Torborg's status iffy, at best
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
The Florida Marlins are playing well and were helped out when staff ace A.J. Burnett returned to the starting rotation last Wednesday, but there are some internal disputes.
|Jeff Torborg's job in Florida could be in jeopardy.|
Near the end of spring training, club president David Samson wanted manager Jeff Torborg to fire pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, but Torborg refused. Then a week into the season, when Josh Beckett, who has nine career wins, was critical of Ivan Rodriguez's pitch calling, the assault on Arnsberg continued, and got heated enough so that there was some pressure put on Torborg's job. Stay tuned.
The Marlins were concerned about Alex (Sea Bass) Gonzalez's attitude entering the regular season, but the immensely talented shortstop has been off to a positive start, in terms of performance and effort.
Perry Hill, one of the best infield coaches anywhere, should get a lion's share of the credit for Gonzalez's success.
When Hideki Matsui came to the plate with the bases loaded in the ninth inning of a tie game on Saturday, the public-address system blared The Who's "Baba O'Riley," Paul O'Neill's signature song. That's appropriate because the more one watches Matsui, the more one sees O'Neill. That Matsui is 6-for-7 delivering runners from third base with less than two out speaks volumes.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin still hasn't seen Eric Young strike out or make an error in spring training or the regular season.
"Eric has been a tremendous example for all of our young players," says Melvin. "He's a better player than I realized coming over here."
Red Sox manager Grady Little is now using Tim Wakefield in the bullpen between starts, further proof of Wakefield's incalculable worth. Robert Person will be prepared as a reliever in his rehab work, but there are those on the club who'd like to see Casey Fossum put in that role, since his stuff is second only to that of Pedro Martinez.
Alan Embree's marked decline in velocity was credited to tendinitis, so he was forced to be placed on the disabled list. But Bobby Howry's velocity makes him a prime candidate to be released when Person comes back.
The Sox hope to get pitching coach Tony Cloninger back this week and determine whether or not he will be physically capable of the grind of being a pitching coach.
No one would have ever imagined that the Angels could ever turn The Big A into a home-field advantage, but after sweeping the A's this past weekend, they have won 31 of their last 37 games at home, including the 2002 postseason.
The Giants hope to have their closer, Robb Nen, and their left left-handed reliever, Jason Christiansen, back by sometime in May.
But the Cardinals don't know when their closer, Jason Isringhausen, will return. "He had a setback on Friday, and while we don't think it's serious, there is concern," says Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.
The loss of Isringhausen has obviously impacted Matt Morris. On April 5, Morris pitched three-hit ball for eight innings while striking out 10 and walking two and had a 2-0 lead going to the ninth. La Russa went to Jeff Fassero to start the ninth and by the time the Astros' Brad Ausmus got the final hit off Dustin Hermanson, the Cards lost 3-2.
This past Friday night in Houston, La Russa left Morris out to pitch the ninth with a 2-1 lead, and Jeff Kent's dramatic homer pulled out another 3-2 Astros win.
Speaking of the Astros, Brad Lidge is developing into a major bullpen force. So now there's speculation that with the payroll as it will be in 2004, that if Lidge can be closer, Billy Wagner might be traded during the winter. How Octavio Dotel, who'd like to start, will take to that is another matter, entirely.
In the end, the Braves were the only team willing to give Shane Reynolds a major-league contract, but the Braves also know that Raynolds carries so much respect among his peers that the Astros players were extremely upset that he was released at the end of spring training.
When Oakland prospect Rich Harden opened his Texas League season with 13 perfect innings, many asked why the 21-year-old was at that level.
"We wanted him thinking about his pitching, not looking at the big leagues out of the corner of his eye," says A's GM Billy Beane. That was the thinking of the Cubs with prize right-handed prospect Angel Guzman, the Indians with right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, the Rockies with righty Chin-Hui Tsao and the Blue Jays with Jason Arnold, a right-hander.
"Guzman had such a great spring he could have started the season anywhere," says Cubs GM Jim Hendry. "But we wanted him concentrating on a good season and doing what he does well. We know he has a great future, but he needs to focus on pitching."
When Hendry went to scout Bobby Hill with the Newark Bears of the independent Northern League in 2000, he also saw Joe Borowski pitch.
"I wasn't really impressed," says Hendry. After all, Borowski had a 5.50 ERA in the Northern League, after going through the White Sox, Orioles, Braves and Yankees organizations with a 5-7 major-league record. Later, Hendry got further recommendations on Borowski, who agreed to go to Mexico first. In his first full season with the Cubs last year, he was 4-4 with a 2.73 ERA, and two weeks into this season, with Antonio Alfonseca out until the end of the month, Borowski has three saves and is throwing 92-94 mph.
Speaking of saves, if you predicted Mike MacDougal (6) and Tim Worrell (5) would be 1-2 in the majors in saves on April 14, you won the bet.
This and that
Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker says Jeff Kent "brings us a different feeling. We've been a team that didn't show a lot of emotion, but Jeff does. In his own way, he brings an edge to this team that is very positive, and I like it."
Pitcher Adam Loewen, who was taken by the Orioles with the fourth overall pick in last June's draft, is insisting to teams that he will not sign with Baltimore, which will insure his being one of the first three players taken this June.
Rangers manager Buck Showalter says that even as Herbert Perry and Kevin Mench come off the disabled list there will be room for Mark Teixeira.
"John Hart has set it up so we have a lot of flexibility," says Showalter. Case in point: when Ryan Drese couldn't get out of the first inning in Seattle on Saturday, Showalter blew out his bullpen. Hart then sent The One Eyed Jack, Reynaldo Garcia, down to the minors in order to call up right-hander R.J. Dickey in an emergency. Dickey pitched his heart out on Sunday before Bret Boone beat him with a game-winning homer.
Sterling Hitchcock and his agent, Tommy Tanzer, are trying to work out a deal to get him released from the Yankees so he can get a starting job with another club.
It will be interesting to see if the Twins let Rick Reed get to 188 innings this season, which triggers the 2004 option on his contract.
OPS against a pitcher is a pretty fair indication of stuff, and two weeks into season Mark Prior (.352), Kyle Lohse (.358) and Esteban Loaiza (.368) have the three lowest. Credit White Sox GM Ken Williams for taking a chance on Loaiza -- Williams predicted Loaiza would have a major bounce back season, and got him for pocket change this past offseason.
The Cubs see Prior and Kerry Wood as playing off one another, and the feeling is that Wood's stuff is the best it's been since 1998, only now he's a better pitcher than ever before. Wood and Prior are first and fourth, respectively, in the National League in strikeouts per nine innings. Get used to seeing that for a long time.
The Dodgers are one of a couple of teams that would like Scott Radinsky to come out of retirement, but Radinsky's loyalty to his bandmates in Pulley would not allow him to walk away from their current European tour, which had been scheduled for months.
Ricardo Rodriguez's burst onto the Cleveland scene has been breathtaking -- a 2-0, 1.35 ERA in three starts, with left-handed batters hitting .207 with a .578 OPS against him. The 24-year-old Rodriguez throws in the 90s, has a freezing changeup and is extremely intelligent. Cliff Lee will soon be up and in the Indians' rotation, as well.
Get to a disc shop and buy "The Lost Songs of the Beatles" with Graham Parker, Bill Janvitz and Kate Pierson. Great is a fair description.
Two disturbing issues
1. The percentage of African-Americans in the major leagues is down to 11 percent, the lowest figure since 1959. Isn't it time for baseball to make an all-out effort to get into the inner cities and promote playing the game, which in turn might increase its fan base? It's not only African-Americans in the cities, but Latino-Americans, who comprise one of the biggest and most loyal potential fan bases.
Sox Nation in Iraq
Major Andy Backus, top right, a lifelong Red Sox fan from Maine made an instant connection with at least one Iraqi boy recently in Umm Qasr.
2. The Hall of Fame's decision to cancel the "Bull Durham" weekend because of the political beliefs of actor Tim Robbins and actress Susan Sarandon is an insult to anyone who uses the expression, "American Pastime." The Hall has been politicized by lectures by President Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer and a former Reagan Administration official, Dale Petroskey.
So now can one only enter the building if one agrees to waive ones inalienable right to dissent?
Robbins is a dedicated, loyal baseball fan who never would have used the Cooperstown stage to express his opposition to U.S. military policy; he and Ms. Sarandon expressed their views on their own stage, reserved for actors and artists and their opinions. This is baseball and everyone from Robbins to Todd Greene wishes only the best for those in the Middle East. But those who attend the museum -- and that includes Robbins and his sons -- this is a haven from politics and propaganda.
Take the top two VH-1 videos: Three Doors Down's tribute to the men and women in the armed forces in Iraq, followed by the duet by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, whose anti-war views mirror Robbins and Sarandon.
Why are those songs 1-2? Because they're great music. "Bull Durham" was a great movie, a great baseball movie. This was poor judgement that overstepped the intent of the museum.
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