Soria says. "We just talked about life."

-- Though they clearly could use reinforcements for a beat-up bullpen, and manager Charlie Manuel wants a right-handed bat (the Padres' Ryan Ludwick? The Twins' Michael Cuddyer?), the Phillies are telling teams that they they're tapped out financially. They're close to the luxury tax threshold and do not want to cross it. Of course, they were also telling rivals the same thing last winter before they shocked everyone by signing free agent pitcher Cliff Lee.

-- Emphasizing Philadelphia's need for a right-handed bat: The Phillies are hitting .196 in their past 13 games against lefty starters.

-- The Red Sox, too, say they do not want to push their luxury tax any higher than it already is, which suggests no pricey mid-season reinforcements. But recent history under general manager Theo Epstein also suggests the Red Sox get what they need and, right now, their internal discussions are centering on a hitter. They're not getting much out of right field, which led to the release of Mike Cameron this week.

-- Mariners officials are scheduled to talk via conference call next week to discuss final strategy leading into the July trade deadline. Though Seattle has done a nice job of staying competitive, the recent 3-7 tailspin could spur the M's to deal Erik Bedard. Though Bedard landed on the disabled list this week with a knee sprain, he could be a very good trade chip.

-- Thanks to Milwaukee's road woes, the Cardinals are back in a tie for first place in the NL Central entering the weekend. But one scout who has watched St. Louis recently remains unimpressed. "Colby Rasmus is so inconsistent," the scout says. "Sometimes it looks like he's not even there at the plate." Then there are the times when Rasmus looks like he is there, like when he homered Tuesday and Wednesday in Baltimore.

-- In St. Louis' defense, the Cards have been so beat up this year, but while Albert Pujols is out, at least third baseman David Freese has returned from the disabled list. "Daniel Descalso was playing third base when I saw St. Louis," the scout says. "And I'm thinking, 'These are the St. Louis Cardinals?'"

-- This is the Phillies' rotation we expected: Philadelphia starters compiled a 1.96 ERA in June. Which, according to STATS LLC makes the Phils the first team since July of 1992 to go a full month under 2.00. Both Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs did it back in July, '92.

-- Quietly, Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick is resurfacing and showing why he will be in demand on the July trade market. He's at 51 RBIs in 78 games after finishing April with a .198 batting average and a .294 on-base percentage. That followed his miserable debut in San Diego last summer when he hit .211 with six homers in 59 games after his acquisition from St. Louis. There have been differences between this year and last: A calf injury nagged at him last year, while this April he was hitting the ball hard, just right at people. "I played terrible last year," Ludwick says. "I wouldn't say I've been playing great this year, but I've been doing what I've been known to do and what they brought me over to do. Drive in runs. Last year, every time I came to the ballpark I was stressed out, wondering if I was going to be able to make contact."

-- Know what's funny? The cover of Florida's media guide is a collage of small photos of historical highlights in Marlins history. And right there front and center, albeit at the bottom, is a photo of Jack McKeon in uniform. No need for updating there. Well, except he's wearing No. 15, and this time around, he's No. 25.

-- Angels manger Mike Scioscia, by the way, is still marveling about McKeon's enthusiasm for managing at 80. Scioscia and the Angels saw McKeon in his 2011 debut a couple of weeks back.

Likes: All-Star voting results coming soon, with the game soon to follow. ... Derek Jeter nearly set to resume his chase for 3,000 hits. ... Kerry Wood off of the DL and back in the Cubs' bullpen. ... From rocky NFL labor talks to rocky NBA labor talks to ... baseball labor talks still quiet and positive. ... The smell of neighborhood grills over the Fourth of July weekend. ... Modern Family boxed set, season 1. I'm just catching up to a show I haven't watched. Very funny. ... My sister's frozen key lime pie. Delicious.

Dislikes: Missed Jason Isbell coming through my town last week because of work commitments. His latest disc with his band, the 400 Unit, Here We Rest, is outstanding.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Driving in to Darlington County
"Me and Wayne on the Fourth of July
"Driving in to Darlington County
"Looking for some work on the county line
"We drove down from New York City
"Where the girls are pretty but they just want to know your name
"Driving in to Darlington City
"Got a union connection with an uncle of Wayne's
"We drove eight hundred miles without seeing a cop
"We got rock and roll music blasting off the T-top singing. ..."

-- Bruce Springsteen, Darlington County

Posted on: July 31, 2010 3:51 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2010 4:22 pm
 

Yankees acquire Cleveland's Wood

Undeterred by a slim relief market and exorbitant prices, the Yankees have found a deal in Cleveland to acquire closer Kerry Wood.

The deal has cleared the last hurdle, approval by the Commissioner's Office, and Wood is on his way to the Bronx. The Yankees will send a player to be named later or cash to the Indians.

The Yankees also reportedly will cover $1.5 million of the $3.6 million the Indians still owe Wood on his $10.5 million 2010 salary.

The Cleveland closer is the third player scooped up by the Yanks in the past 24 hours, following Houston's Lance Berkman and Wood's former teammate in Cleveland, outfielder Austin Kearns.

Wood simply will add depth to a Yankees' bullpen as they gear up for the stretch run. In 23 appearances for the Indians this season, Wood was 1-4 with a 6.30 ERA and eight saves in 11 opportunities. He recently returned from the disabled list, where he was placed because of a blister on his finger.

Posted on: June 29, 2010 1:19 am
 

Prior to work out at USC for clubs Wednesday

Mark Prior hasn't pitched in the majors since 2006, but the former Cubs right-hander isn't yet ready to cash it in: His shoulder rehabilitation has reached a point where he's working out Wednesday at the University of Southern California in a showcase for major-league scouts.

Prior, a USC grad, hasn't appeared in a big league game since Aug. 10, 2006, when he went three innings and was the losing pitcher for the Cubs in Milwaukee.

Since then, he tried a couple of comebacks with the Cubs and then, most recently, he tried to return with his hometown San Diego Padres. That ended last Aug. 1 when the Padres released him.

Prior, 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA over five seasons (106 starts) with the Cubs, has undergone two shoulder surgeries since 2007. He was the second overall pick in the 2001 draft after Minnesota picked catcher Joe Mauer first overall, a choice that was fiercely debated for several years.

When Prior, along with Kerry Wood, helped pitch the Cubs to within one game of the 2003 World Series, many people thought the Twins had blown it.

Instead, Prior, whose later shoulder problems most people believe stemmed from a collision with then-Atlanta infielder Marcus Giles during a game in 2003, became a cautionary tale of a much-hyped draft prospect that failed to live up to expectations. He signed with the Cubs for $10.5 million out of USC, a record that stood until Stephen Strasburg surpassed it last August with his $15.1 million deal with Washington.

Several major-league clubs, including contenders, are expected to send scouts to watch Prior work out Wednesday in hope of perhaps gaining a pitcher that will help relieve pressure to trade for a starter in July.

Posted on: November 25, 2008 6:52 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2008 6:55 pm
 

Free agency: Calm before the storm?

If you're wondering why there continues to be a whole lot of talk and little action on baseball's Hot Stove front this week, circle Dec. 1 on your calendar.

That's the deadline for clubs offering salary arbitration to any of their own free agents.

Most importantly, of course is this: If arbitration is offered, the signing team must compensate the player's old team with a draft pick. Now that might not be of concern to clubs chasing the biggest free-agent prizes this winter -- Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia, et. al. -- it definitely comes into play with the next-tier guys.

Consequently, many clubs are in wait mode until after Monday. Maybe San Francisco is interested in shortstop Edgar Renteria if Rafael Furcal signs elsewhere, but the Giants surely would wait until after Monday to see whether Detroit offers him arbitration (which the Tigers aren't expected to do).

And maybe Cleveland will make an offer to a free-agent closer -- Trevor Hoffman? Kerry Wood? -- but from where the Indians sit right now, in a market saturated with closers, it makes a whole lot more sense for them to wait and see who might be available that wouldn't cost them a draft pick.

While Dec. 1 is the date by which clubs must offer their free agents salary arbitration or cut bait with them for good, the players have until Dec. 7 to decide whether or not to accept.

Which is why a couple of executives with whom I've spoken this week said they think the winter meetings -- which begin Dec. 8 in Las Vegas -- will be where the action is this year.

***

The economy continues to be on the minds of front-office executives and may wind up affecting this winter's player market more than we thought.

"It's pretty treacherous for us," says Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro, whose needs include a closer and an infielder (second or third base or shortstop). "The economic situation is a real factor here. We're seeing it in season-ticket renewals. Some of our city issues pre-date the international and national economic issues, and those are amplifying our city issues.

"It's a challenge. We're trying to get our arms around it and see how it affects our revenues."

In Toronto, meanwhile, the Blue Jays already are resigned to not filling every item on their winter wish list (starting pitching, big bat in the middle of the lineup).

"The Canadian dollar isn't as strong, and we're taking a hit with the United States' dollar with the exchange rate," Blue Jays GM J.P. RIcciardi says. "The world in general is being affected by this, and to stick our head in the sand and say it's not affecting us is crazy.

"We're talking about people's discretionary spending, and they might not spend it."

Things have changed in Toronto, even from season's end to now.

"What we thought at the end of the season and what we think now is different," Ricciardi said.

***

Random other items:

-- The Los Angeles Angels' sudden turn toward CC Sabathia, explained here by colleague Danny Knobler, should really rattle the Yankees' cage. Even with Milwaukee offering five years and $100 million, until the Angels decided to get so aggressive, most executives with whom I've spoken figured the ace would sign with the Yankees.

"I've heard talk of this guy wanting to do this and do that, but you know what? They all follow the money," one National League executive said. "It's just the facts of life."

"I don't think the Yankees will allow him to go anywhere else," one AL GM said, referring to the enormous contract the Yankees reportedly have offered. "Wherever he goes, it's going to have to be to someone who has a giant payroll and can absorb it if he gets hurt."

The Yankees qualify in that department. So, too, do the Angels.

-- Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi says the Blue Jays don't have an offer out to pitcher A.J. Burnett right now and have not spoken with agent Derek Braunauer about the length of a potential deal.

-- One National League executive on pitcher Jeremy Affeldt's two-year, $8-million deal with San Francisco: "I think Affeldt might be the smartest free agent out there. He had a deal on the table and said, 'Screw it, I'm taking it.'"

-- Clubs looking for infield help are not seeing any quick fixes in a free-agent market that includes Rafael Furcal (the most sought-after, by far), Orlando Hudson, Ray Durham, Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera, Casey Blake and Joe Crede. Hudson and Crede are coming off of injuries, Blake and Durham are into their upper-30s and Renteria is coming off of a miserable season in Detroit during which scouts were alarmed at both his lack of defensive range and his lack of arm. "Extremely thin market," one GM says. "A lot of it is flawed."

-- Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland continue to be the most aggressive suitors for Casey Blake, though his agent, Jim McDowell, did say Tuesday that there is a small group of four or five other clubs that have "stayed close." "I don't expect anything to happen this week," McDowell said. "We've had good discussions with several teams." Blake's versatility -- he can play the outfield and first base in addition to third, and the Dodgers even used him at second base in a playoff game this fall -- may wind up being his strongest selling point.

Posted on: November 25, 2008 6:52 pm
 

Free agency: Calm before the storm?

If you're wondering why there continues to be a whole lot of talk and little action on baseball's Hot Stove front this week, circle Dec. 1 on your calendar.

That's the deadline for clubs offering salary arbitration to any of their own free agents.

Most importantly, of course is this: If arbitration is offered, the signing team must compensate the player's old team with a draft pick. Now that might not be of concern to clubs chasing the biggest free-agent prizes this winter -- Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia, et. al. -- it definitely comes into play with the next-tier guys.

Consequently, many clubs are in wait mode until after Monday. Maybe San Francisco is interested in shortstop Edgar Renteria if Rafael Furcal signs elsewhere, but the Giants surely would wait until after Monday to see whether Detroit offers him arbitration (which the Tigers aren't expected to do).

And maybe Cleveland will make an offer to a free-agent closer -- Trevor Hoffman? Kerry Wood? -- but from where the Indians sit right now, in a market saturated with closers, it makes a whole lot more sense for them to wait and see who might be available that wouldn't cost them a draft pick.

While Dec. 1 is the date by which clubs must offer their free agents salary arbitration or cut bait with them for good, the players have until Dec. 7 to decide whether or not to accept.

Which is why a couple of executives with whom I've spoken this week said they think the winter meetings -- which begin Dec. 8 in Las Vegas -- will be where the action is this year.

***

The economy continues to be on the minds of front-office executives and may wind up affecting this winter's player market more than we thought.

"It's pretty treacherous for us," says Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro, whose needs include a closer and an infielder (second or third base or shortstop). "The economic situation is a real factor here. We're seeing it in season-ticket renewals. Some of our city issues pre-date the international and national economic issues, and those are amplifying our city issues.

"It's a challenge. We're trying to get our arms around it and see how it affects our revenues."

In Toronto, meanwhile, the Blue Jays already are resigned to not filling every item on their winter wish list (starting pitching, big bat in the middle of the lineup).

"The Canadian dollar isn't as strong, and we're taking a hit with the United States' dollar with the exchange rate," Blue Jays GM J.P. RIcciardi says. "The world in general is being affected by this, and to stick our head in the sand and say it's not affecting us is crazy.

"We're talking about people's discretionary spending, and they might not spend it."

Things have changed in Toronto, even from season's end to now.

"What we thought at the end of the season and what we think now is different," Ricciardi said.

***

Random other items:

-- The Los Angeles Angels' sudden turn toward CC Sabathia, explained here by colleague Danny Knobler, should really rattle the Yankees' cage. Even with Milwaukee offering five years and $100 million, until the Angels decided to get so aggressive, most executives with whom I've spoken figured the ace would sign with the Yankees.

"I've heard talk of this guy wanting to do this and do that, but you know what? They all follow the money," one National League executive said. "It's just the facts of life."

"I don't think the Yankees will allow him to go anywhere else," one AL GM said, referring to the enormous contract the Yankees reportedly have offered. "Wherever he goes, it's going to have to be to someone who has a giant payroll and can absorb it if he gets hurt."

The Yankees qualify in that department. So, too, do the Angels.

-- Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi says the Blue Jays don't have an offer out to pitcher A.J. Burnett right now and have not spoken with agent Derek Braunauer about the length of a potential deal.

-- One National League executive on pitcher Jeremy Affeldt's two-year, $8-million deal with San Francisco: "I think Affeldt might be the smartest free agent out there. He had a deal on the table and said, 'Screw it, I'm taking it.'"

-- Clubs looking for infield help are not seeing any quick fixes in a free-agent market that includes Rafael Furcal (the most sought-after, by far), Orlando Hudson, Ray Durham, Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera, Casey Blake and Joe Crede. Hudson and Crede are coming off of injuries, Blake and Durham are into their upper-30s and Renteria is coming off of a miserable season in Detroit during which scouts were alarmed at both his lack of defensive range and his lack of arm. "Extremely thin market," one GM says. "A lot of it is flawed."

-- Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland continue to be the most aggressive suitors for Casey Blake, though his agent, Jim McDowell, did say Tuesday that there is a small group of four or five other clubs that have "stayed close." "I don't expect anything to happen this week," McDowell said. "We've had good discussions with several teams." Blake's versatility -- he can play the outfield and first base in addition to third, and the Dodgers even used him at second base in a playoff game this fall -- may wind up being his strongest selling point.

Posted on: July 16, 2008 4:01 am
 

Oh no -- not Milwaukee again!

NEW YORK -- It was shades of Milwaukee in the wee hours Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and not in a good way.

Lovely town, Milwaukee, but baseball is still scarred from the embarrassing All-Star tie played there in 2002. And as the AL and NL were deadlocked in the 15th inning in the 79th All-Star Game, each manager had called on his last available pitcher -- Scott Kazmir in the AL, and Brad Lidge in the NL.

Things were so grim in the NL dugout, especially with San Francisco's Tim Lincecum unable to pitch because he was stricken with the flu Tuesday, that Cubs closer Kerry Wood volunteered. Wood was taken off of the active roster because of a blister on his right index finger, but he was here in uniform.

"I asked if I could go, but I don't think I was an option," Wood said. "I think because they had taken me off of the active roster."

He asked bench coach -- and Cubs manager -- Lou Piniella, and the two of them were stumped for a minute.

"Maybe," Piniella told Wood, on the basis of Lincecum being out.

While that was left unclear -- Wood never did even go down to the bullpen and warm up, let alone pitch in the game -- NL manager Clint Hurdle was dangerously close to asking Mets third baseman David Wright to make his major-league pitching debut had the game gone much further.

"I told David, 'You were the last pick, I went and got you, have you ever pitched in an All-Star Game?'" Hurdle said. "I said, 'You wanted to be in this thing, that's all I've read, all I've heard for the last three days. You won't believe how much you might be in it here real quick.'"

Wright's response?

"Let's go."

Indications were, though, that there was no way the game was going to let another Milwaukee occur.

"We were told the game would find a way to finish itself," Hurdle said. "I'm good with that. That's communication. Black and white. Plain and simple. We knew that going in. We talked about it before the game."

****

It was only the second walk-off victory for the AL in All-Star history, the other one coming in 1941.

And in a statistical oddity -- the Elias Sports Bureau dug this up -- the NL fielded a lineup Tuesday that included Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters with batting averages  of .340 or higher for the first time in an All-Star Game since ... 1941.

Back then,  the AL batted Joe DiMaggio (.357) third, Ted Williams (.405) fourth and Cleveland's Jeff Heath (.371) fifth. Tuesday, the NL batted Lance Berkman (.347) third, Albert Pujols (.350) fourth, Chipper Jones (.376) fifth.

The AL won that '41 game on Williams' game-ending homer.

****

Go figure: When the game got late and the lineups got crazy, NL manager Clint Hurdle moved Cristian Guzman to third base. Guzman has started more than 1,000 major-league games at shortstop, but had never played third. He made a terrific play on a Carlos Quentin chopper to end the 11th.

****

The NL had been 9-0-1 in All-Star extra inning games.

 

Posted on: June 12, 2008 8:09 pm
 

Down the road with Wood and Prior


You missed what undoubtedly was one of the season's more touching conversations last week. So did I.

See, you and I weren't privy to it when Cubs closer Kerry Wood picked up the telephone and called his old rotation-mate, Mark Prior.

Prior, battling more pain, was forced to abort another comeback attempt -- this one with San Diego -- last week to undergo another surgery. This time, Prior had another tear in his shoulder. This makes it two season-ending surgeries in two years for Prior.

Ironically, the 27-year-old right-hander was undergoing surgery while the Cubs were in San Diego last week. Wood phoned him just before Prior went under the knife.

"He's had the same s--- before," Wood said. "Hopefully, he'll get through this. He's been through it before."

There's nobody else in the world who could talk with either of these two men as knowingly and honestly as they can talk with each other. Can't be. Nobody has lived through what Wood and Prior lived through in Chicago in the early 2000s, attempting to live up to those incredibly lofty (and, as it turned out, unreal) expectations, battling the injuries, never quite living up to what Cubs fans hoped.

Five outs from the 2003 World Series and it never would get any better than that. Prior started Games 2 and 6 against Florida in the '03 NL Championship Series; Wood started Games 3 and 7.

When the Cubs blew it, everybody braced for Prior and Wood to lead them to the promised land in '04 or, surely, by '05.

Never happened. There was soreness and pain and ice and the disabled list.

Now Wood's career as a starter is ostensibly finished, and he's thriving as the Cubs' closer.

Prior already seems washed up at 27. He's finished for this season, but vows to make another comeback attempt in 2009.

"He'll get through this, and hopefully he gets the chance to be healthy and pitch again," Wood said. "And if he doesn't, he's got a great family.

"He'll be OK."

Likes: David Ortiz becoming a U.S. citizen. How cool is it that Big Papi cares enough to do that? ... Tampa Bay. What an exciting, athletic, smart team. ... Kerry Wood's success as Cubs closer. He's been through so much, and he's so competitive, it's nice to see him finally healthy and having some success. ... The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert. ... WGN running Nostalgia Night, or whatever it's called, and breaking out the WKRP in Cincinnati reruns. ... Correcting an old error by picking up a two-disc Dusty Springfield set. The error: Buying the Shelby Lynne disc of her interpreting some of Dusty's classics. No soul at all in that disc. Teaches me a lesson to just go for the original in the first place. Valuable lesson in a lot of areas.

Dislikes: Come on, give Ken Griffey Jr. the baseball from home run No. 600. The bickering is ridiculous.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well she was blond and tall
"She was 23
"Brought into the world
"To get the best of me
"And she never paid back
"Half what she stole
"She wanted my money
"So I gave her my soul"

-- Mudcrutch, The Wrong Thing to Do


Posted on: June 12, 2008 8:06 pm
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