Sunday, April 27, 2008
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Less cheerful? Darwin's newly-anointed closer, J.J. Putz, who came into the game in the ninth and would pitch four innings as the Finches seventh pitcher. Putz blew a save situation with Darwin leading 5-4 in the tenth, but was allowed to continue to work, a move heavily-criticized by media. Putz would go on to get the win, but MRI after the game discovered that the big righthander had strained an intercostal muscle (rib cage). He will miss, at a minimum, two weeks, a big blow to a ballclub that dealt last year's closer (Trevor Hoffman) for a failed shot at acquiring C Jason Varitek...
Speaking of injuries....John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Scott Kazmir and Chuck James have all been placed on the disabled list, with none of them expected to see any action for at least two weeks, and Kazmir likely out until mid-May. With so many experienced hands out, manager PZ Myers felt it best to start Tom Glavine on Opening Day rather than a youngster like Chad Billingsley or Dustin McGowan. "Tom won't get caught up in all the hoopla," Myers explained, then added, "We may have Tim Wakefield work #2 or #3 as well, especially if our bullpen gets worked." As it happened, Myers was a prophet: Darwin used eight pitchers in the 12-inning opener, and so if nothing else the knuckleballing Wakefield will give the staff a day off, come heck or home run. Still, concern has to run high. With this many starters down, the Finches will have to hope they can stay near .500 and not get buried in the competitive East.
Free agent-signee Ryan Doumit made the Opening Day roster as the backup catcher over hot shot phenoms Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jeff Clement. The overall game of defensive specialist Yadier Molina has improved to the point where Myers claimed he would rather have a Molina hitting eighth than a 'Salty' batting fifth or sixth. "The offense Jarrod or Jeff can provide is nice," Myers allowed, 'but we can get that from other quarters. Yadier has shown that he can pretty much take charge of the pitching and stuff the running game, and he handles the bat well enough that I wouldn't be afraid to bat him second against the right pitcher. Neither Jarrod or Jeff would've gotten much playing time with us, so I think some time on the farm is going to be in their best interests, long-term. Doumit can play the outfield corners and first as well as catch, and this versatility makes him a better choice for the backup job...for now."
The versatility of players like Doumit, Ty Wigginton, Carlos Guillen, Chone Figgins and Lance Berkman is good news for PZ Myers, but was bad news for OF Josh Hamilton. Hamilton will not make the Opening Day roster initially despite outhitting nearly everyone in the Grapefruit League. "Josh understands this is a numbers game," said Myers. "At one point, we thought (Milton) Bradley would have to start the season on the DL, and there was a slot. But he got better quickly, and he's making $2 million and has a guaranteed deal, and Josh has an option. But let's face it. Josh and Rick Ankiel are going to be the cornerstones of our club's OF in the future."
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Northern Territory of Australia----DH/1B David Ortiz, the 'franchise player' of the Darwin Finches, is unhappy.
'Big Papi' has been informed that the Finches will play all of their home games without the DH rule, which effectively will trim 100-150 at-bats away from Darwin's big bopper, as well as forcing the rather stationary Ortiz to occasionally pick up a mitt in order to get his bat in the lineup. "Wazzup with that?" Ortiz growled, "No one will tell me."
Insiders speculate that statistical analysis by consultants has led Darwin's management to conclude that the 5-6 extra home runs they are likely to lose from not running Ortiz out there every game are a fair price to pay for leveraging the value of late-inning matchups against other clubs, particularly Eastern Division foes largely bereft of quality left-handed pitching.
"We're sure that David will realize this is about winning ballgames, and understand his role in the organization," said an anonymous club spokesperson, hopefully.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The 21-year-old Schafer, ranked as the No. 25 prospect overall this year by Baseball America, is projected to take over in CF for the Finches in 2009. He got his first taste of the big league club this spring as a non-roster invitee.
"We are extremely disappointed that Jordan has violated the commissioner's performance enhancing drug policy," Darwin manager PZ Myers said. "In no way do we condone this action. We are supportive of the program and will continue to educate all of our players. He will not be reinstated until, at the very least, after completing an education and community service program prior to spring training of 2009."
Schafer was batting .091 (1-for-11) for St. Francis (AAA) in the League of Flagellants at the time of the suspension. He batted .312 at Class A last year with 15 homers and 63 RBIs for Rome of the South Atlantic League and Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Saturday, April 5, 2008
"The Big Unit" has returned---and for good.
Darwin GM Scott Hatfield, his eyes twinkling, confirmed that the ballclub has spent some serious money ($4 million, guaranteed), and assumed some serious risk, in signing 44-year-old lefthander Randy Johnson, who was spurned by every club in the league on Draft Day.
"We had room under the cap," Hatfield noted. "More importantly, we're bringing Randy back, and we are going to retire his number in a Darwin uniform. I'm happy to say that I drafted Randy back in 1989 when he was an unestablished Expos farmhand out of USC. The rest is history. When I formed BARB, he was one of the core members of my inaugural club, and this is his second--and last--tour of duty. The circle is complete."
Johnson, who is attempting to come back from two back surgeries since his last inning of work in a regular-season game, simply glowered, as if to say he could pitch forever if he wanted to. "I'm not ready yet to join the club," the towering southpaw said curtly to reporters. "When I'm ready, I'll let you know. I've got my pride, and I wouldn't be signing this contract if I didn't believe that I can get back to where I need to be."
The Finches also took a flyer on another USC product, oft-injured RHP Mark Prior, who came into BARB with so much promise but has missed most of the last three seasons. Prior agreed to a split contract that will pay him $680,000 in the event he is able to rejoin the big-league roster. Prior was, shall we say, quite a bit more friendly than his fellow Trojan, but laughed when asked about it. "I've known Randy since I was a freshman with Gillespie," Prior chuckled. "That's just Randy being Randy. His dedication and focus are an inspiration to guys like me."
Also signing with the Finches: veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who will instantly join the club's rotation and give the Unnatural Selections an inning-eater while they wait for Johnson, Prior, Smoltz, Kazmir and the rest of the Darwinian wounded to get healthy. "I'm not going to blaze it by ya," drawled Wakefield. "But then, I don't have to." Inititially, however, Wakefield will be assigned to AAA along with utility men Ryan Doumit and Mark Loretta, who will attempt to earn roles on the parent roster in the final week of spring training.
Darwin also announced that they were temporarily moving their minor-league base of operations to St. Francis, Kansas, which is widely believed to be the site of future BARB expansion, much to the distaste of Darwin's skeptical skipper, PZ Myers. "Everyone here seems to have a burning desire to dress up in monk's garb," puzzled Myers. "Don't they know that's just a fairy tale? Jee-bus!"
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I'll try to make do with this rotation:
Kevin Gregg will close against lefties (look at his numbers, you'll see),
Jeremy Accardo against righties,
Broxton, Meredith and hmm....someone else....will have to setup.
In other words, I'm not worried yet. So far all indicators are that Smoltz and Kazmir will return before April is over, and Putz's injury doesn't appear to be all that serious. But if I lose another starter in April or early May, I may have cause for concern.