Pearce, Rasmus Sent to Minors
Steve Pearce of the Pittsburgh Pirates, despite having twice as many home runs than any other Pirate, has been sent down to Triple A (Indianapolis). Last year, Hunter Pence and Ryan Braun had great springs, but were back in the minors in April and May respectively. So we may see the return of Pearce sooner rather than later. He had 4 home runs and 10 RBI's to lead the Pirates this spring, but apparently the Pirates have a set outfield in Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and probably Nate McLouth who is having the best spring of the other outfielders.
Colby Rasmus, who had been mentioned in the media as the replacement for Jim Edmonds for the St. Louis Cardinals lineup for 2008, with 2 home runs and 4 RBIs this spring and a .273 batting average, has been sent to Triple A as well (Memphis). Brian Barton has had an excellent spring and may be on the opening day roster with his 2 home runs, 8 RBIs, .349 batting average, and .674 slugging percentage which is second this spring; only Albert Pujols and his .775 slugging percentage ahead of him.
With Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick, and Skip Shumaker having excellent springs, they should be all set in the outfield. Chris Duncan is having a mediocre spring with a .136 batting average: 1 hit in 26 times at bat. However, he will still be in the outfield for the Red Birds this season. Juan Gonzalez has apparently lost his chance to be in the opening day outfield because of an admominal muscle injury, and it is time for him to retire and wait to see if he makes the Hall of Fame in five years. He spent more time on the trainer's table than he did on the field this spring so that is par for the course for Gonzalez who can't seem to avoid the injury jinx.
It could be the end of the road for Tim Raines Jr., who was sent to minor league camp by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday. He did nothing this spring to show he will ever play in the majors again hitting .043 with only 3 singles in 21 at bats. He started his career in 1998, and has been in the minor leagues for ten years. He was called up on three different occasions by the Baltimore Orioles, and has a .213 lifetime major league average in 160 at bats with no home runs and 7 RBI's.
The highlight of his minor league career was in 2001 when he stole 81 bases for Frederick of the Carolina League. He may still be young in baseball years at 28 and I have a world of respect for him toiling in the minors for so long but it looks like he won't ever make it back to the major leagues. Let us hope he proves me wrong.
Casey Smith of Phillies In No-Win Situation
Casey Smith, who will be 29 today, is making a bid to win a job in the Philadelphia Phillies infield this spring by hitting .389 and hitting 2 home runs and driving in 6 runs. He leads the team in slugging this spring with a .833 mark with Ryan Howard next at .721. He has one little problem though: the Phillies don't need a second baseman, since they already have the best second baseman in baseball in Chase Utley.
Smith has hit as many home runs in 18 spring at bats, as he hit in 393 at bats last season in the minor leagues with two. He has hit only 19 home runs in 2627 minor league at bats. This brings up the question of whether he is only a flash in the pan with a hot spring or if he is ready to contribute to the Phillies this season as a backup infielder since he will get little playing time even though he has played all four infield positions in the minor leagues.
With Glen Dobbs, Wes Helms, and Eric Bruntlett ahead of him as backup infielders he has very little shot at getting much playing time even if the Philies carry enough infielders to include Smith on the roster.
Volstad 3-0 This Spring For Florida Marlins
Chris Volstad is making a strong bid to win a spot in the starting rotation for the Florida Marlins with a 3-0 record and a 1.13 ERA this spring. Considering he only has 42 innings of AA ball experience after pitching for 4 Rookie and A ball teams, he has pitched very well. Even if he doesn't make the team, he should be one of the first called up during the season if they need a starter.
Dodgers Have Plethora of Good Outfielders
Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit one of the eight home runs hit by the Dodgers and Astros in their 12-10 loss to the Astros. Ethier, Matt Kemp and Jason Repko have all had excellent springs, with Ethier and Repko driving in 13 runs each this spring while Kemp has driven in 12. The problem is that Andruw Jones is not going to be sitting on the bench so that means one of the other outfielders will be on the bench everyday. Joe Torre has the pleasant problem of deciding which of these players will start everyday and which ones will be platooned. Ethier and Repko lead the majors in runs batted in this spring.
Around the Bases
Oliver Perez pitched five shutout innings in the New York Mets' 7-3 win over the Washington Nationals while striking out five batters. Mets should have a strong rotation especially if Pedro Martinez is ready to pitch by start of the season. Perez, Johan Santana, John Maine, and Martinez are as good of a starting four as there is in baseball but the fifth spot will probably taken by Mike Pelfrey, who is 0-1 with a 5.54 ERA this spring. Bartolo Colon only retired two batters before leaving the game yesterday against the New York Yankees. Colon gave up 4 runs, 3 hits and 3 walks before leaving the game with a 16.88 ERA. Andy Pettitte pitched well enough to win and take his first win of the spring in the 8-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Dana Eveland of the Oakland A's has a real shot at winning the fifth spot in the starting rotation with a 2-0 record this spring and a 1.20 ERA. Greg Smith was sent down to the minors despite having an excellent spring with a 1-0 record and a 1.38 ERA. I am watching Smith closely because he is from Alexandria, Louisiana which is across the Red River from Pineville where we lived till we moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in August. He pitched for LSU and was in the Diamondbacks system until he was traded to the A's. Smith only has 52 innings of Triple A experience so may be the main reason he was sent down but he should be back if any starters are placed on the DL during the season.
Ichiro Suzuki was 0 for 5 in the 17-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. He is 4 for 38 and hitting .105 and since the season starts next week his slump should be of more concern the longer it goes. The real story of the game was the Brewers scoring 17 runs and hammering 25 hits. Eight Brewers had at least two hits in the contest. The star of the game was Brendan Katin, the designated hitter for the Brewers, driving in 6 runs with two doubles and a three run home run. Katin hit 24 home runs and drove in 94 runs for Huntsville in AA last season. This game shows how strong offensively the Brewers are as they didn't even have Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, or J.J. Hardy playing in this game.
Chris Narveson (2-0, 0.57 ERA) is making it even more difficult for Ned Yost to choose who will be on his starting rotation this season. The Brewers already have eight starting pitchers on their depth chart at mlb.com with only Yovani Gallardo possibly not ready for opening day. Chris Capuano is 21st at mlb.com Brewers site in ERA with a 9.00 mark this spring. Jeff Suppan has an even worse ERA at 11.25. Ben Sheets is 19th with a 6.55 ERA and Dave Bush has an 8.31 ERA. The best ERA's of their starters this spring is Narveson with the 0.57 mark, Manny Parra at 0.64, Claudio Vargas with 2.40 and Carlos Villanueva with a 2.57 mark.
Shawn Estes (0-3, 15.00 ERA) is not likely to make the San Diego Padres out of spring training. Estes was trying to make a comeback after only pitching 6 innings since 2005. The Minnesota Twins may should have held on to Johan Santana until midseason, as it looks now like Francisco Liriano, with a 1-2 record and 8.10 ERA, is not ready to help the Twins. As if that wasn't enough bad news, Scott Baker who has pitched only 4 innings, now has the flu and may miss his Thursday start, which he needs to make to be ready for the season.
Boof Bonser leads the starters in ERA this spring with a 3.00 mark, Kevin Slowey has a 5.91 ERA, Glen Perkins is at 6.30, Francisco Liriano is at 8.10, and Livan Hernandez has a 9.69 ERA. When Boof Bonser is your best starter in spring training that has to be a concern for manager Ron Gardenhire.
To make things worse, the offense is not hitting that well this spring. Justin Morneau has one home run in 39 at bats this spring. Mike Lamb is hitting for average at .381 but has only driven in one run. Second base and shortstop will be weak offensively with no second baseman in spring training hitting higher than .250 and two of them are hitting under .200. Adam Everett should be the good field and no hit shortstop he usually is. Delwyn Young and Michael Cuddyer, who should be starters in the outfield have combined for one home run in 68 at bats this spring. To their credit the Twins do have a 10-9 winning record this spring.
Players From the Past: Harvey Haddix
On May 26, 1959, Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitched the best game in history of baseball when he pitched 12 perfect innings against the Milwaukee Braves. If it wasn't for the perfect game, Danny Murtaugh would have called in Elroy Face from the bullpen. Face would go on to have his fantastic 18-1 record that season.
The Braves led off the 13th inning third baseman when Don Hoak made a throwing error enabling Felix Mantilla to reach first base and become the first Braves hitter to reach base. Haddix then intentionally walked Hank Aaron placing runners at first and second base. Joe Adcock followed with a home run but passed Aaron on the bases making the final score 1-0 instead of 2-0.
Lew Burdette the mound opponent of Haddix on that historic night gave up 12 hits in 13 innings to take his 8th win of the season. Two years earlier Burdette had won 3 games for the Braves when they beat the New York Yankees in the 1957 World Series. In 1993 Braves pitcher Bob Buhl said the Braves pitchers in the bullpen could see what was coming and placed a towel in the bullpen in a certain position to signal the Braves hitters as to what kind of pitch was coming. If this is true and I have no reason to believe it isn't then Haddix pitched an even greater game if the Braves couldn't hit his pitching even though they knew what was coming.
Harvey "Kitten" Haddix picked up his nickname of Kitten when another pitcher on the Cardinals named Harry Brecheen was nicknamed the Cat because of his fast reflexes when catching comebackers through the box and Haddix was just as good. Brecheen already had the nickname of Cat, so Haddix was called Kitten.
Haddix was born September 18, 1925 in Medway, Ohio. He had a 20-9 record with the Cardinals in his first full season in 1953 so was 28 by the end of the season. In 1954 he won 18 games but even though he pitched in majors through the 1965 season he never won more than 13 games in a season the rest of his career.
In 1959 the season of his perfect game he had a 12-12 record and a 3.13 ERA. He pitched for the Cardinals, Phillies, Redlegs (Reds were called Redlegs back then) Pirates and Orioles in his 14 year career. His lifetime record was 136-113 with a 3.63 ERA.
Haddix hit four home runs during his career but in a very unusual stat for a pitcher he hit 9 triples in 798 at bats while catcher Johnny Estrada has never hit a triple in 2026 at bats. Haddix also had 4 stolen bases 4 more than Estrada who has never stolen a base in the major leagues.
Haddix was a three time All Star and won three Gold Gloves.
Haddix played his final game on August 28, 1965 which was 3 weeks before his 40th birthday. He was a pitching coach for the Mets, Reds, Red Sox, Indians and Pirates before retiring. He died January 8, 1994 in Springfield, Ohio at the age of 68.