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Tag:Michael Young
Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:06 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 7:17 pm
 

Yu the man in Rangers debut

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.'"

Bingo.

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 29, 2011 3:38 am
 

Carpenter, St. Louis: True love

ST. LOUIS -- The cute little girl leaned into the microphone and spoke.

"I love my dad," Ava Carpenter, 6, said.

Not long after, her pop, the Cardinals ace who earned the win in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, chuckled.

"Yeah, but she's got a crush on David Freese," Chris Carpenter said.

On a noisy Friday night in St. Louis after the Cardinals won their 11th World Series title in franchise history, who didn't? Freese, the Series MVP who batted .348 with a homer and seven RBI, emerged into an overnight sensation.

But crushes come and go.

Everyone knows true love lasts forever.

While Freese is on the launching pad toward potential great things ahead, Ava Carpenter's dad already is there. The Cardinals now have played in three World Series during his time here, winning two. He's so thrilled to be here, he signed an extension in mid-September that will keep him in the St. Louis rotation through 2013.

And to that, add this: Carpenter is the first pitcher ever to win two elimination games in one postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Before winning Game 7 of the World Series on Friday, he beat Philadelphia's Roy Halladay 1-0 in Game 5 of the Division Series.

Carpenter says these Cardinals are the best group of guys with whom he's ever played. And Friday, he gave them something to remember him by.

Working on three days' rest for only the second time in his career, Carpenter immediately spotted the Rangers two runs in the first inning when Josh Hamilton and Michael Young boomed back-to-back doubles.

But after that ... he threw five shutout innings during which he surrendered only two hits against a potent Texas lineup.

Carpenter said he felt "pretty good" in the first inning. He liked the pitch to Hamilton that turned into a double, but he left a pitch up to Young that became the inning's other double.

"Coming back out for the second, I didn't know how long they were going to let me go," Carpenter said. "So I was just trying to do everything I can to get one out at a time. If it was for two innings, one inning, three innings, four innings ... I had no idea. And nobody said anything to me about it.

"So I just continued to go out and try to make pitches, and as the game went on, I felt stronger. My stuff got better, my command got better and I was able to make some really good pitches when I had to."

Turned out, it was more than enough.

And after the debacle of Game 2 in Philadelphia during the Division Series when he allowed four runs and five hits in three innings while starting on short rest for the first time in his career, there probably won't be many more skeptics if and when he is asked to do it again.

"These guys, again, never gave up," Carpenter said, raving about his teammates, and who else does he think takes the lead in that department?

"This team is unbelievable," Carpenter said. "Most amazing team I've ever been a part of."

Posted on: October 21, 2011 7:30 pm
 

Berkman, Young will line up as DH's

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- The World Series changes venues, and you know what that means: As the only sport that changes rules in its championship event, Game 3 here brings with it the designated hitter Saturday.

For the Cardinals, it's a chance to get Allen Craig into the lineup following his two RBI pinch-hits against Alexi Ogando in Games 1 and 2. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he will play Craig in right field and move veteran Lance Berkman to designated hitter.

"It really comes down to just respecting Lance," La Russa said. "He's a pivot on that, and talking to him, I think we'll play Allen in right field and Lance will DH and we'll go day-to-day with it."

Rangers manager Ron Washington did not publicly reveal his plans because, as he said, "we just arrived at the ballpark and I haven't had a chance to tell my guys yet."

But later in the day, he told the writers who cover the Rangers that Michael Young will be his DH, Mike Napoli will play first base and Yorvit Torrealba will catch.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 1:49 am
 

En route to a classic?

ST. LOUIS -- Two World Series games. Two well-played, one-run games.

You never know, but this could be the start of something great.

"It was fun," Rangers first baseman Michael Young said following Texas' 2-1 Game 2 win Thursday. "Dave McKay [Cardinals first-base coach] came up to me in the eighth or ninth inning and said something like, 'Competition at its finest.' And I said, 'Yeah, this is fun, isn't it?'

"That's exactly what it is. Fun."

The game was scoreless through six innings. The only other time in World Series history the first two games have even been scoreless through three came in 1961 when the Yankees and Reds did it.

Of course, by the end of the ninth, it was the Rangers who were having the most fun. Staring at an 0-2 hole heading back to Texas, the fact that they were able to squeeze two ninth-inning runs out of the rigid St. Louis bullpen to even the series could be a series-changer.

"It's huge," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We came here for sure wanting to get a win so we could get back home with a chance to win. It was a pretty good game. Jaime Garcia did a really good job.

"Our approach was let him pitch, because he gets wild. He didn't get wild."

But the ninth inning did, and this series could.

Fasten your seatbelts.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:13 pm
 

Rangers draw blood against Cardinals bullpen

ST. LOUIS -- Lighting does strike twice in the same spot. We just saw it. Right here in St. Louis.

One night after Allen Craig pinch-hit and slapped an RBI single to right field against Texas reliever Alexi Ogando to win Game 1 ... he did it again in Game 2. Reruns? So soon?

Hold on -- not quite. In a tense and taut game as crisp as an autumn leaf, Craig's seventh-inning hit didn't quite win it for the Cardinals this time. It spotted them a 1-0 lead ... which only gave the heretofore vaunted St. Louis bullpen the chance to cough it up. Which it did.

Texas 2, Cardinals 1, and this World Series is tied at a game apiece and heading to Texas.

Craig's was an amazing, incredible moment given that pretty much the exact same thing occurred 24 hours earlier. Only difference was, the Rangers and Cardinals were 2-2 in Game 1 when Craig batted with two out and runners on first and third in the sixth.

Game 2, it was 0-0 with two out and runners on first and third in the seventh.

But instead of allowing Craig to become the hero on consecutive nights, Texas' AWOL offense showed up in the ninth with two runs on back-to-back sac flies from the aching Josh Hamilton (groin) and Michael Young.

Talk about eeking one out.

Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus greeted Cardinals reliever Jason Motte with singles to start the ninth. Then, in a move revealing why he never did name Motte as the club's official closer, Tony La Russa hooked him for matchups. Veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes was summoned to face Hamilton, and the Texas lefty hacked at the first pitch and tied the game.

Then Young poked a fly ball deep enough to score Andrus against Lance Lynn.

The Cardinals had been three outs from seizing a 2-0 lead in this World Series and knocking the wind out of the Rangers.

Instead, the Cards were left to wonder what hit them instead.

And this, folks, is just getting good.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 9:06 pm
 

Hurting Hamilton says groin inhibiting him

ST. LOUIS -- How bad is Josh Hamilton's strained groin?

"In all honesty, if this was the regular season, I'd probably be on the disabled list," the Texas slugger said Thursday afternoon before batting practice as the Rangers prepared for Game 2 of the World Series. "But we don't have that luxury right now."

It is a miserable time for the 2010 AL MVP to come up lame, but as Hamilton said several times during the conversation, "it is what it is."

No matter, he is in the lineup and batting third for the Rangers in what becomes a vital Game 2 after they dropped Game 1 to St. Louis here Wednesday night 3-2.

Hamilton said he suffered the injury about two months ago.

"It was right at the point when it first started where I could warm up" and loosen it up, Hamilton said. "Then there was a point where I couldn't.

"Now I'm at the point where, whatever."

The key, he said, is making adjustments.

"Square the ball up and just really not use my lower half," he said. "Because I can hit line drives."

The groin injury has robbed him of his explosiveness, he said, which inhibits his ability to put the ball over the fence. He does not have a home run in 45 at-bats this postseason.

He said he feels his groin when he swings, "running and throwing ... whatever else baseball has. If I have to go from first to third, if I have to leg out a double, beat out an infield hit. ..."

Manager Ron Washington said Thursday that he has not considered removing Hamilton from the lineup.

"He's been dealing with it ... and he's come up big for us," Washington said. "You know, at this point of the year, we've all got nagging injuries. He had one, and he'll figure out a way to get through it, and we'll figure out a way to help him get through it."

Washington explained that "even if Hamilton doesn't do anything, he makes a difference just with his presence in our lineup. And I want his presence in it."

General manager Jon Daniels is on the same page as Washington.

"I think that's what this time of year is about," Daniels said. "It didn't start yesterday. He was hurting in Detroit and he played very well in Games 5 and 6. You tip your cap. He's playing hurt. It is what it is."

Hamilton batted .308 with five RBI in the six-game ALCS with Detroit. Four of his eight hits were doubles.

He estimated that he's somewhere between "75 and 80 percent" and added, "I'm comfortable playing at that level." Check swings also bother him to the point where a shooting pain goes through his groin that might last 15 or 20 minutes, he said. Or, severely inhibit his effectiveness in the rest of that at-bat.

As Daniels inferred, many players are playing in pain at this point in the season.

"You show up at spring training 100 percent, and it's a gradual decline after that," Michael Young told colleague Danny Knobler during the ALCS.

Hamilton acknowledged that his groin is getting progressively worse, and it seems it could be a race to the finish line between Hamilton and the Rangers' World Series run.

"We've got six games left," he said. "I'll do everything I can to be productive in the six games to help this team win.

"All I want to do is help my team win, anyhow. A sacrifice fly, whatever."
Posted on: October 20, 2011 2:26 am
 

Few curves, but Carpenter throws Rangers for loop

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter has had more memorable games. He's had more dominant games. He's surely had more enjoyable games.

But for 87 pitches over six innings in Game 1 of the World Series, Carpenter reached the bar he's set for pitching on guts and determination.

Given the degree of difficulty on this night, it surely was one of his most impressive outings for the Cardinals. And with a 3-2 Game 1 win over Texas, it surely will stand the test of time, too.

As if 49 degrees at game-time wasn't unpleasant enough, Carpenter admittedly received treatment on his elbow for swelling and discomfort following his NLCS Game 3 outing against Milwaukee. Both Carpenter and the Cardinals were adamant that he was fine, that he wouldn't have started otherwise.

But one clue as to the condition of his elbow is this: He threw only seven curveballs in 89 pitches, about 8 percent, according to the pitch-by-pitch feature on MLB.com's GameDay.

According to the web site FanGraphs.com, Carpenter threw his curveball 20.4 percent of the time in 2011.

What he did in Game 1 was feed the Rangers a steady diet of sinkers and cutters. And though he only got two 1-2-3 innings of the six he pitched -- the third and fourth -- he left after six with a 3-2 lead and the lethal Cardinals bullpen picked him up from there.

"When you throw Carp on the mound, you expect a quality start," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said in response to a question regarding Carpenter's elbow. "You expect him to be Chris Carpenter.

"I don't think he'd be out there if he couldn't do what he's been doing."

Because the Rangers and Cardinals have only played once in Interleague play, several years ago, very few of the Rangers have faced him. Michael Young, for example, had only six lifetime at-bats against the right-hander, and two hits.

Because of that, Young said he didn't notice Carpenter's curve count. But he did notice a few other things.

"He was keeping the ball down and getting strike one," Young said. "That was a big thing right there. A lot of balls down. He got ground balls. We did not have a lot of line drives, like we usually do."

"He was pitching, you know?" said Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, who went 1 for 3 with a walk after being moved up to sixth in the lineup following his six homers in the ALCS. "He makes pitches when he has to."

Carpenter was not asked about his elbow during his appearance in the post-game media interview room. Of the weather conditions, he said that the balls "were a little slick with the breeze and the lack of humidity. But besides that, it's the same. It's another game, and we've pitched in weather like this before. I grew up [in New Hampshire] pitching in weather like this, so it was no big deal."

The fact that he threw so few curveballs, hard to say definitively whether that is a big deal. But Carpenter did exactly what the Cardinals have come to expect and appreciate on the latest biggest night of their season.

Plus, what his pitching line does not show is his fabulous defensive play in the first inning, when he made a diving catch of an Albert Pujols toss while covering first base two batters into the game. Carpenter caught the toss and tagged first to get the speedy Elvis Andrus on a sensational, athletic play.

"Great performance," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "They're a great hitting team. If you don't make a lot of pitches, they're going to bang you around. ...

"The thing about Carp, he was exactly what we needed."
Posted on: October 18, 2011 7:20 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 7:24 pm
 

Beltre lands in World Series after 14 years

ST. LOUIS -- Adrian Beltre has played a long time for a guy who has never reached the World Series.

A long, long, long time.

"You got that right," Beltre says. "It took me 14 years. But I'm here, man."

Beltre's 1,959 regular-season games are the third-most among active players for a guy who has never set foot in the Fall Classic, trailing only Bobby Abreu (2,247) and Miguel Tejada (2,118).

But as that great baseball man, Branch Rickey, once said, luck is the residue of design. And Beltre's splashdown in St. Louis for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday is more design than luck.

When he signed a five-year, $80 million deal last winter to play third base in Texas, he had plenty of other options. One was with the Los Angeles Angels, though, as he told me this spring, he spurned them because he thought the Rangers had a better team and, as such, a better chance to go to the World Series.

Beyond the Angels, Beltre had a few other options as well. Oakland. Baltimore.

"If it was the money, I'd be somewhere else," he said. "Money wasn't my main issue. I could have had more money [elsewhere] or I could have stayed home in L.A.

"It was a hard decision to come here, but it's been the best one."

Beltre was everything the Rangers were hoping for. He played Gold Glove defense. He hit .296 with a .331 on-base percentage. He slammed 32 homers and collected 105 RBI in 124 games. Only a hamstring injury slowed him late in the year.

Now that he's back strong, the Rangers' lineup is as dangerous and deep as there is in the game. Their second consecutive World Series appearance proves that.

Beltre said he never felt pressure in Texas because he was surrounded by so much talent, guys like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli.

"I came here, but I wasn't the guy," says Beltre, who played exceedingly well in Boston in 2010 before signing with Texas. "I was just one of the guys.

"It's different when they bring you in to be the guy."

Asked about the Red Sox's meltdown and ongoing drama, Beltre quipped: "Why? What happened to the Red Sox? I don't watch TV."
 
 
 
 
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