LOCKSMITH OF THE MONTH
He's a hitter with a rep for being streaky. So Jeff Liefer has heard that term, "locked in," before. But last week, he gave it a whole new meaning.
Liefer, who used to play for the White Sox and Expos, turned himself into a human rain delay for the Brewers' Triple-A farm team in Indianapolis last Thursday. How? By personally causing a 15-minute delay in a game with Louisville -- when he got locked in the dugout bathroom between innings.
"Now that," Brewers coach-witticist Rich Donnelly told Really Wild Pitches, "is what you call long relief."
We've heard of guys who had breakout seasons before. But not quite this literally. In his first five games after teammates broke him out of the john by hammering the door off its hinges, Liefer went 7 for his next 18 (.389), with three homers and eight RBI.
"The way he's hitting," Donnelly said, "they should have locked the whole team in the bathroom."
TATTOO-TIMER OF THE MONTH
If a picture is worth a thousand words, Blue Jays pitcher Justin Miller's right arm is practically a whole encyclopedia.
Somewhere under all the tattoos on that arm, there is some actual skin. But you know a guy has a lot of tattoos when he's told by Major League Baseball he has to pitch the rest of his career wearing long sleeves -- because his tattoos are distracting the hitters.
Oh, we're sure this is a supremely well-meaning edict and all. We've just had a tough time trying to find a hitter who has ever made an out because of a tattoo.
So we asked Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz what kind of tattoo a pitcher would have to put on his arm to help him get Mientkiewicz out.
"He should put a picture of Ricardo Rincon on there," Mientkiewicz said of the nasty A's left-hander (against whom he is 1 for 11 lifetime). "If I see him out there, I guarantee you I'm going to swing and miss three times."
INJURIES OF THE MONTH
Third prize (Hygiene division): Braves infielder Jorge Velandia missed the last week of spring-training games (and a possible spot on the Opening-Day roster) because he forgot to wash his sliding pads -- and wound up with an infected knee.
Second prize (owners division): Tampa Bay managing general partner Vince Naimoli got hit by a flying bat while sitting behind the dugout April 22 -- even though he was seated next to the Army's chief of staff, Gen. Pete Schoomaker. No truth to the rumor Naimoli has asked Pres. Bush to deploy more troops to future Devil Rays games.
First prize (Zzzzz division): It isn't quite true that it's more hazardous for a player to fall sleep these days than to play. But it seems like it -- now that we've had our third sleeping injury of the year.
The first two came in spring training: A's pitcher Rich Harden strained his shoulder turning off his alarm clock. And Florida's Bryce Florie had a nightmare, jumped out of bed and crashed into the sliding doors.
Which brings us to our latest snoozing mishap -- which apparently befell Devil Rays outfielder Rocco Baldelli this week. Baldelli's neck was so stiff Monday, he could only DH. And he told the St. Petersburg Times' Marc Topkin that the only thing he could think of that caused it was sleeping funny.
"I fall asleep propped up watching TV a lot," Baldelli said. "Maybe I should start turning the TV off and going to sleep."
BALL BOY OF THE MONTH
It isn't easy for a ball boy to make the Web Gem cut on Baseball Tonight. But Dan Godfrey, a 28-year-old Red Sox ball boy, did it April 29 -- by springing off his stool to make a sensational leaping catch of a Johnny Damon rocket that seemed destined to send about 14 spectators to the emergency room.
Damon later told the Boston Globe's Michael Vega it was better than any catch he'd made that night. But he wasn't sure that was necessarily a good thing.
"Hopefully," Damon said, "the Red Sox don't go offer him a contract to play center field tomorrow."
QUOTES OF THE MONTH
From new Minnesota reliever Terry Mulholland, after the Twins purchased his contract from Seattle -- for $1:
"It's a dollar well spent."
From Yankees GM Brian Cashman, after his team had gotten swept by the Red Sox:
"I'm going to go home, kiss my wife, hug my kids and kick the (crap) out of my dog."
From Pirates bopper Craig Wilson, who -- after being asked, by the Beaver County Times' John Perrotto about a couple of shaky defensive plays -- reached into his locker and pulled out a Rawlings first-base mitt that had "Gold Glove" stamped in the pocket:
"See, I'm a Gold Glover. I'm a Gold Glove-wearing fielder."
From Braves third baseman Mark DeRosa, following the first four-error game by a Braves third baseman since 1975, after the Denver Post's Mike Klis asked him if his mama had ever told him there'd be days like this:
"Not like this, she didn't."
From the ever-quotable Brewers coach Rich Donnelly, on why his team sent pitcher Chris Saenz back to the minors a day after he'd been called up for an emergency start and held the Cardinals to two hits in six innings:
"He's like a substitute teacher. In for a day. Pay him. And he's gone. He came in, did great, had breakfast, and he left. He was like Superman. He flew in. He got the job done. And now he's gone."
From Cardinals reliever Ray King, who was so inspired by the sight of President Bush throwing out the first ball Opening Day that he promptly ran 3-and-0 counts on the first two hitters he faced:
"The president threw one more strike than I did."
WEST WINGER OF THE MONTH
Speaking of the president, Bush wasn't the only head of state to throw out a first ball last month. President Josiah Bartlet also took his turn on the mound.
Bartlet, of course, isn't a real president. He's Martin Sheen, the fictional prez on "West Wing," who stopped by Camden Yards before an April 23 Orioles-Blue Jays game. And if you're keeping track, according to the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin, fictional presidents now lead actual presidents in Camden Yards mound visits, 3-2.
Hollywood presidents: Sheen, Kevin Kline (for the movie, "Dave") and Chris Rock ("Head of State"). Real-life presidents: Papa George Bush and Bill Clinton (but no George W.).
Now back to the mound action:
It turned out that one of the benefits of Sheen's job is that, unlike President Bush, he got three mulligans on his first pitch. And according to the Baltimore Sun's Roch Kubatko, Pres. Bartlett needed every one of those mulligans.
His four pitches went, in order: high, wide, bounced and right to the backstop.
And that was after he'd gotten a chance to rehearse earlier in the afternoon. Asked after the rehearsal what Orioles catcher Javy Lopez should look for later that night, Sheen replied: "A lot of dirt on the ball."
MARATHONS OF THE MONTH
Runner-up -- May 2:
Runner-up -- May 2:
When a horde of reporters surrounded Wolf afterward, he answered a bunch of questions, then said: " "I'll tell you what's not appropriate -- is me doing any interviews. I did absolutely nothing -- except not embarrass myself."
But from the next locker over, his pal Doug Glanville disagreed: "Third to home is a very tough stretch," Glanville said, "especially when you have to walk. You could trip over a blade of grass."
First prize -- April 22:
First prize -- April 22:
The Diamondbacks won just in time, since they'd used eight pitchers -- and the eighth (Steve Sparks) was just helping out between starts. So "we were getting ready to use a Brent Mayne/Steve Finley platoon on the mound if we had to," manager Bob Brenly told the East Valley Tribune's Ed Price. "Have Finley face the lefties and Mayne face the righties. But fortunately it didn't come to that."
For the Brewers, meanwhile, this kicked off a string of four interminable extra-inning games in a span of nine games -- all at home.
"We may be the only park that starts selling beer in the seventh inning," coach Rich Donnelly told Wild Pitches. "We'd sell more from the seventh to the 11th than we sell from the first to the sixth. You stay that long, people start getting hungrier and thirstier."
DÉJÀ VU TROTTER OF THE MONTH
Ever seen the same hitter trot around the bases on back-to-back pitches? Royals first baseman Ken Harvey pulled off that innovative feat April 28.
He made his first trot after curling an apparent home run around the foul pole off Texas' Kenny Rogers -- only to have the call reversed by umpire Jim Reynolds.
So Royals manager Tony Pena roared out of the dugout to argue, even though he admitted later that even he knew this was a foul ball.
"I'm a big man," Harvey told the Wichita Eagle's Rick Plumlee afterward. "And I was out of breath. So I appreciated that."
When the argument died down, Pena told Harvey, "Come on. Hit another one." Whereupon Harvey did exactly that, on the next pitch -- off a pitcher who hadn't allowed a home run all season before giving up two (kind of) to the same hitter on back-to-back pitches.
Asked if he was pretty confident he'd hit that second one, Harvey quipped: "If I could do that, I'm Barry Bonds."
BOX-SCORE LINES OF THE MONTH
Colorado's Denny Stark, April 16 in St. Louis:
2 1/3 IP, 9 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 4 HR, 69 pitches to get 7 outs. (First Rockies pitcher to allow double digits outside Denver since Daryl Kile on July 2, 1998, in Seattle.)
Colorado's Jason Jennings, April 23 vs Houston at Coors:
5 IP, 8 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 1 HR. (Ninth Rockies pitcher to allow double digits in Denver since 1998.)
Arizona's Casey Daigle, April 9 vs. St. Louis in his first career start:
2 2/3 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 5 HR. (First NL pitcher to allow five homers but get fewer than nine outs since Frank Pastore on May 25, 1979. First NL starting pitcher to do that since Steve Stone on July 9, 1974. First pitcher ever to give up five homers in his big-league debut.)
Pittsburgh's Josh Fogg, April 21 vs. the Cubs:
0 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, followed by this quote: "I know it sounds funny to say, when I gave up five runs and didn't get any of the six batters I faced out -- but I feel pretty good about the way I threw."
Farm land division
Ottawa knuckleballer Joe Gannon, April 23 vs. Buffalo:
3 IP, 2 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 12 BB, 2 K, 4 WP, 4 PB on his catcher. (FYI: Last major league pitcher to walk 12 in one game: Jack Fisher on Aug. 30, 1961.)
Gannon's incredible line for the season:
19 1/3 IP, 20 H, 23 R, 22 ER, 26 BB, 10 K, 7 WP, 1 HR, 46 of 71 hitters reaching base (not counting one on a strikeout-wild pitch).
Mystery pitcher division
The three position players who have pitched (not counting Boston's David McCarty, who gave up a run in the debut of his new semi-regular pitching gig this year -- St. Louis' Cody McKay (April 8), Milwaukee's Trent Durrington (April 17) and Cleveland's Tim Laker (April 20) -- have combined for a lower ERA (0.00) than Mariano Rivera. Their combined line:
3 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 36 pitches, only 1 hit -- an infield single. (Of the last 13 mystery pitchers to make it to the mound, believe it or not, just one has been scored upon. That was Mark Grace, on a home run to Dodgers rookie David Ross, on Sept. 2, 2002.)
PIAZZA-ISM TO GO OF THE MONTH
Who says Mike Piazza can't play first base? Last weekend, he made such a classic split to catch a Todd Zeile throw, he even made Web Gems. Afterward, Piazza sprinted back to the clubhouse and admired his form on "SportsCenter."
"I could be an Italian-American gymnast," the ever-global Piazza told the Newark Star-Ledger's David Waldstein. "I'm like Travolta."
COMEDIAN OF THE MONTH
Best late-night comedy baseball quip of the year so far goes to Craig Kilborn, on the implosion of the late, not-so-great Veterans Stadium:
"Over the weekend, Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia was blown up," Kilborn said. "Fans cried -- when they found out that the Phillies weren't in it."