Archive for April, 2013

Span Snatches Victory From Reds

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Denard Span made a couple highlight catches to preserve the Nationals 6-3 win over the Reds.  The first catch came in the sixth after a solo shot from Shin-Soo Choo landed into the right field bleachers to make the score 6-2.  Zack Cosart had just rapped a single off Dan Haren, who appeared to be cracking now that he was going through the order a third time.  Joey Votto scorched one to the opposite field, the ball tailing away from Span.  Span raced after it, lept and caught the ball as he crashed into the fence in left centerfield.  It did look like the ball would have hit the fence for extra bases for Votto, putting runners on second and third and no out.  Instead there was just a runner on first base with one out, setting up a smash to Ian Desmond for a double play.  That would be the night for Dan Haren.

In the seventh the Reds had started another rally off Zach DukeTyler Clippard came on in relief with two outs and gave up an RBI pinch hit single to Todd Frazier to make the score 6-3 and Choo walked to load the bases.  Zack Cosart hit one that appeared to be sailing into the left centerfield gap, but Span was able to track the ball, reaching his glove out to rob Cosart of what appeared to be a game tying 3-run double.

Dan Haren pitched well holding the Reds to only two runs in six innings to get the win.  He helped himself a little with his bat in the second inning to give himself an early lead.  In the second inning back to back one out walks issued by Mike Leake to Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon set up the two out RBI single from Haren that was blooped over first base.  Denard Span followed with an RBI bouncer up the middle to make it 2-0.

In the third back to back singles from Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth got things started.  Zack Cosart made a nice diving stop on the Werth hit, threw from his knees to first, but Werth legged it out.  Ian Desmond hit a single up the middle to score Harper.  With two outs, Kurt Suzuki slapped a slow roller to Jack Hannahan at third.  He threw to second, where Desmond appeared to beat the throw, but the ball sailed into right field allowing Werth to scamper home with the second run of the inning.  Suzuki was given an infield hit with the run scoring on the error.  The Nationals built their lead up to 4-0.

After the Reds had scored their first run on a two out Joey Votto double followed by a Brandon Phillips single in the top of the fourth, Bryce Harper responded with a two run homer into the Nationals bullpen to up the score to 6-1.  That was all the runs the Nationals could generate.  The Reds battled back, but two terrific catches by Denard Span left them short.

Game Notes: With his ninth homerun in the fourth Bryce Harper is on a pace to hit 63.  He also broke a Nationals record with 18 RBIs in April.  His .783 slugging percentage and 1.232 OPS lead all of baseball.  Everyone was shocked with the numbers Mike Trout put up during his second year exposure to major league baseball.  Bryce Harper appears to be doing the same, but he may put up better numbers than Trout did last year…There were 38,903 attending the game…Chris Heisey was removed from the game with a hamstring injury after grounding into a double play…Adam LaRoche went 0 for 4, but in a positive sign in his third at bat launched one deep to centerfield.  He is 0 for 20 in his last six games with eight strikeouts, dropping his average to .143…The Nationals should get Wilson Ramos back from his hamstring pull for the Braves series…Ryan Zimmerman is not expected back until the Pirate series which begins on Friday…Mike Leake threw 47 pitches after the second inning and was gone after three.  If Tony Cingrani continues to pitch well and Mike Cueto returns from his injury, Mike may find himself out of the rotation…Joey Votto threw his helmet into the dugout after grounding out to short in the eighth inning.

2017 - Puerto Rico WBC Roster

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

It is possible that in 2017 Puerto Rico will have a more talented team than the collection of players that filled the roster for the 2013 team, but it will be tough to accomplish what the 2013 team accomplished - a second place finish.  Carlos Beltran will be gone and big game pitcher Nelson Figueroa will not be available, but Puerto Rico has some improved players coming up ready to fill the roster.

Catcher - Yadier Molina will be 35.  That is a bit old to still be able to dominate at this position.  He could make the team as a backup.  The favorite to start for Puerto Rico would be A.J. Jimenez.  He only played 27 games last year before having Tommy John surgery and has yet to play this year, but when healthy he has not had any problems hitting .300.  Puerto Rico doesn’t seem to have a problem producing catchers so they could also trot out players like the Rockies Wilfredo Rodriguez, the Red Sox Christian Vazquez or the Diamondbacks Michael Perez.  Journeymen Martin Maldanado or Jesus Flores are also options, but they would be better utilized in a reserve role.

First base - The Reds Neftali Soto would be the favorite to play the position.  He has 90 minor league homeruns but he is a borderline prospect.  The player to watch is the Twins big 6′5″ Kennys Vargas.  He is playing in the Florida State League and if he reaches his potential he will be the first baseman.

Second Base - Eddie Rosario has some big time pop for a second baseman, but could also play outfield.  If you look at the surplus of shortstops they may need this position to put one of their extra shortstops.  Ivan DeJesus Jr. will be a utility player in the major leagues and could fill the roster in that same capacity.

Shortstop - Puerto Rico, like the Netherlands will not be hurting for shortstops.  Carlos Correa, the number one pick last year in the draft by the Astros is the favorite.  Many say he could be too big for the position and eventually move to third.  The Indians Francisco Lindor will have the best glove for the position and that ultimately wins out when you can move the other players around.  The Cubs Javier Baez may have the best combination of glove and bat.  Lost in the background is the Dodgers number one supplemental pick Jesmuel Valentin, who is the son of long time major leaguer Jose Valentin.  Another good glove to stick here would be Brewers prospect Yadiel Rivera.  Lots of options here.

Third Base - They’ve got this position covered with their excess of shortstops but Gabriel Rosa was the Reds second round pick in 2012 and could make some noise.  He is a big at 6′4″ with some potential.

Outfield - The Tigers Steven Moya was signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic but he was born in Puerto Rico.  At 6′7″ he has the potential for big time power.  To supplement this position they would need to put some of their excess shortstops in the outfield, or put Eddie Rosario out there. Alex Rios or Jose Pagan will not be that old to fill a back up role or start a few games.  They would be a good veteran experience and you will need some of the veteran players on that 2013 roster to show the new guys the way.

Starting Pitching - This is where they could use some help. The best of their pitchers may also not be allowed to play if the major league team has a say. Julio Rodriguez could be another Nelson Figeroa. He is a soft tosser who has not made a big impact yet. By 2017 he could bounce around in Taiwan, Korea or Japan, make a name for himself there and then return to the Puerto Rican team with a lot of international experience. J.O. Berrios is probably their best pitcher. He was a first round supplemental of the Twins last year and at 19 made the roster for the 2013 team. The bullpen could be filled with a cast of journeymen characters like Xavier Cedeno, Hiram Burgos or Randy Fontanez, all of whom played on the roster in 2013. If they are not playing in the major leagues in 2017 they will still be making their presence felt by pitching in the Puerto Rican League, which should see some resurgence in popularity next year after the second place finish by Puerto Rico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.  Edwin Diaz was drafted in the third round by the Mariners last year and has a good fastball.  As he fills out that fastball could be hitting the mid-90s by 2017.  Jorge Lopez has good height at 6′4″ and was a second round pick in 2011 by the Brewers.  He relies more on the breaking pitch to get hitters out but he could be ready by 2017.

It’s the President’s Office (cont - 5)

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

Jason Woo pitched his second game. Rain delays and real thunder had given him a couple extra days off between his first start. He went five innings without giving up a run, striking out nine, giving up two hits, but more importantly not walking a batter. His pitch count was increased to 60 and because he didn’t walk a batter it allowed him to get to the fifth inning to pick up the win. It was his first win as a professional and Shu saved the headlines from Beijing reporting the event. Jason did not spend too much time reading the news so he smiled when Shu showed him the headlines touting his victory. She and her mom began putting together a scrap book for him to keep, just as they were doing for Kevin.

The day of the game it was cloudy and there had been some rain with thunder and lightning to accompany the rain. When Jason left the game after the fifth inning and the thunder could be heard from a distance people questioned whether that was the real thunder or the thunder created after Jason finished a game. It was just one soft rumble and it never returned.

The press quickly became aware of where Jason was living just two weeks after his return from China. As Shu learned, the press could be a blessing with their colorful news stories that could be saved in scrap books and they could be a curse with their meddlesome nature. Mysterious cars would drive up and down the cul-de-sac where there house was located, some of them bold enough to park on the street opposite the house, men packed four or five to a car. The car would wait for Jason to step out the front door of the house. When he did the men would jump out of the car, cameras flashing, stomping all over the grass in the front yard, some of them trespassing and stepping on Shu’s flowers in the garden for the opportunity to take pictures of Jason’s departure from the house. A few innocent flowers from her garden died in the process. She declared war on the killers.

Shu went to battle the second week, calling the police to complain about the cars parked in front of the house. The couple in the house across the street also called the police to complain about these mysterious cars parked in front of their house. The police came. They stopped their cruiser behind the parked cars. For the most part it was enough to spook the cars away. Those that were not spooked were asked to get out of the car and interrogated by the police. Identification was requested. Shu won round two, saving some of her flowers with the victory.

The mysterious cars parked in front of the house trickled to a stop. The police established a pattern where they would cruise by the house every couple hours. If a car was parked waiting for Jason to appear it would leave when they saw the police arrive. It was a cat and mouse game but Shu loved playing the cat. After two weeks they learned not to do battle with Shu.

The mail came pouring in again for Jason, most of it delivered to Camden Yards. It was generally people asking for his autograph. There was usually a baseball card inside the envelope for Jason to sign, or a baseball sent in a package. Some of the letters were from kids asking Jason if he could come to their school to speak about being a professional ball player. A lot were from women proposing to him or wanting to meet him. There were lots of phone numbers with the letters. Photos too. Some of those photos would make Playboy blush.

Kevin and Jason debated how many of these pictures were from real women or were they bait from others who just wanted to take advantage of him. Jason had little time to respond or even read most of these letters. Like at the hotel, they piled up on the floor of his room drowning the carpet. When the carpet was covered he stuffed them in the dresser that was empty of clothes. Eventually Shu and her mom volunteered to help Jason sort through the letters and separate the sincere ones from the chaff. All the letters with photos of naked women were chaff and deposited in the waste basket.

Many of the letters were from charitable organizations asking Jason to be a spokesman for their cause, many of their names a mystery to Kevin or Jason. Everyone wanted Jason to help feed starving kids in Africa or provide assistance to stamp out cancer. Kevin was amazed with the number of charities dealing with some form of cancer. Shu made the decision to trash those letters as well.

Unknown political candidates requested his appearance at rallies to help them in their upcoming election, even though Jason was not yet a citizen. He also never voted while he lived in China. Most of the politicians requesting his assistance were Asian trying to take advantage of the Jason Woo brand.

There were even some people in China who wanted Jason to support them in their quest to join the Communist party or get selected for an important government position. Shu put those in the waste basket as well. Jason would have no idea how to help these people and had very little information to determine if they were even qualified for the position they were requesting.

There were requests from player agents who wanted to represent Jason in contract negotiations. They all offered him help in making a lot of money while handling his financial investments. Neither Kevin or Jason was clear who the legitimate agents were. Shu would give Kevin those letters to decide what to do with them. They eventually went in the trash as well.

The Beast was offering Gus Corona as an agent. Troy had referred him to Gus. Now that he was hitting homeruns he was attractive to an agent. The Beast was referring Gus to most of the Delmarva team. Kevin still did not trust Gus. Perhaps he was showing his prejudice with his slicked back dyed black hair, his jewelry hanging from his neck and the ostentatious rings he had adorn his fingers. He also did not like his Chelsire cat smile. Gus oozed a plastic tupperware type of sincerity.

Lots and lots of people wanted to help Jason with his financial investments, especially those who needed help with their $25 million dollars stuck in Nigeria or some other obscure African country with all the starving children living there. He could shave his salary in half and donate the remaining to all the needy charities, but still it would not be enough. Jason thought he had struck it rich when he saw the first of these Nigerian letters. Kevin had to explain to Jason there was no such thing as money lying unclaimed. It was all a ripoff to get him to send them money as an advance deposit to get the unclaimed money out or give them his bank account number so they can drip him dry. He would never see a dime of those promised unclaimed riches that were as real as a mirage in a desert.

Businesses wanted Jason to appear in commercials endorsing their product. Cars needed to be sold, even though Jason had yet to learn how to drive, and soup needed to be consumed. Lots of opportunities for money awaited Jason, but Jason had little interest in pursuing them. The $25 million stashed away in Nigeria got his interest the most because that seemed to take the least amount of effort to pursue, but none got his endorsement. At lunch Shu would brief Jason on any of the more interesting requests, but Jason had no interest so they all went into the trash as well. He focused on the autographs, getting his auto pen back and stamping and writing away. He could care less about the organizations and businesses. None of them really had a face.

Kevin’s mailbox was also getting filled with letters from curious Chinese citizens asking him how it felt to catch Jason Woo. They asked for his autograph on calendars, paintings or just plain notebook paper. They didn’t have baseballs or baseball cards to send him to sign from China. Those were the Chinese Americans who had more interest in Jason. Kevin did encounter his second poster with him in his catching gear and eye black painted underneath his eyes, barking out orders to one of his teammates. Kevin guessed it was probably Alexis he was yelling at because he was always doing something stupid and Kevin looked a little pissed looking in the area that would be right field. This poster was identical to the one he received in spring training titled “The American Warrior”. Shu thought he looked handsome and wanted to keep the poster to hang it up in their bedroom. Kevin didn’t think this was right, signed the poster and with all of Jason’s mail gave it to the Orioles to mail back to China.

Life was getting a little more exciting at the Beamer household now that Jason Woo was living in the house. It gave them all something to talk about, except Jasmine, who still could not talk.

Jun Hirose Breaks NPB Record

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Jun Hirose is not one of the top name players in the NPB.  He has been playing for the Hiroshima Carp for 12 years, putting up modest numbers, with a batting average settling around .270.  His best year was in 2010 when he hit .309 with 12 homeruns.  It is the only season when he has hit double digits in homeruns.

He is 34 years old, probably too old now for any major league team to be interested.  This year he has done what no hitter in NPB history has done, even Ichiro Suzuki.  He has gotten on base in 15 consecutive at bats.  The previous NPB record was held by three players, Tokitaka Minamibuchi (Lotte, 1993), Yoshinobu Takahashi (Yomiuri, 2003) and Michihiro Ogasawara (Nippon Ham, 2003).  The major league record for most consecutive times on base is held by Frank “Piggy” Ward with Cincinnati in 1893 when he got on base 17 consecutive times with eight hits and eight walks and one hit by pitch.  Ted Williams has the modern day record when he reached base in 16 consecutive plate appearances with Boston in 1957 when he recorded six hits, walked nine times and was hit by a pitch.

Jun started his streak rather modestly with a single in the eighth inning of a game against the Yomiuri Giants.  The game went into extra innings and he was hit by a pitch in the tenth inning.

In his second game playing against the Yakult Swallows he was hit by pitch in his first at bat and walked in his next three.  In the second game against the Yakult Swallows he stroked two singles, a double, walked and was hit by a pitch.

Yesterday against the Chunichi Dragons Jun went 4 for 4 with three singles and a double.

Jun has not been a regular player to start the season but with .533 batting average in 40 at bats, playing in only half of the Carp’s 25 games he may start to see a lot more playing time.  He has a chance to surpass the major league record in his next couple at bats when his manager has the motivation to put his name in the lineup card.  If Juno keeps getting on base and hitting over .500 Juno can create his own motivation.

Gio with the Game; Harper with the Homer - Nats Win

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Gio Gonzalez tossed a one hitter over eight innings and Bryce Harper blasted his eighth homerun into straight away centerfield to give the Nationals a 8-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds.  The win puts them back at .500 ball.

Davey Johnson fiddled with the lineup in an attempt to end the hitting drought.  While some of the parts may have changed the position of the names in the lineup had shifted.  This seemed to wake up the Nationals bats.

Ian Desmond got things started for the Nationals in the second inning with a one out single off Bronson ArroyoDanny Espinosa poked one deep to right center field.  Ian seemed confident Shin-Soo Choo would not catch the ball and was screaming around second.  Choo was just short of getting to the ball.  It bounced against the fence and Desmond was able to score.  A Kurt Suzuki single and a Denard Span infield single drove in Espinosa for the second run.  Zack Cosart made a nice bare handed pick up on Span’s infield single but the umpire ruled the bang/bang play at first in favor of the Nats, allowing the second run to score.

Last year Bryce Harper had trouble with the slow breaking stuff.  This year he has not been fooled.  In the third Bryce belted one of Arroyo’s slow offerings into the deepest part of centerfield to up the lead to 3-0.  Jayson Werth, hitting in the cleanup spot, singled.  Adam LaRoche finally made contact with a ball and grounded it to first.  Joey Votto elected to throw to second to begin the double play but hit Jayson in the back.  The ball bounded to right field with Werth advancing to third and Adam to second.  An Ian Desmond ground out to second scored one run.  With the infield playing in against Danny Espinosa, Danny made the point moot by depositing a ball into the right field bullpen to up the Nationals lead to 6-0.

In the fourth Gio gave up his only hit of the game when Joey Votto stroked a ball into left field.  It hit into the flowering plants in left field just before the front row of the bleachers to end the shutout and the no hitter for Gio Gonzalez.  Gio did not let the hit faze him, retiring 13 of the next 15 hitters.

The Nationals added two more runs in the eighth off Logan OndrusekIan Desmond led the inning off with a single, but he was eventually picked off first by catcher Devin Mesaraco when he was caught leading off too far from first base.  With two outs Kurt Suzuki extended the inning with a walk.  Roger Bernadina pinch hit and got his first hit of the year, lining a ball over second base for a single.  Denard Span hit a shot straight at Shin-Soo Choo who first broke in for the ball and then tried to retreat, reaching the ball too late.  As it bounced against the wall Span raced to third with a triple making the score 8-1.

Davey Johnson decided to give Rafael Soriano some work and brought him out to pitch in the ninth.  After walking the leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo on four pitches to make Nats fans a bit nervous he got Zack Cosart to ground to Espinosa for a double play.

Game Notes: There was a big smile on Danny Espinosa’s face after his homerun in the third.  With Davey Johnson wanting to give Steve Lombardozzi more playing time and Danny hitting only .150 his playing time looked to be reduced.  He had a double and homerun to give his name another day on the lineup card…Steve Lombardozzi played third base last night instead of the struggling Anthony Rendon, who had gotten off to a slow start.  Lombo hit in the second spot and went 0 for 5 to drop his average below .300…Gio Gonzalez had retired the first 11 hitters until the Joey Votto opposite field homerun…Adam LaRoche struck out in his first at bat in the second to give him six straight strikeouts.  He finished the night 0 for 4 to drop his average to .160, grounding out to first or the pitcher in his last three at bats.

It’s the President’s Office (cont - 4)

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Larvell smiled. This Lindsey Graham was a cocky bastard. Voice smooth as butter. Never a hesitation in his words. He could probably get anything he wanted by telling someone he worked for the President. Who would say no to a request from the President? Not Larvell. Even if he didn’t believe one game could be such a national security issue. That would be a first in Larvell’s career. “That would certainly help. We’ll talk in a couple weeks.”

After he ended the call he reached in his drawer to pick up a couple nerf baseballs. He began throwing them against the wall trying to think of his next move. He silently grunted out a few swear words knowing that if he said them too loud Jackie would hear them. He didn’t want to subject her to that. Patience. Got to be patient. Don’t overreact. So it was the President of the United States. Stay focused.

Should he contact Ruben to let him know about this conversation? Why didn’t they call Ruben? Why did they have to call him? Put all that pressure on him. Maybe they called Ruben. Or perhaps his issues with the sex tapes and cavorting with escorts placed him in the persona non grata category? The President was up for reelection in November. The last person he wants to be seen with is an obese giant who cavorts with prostitutes. Larvell wondered when the skeletons in his closet would get exposed.

Ruben would not be happy if he found out Larvell had talked to the Office of the President of the United States without his consent. He should have just told Lindsey he could not talk to him. Not until he got permission from Ruben. He would have to meet with Ruben now to let him know he had talked to the Office of the President.

Larvell pushed the button to the phone that linked him to Jackie.

“Yes, Mr. Blanks.”

“I’d like you to contact Moose, Pablo and Rigo and have them come to my office no later than one P.M. tomorrow. I don’t care where they are. I want them here for an emergency meeting. Also, see if you can set up a meeting with Ruben. I know he is not seeing a lot of people these days, but let him know it is urgent.”

“Yes sir. Is everything all right?” Jackie had concern in her voice.

“I just got a call from the Office of the President. Everything is hunky dory.”

“You must be in a sticky wicket.”

“Yes I am.” He pushed the button to end the call. He had one last ball in his drawer and he flung it as hard as he could against the wall. He lost his balance and fell out of his chair. As he lay on the floor he stared at the emptiness of the ceiling. He lay motionless. This was the same position Ruben had been forced into after the Kathy Li interview, when his chair broke sending him crashing to the floor. The view did not look so bad from here. “Now this is a restful spot to be in. If only I could stay like this until October.” Ruben probably had those same thoughts.


It’s the President’s Office (cont - 3)

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

“Well, I appreciate you giving me the heads up…” Larvell began but before he could finish Jackie was standing in his front door with a worried look on her face. She knew he would not answer another call if she tried to forward it to him because Larvell preferred to stay focused on the current call. Her brow was furrowed, her mouth gaped open as if she had seen a ghost. She was waving to get his attention, as if standing in the middle of his open door was not enough, jumping up and down as if she had lobsters in her dress pinching at her ass. “…just a second.”

He looked at Jackie, putting the phone on mute. “Someone who claims to be from the Office of the President of the United States would like to talk to you. He is on line two.”

Oh crap, Larvell said silently. “My apologies Misty. I have just been told that someone from the President’s office is on line two. Your prediction has proved painfully accurate.”

“Good luck.”

Larvell pushed the button on his phone to end the call on line one and pressed the button for line two. Jackie looked like she was going to bounce off the walls trying to figure which direction to move next. She finally did a u-turn and went back to her desk.

The person on the other end had that polished tone to his voice reminiscent of a preacher trying to sell God to his congregation. “Hi, my name is Lindsey Graham and I work for President Ryan O’Shea.” His introduction was smooth, making it appear like Larvell spoke with someone from the President’s office almost every day. They created some small talk, nothing either of them really wanted to chat about, mindless conversation about the weather, the Orioles and their struggles before this silver tongued demagogue broke into the same spiel about Premier Li Jiabao visiting in September. Larvell could not even remember the segue that led to this conversation. He was steered so adroitly into the Li Jiabao lane. Before long Lindsey Graham spit out, “What are the chances of you promoting Jason Woo to the major leagues by September to be available to pitch during the Premier’s visit?”

Even though Larvell was expecting the question he was still struck silent by it, shocked by how quickly he was steered in this direction. When the words flew out of Lindsey’s mouth it was like a rear end collision. He thought he had gotten away from promoting Jason Woo early with all the problems Ruben was encountering. Now it was the President, or at least someone claiming to be his assistant asking he be promoted. Larvell took a deep breath before saying, “I hadn’t really thought of that yet. It is still too early in the season. Jason got a late start to the season, so he is a little behind in his development. He also has not pitched a lot in a competitive atmosphere, so rushing him to the major leagues could be a detriment to his overall career development.”

“It would only be for one game. After that game you could send him back to the minors.”

The response showed his ignorance about baseball. “The minor league season is over in September,” Larvell pointed out.

“Well then, you could end his season after that game. I don’t think I have to remind you of the significance of this visit. Our relations with China the last couple months have been very tenuous. We had our first situation where they actually fired missiles at one of our carriers. So the United States is prepared to go to great lengths to accommodate his visit. This is of serious importance to our national security.”

“I understand sir. I just wasn’t prepared to make a decision on this so soon. Could you give me some time to talk to my staff to see what we need to do to make him available for September? We may have to rush his development through the minor leagues a bit and hope he doesn’t have any setbacks along the way such as an arm injury…”

“I understand. I’ll give you a call in a couple weeks to get an update on the status.”

“Could you also contact the Commissioner’s office as well? There is an issue of service time when you promote a player to the major leagues. By forcing us to call Jason up in September for just one game we are forced to put him on the 40 man roster. That starts his service time. If we could get an exemption from that it would make my decision easier.”

“Understood. I’m a baseball fan myself Mr. Blanks and understand the need to protect your players. We will contact the Commissioner’s Office and recommend he seriously consider giving your team an exemption to the service time for the Jason Woo promotion in the interests of national security.”

Wainwright Carves up Slumping Nats

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Take a hot pitcher, add in some cold bats, mix in some curveballs, fastballs and sliders and you have made yourself a shutout.  Adam Wainwright was the hot pitcher.  The coldest of the Nats bats was Adam LaRoche, who struck out four times.  He had no clue at the plate, flailing at his 74 mile per hour curveballs, taking his 93 mile per hour fastballs and looking very abused at the plate in the Nationals 2-0 loss.

Adam was not the only one Wainwright had befuddled for the evening.  For the night Adam struck out 8, including the side in the fourth.  After five starts and more than 30 innings he also threw his first walk, giving Bryce Harper first to face Adam LaRoche for the third time in the sixth inning.  The walk advanced the tying run to second, loading the bases with two out.  Adam tried to check his swing on a 94 mile per hour fastball but was not successful.

The Cardinals scored both their runs in the fourth inning.  The top four hitters in the order all hit opposite field singles or doubles off Ross DetwilerShane Robinson started the rally with a leadoff single, Allan Craig scored him with a hit and run double down the right field line, Matt Holiday singled and Carlos Beltran drove in the second run with a single.  With runners on first and second and no one out Detwiler retired the last three hitters to keep the damage contained.  With the way the Nats bats have been hitting the two runs became too much of an obstacle to overcome.

Except for the sixth inning, Wainwright did not allow a runner to reach third.  He was finally taken out of the game after Bryce Harper led the ninth inning off with a hustle double down the right field line.  Mike Matheny gave him the luxury of striking out LaRoche for the fourth time to get the first out before bringing out Edward Mujica to record the last two outs.  LaRoche could have batted hundred times and would still be trying to make contact off Wainwright.

Game Notes: Bryce Harper had two of the five hits for the Nationals.  On his second hit he made an inadvisable break for second.  While he barely beat the throw, the fact the team was down 2-0 meant his run did not mean anything.  The only thing his advancement did was keep the team out of a double play grounder…Jayson Werth had an opportunity to drive in a run in the sixth, coming up with runners on first and third with one out.  He popped one up to second for the second out swinging at the first pitch…The Nationals pulled three pretty slick double plays in the first three innings.  They would have a fourth in the fifth inning but it was ruled a sacrifice with Pete Kozma thrown out trying to advance to third on a 5-4-1 sacrifice and throw out at third…Nat fans were booing Pete Kozma when he came to bat.  They still remember him as the unlikely hero who had the game winning hit in the fifth and deciding game of the playoffs against Drew Storen.  The booing did not prevent him from getting two hits in three at bats…Of the Nationals ten wins, five have been against the Miami Marlins.  The Marlins have yet to reach five wins.  One more loss and the Nationals will find themselves below .500.  They are 5-9 against teams other than the Marlins.  They are also 3-8 against teams .500 or better…Matt Carpenter is the second player we have noticed who does not wear batting gloves.  Jeff Keppinger was the first…Myworld walked to the stadium from the metro.  For the first time we remember we saw some black kids playing baseball on Jefferson Field.  The coaches were using a pitching machine to throw batting practice and a portly kid was doing more swinging and missing than making contact.  Hopefully that doesn’t discourage him from pursuing the sport.

It’s the President’s Office (cont - 2)

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Larvell’s office phone rang. He pressed the speaker button. “A Misty Xeng from Senator Helm’s office is on the line,” Jackie announced.

Misty Xeng always seemed to be the bearer of good news when she called. He had no idea why she would be calling him now. Perhaps it was tickets for a game this time. If that is all she wanted she deserved them. “Put her through.” Larvell could feel his mood shift. Gloom and doom was replaced by hope and salvation.

“Hi Mr. Blanks. This is Misty Xeng, from Senator Helm’s office. We’ve spoken on a couple occasions.” Her voice was bouncy. Fresh.

“Yes Misty. It is always good to hear from you. I appreciate all you did in helping bring back Jason Woo.”

“That was not a problem. Most of the credit for his return should be given to the embassy. We were only the contact for them. Jason Woo is a figure more important than you can imagine.”

Larvell wondered why the embassy had not contacted Rigo. He had a contact over there and they could have contacted him. That would be a question he would save for when he spoke with Rigo. His first order of business was Misty. “What can I help you with?”

“I thought I would just give you a heads up. I’m sure you have heard the news about the visit of Premier Li Jiabao in September.”

“A little. I don’t pay a lot of attention to what is printed outside the sports pages but I get bits and pieces. He’s the Chinese leader coming to the U.S. for talks?”

“You got it. It appears he has mentioned he would like to see Jason Woo pitch during his visit in September. He has never seen a baseball game and Jason is quite the sensation in China. As you can imagine, this has created a lot of discussion back and forth among the various offices, including the President about where Premier Jiabao should see Jason pitch. Would a minor league park be acceptable for such a large delegation? Would it be better to hold the game at the major league park? The Secret Service has weighed in and said providing security at a minor league park would be virtually impossible, unless the number of people in his delegation is limited or they would have to severely restrict the number of fans who enter the park. There will be over one hundred people in his delegation traveling with him and all of them will want to see Jason Woo pitch. Add those numbers to the President’s delegation and you already have a pretty large crowd. Everyone agrees that limiting the Chinese delegation is a poor diplomatic choice since it is bound to insult someone. Severely restricting the fans would just get people mad at us for catering to the whims of China. So there are not a lot of viable choices except having the game played at Camden Yards.”

“That would require him to pitch for the Orioles. Or move a minor league game to Camden.”

“There has also been some concern with having Premier Jiabao, the leader of China see a minor league game. Some say it would not be good diplomatic protocol for a leader of his standing. It would be akin to providing him a Volkswagen to travel around town. Having the game in a major league park with major league players would be the ideal situation. The major league park would also allow the Secret Service one of the luxury boxes to cram the large delegation in and provide the security necessary. They would also be watching major league players as opposed to the second tier players. You don’t happen to have any plans of promoting Jason to the major leagues by September do you?”

Larvell had to wonder whether Jiabao would be witnessing major leaguers play by watching the Orioles. Misty was obviously not a fan of the team. At least one side would be composed of major leaguers. He almost said to her “have you seen our team play yet,” but provided a safer, more diplomatic comment. “That is not in the immediate plans. Jason’s future will depend on his progress in the minor leagues. It is a little bit too early in his career to project whether he will be ready for a major league appearance in September. Getting such a late start to this season did not help his cause any.” He sounded like a broken record. He hated to take that stock answer from the shelf of his brain and give it to Misty. It was getting worn and tired.

“I’m afraid having minor leaguers play in a major league park would not be the solution that our President would like. He wants to give Premier Jiabao the best the United States has to offer and that would be Jason Woo pitching against a major league team. Looking at your schedule you would be playing the Yankees when he is in town. I know I have said a mouthful, but do you get the gist of the problem…Well, your problem.”

“I think so. You are asking me to promote Jason Woo in September so the leader of China can watch him pitch against major league players?”

“Actually I’m not. I’m just giving you a head’s up that you may be getting a call from the President’s office asking you to promote Jason Woo in September so the Chinese premier can watch him pitch against major leaguers.”

“The President of the United States will be calling me?” Larvell was a bit floored by that comment.

“That is correct. Our President. Well, maybe not the president himself, but one of his staffers. Welcome to the big leagues Mr. Blanks. What you want to do with that request is your call, but there are diplomatic issues at stake. Don’t think that us finding Jason Woo and bringing him back to the States was to benefit the Baltimore Orioles. He has energized the Chinese community and just as ping pong improved relations between China and the United State back in the Nixon years, we hope Jason Woo will help improve our fragile relations with China today. Like I said earlier, he is more important than you realize.”

Cuban Update - Second Round

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

The Cuban Season is winding down with the Elite Eight playing 42 round robin games against each other.  Each of the Elite Eight were able to draft five players from the teams that did not make the cut.  Below is the progress of this round robin battle.  The top four teams make the playoffs.  A couple sites that myworld relies on for providing stats stopped after the first round.  Must have been a programming issue.

Cienfuegos Elefantes (44-21) 14-6

The big bat continues to be Jose Abreu (.365,18,53) who has the homerun lead.  He has clubbed five during the round robin playoffs.

Alberto Bicet (6-5, 2.84) was drafted from Santiago but has only gotten them one victory in the round robin.  Yuniel Leyva (8-2, 2.84) has picked up three wins during the round robin.  Jorge Hernandez (9-5, 3.06) has pitched well.

Sancti Spiritus Roosters (42-22) 12-8

They may have lost their lead, but they appear to have one of the final four positions locked up unless they collapse.  Frederich Cepeda (.352, 9, 47) and Yulieski Gourriel (.329, 6, 41) make the Roosters offense crow.  Cepeda has an excellent 70/35 walk to whiff ratio.  Danger Guerrero was a big bat they drafted but he has not provided much offense to the cause, swatting only one double and seeing his average drop from .342 to .305.

Ismel Jimenez (12-1, 1.76) continues to shine from the mound.  He finally took a loss in the round robin matches but he has also given them three wins.  They were hoping to get some starts from Yadier Pedroso but he was killed in a traffic accident soon after his participation in the World Baseball Classic.  They have gotten two wins from Norge Ruiz (5-4, 2.25) who they drafted from Camaguey.

Matanzas Crocodiles (37-27) 10-9

Jose Fernandez (.375, 7, 41) leads the Cuban League in batting average.  Ariel Sanchez (.348, 0, 18) keeps on slashing the singles.

Joel Suarez (10-1, 1.98) has been a big surprise, going 4-0 during the round robin.

Industriales Leones (35-29) 8-11

Yasmani Tomas (.315, 12, 44) has slugged four homeruns during the playoff run.  Stayler Hernandez (.306, 5, 36) has ripped eight doubles during round robin play and has an impressive 54/23 walk to whiff ratio.

Odrisamer Despaigne (8-4, 2.89) is the ace.  They drafted five pitchers but only Ariel Miranda (6-4, 3.34) has a stat reading.

Ciego de Avila Tigres (35-29) 11-8

The defending champs don’t really have any big bats myworld can brag about.  Their pitching though has two of the top four in ERA with Vladimir Garcia (6-5, 1.76) and Yander Guevara (10-3, 1.86).  Both pitchers have won two games during the round robin matches.  Danny Betancourt (8-1, 2.06) was a nice draft selection who has also given them two round robin wins.

Villa Clara Orangemen (34-29) 10-9

Villa Clara needed to play better than .500 to get a top four spot.  Dairon Varona (.358, 6, 26) was drafted from Camaguay and is third in the league in hitting.  He has seen his average drop 15 points in the round robin and has only hit two homeruns with four RBIs.

Diosdani Castillo (3-2, 1.23) comes out of the bullpen to eat innings.  He has appeared in enough innings to qualify for the lead in ERA.  Misael Siverio (6-7, 1.95) has been their most effective starter.  Jonder Martinez (4-4, 3.16) was drafted from the pitching rich Artemisa team and has given the Orangemen two round robin wins.

Isla de la Juventud Pinecutters (32-33) 6-14

They had a nice first round run, but when playing quality teams they collapsed.  Yordanis Samon (.335, 13, 47) was drafted from Granma and slugged six homeruns with 23 RBIs in the 20 round robin games, but that has not produced a lot of victories.  Andy Ibanez (.320, 2, 25) is one of the better younger players for the Pinecutters.  Alexei Bell dropped somewhere below .300.

Wilber Perez (11-4, 2.14) still had a heck of a year, putting himself on the WBC team but he is only 2-2 in the round robin.  Raicel Iglesias (4-6, 2.73) will be back but he is 0-4 in the round robin.

Pinar del Rio Tobacco Growers (31-34) 7-13

With the very first pick in the draft they drafted Alfredo Despaigne (.316, 13, 38) but he has only hit two homeruns and driven in five runs in the round robin.  He has drawn 17 walks.  Yosvany Peraza (.307, 12, 52)  has been their big bat with three homeruns and ten RBIs.