Monday, June 29, 2009

Russell Branyan Left Naked in Mariners Lineup

Just when Mariners slugger Russell Branyan had remade himself from a swing-and-miss whiff machine into a .300 hitting power slugger -- and was on pace to hit more then 40 homers -- he has been left naked in the lineup due to the departure of third baseman Adrian Beltre for shoulder surgery.

Without Beltre's big bat behind him, Branyan will be lucky to see anything to hit for the rest of the year. It will be very telling if Branyan fails to swat any longballs during the Mariners upcoming visit to the New York City wind tunnel known as new Yankee stadium.

Pity that the Mariners front office this year was more interested in playing travel agent for Ken Griffey's feel good farewell tour and dog-and-pony show than putting a winning team on the field.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cubs Go Easy on Closer Candidate Angel Guzman

To whatever degree the Cubs are serious about moving reliever Angel Guzman to the closer's role, his move to the disabled list only seems to underscore it.

Though he has only one save, Guzman, 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA, is surreptitiously regarded as the closer of the future, given the failings of setup man Carlos Marmol and closer Kevin Gregg. Guzman will keep his closer-in-waiting status as long as the soreness in his right triceps doesn't develop into a bigger problem, and by sidelining him manager Lou Piniella is making sure it doesn't.

Guzman may be a key player in the playoff run.

In other Cubs reports, injured third baseman Aramez Ramirez spent significant time swinging a small bat off a tee in the training room at Wrigley Field over the weekend, and continues to hope for a return to action shortly after the All-Star break.

But no promises.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wood Wonders

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Joba Chamberlain Takes Page from Sam McDowell

Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain -- with his promising form of two years ago still eluding him -- has taken a page from the life of former major league strikeout artist "Sudden" Sam McDowell.

Perhaps he should put the page back.

Under the watchful eye of pitching coach Dave Eiland, the 23-year-old Chamberlain has been expending maximum effort by heaving about a dozen, 80-yard longballs from the outfield to backup catcher Francisco Cervelli as part of his pre-start warmup throws. As demonstrated by McDowell, who played for the Yankees in 1973-'74, the practice stretches the muscles and tires the arm to help reduce overthrowing during the game.

The problem is that it worked for McDowell, but not for Chamberlain, if there's any indication in Chamberlain's last outing versus the Mets, when he he hit two batters and walked five in the process of throwing 100 pitches before being yanked at the end of the fourth inning.

Watching Chamberlain warm up from the outfield, it's a wonder he has anything left for the game. Like McDowell, however, who won 20 games for the Indians in 1970, Chamberlain was in effectively wild in the outing, giving up only one hit as the Yankees went on to win the 9-8 thriller.

Speculation continues to mount that unless Chamberlain finds himself soon, he may be found back in the bullpen, which would be a severe setback in his development but potentially a practical necessity for the Yankees if the team is to remain at the top of the American League Eastern Divison.

Phil Hughes is waiting in the wings.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Power Stroke Continues to Elude Derrick Lee

During his team's recent stopover at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Cubs first baseman Derrick Lee attempted to take advantage of the short fences to practice his power stroke.

Lee repeatedly reached the stands during batting practice, with some balls traveling well beyond 400 feet. However, once play started Lee again morphed into a six-foot-five, 200-pound singles hitter with gap power and little more.

Though Lee's average is now approaching a respectable .270 after a slow start, his home run count languishes in single figures, as he manages to hit one in only about every 30 atbats, well less than half the pace of the 30-40 annual outputs that preceded his 2007 wrist injury.

Lee has failed to hit more than 22 homers since 2005, when he belted 46. At 33, his days as a power hitter may be over.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Red Sox Petitioned to Promote Clay Buchholz

Following a recent outing in which Red Sox pitching prospect Clay Buchholz retired the first 24 batters he faced en route to a 3-0 record on the year for Triple-A Pawtucket, has launched a petition drive to urge the Boston front office to promote Buchholz to the Red Sox rotation.

Though major league teams have never demonstrated a willingness to respond to petition drives, the influence of fans cannot be entirely disregarded. And as Buchholz is demonstrably superior to Dice K and Brad Penny, and already has a major-league no-hitter to his credit, the petitioners are hopeful that they can have some bearing on the potential for Buchholz's promotion.

The petition can be signed at