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28 posts from August 2013

August 20, 2013

Marlins examining ways to extend Jose Fernandez deeper into September; Ramos uses Puig's emotions against him

As rookie Jose Fernandez closes in on the 170-inning limit that was set for him when the season started, manager Mike Redmond said he and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez are looking into creative ways to squeeze as much mileage out of him as possible without going over the cap.

“Could there be a spot in there where maybe we skip a start to pitch him an extra week into September? That’s a possibility,” Redmond said. “We’re trying to see how we can extend him as deep into September as we we can.”

Fernandez has pitched 145 2/3 innings so far, leaving him about 24 more innings shy of the cap, or about three or four more starts depending on how deep into games he goes in his upcoming starts.

“I’m not going to cut him out of a game because of the inning,” Redmond said “We’re going to let him pitch.”

Redmond joked that he is almost dreading having the rambunctious Fernandez sitting with him on the bench the rest of the season after being shut down.

“He’s going to drive everybody nuts, that’s what he’s going to do,” Redmond said, laughing. “He’s going to sit on the bench and  he’s going to drive everybody crazy. I know we’re all going to wish he had more innings.”


Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos used Yasiel Puig’s emotions to his advantage when he struck out the Dodgers’ young star on Monday. Ramos said he could tell from the Marlins bullpen how angry and frustrated Puig became after Fernandez whiffed him in the fifth.

“You’ve got to watch their body language sometimes. It tells a lot,” said Ramos, who took over for Fernandez in the seventh with the Marlins clinging to a one-run lead. “Yesterday, he was really frustrated, so I figured he wanted to jump on something quick. If I threw him a fastball, he might have crushed it.”

Ramos threw Puig three straight sliders. Puig swung at all three and struck out.

“I didn’t want to give him anything to take his frustration out on,” Ramos said. “If they’re frustrated, they want to get a hit. They’re pressing. He was out of his game. So you throw stuff that starts in the zone and goes out. I wanted to keep him off balance. So I made sure I threw sliders out of the zone.”

Puig went 0 for 5 on Monday, showed up late to the ballpark on Tuesday, and was fined by Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who didn't start the talented Cuban.

Jose Fernandez wins showdown with Yasiel Puig

Jose Fernandez got the better of Yasiel Puig in Monday's Miami showdown of rookie Cuban exiles, which -- for one night, anyhow -- brought some rare magic and excitement to Marlins Park. Though the upper deck was closed, the announced crowd of 27,127 represented the third-largest home figure of the season. There were 6,000 walk-ups, according to team officials.

They got their money's worth.

Puig was hitless in his three at bats against Fernandez and finished the night 0 for 5. After striking out in the fifth with runners at the corners, he became so upset with home plate umpire John Hirschbeck that he had to be calmed by Dodgers teammates Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe.

One game does not make or break a Rookie of the Year campaign. But Fernandez might be ahead in the straw poll if one were taken now. Check out this article by ESPN's David Schoenfield, who wrote that if the ROY vote were taken today, he would rate the edge to the Marlins' 21-year-old pitcher. Based on advanced metric formulas, Schoenfield points out that Fernandez holds a narrow edge over Puig.

The problems facing Fernandez in garnering top rookie honors are several. One, his season will soon be coming to an end when he reaches the innings cap the organization has placed upon him. He should receive no more than three or four more starts. Fernandez will turn into a spectator in September while Puig and the Dodgers remain in the national spotlight. Puig also plays in L.A., where there's no shortage of media hype. Finally, Puig is a position player who can dazzle and make the highlight reel on any given day. Being a starting pitcher, Fernandez can only show off once every five days -- and only a few more times, at that.

A few leftover stats from last night's game:

-- Fernandez improved his home numbers to 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA -- the best home ERA in the majors.

-- Fernandez set a club record by holding the opponent to five hits or less for the 11th consecutive start. Surprisingly, the old record of 10 straight belonged to Tony Saunders (1997).


The lingering fallout from the departure of hitting coach Tino Martinez might have cost Chris Valaika a roster spot (see my story here). According to sources, the Marilns wanted to call up Valaika from Triple A New Orleans after Placido Polanco went on the concussion list. But Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria vetoed the consensus recommendation of the front office and coaching staff, and Gil Velazquez was called up instead.

Speculation within the organization is that Loria nixed the move because of sentiment for Martinez, his hand-picked choice for the job. Martinez had a verbal altercation with Valaika -- among a host of players -- that culminated in his resignation last month. If Valaika is paying the price for his involvement, it probably doesn't bode well for Derek Dietrich, either. Dietrich was confronted physically by Martinez, as well as verbally, and is now playing at Double A Jacksonville.

August 17, 2013

Excitement over Monday's Jose Fernandez-Yasiel Puig showdown already spilling into Marlins clubhouse

The Marlins and Giants played a 24-run slugfest Friday night and still have two games left to play, but the focus has already begun to shift to Monday when the red-hot Dodgers come to town.

That's the night National League Rookie of the Year candidates and Cuban-born stars Yasiel Puig and Jose Fernandez will face off against each other here in Little Havana. Puig is being made available to the media before the game Monday and there will be plenty of reporters here to talk to him.

Fernandez? He's doing his best not to make too much of the showdown.

"I'm not facing Yasiel Puig on Monday," Fernandez said, correcting a local Spanish station TV reporter in the clubhouse Saturday. "I'm facing a good lineup. Puig is one of the best hitters. They got a lot of guys, a lot of All-Stars and good players that have been playing well. I'm really looking forward to it and doing a good job, trying to get a W for my team."

Do you keep track of other guys in the NL Rookie of the Year race, Jose?

"I keep track of every five days when I've got to pitch. That's what I keep track of," Fernandez said. "I don't really mind what other people are doing. As long as we're winning, that's what I care about.

"The only thing I know and can tell the fans is I'm going to give 100 percent and I'm going to try to make sure we win."

At last check, StubHub still had 789 tickets available for $9.95. That's a pretty good deal to come watch two of the most exciting young players in the game face each other -- and a red-hot Dodgers team take on the Marlins.


Third baseman Placido Polanco said Saturday he is still "a little off balance" after being hit in the back of the head by a fastball in the eighth inning Friday. Manager Mike Redmond said he's not going to play Polanco Saturday, but is hopeful he could be available Sunday.

"The trainer asked me a real tough question: What day was it? That's a question we don't even know when we're OK," Polanco joked Saturday.

"According to what I feel it should be a day or two. If I would have a headache today or worse that would be bad. But I don't."

Back when he was with the Tigers in 2006, Polanco was struck in the face by an Esteban Loaiza pitch. It kept him out a week. "That was worse," Polanco said.


Even though he smacked two home runs -- his first two of the season at home -- and drove in four runs Friday, the suddenly-hot Justin Ruggiano isn't in the Marlins lineup Saturday.

"I don't think anything," Ruggiano said when asked if he was surprised not to be in the lineup. "I think Redmond had my back when I was 0-for-a-month. I have all the respect in the world for him. The patience he had with me when I was going through a rut. I have so much respect for him and how he handled it when I was doing nothing. The decision he makes the rest of the year, whenever I'm always going to have his back with whoever he puts out there."

Redmond, who is starting rookie Jake Marisnick in center to get him more playing time, laughed when he was asked why Ruggiano wasn't in the lineup.

"It's funny because when he was 0-for-38 you guys thought I was crazy when I batted him in front of Stanton," Redmond said. "Now, he's 6-for-8 and you're wondering why I'm not playing him. It's funny. He's swinging the bat good. Hopefully he'll get a hit coming off the bench. Jake is a young guy. We want him to get out there and get time."

> Although pitcher Nate Eovaldi said he didn't think he was tipping his pitches after giving up a career-high 12 hits and nine earned runs in Friday's loss, Redmond said there were "a couple little things" the Giants "could or couldn't pick up" on. Redmond said pitching coach Chuck Hernandez has already told Eovaldi about them to make sure he doesn't repeat it in his next start.

"It's always good to stay on top of guys' mechanics so they're relentless in their consistencies and deliveries and glove placement, how they take signs. It's definitely something every guy needs to be aware," Redmond said. "Chuck and [bullpen coach] Reed [Cornelius] are relentless on that stuff, watching video and making sure guys are consistent."

> Redmond was happy with the one shutout inning of work rookie right-hander Arquimedes Caminero delivered Friday night and reiterated control will be the most important thing for him. Caminero plunked a batter when a slider got away from him, but came back and struckout the final hitter he faced.

"You have to have off-speed pitches, whether it be a slider or split finger," Redmond said. "As you can see, fastballs get hit really hard in the big leagues. Although we'd love to say you could throw 98 at the knees and get somebody out, you definitely got to have a reliable off-speed pitch, breaking ball you can go to. That's what's going to make him successful because you can't always rely on the fastball -- especially against experienced hitters. That's just something he's going to have to continue to work on."


> Giants (54-67): 1. Marco Scutaro 2B, 2. Brandon Crawford SS, 3. Brandon Belt 1B, 4. Buster Posey C, 5. Hunter Pence RF, 6. Pablo Sandoval 3B, 7. Roger Kieschnick RF, 8. Gregor Blanco CF, 9. Matt Cain RHP.

> Marlins (46-74): 1. Christian Yelich LF, 2. Donovan Solano 2B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton, 4. Logan Morrison, 5. Ed Lucas, 6. Adeiny Hechavarria, 7. Jake Marisnick, 8. Koyie Hill, 9. Henderson Alvarez RHP.

August 16, 2013

Redmond: Polanco is fine, no concussion symptoms; Eovaldi doesn't think he was tipping his pitches

There was a scary moment for the Marlins in the eighth inning Friday night when third baseman Placido Polanco got plunked in the back of the head with a pitch. He left the game under his own power.

Luckily, it appears Polanco is fine.

"It seems like everything is fine as of right now, which is a big relief anytime somebody gets hit in the head," manager Mike Redmond said.

"They evaluated him when they took him into the training room and he didn't show any signs of concussion. He should be fine. But we're going to monitor him day-to-day."

> Redmond thought Nathan Eovaldi, lit up for a career-high 12 hits and nine earned runs, might have been tipping his pitches Friday.

But Eovadli said otherwise. 

"I looked at the video and I didn't see anything like I was tipping my pitches," he said. "The first inning they were working the counts real well. I really feel like I located the majority of my pitches the first inning. Just tip your cap.

"They put hits together and hit the ball well. Third and fourth inning I was working the count and missing right down the middle. When that happens -- especially the way they're swinging the bats -- that's tough luck."

Hard-throwing Caminero happy to be in big leagues after eight years in minors; Redmond talks replay

Armed with a fastball that can touch 100-miles per hour, Arquimedes Caminero has always been seen as a pitcher with closer-stuff.

The Marlins have just been waiting for the 6-4, 255-pound Dominican-born right-hander to mature and find the strike zone consistently. After eight years in the Marlins' minor-league system, Caminero, 26, finally got the call-up he had been waiting for Friday.

"It means a lot to me," said Caminero, ranked as the Marlins' 20th-best prospect by MLB.com and who replaced reliever Steven Ames (optioned to Triple A New Orleans on Wednesday) in the Marlins' bullpen.

"I've been working a long time for this."

After having Tommy John surgery in 2011, Caminero went 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA and posted 44 strikeouts and 19 walks between Single A Jupiter and Double A Jacksonville for the Marlins in 2012. This season, he was 5-2 with a 3.61 ERA in 42 appearances for Jacksonville, posting 68 strikeouts and 21 walks.

Although he says he doesn't throw as hard as he used to (he said he sits between 96 and 100 miles per hour), Caminero said he feels better and in more control of his fastball.

"I want to get a little bit better with the walks," said Caminero, who also throws a slider and splitter. "[The walk numbers] werenn't very good in April, but it got better. I was working with [Suns pitching coach John] Duffy. Now I feel like I can be here."

Marlins manager Mike Redmond said the reason Caminero was called up now and not in September is because the team wanted to give him an extended look. With Steve Cishek cemented in the closer's role and Chad Qualls and Mike Dunn used as setup men, it's likely Caminero will be used in the sixth and seventh innings.

"This is a guy who has an ability to go in there and pick up some strikeouts which is always nice to have if we get into a situation where we need a strikeout or something," Redmond said. " I try to avoid [putting] guys in tough situations. Saying that, it's happened a couple times because of the situation we've been in. Hopefully get him in there as soon as possible, get comfortable and see what he can do."


Although he's happy Major League Baseball announced Friday it is expanding its replay system in 2014 and giving managers a tool they've never had to challenge calls (one challenge through the first six innings, and two from the seventh on), Redmond said he has some concerns and questions that need to be answered.

"I think everyone is in favor of getting the calls right. I think the biggest question is always the pace of the play," Redmond said. "There's a lot of times as a manager when I'm sitting down here, I can't see the ball down the right field line. If that's ball is fair and he calls it foul then I'm going to have to rely on somebody coming down and telling me 'Hey that balls fair or that ball's fair.'

"In football it's great because of you have the head phones and [the coordinator] can see 10 replays by the time [the quarterback] goes up there and snaps the ball. Well in baseball it's a little different.

"I'd love to sit here and say I've got a beat on every single play. Well, I just don't. Sometimes it's hard to see. At the same time too these challenges are going to be big because it could decide the outcome of the game. What if you have more than one play in the first six innings go wrong? What if there is a three? What if there is a five? There's just a lot of questions through this process."


Ramon Del Orbe, the pitcher for Single A Greensboro who was struck in the right temple and fractured his skull after being hit by a line drive earlier in the week, had surgery on Thursday. According to Marlins vice president of player development Marty Scott, the "surgery went well."

"Relieved pressure and swelling as well as bleeding," Scott told The Miami Herald in a text message. "No timetable for release yet. ICU for another day. Keeping trainer and [Minor League Latin Coordinator] Bobby Ramos with Ramon. At such time of release, they will all travel back together to Greensboro. Ramon will probably need reconstructive surgery at a later date."

August 14, 2013

Giancarlo Stanton calls struggles "mind-blowing"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Giancarlo Stanton is at a loss to explain his subpar season, only to say that it's been "mind-blowing."

"I usually like growing experiences, but this one I don't like," said Stanton, who was left out of the lineup Wednesday for the second time on the road trip. "When I look back at this as annoying -- as every negative word you can find for this time -- hopefully this time is the only time it'll be this long, and in this fashion."

Stanton is hitting just .237 with 13 home runs, and his eight outfield errors are tied for most in the majors. It's why Stanton says that no single number -- the batting average, the home runs, the errors -- frustrates him more than any other.

"There's no point in looking at them," Stanton said of the numbers. "There's no one thing. (It's) everything, even defense. It's just one of those mind-blowing things."

Stanton is hitting just .209 with three home runs since the All-Star break. His road slugging percentage of .296 ranks as one of the lowest in the majors. He's hitting .184 on the road after going 5 for 29 with only one RBI on the road trip.

Even more frustrating, Stanton said, is the fact he's never experienced a slump of such depth and doesn't have any history on which to find a solution.

"When you have all your checkpoints that you had built for yourself throughout your professional career, and all of those have failed... now you have to find new ones," he said. "It's one of those things where you need to figure it out."

Stanton can't put his finger on an explanation for why his season has turned sour.

"You might be telling yourself you're not thinking too much, and maybe you are," he said. "(Or) say you're not trying too hard, and maybe you are. (Or) saying you're not trying enough....there's so many things that can spiral out in a situation like this, and when you've never been in a situation like this, it's also a little more difficult to get out of."


Ramon Del Orbe, a right-handed pitcher for Single A Greensboro, is in serious condition at a West Virginia hospital after being struck in the head by a line drive on Tuesday, fracturing his skull.

"It was a line drive off the right temple, at least one fracture, possibly two," said Marty Scott, the Marlins' vice president of player development. "They've got some further tests, as well as visits with neurosurgeons, to determine whether they'll need to do surgery."

Del Orbe, 21, was struck in the head by a line drive in Tuesday's sixth inning.

Greensboro catcher Jose Behar tweeted afterward: "Prayin that my roommate/teammate/friend Ramon makes a full recovery. Took a screamin line drive to the head and suffered a skull fracture."

Del Orbe was signed by the Marlins out of the Dominican Republic and is in his fifth season with the organization.

Jose Fernandez feeling stronger as his season winds down

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- These may be the dog days of August, but Jose Fernandez is feeling anything but pooped. To the contrary. The 21-year-old rookie, after shutting down the Kansas City Royals last night, says he feels like a million bucks.

"For the second half of the year, I've been feeling a lot stronger than the first half," Fernandez said following yet another strong performance. "That's something that happened last year, too. Same thing happened last year. The first half I'm just doing my stuff. The second half I'm working a lot harder. I don't know why. I'm getting used to my body and myself. This is my second professional year and I'm feeling right now exactly how I felt last year."

No matter how strong Fernandez is feeling, though, the Marlins have no intention of modifying their original plans to cap his innings at 150-170 (though it's safe to assume he'll be permitted to take aim on the high end given how effortlessly he appears to be throwing). Fernandez has now thrown 139 2/3 innings, or just a few innings more than he totaled all of last season in the minors (134 1/3).

But his numbers appear to support his contention that he's "stronger" and better now than he was to start the season. His ERA since June 1: 1.65. His strikeout rate has been climbing. He averaged 8.6 K's/9 innings in April, 9.2 in May, 8.9 in June, 10.3 in July and 11.3 this month. Conversely, his WHIP has diminished each month: 1.292 in April, 1.200 in May, .928 in June, .857 in July and .850 this month.

It all jives with manager Mike Redmond's assessment that Fernandez is a different pitcher now than he was before his All-Star Game appearance.

"After the All-Star Game, I think he was a different guy," Redmond said. "I think that All-Star Game made him, if you can imagine, even more confident. I think he went up against the best and, even though he threw one inning, that was a huge inning for him confidence-wise. Really, since the All-Star Game, I think he's been a different pitcher. He's going out there going 'I want to be the best pitcher in the league.' And you know what? He's making a case."


Giancarlo Stanton is back on the bench as the Marlins close out the road trip. Justin Ruggiano, who is mired in an 0 for 42 hitless skid -- three shy of the single-season major league record for a position player -- is starting in right field. Stanton also sat out a game in Atlanta. Stanton has gone 5 for 29 on the road trip with 11 strikeouts and only one extra-base hit, a double.

1. Christian Yelich, lf; 2. Donovan Solano, 2b; 3. Logan Morrison, 1b; 4. Placido Polanco 3b; 5. Greg Dobbs, dh; 6. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss; 7. Jake Marisnick, cf; 8. Justin Ruggiano, rf; 9. Koyie Hill, c. Pitching: Jacob Turner.

August 13, 2013

Pirates, Royals could pass Marlins for longest playoff drought; Don Denkinger redux

 KANSAS CITY -- If the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals end their long dry spells to reach the postseason, they'll push the Marlins closer to the bottom on the list of teams that have gone the longest without playing October baseball.

The Pirates, who are leading the National League Central, appear to be in the best shape to end their playoff drought, which goes back to 1992. The streaking Royals, who improved to 19-5 since the All-Star break with last night's 6-2 victory over the Marlins, are on the fringe of contention in both the A.L. Central and wild-card races. The Royals have gone the longest -- since 1985 -- without appearing in the playoffs.

The Marlins, of course, last reached the postseason in 2003 when they won the World Series.

Other than the Pirates and Royals, the only other teams that have endured longer dry spells than the Marlins are the Toronto Blue Jays (1993) and Seattle Mariners (2001). All other 25 major league teams have made at least one postseason appearance since 2003.


While the Marlins are aware of Jose Dariel Abreu, the slugger from Cuba who has reportedly defected to Haiti, it's highly questionable that they would spend the kind of money it would take to sign him. Abreu is expected to command a sizeable contract, somewhere in the range of $45 million for six years, according to ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Bowden went on to speculate that the Marlins are "expected to go all out on Abreu," by I'm hearing that is unlikely to be the case given the financial constraints.


Chris Coghlan will begin his rehab assignment on Wednesday with Single A Jupiter and play third base for five innings, according to Marlins manager Mike Redmond.

Redmond said that if all goes well, Coghlan could be back in uniform with the Marlins on Sept. 1.


The Marlins' visit to Kauffman Stadium has brought back special memories for me. The last time I stepped foot in the place was in 1985 when I was a spectator for Game 6 of the World Series between the Royals and Cardinals.

Yes, the Don Denkinger game.

How I scored the ticket and who I accompanied is another story. I was working at the Wichita Eagle-Beacon at the time as a features writer and was assigned to write a profile on Bill James, who was living in a small northeast Kansas town and was just beginning to make a name for himself as a pioneer in sabermetrics. His "Bill James Baseball Abstract" had crossed over into the mainstream, but he was living somewhat reclusively in a humble home in the middle of nowhere.

At any rate, I interviewed James at his home for the story during the off day before Game 6. After wrapping up, he told me he had an extra ticket to sell for Game 6 if I was interested, and I gladly took him up on the offer. It was an upper deck seat on the third base side, but I wasn't complaining. The World Series is the World Series, and there's not a bad seat in what is arguably one of the best ballparks in the majors. James told me I would be sitting with him, which made it even better.

ArmbristerIt was only the second World Series game I had ever attended. The first was Game 3 of the 1975 World Series between the Reds and Red Sox. My father and I had upper deck seats in center field at Riverfront Stadium, so that vantage point wasn't exactly the best. But that game involved a controversial play that was replayed repeatedly for days. The Reds' Ed Ambrister dropped down a sacrifice bunt in the 10th, hesitated coming out of the box and caused what the Red Sox argued to be interference with Boston catcher Carlton Fisk. No call was made. The play stood, and the Reds won in the 10th.

Fast forward to 1985. The Cards held a 3-2 Series edge and took a 1-0 lead into the ninth when all heck broke loose. The Royals' Jorge Orta tapped a slow roller to first baseman Jack Clark, who flipped to Todd Worrell covering first. Orta looked out. Even from where James and I were sitting, he looked out. Replays would later confirm that Orta was definitely out. But Denkinger called him safe, the Royals rallied for two runs in the ninth for the victory, and they went on to defeat the Cardinals in Game 7 to capture the Series.

I don't remember a whole lot about the game -- or any specific conversation I had with James -- other than the Denkinger call. Both of us agreed immediately it looked like Denkinger had blown it, but the game turned so suddenly at that point that we dropped the discussion and turned our attention to what was happening on the field and the walkoff celebration that soon occurred.

It was the last time, until now, that I've been in the same ballpark where it all took place. I haven't seen or spoken to James since.

Here's the play (and below that is the story I wrote on James,courtesy of the Wichita Eagle):

Saturday, October 26, 1985 Edition: CITY EDITION Section: SPORTS Page: 1D Source: CLARK SPENCER, STAFF WRITER



It is the pathetic batting average of the St. Louis Cardinals, the team one victory shy of a World Series championship.

The number intrigues Bill James, oft-called the statistical genius of baseball.

He opens a baseball record book, then begins poring over Series statistics from past years, comparing championship teams with their Series batting averages.

"Baltimore in '83 hit only .213 and won the Series," he says. "Hmmm. This is interesting. The '74 A's hit .211, the '73 A's hit .212 and the '72 A's hit .209. ''Baltimore in '66 hit .200. L.A. hit .214 in '63. The '62 Yankees hit .199."

Enough already. James is in love with numbers. While the Series had a day off Friday, he was busy at home fiddling with baseball statistics. His latest numbers will be included in the 10th edition of "The Bill James Baseball Abstract" - a book that has made him something of a cult figure among baseball fanatics, particularly those who thrive on numbers.

JAMES LIVES in an old two-story house with a leaky roof in a quiet neighborhood about a 90-minute drive across the Kansas state line from Royals Stadium.

Wearing a blue plaid shirt, brown corduroys and blue slippers, James sat casually in his living room rocker and flipped through spiral notebooks full of figures and began offering his analysis of the Series thus far.

First the Royals, alive in the Series but barely.

''They're good when they absolutely have to win," James says. "They're good, smart veteran players, but they don't have that World Series ring. To me, the defining characteristic of the team is its experience."

James gives the Royals about a 40 percent chance of winning the last two games of the Series and the championship. He takes into consideration the Royals' home-field advantage and the 25 percent random chance of winning two in a row, among other factors. (In case you're wondering, James doesn't include momentum as a factor. "Momentum exists only when it's gone," he says.)

IF THE Royals should win tonight's sixth game, he thinks they would have a very good chance of beating John Tudor, expected to pitch the seventh game for the Cardinals if it goes that far.

''When I think of Tudor, I think of (Boston Red Sox pitcher Luis) Tiant in '75. He pitched two outstanding games (like Tudor already has) but the Reds got to him in the third game. Tudor plays a constant guessing game. All you'd have to do is guess right three times a game against him and you'd get him."

Through the first five games, the Cardinals have been somewhat of a statistical anomaly. St. Louis has a worse batting average, a worse earned run average and has scored fewer runs than the Royals.

Yet, the Cardinals are ahead in the key category, games won.

''I think the team that scores more runs in the Series wins it 85 percent of the time. That may not happen this year."

James attributes the Cardinals' success to many things, one of them being the ability of the team's hitters at the bottom of the order to get on base. He thinks that's been a key to the team's knack for making late-inning comebacks during the season and playoffs.

THE LOSS of Cardinals rookie speedster Vince Coleman to the dreaded tarp roller in the National League playoffs has not seriously affected the team, he says. But then, James isn't completely sold on Coleman as a leadoff hitter, anyway. "I have the thought that Coleman is not that beneficial to the team as a leadoff man. Coleman's on-base percentage this year was about .320, which was one of the lowest on the team. If you look at the runs scored by leadoff men during the season, the Cardinals would probably be one of the three or four bottom teams in the league."

Then there's the matter of opposing pitchers, who have gotten into the habit of walking George Brett. It doesn't bother James a bit.

''I think Brett was intentionally walked 31 times this year, and it almost never worked. If they just keep walking George Brett, it's eventually going to beat you."

ON THE controversy surrounding Royals Manager Dick Howser's decision to leave Charlie Leibrandt in during a disastrous ninth inning in Game 2, James first offers his definition for the word "blunder."

''You have to think of what is a blunder. It's an unconventional decision at a moment of the game that turns out badly. There are probably 40 factors that would play upon that decision (to remove a pitcher). Nobody in the world could calculate all that stuff. But what all of us know is what an unconventional decision is. It just seemed to me he (Howser) just sort of had a tunnel-vision approach to the inning."

James also can't understand why the Series is being described as boring.

''I don't chew my nails, but if I did, they'd be gone. It's been a very tense Series to me." Finally, James thinks the Royals have "a good chance of winning it all."

Then again, James is a Royals fan.

August 12, 2013

Giancarlo Stanton can't explain road woes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Giancarlo Stanton has gone cold on the road.

Stanton, who once awed crowds from Colorado to California with gargantuan blasts, can’t explain where the firepower has gone when the Marlins are away from home.

“I have no clue,” Stanton said. “It’s unexplainable.”

Statistically, it’s dumbfounding.

Of the 210 major league players with at least 150 plate appearances on the road this season, Stanton’s .301 slugging percentage ranks 199th.

That’s no misprint. Stanton, who is known for his physique and pop, has a higher road slugging percentage than only 10 other players.

He’s belted only three home runs on the road -- versus 10 at home -- and two of those came in a June 17 game in Arizona. He has a .302 batting average at home but is hitting only .182 on the road. He’s hit only one homer over his past 24 road games entering Monday.

“Usually it’s the opposite,” Stanton said of his road success.

Stanton has gone 3 for 20 with only one RBI on the current road trip, and was benched for one game in Atlanta with the belief the mental break would do him some good.

“I haven’t really been right all year, so those numbers are just coincidence,” Stanton said of his road/home differential.


Former Marlins manager John Boles stopped in to chat with Mike Redmond before Monday's game at Kauffman Stadium. Boles, who is now senior advisor to the general manager for the Kansas City Royals, once managed Redmond on the Marlins.

"One of the things I learned the most from Bolesy was he was always honest, he was a straight shooter," Redmond said. "He told you exactly where you stood. It's one of the things I try to do as the manager, is I try to be honest with these guys. I learned that from him."

Boles, who managed the Marlins in 1996 and again from 1999-2001, can relate to the growing pains Redmond is now experiencing in his first year at the helm of the Marlins. Boles was in charge of the dugout when A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster and Brad Penny were arriving on the scene, and Josh Beckett was working his way up in the minors.

"Sounds like (they) have some good young arms," said Boles, who still follows the Marlins closely. "We didn't hit much, either."

Boles said that, with time, the Marlins should be a force again.

"It's just a matter of time," Boles said. "You've got to go through the growing pains. Once that happens, everything's roses."

August 10, 2013

Mike Redmond not a fan of Waffle House

ATLANTA -- There may be no better breakfast expert than Marlins manager Mike Redmond, who once belonged to a group of Marlins players who called themselves the "Breakfast Club." Members included Mike Lowell, Andy Fox and Brian Banks. They scouted out the best breakfast diners in every major league city and gathered there every morning on game days to get their fill of eggs, bacon and toast. Not on the list, apparently: Waffle House.

WafflesRedmond did everything but held his nose and groan when he was asked about a Waffle House that opened inside Turner Field on the same day the Braves began their 14-game winning streak. Some fans are even crediting the newly installed Waffle House for the Braves' hot streak.

"I heard that about the Waffle House," Redmond said. "I think that's crazy. Have you ever been to Waffle House? Wow. I can't believe it's in the ballpark."

Redmond said he's dined at Waffle House "a couple of times before, and it didn't treat me well."

Redmond said he prefers a couple of other popular breakfast establishments, such as Cracker Barrel, to Waffle House, which seem to be located at every interstate exit in the Atlanta area. In fact, near the hotel where I'm staying, there are actually TWO Waffle Houses at the same exit -- one on either side.

Safe to say, Redmond probably won't be doing any endorsements for the breakfast chain anytime soon.