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Brewers and Cardinals Advance to 2011 NLCS, Plus Recap of Carpenter vs. Halladay

Saturday October 8, 2011

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  In what had been shaping up to be very tight league division series, MLB fans were treated to not one or two, but rather three game fives this year.  With the Tigers advancing last night to face the Rangers, it was time for the National League to decide its championship series competitors.  The Diamondbacks were in Milwaukee to face the Brewers, while the Phillies were at home to host the Cardinals.  Both games ended in on run leads, with the Cardinals and Brewers pulling out the wins.  Let’s recap the MLB action from Friday night:

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies: NLDS Game Five

The best way that I can sum up this game is as follows.  Chris Carpenter was taking the mound, facing off against ex-Blue Jays teammate Roy Halladay.  This was a game that had a great deal of hype and buzz and excitement surrounding it.  Games of this nature usually end up disappointing.  I have seen all too often two great pitchers matchup, with one of the starters leaving early or getting hit hard.  This one was one of those games though that ended up exceeding expectations.  Carpenter won it, pitching a complete game shutout, three hitter, no walks and three strikeouts.  About as good of a performance as you will see in baseball, let a lone the playoffs.  Halladay on the other hand was just as strong, finishing with 8 IP, 6 hits allowed, 1 ER, 1 BB and 7 strikeouts.  Ryan Madson came in for a clean 9th inning, striking out a pair.  The only blemish for Halladay came in the first, when he gave up a leadoff triple to Rafael Furcal, who proceeded to score on a Skip Schumaker double.  An Albert Pujols intentional walk- otherwise, an almost perfect day as well for Halladay.  The Cardinals stranded more runners on base (7), while the Phillies only left 4 on base.  Carpenter did hit Chase Utley, but managed to complete the game unscathed.  Carpenter was very efficient in this outing, requiring only 110 pitches for the complete game.  Halladay on the other hand needed 126 pitches to get through six.  It is rare to get only one run in the 1st inning and to make the lead stick.  But Chris Carpenter did just that.  Now the Cardinals advance and continue their Cinderella run (blame the rally squirrel).  Given the importance of the game and intensity, you would be hard-pressed to find a better pitched baseball game.  Hats off to both starters, as each had an incredible outing last night.  But Carpenter was the better arm on this day and as a result, the Cardinals break through while the Phillies stun the baseball world by exiting the playoffs in the first round.   

Howard to have MRI:   After the game, the baseball world was buzzing about Ryan Howard.  Requiring help to get off the field, Howard was on crutches.  Reports indicate that he may have tore his Achilles tendon.  Howard will have an MRI today to confirm the severity of his injury.  This type of injury can typically take 6-9 months approximately of recovery time.  With the Phillies possibly losing their top star for a good portion of next season, things just back to worse for the one time heavy favorite to win the 2011 World Series.  Roy OswaltJimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson may all not be back, and Cole Hamels also has an impending free agent status that will need to be dealt with.  For a team that was expected to do so much, greater uncertainly lies ahead as the team attempts to recover and figure out what went wrong.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Five

 The second battle of the aces of the day featured Yovani Gallardo opposing Ian Kennedy.  Both pitchers did their jobs in this one, going six inning apiece.   Kennedy giving up 2 runs on 5 hits, Gallardo 1 run on 6 hits.  Both walked 2 and struck out 5.  Gallardo’s only blemish on the day was a solo home run to Justin Upon in the 3rd.  The Brewers led this one from the 6th on, until the 9th.  Saito and Rodriguez each earned holds with a clean inning of work each.  With closer John Axford on to pitch the 9th, he gave up the tying run to send this one to the 10th.  Axford ended up pitching 2 innings for the win.  After setup man David Hernandez pitched 2 clean innings, it was up to closer J.J. Putz to hold the Brewers in check in the 10th.  The unlikely hero was Nyjer Morgan, who got the game-winning hit to score Carlos Gomez to send the Brewers to a 3-2 win and a meeting with the Cardinals in the NLCS.  While the Diamondbacks were the feel-good team of this year’s playoffs, the clock struck midnight on them.  The Brewers, stocked to make a run this year, fulfill a part of their destiny by advancing.  The Diamondbacks go home feeling good about themselves.  A team that was expected to continued rebuilding grouped together, and made a run that few if any in the baseball world could have expected.  Kirk Gibson and his boys should proud when reflecting their on season.

The Cardinals are Flying in:  The Brewers get to stay home for game one of their NLCS matchup with the Cardinals.  Zack Greinke is set to go for the Brewers, with the Cardinals starter still TBD.  The Brewers are the favored squad, with their balance of sluggers, top starting pitching and lockdown bullpen.  The Cardinals now take on the role of the Diamondbacks, the underdogs that everyone is rooting for.  With the Rally Squirrel being the talk of the town (don’t ask…), do the Cardinals have the firepower to match up with the powerful Brewers?  This series will come down to managing.  Tony LaRussa vs. Ron Roenicke.  While Roenicke has an extensive coaching resume, he is still a fairly raw manager.  LaRussa is as crafty as they come and my money is on St. Louis making a return trip to the World Series.  The Cardinals have a strong offense, led by Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.  The team has received good to great starting pitching and their bullpen gets the job done.  The Brewers are the favorites on paper.  I see this one going the full seven games, with the Cardinals moving on to face the Rangers in the World Series.  The road to the World Series begins tonight in Arlington, as Detroit and Justin Verlander take on C.J. Wilson and the Rangers.  A great postseason so far, that only promises to get better.

 

 

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Tigers advance to ALCS, Yankees Go Home and Ventura Named White Sox Manager

Friday October 7, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  Thursday was an exciting day in the world of Major League Baseball.  The Detroit Tigers were set to face-off against the Yankees in New York.  Game five of their ALDS series, all tied up 2-2.  Winner moves on to face the Texas Rangers, loser goes home.  The Yankees has their AL ROY candidate Ivan Nova on the mound, with the Tigers relying on Doug Fister.  In the wake of the only game on Thursday’s schedule, Kenny Williams and the Chicago White Sox shocked the baseball world by naming Robin Ventura their new manager.   A wild and crazy day indeed.

 

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Five

 The highly anticipating pitching matchup never took place in this one.  Fister did his part for the Tigers, tossing 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 1 ER, 2 walks while striking out 5.  Max Scherzer and Joaquin Benoit earned holds while Jose Valverde earned the save with a lockdown 1-2-3 9th inning.  Ivan Nova lasted only 2 innings, giving up 2 runs (back to back solo home runs in the first to Don Kelly and Delmon Young), while allowing 3 hits and striking out 3.  Not taking any chances, Joe Girardi was active with his bullpen all night, sending out Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, C.C. Sabathia, Rafael Soriano, Dave Robertson and Mariano Rivera.  This game boiled down to execution and squeaking out runs.

The Tigers, underdogs going into the series, were able to pull out a 3-2 win.  Fister got the win while Nova took the loss.  Sabathia, ironically enough, ended up giving up allowing the game winning run in the 7th.  Despite getting more hits than the Tigers (10-8), the Yankees left a whopping 20 men on base last night, while the Tigers left 13.   The Tigers did lose Delmon Young during the game to injury (apparent oblique strain), making his status for the immediate future uncertain.  Young, along with Fister, were the difference makers in this game.  Both mid-season acquisitions by GM Dave Dombrowski, helped the Tigers win the Central and advance to the ALCS.  Brian Cashman and the Yankees stood pat at the trade deadline, and were left standing in the wings once again in the playoffs. 

The game marked the likely end of Jorge Posada‘s Yankee (and possibly major league) career.  The future hall-of-famer endured his toughest year ever in the majors.  But for all his troubles in the regular season, Posada ended up shining in this year’s playoffs- finishing with a .429 average.  The game also possibly marked the last game of C.C. Sabathia’s tenure in New York.  With his opt-out clause looming this off-season, there is a chance that Sabathia may jump ship to another team.  Highly unlikely, given his apparent love for New York and the Yankees dire need for his arm.  But as Alex Rodriguez proved yet again this year (.111 AVG in the playoffs, with 3 strikeout on the night, including the game ending at-bat), big contracts do not necessarily guarantee victories.  With 6 years and approximately $143 million left on the books (excluding incentives), the Yankees will likely be eating A-Rod pie for some time to come.

With this game in the books, questions now centre on the immediate future of each team.  The Tigers move on to the ALCS, to face the Texas Rangers.  This will be an exciting series and a big challenge for the Tigers.  With the Texas-sized offense in place, the Tigers’ pitching staff (led by AL pitching triple crown winner and likely Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander and Fister) will need to be stellar.  Both teams have strong bullpens that will be relied upon heavily in the series.  This series will boil down to whether the Tigers offense can muster enough runs to compete with Texas, and on the same token, how well the Texas rotation can contain Detroit.  The Tigers have enjoyed a great run to-date, but my crystal ball is showing a Texas return trip to the World Series.  One year wiser and more experienced, Ron Washington’s team should be able to win this out in six games.  But keep one thing in mind:  whenever Jim Leyland is involved, anything can happen.  The Tigers made it this far for a reason and in a short series…. you never know. 

 

Robin Ventura Named Chicago White Sox Manager

The talk of the day yesterday was the White Sox big announcement.  GM Kenny Williams announced that the team had hired former third baseman, Robin Ventura as the White Sox new manager.  Ventura, 44, spent 10 years with the White Sox as a player.  Most recently he was retained by the team as a “Special Advisor”.  Now, Ventura with no managerial experience to his resume, takes over control of the team on the field.  Many names were thrown around as possible candidates, including former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, former players and currently employed coaches Sandy Alomar Jr. and Dave Martinez, as well as hall of famer and current minor league manager Ryne Sandberg.  Personally, I expected the White Sox to hire Martinez or Sandberg.  Given the success of the Rays, Martinez as bench coach to manager Joe Maddon is highly considered in the game.  Sandberg, on the other hand, has a proven track record managing in the minors and has strong ties to Chicago (obviously).  Why then the choice of the inexperienced Ventura?

A couple of reasons come to mind.  Firstly, the White Sox endured a very difficult 2011 season in missing the playoffs, despite heavy preseason expectations.  Nothing distracts a fan base better than brining in a well known and loved name.  Ventura was one of the most popular White Sox players in his day, and his hire at some level will help appease the fans.  As well, a shocking signing of this nature has an effective way of masking the results of the season gone by, as well as steering the press to focus on 2012 and how Ventura will perform as a manager, rather than analyze the season that had just been completed.  A stroke of genius in my book.  Another reason to consider, which is a guess on my part, is that Williams is not interested in hiring a big and powerful name that will overshadow him.  After enduring years of arguments and power struggles with former manager Ozzie Guillen, Williams was looking for a manager that would first and foremost listen to him and know his role in the organization.  While Ryne Sandberg is my book is a far more qualified individual for the job, his stature in the game (as well as Chicago) would have relegated Williams to the back seat, had Ryno been named the new White Sox manager. 

The ironic part is that while hiring Ventura clearly solidifies Kenny William’s place in the White Sox food chain, it may have the strongest effect of sweeping him out of town soon.  The lustre of the White Sox 2005 World Series championship has long faded.  With a large payroll and unsuccessful ballclub, it is “put up or shut up” time for Williams and the White Sox.  If the team gets off to a slow start, and/or has another failed campaign, I fully expect Kenny Williams to be reassigned or dismissed from his post.  If results on the field are the most important factor for Williams to keep his job, then he should have looked for the best candidate to guide his team.  The Ventura signing may make White Sox fans feel all soft and cuddly at the onset.  But losing games will change that in a hurry.  With Frank Thomas being discussed as a possible candidate for a role on the squad, the 2012 White Sox coaching staff may look like a reunion from years gone by.  I enjoyed watching Ventura as a player and had he been groomed as a coach for this position, perhaps he would have been prepared to succeed.  But coming in raw, the new manager will have to learn quickly on the job.  A move made by Williams’ ego, but not his sensibility in my estimation. 

 

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap of Wednesday October 5th

Thursday October 6, 2011

 

 

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  Wednesday was a fun night of playoff baseball.  We saw two close games for teams on the verge of elimination, and unusual players stepping up to take the spotlight and assist their team to victory.

Philadelphia Phillies at St.Louis Cardinals: NLDS Game Four

Going into the game, I thought that the superior team, the Phillies, would win and advance to the ALCS.  However, in baseball the best team doesn’t always win.  What the Cardinals showed tonight is that they weren’t ready to have their season come to an end.  They’ve come so far this year and they weren’t going to go home without a good fight.  What was impressive to me is how clean of a ballgame they played.  Nobody wanted to make a mistake, as evidenced by the Cardinals zero errors.  They just seemed upbeat and confident that they’d win.

The Phillies got off to a fast start in the top of the first with a double, followed by a triple, followed by a single.  However, Lance Berkman came through in the bottom of the inning with a two out RBI double.  Edwin Jackson turned in an impressive performance going six innings while only giving up two runs.  Jackson only gave up two hits, singles, after the big first inning.  In the fourth inning, Oswalt walked Berkman then hit Matt Holliday.  To make things worse, David Freese crushed a one out double down into the left field corner to put the Cardinals up 3-2.  You could tell Oswalt didn’t have his best stuff tonight.  Sometimes pitchers have those days where it looks like they are only seventy percent of what they should be.  Well, Oswalt had one of those days.

Then, in the fifth inning something magical happened.  If you missed it, on Tuesday a squirrel ran across the field at Busch Stadium in St.Louis.  Well today, either the same squirrel or one of his relatives made another unwelcome appearance.  This time, the squirrel actually ran across home plate during Skip Schumaker‘s at bat.  When asked about the incident after the game, Charlie Manuel had this to say,” “There’s not too much I can do about a squirrel running across the field, I don’t know what I can do about that. Of course, being from the south and being a squirrel hunter, if I had a gun there, might have done something. I’m a pretty good shot.”  Hopefully, the Busch Stadium squirrel family will make a surprise appearance Friday in Philadelphia, where most likely, they’ll be booed.

Even after his RBI double, David Freese’s day wasn’t done yet.  In the bottom of the sixth, Freese got a 0-1 fastball, which he belted to center field to add two more runs to the Cardinals lead.  Guess you could say he really iced the Phillies chances, eh? Anyone?  Moving on, the Phillies scored one more run in the eighth off of a Fernando Salas wild pitch but the Cards held on for a 5-3 win.  The series moves back to Philly for Game 5 Friday at 8:30 PM ET.  Roy Halladay takes the mound against Chris Carpenter tomorrow in a one of the better pitching faceoffs in baseball.  It’s sure to be an exciting, pressure packed game which will determine which team will continue their season in the NLCS.

Milwaukee Brewers at Arizona Diamondbacks: NLDS Game Four

Out of all of the first round matchups this year, there’s no doubt that this one has been my favorite.  Both teams play with such crazy energy and enthusiasm unmatched by any other two teams.   If you like watching offense, this was the game for you.  These teams have some pretty interesting stories of how they got to this point in the playoffs, but I can’t put enough emphasize on much fun these teams are to watch.  Both teams have a player the fans love, in Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Roberts, and great position players to build their team around.

The Brewers led things off with a Ryan Braun RBI double in the top half of the first.  When the Diamondbacks came up to bat, everything went wrong for Randy Wolf.  He loaded up the bases and with two outs, Ryan Roberts A.K.A Tatman poked a grand slam just over the left field fence.  Then the next at-bat, on a 3-1 pitch, Chris Young homered.  The rest of the game was a slugfest, with D-Backs players crushing the Brewers pitchers.  Aaron Hill homered and Colin Cowgill brought in two runs with a single.  Chris Young finished 2 for 3, with 2 HR, 3 RBI, and 1 BB.  In my opinion, the hero of the game was Ryan Roberts.  His grand slam gave the D-Backs an early lead and their pitchers a nice cushion to work with.  Even though the Brewers scored six runs, it wasn’t enough to get the win.  Final score: D-Backs: 10 Brewers: 6.  The series is tied up 2-2 and will head back to Milwaukee where Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy will face off in a battle of two of the game’s top righties.  Game time on Friday at 5:00 PM ET.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): In order to write all of this, I needed to step away from my TV and computer, take a deep breath, and sleep for a while.  The excitement of last night was almost too much for my fragile heart to bear, so the time away to clear my head was necessary.

I find myself repeating, “What just happened??” in my head.  What happened last night was unfathomable.  Not only were there two teams in each league tied for the Wild Card, but both teams that had been leading, suffered epic failures along the way.  Go back to September 1, and the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Atlanta Braves held an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams chances of reaching the postseason were over 99%.  Nobody could have actually predicted seriously at that time, that both the Cards and Rays would win the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season.  Especially not the way that the AL Wild Card was eventually decided.

The Rays started David Price against the Yankees.  Sounded promising enough, until Price gave up 6 runs in 4 innings.  The game was pretty much over with the score at 7-0 in the Rays’ half of the 8th inning.  3 runs plated in the bottom of the 8th, then Evan Longoria took over the game.  A 3-run home run put them within one run, and Tropicana Field exploded.  Then with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, Rays manager Joe Maddon made one of the gutsiest calls I have ever seen: pinch hit with Dan Johnson.  Johnson was 9 for 90 this season.  He hadn’t gotten a hit since April.  He had 36 hits since 2008.  With one swing of the bat, the pandemonium levels in Florida had never been so high.  Then, as if he hadn’t done enough already, Longoria blasted another home run, this one of the walk-off variety that would vault the Rays to the postseason.

What hasn’t been said about Boston and their collapse? It has been covered by so many people from so many angles.  You could blame the whole organization from top to bottom, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  What happened was an epic collapse, capped off by a 2 out rally by the Baltimore Orioles of all teams in the bottom of the 9th inning of game 162.  The Orioles had nothing to play for but pride, and the love of the game.  Robert Andino’s walk-off single to win the ball game will be remembered by Boston fans for years to come.

Hunter Pence hit a bloop-ish 120 ft infield single to win it for the Phillies over the Braves.  In the 13th inning.  After Craig Kimbrel, the super rookie, blew a lead in the 9th inning.  The game saw the Phillies march out nine pitchers and the Braves used 8, including Scott Linebrink, who eventually gave up the winning run in the 13th.

Chris Carpenter twirled a gem for the Cardinals, a 2 hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and 1 walk against the Astros.  This performance sealed at the very least a one-game playoff game against the Braves had they won.

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

The Rays come in with unlimited momentum, and a pitching staff that is so deep, that manager Joe Maddon is having a difficult time naming the starter for game 1.  While Matt Moore seems to be the obvious choice to me, Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis could be viable options as well.**  James Shields would have to go on short rest, and Price pitched last night, so one of the other three will be chosen to go against C.J. Wilson and a Rangers offense that is ready to take on all comers.  Shields will go game 2 and Price go the 3rd.  Beyond that is a toss-up.  For the Rangers, Wilson will go Game 1, Derek Holland game 2, and still undetermined the rest of the way.

Adrian Beltre had a phenomenal September, earning AL Player of the month, and Mike Napoli has been dominant all year, bashing home runs all over the field.  Michael Young worked his way into the MVP race after a tumultuous offseason that saw him switch positions yet again.  Josh Hamilton is as dangerous as ever, and Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are still hitting home runs at a high rate.  Kinsler actually became only the third 2nd baseman to join the 30-30 club, with 32 HR and 30 SB.  The Rays may not have the prodigious bombers that the Rangers have, but they have athletic, smart ballplayers that never say die.  They ultimately seem like a team of destiny, and I will not discount the fact that they may have the best manager in all of baseball at the helm.

** Note: Matt Moore has been named the starter for game 1.

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

So the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, and the Tigers have the 10th, about $100,000 between them.  Should be easy, right? Yankees should take this series in 3 games.  Wrong.  Detroit has one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball in 2011 in Justin Verlander, who should win the Cy Young vote unanimously.  He should also garner serious MVP interest.  Against him will be CC Sabathia, who has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball the last 7 or 8 years.  Doug Fister was brought in to shore up a shaky Tigers rotation, and with Max Scherzer, the Tigers look like they have a pretty decent chance.  Behind Sabathia will be rookie Ivan Nova, who I am not sold on, and after him is Freddy Garcia, who is having a fine year, but is nowhere near the pitcher he used to be.

Robinson Cano has been his usual stellar self playing 2nd base for the Yankees, but there were a lot of subpar seasons by other Yankees.  Derek Jeter was better than last year, A-Rod was almost nonexistent for a lot of the season, and aside from Curtis Granderson, the lineup struggled to find consistency.  The Posada soap opera continues, but giving Jesus Montero more at bats needs to happen.  The kid can swing it.  The Tigers have another MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez has been stellar, and they have a young kid behind the plate named Alex Avila who could be in line for a Silver Slugger award.  The Tigers are younger, and hungrier to win, but the Yankees have more overall talent.  Even if their roster is aging, and this one should go down to the final out.

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

The two best managers in the NL this year; Kirk Gibson of the DBacks and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers square off in this ultimately tight series.  Arizona did it this year with a cast of relative nobodies and no real superstar other than Justin Upton.  The Brewers have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Zack Greinke, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez.  They have star power up and down the lineup and rotation, and they have a great fan base.

Ian Kennedy may be a Cy Young candidate, but the Brewers have more depth in their rotation.  Yovani Gallardo will oppose him in game 1, followed by Shaun Marcum and Greinke, who will be opposed by Josh Collmenter and Daniel Hudson.  The Brewers also have the dominant back-end of the bullpen in K-Rod and John Axford, who was 46 for 48 in save opportunities.

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

Prince Fielder just missed his 11th straight season of .300/ 30 HR/ 100RBI.  He hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI.  The cards are not just a one trick pony, however, as Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina have been stellar all season long.  If they can get solid contributions from their secondary players they could make the series interesting.  The Phillies, like the Brewers, have tremendous star power in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  Not to mention one of the best deals of the year in Hunter Pence.  They have a veteran presence filled with guys who have been to the postseason five years in a row, and have the ability to hit any team’s pitching.

If you ask anyone who knows anything about baseball what team has the best pitching, the unanimous decision would go to the Phillies. The 4 Aces look to lock up Philly’s second World Series in the last 4 seasons.  Led by Roy Halladay, or Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels, every team in the postseason should be scared.  It is not very often that a team could have 3 pitchers in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award, but it could happen this year.  Roy Oswalt will pitch game 4 if necessary.   Tony La Russa has decided to open the series with veteran Kyle Lohse, which seems asinine.  Edwin Jackson will go Game 2 and Chris Carpenter game 3.  Jaime Garcia, who could be their most talented pitcher, will throw game 4 if necessary.

Phillies in 4

All 4 series should play pretty close, and the series I am most excited to watch is Arizona vs. Milwaukee.  If Game 162 was any indication of what is to come of the postseason this year, then everyone needs to grab their popcorn and beverages, get bunkered down, and get ready for a long, gruelling, exciting month of baseball. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Albert Cartwright Interview: Phillies Prospect Returns to Baseball

Sunday  September 18, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  Albert Cartwright, Philadelphia Phillies prospect.  Albert was originally drafted by the Houston Astros in the 2007 MLB draft.  After four seasons playing in the Astros organization, Albert was traded in January of this year to the Phillies for reliever Sergio Escalona.  2011 tuned out to be a difficult season for Albert, as he was injured during spring training and unable to return to action.  Fresh off his season-long rehabilitation, Albert is now heading to the instructional league and to resume baseball activity.  Before his return, we had a chance to catch up with Albert and discuss many topics, including the trade, injury, growing up in the Bahamas and his career thus far in the world of professional baseball.  Here is our interview with the second base prospect from the Philadelphia Phillies, Albert Cartwright:    

  

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Albert.  It is a pleasure to have you on today.  First question:  growing up, who was your favorite baseball player, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?
 
Cartwright:  Without a doubt Rafael Furcal. Growing up in the Bahamas, we never had the MLB network broadcasted and so watching baseball was limited to the few games that were shown on major networks.  Of those games, I saw the Atlanta Braves the most.  So I grew up watching Furcal and just loved the energy he brought to every game.  He incorporated his speed into the game and I idolized his style as a young boy.


 
MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?
 
Cartwright:  Jimmy Rollins.  The excitement and spark that he brings every night to the Phillies is definitely worth admiration.  Hopefully I will get the opportunity to meet  and play with the great shortstop in the near future.

 

MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?
 
Cartwright:  Being able to play this great game of baseball every day as a career is an accomplishment on its own.  I’m just blessed to be given the opportunity.  But if I had to single out one proud accomplishment, I would have to say that I will never forget the night that I hit three triples in a single game.


 
MLB reports:  What were your goals going into the 2011 season?  You missed the 2011 season due to injuries.  What happened to you after getting traded to the Phillies in the offseason and the extent of your injuries that led to your lost season in 2011?
 
Cartwright:  The goal for the big picture is always to make it to the top.  Coming into each season though, my goal is to win a championship, regardless which league I’m playing in.  I believe that with a winning mindset, your numbers will always be where you want them to be at the end of the year.
 
Getting traded to the Phillies in the offseason was shocking; it definitely was a wonderful surprise.  After I calmed down from the excitement, I knew that I had a job to do and so I tried to prepare myself for the season even harder than ever before.  A week into spring training, I tore my Achilles.  As I pivoted into a turn during a conditioning exercise, I felt a pop and my ankle gave out.  I went into surgery a day later and have been rehabbing ever since.  I’ve never had any complications with my legs before, so the injury was definitely unexpected.  But everything happens for a reason.  So I just have to stay positive and keep on pushing.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time?  What was the process like being drafted originally by the Mets in 2006 and not signing with either team?  What made you decide to finally sign with the Astros in 2007?
 
Cartwright:  Getting drafted by the Mets was exhilarating because I felt that my hard work was finally paying off and that someone was seeing something special in me.  My reaction though was not hugely different a year later when I was picked up by the Astros, although I must admit it was slightly more rewarding since the Mets told me they were not going to sign me after the draft-and-follow.  I didn’t think that I was going to be drafted that following year but thankfully the Astros took me.
 
Deciding to sign with Houston was fairly easy since they presented me with a fantastic offer and I saw it as a great opportunity for me.

 
MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?
 
Cartwright:  Speed.  Speed.  Speed.


 
MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?
 
Cartwright:  Definitely defense.  There’s always room for improvement when it comes to playing defensively.

 

MLB reports:   How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game?  Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

Cartwright:  Strikeouts and walks play a major role in my game. If I strikeout too much, then I am pretty much rendered useless because I can’t use my speed.  If I’m walking and getting on base, I can take advantage of my speed and the manager can have some fun shuffling around plays that would work best with me.

I feel that as time progresses and the more experience I get as a player, the number of walks I have should increase and strikeouts decrease.  I should be able to see the ball better and in turn, make better decisions as a hitter.

 

MLB reports:   Long term what position do you see yourself playing?  How do you see defense as part of your overall game?  With Chase Utley entrenched at second, any plans to change positions?
 
Cartwright:  Hopefully I’ll stay at second but with Chase Utley there, as you mentioned, breaking out may be a little harder.  That said, I’m open to anything that comes my way that can land me into the big leagues.   I’m a converted infielder and so going back to the outfield isn’t anything major.  Anything I can do to help the team win is fine by me.

Teams that are good defensively, who can catch and throw the ball, are usually the ones in first place because they can minimize the other team’s scoring opportunity.  Defense is equally important to my game as being great at the plate.

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?
 
Cartwright:  I would say 2012.  Once I show that I can handle the stick, bunting, completing hit-and-runs, moving runners, stealing bases and going from first to third, I think that can get me there.  I Just have to play the game the right way.  I am anxious to get back into the game.

 

MLB reports:   Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?  What are some of the highs and lows you have experienced?

Cartwright:  Pro ball has been everything I was expecting: long bus rides, always eating late, living out of a suitcase and always being on the move.  But I love it.  Getting back to the hotel room to find a freshly made bed is always nice too.
 
My first career walk-off hit was definitely one of the highs.  I always dreamt of getting a walk-off hit.  Low moments would include sustaining injuries including tearing my Achilles which led to missing the entire 2011 season.  Also, breaking my wrist in 2009.  Basically anytime that I wasn’t playing could be regarded as a low moment.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?

Cartwright:  When I’m not playing baseball, I like to go to the beach, play video games, and hang around with friends. I guess you can say I’m a little boring in the offseason, but I welcome the relaxation after a season full of hard work.
 
In the locker room, you can really get to know your teammates and so far, everyone has been really cool.  Since we spend so many hours of the day together, everyone kind of hangs out with everyone else.  I can name though a few teammates who I still talk to on a regular basis, like Jay Austin, Marques Williams, Kody Hinze, Edwin Walker, and Chris Turner.  We are all jokesters so most of the time we’re clowning around and making fun of each other.  Other times we will get back to the hotel and play video games, usually MLB or Madden (although I have to admit that I can’t play Call of Duty to save my life).
 

MLB reports:  Have your visited Philadelphia the city yet?  How have you found the city thus far?
 
Cartwright:  Unfortunately not.  I would’ve definitely visited had I went to Reading at the start of the season.  I am looking forward to exploring the city though next year.

 
MLB reports:  Were you surprised to be traded from the Astros in the offseason?  What was your reaction and feelings moving from the Astros to the Phillies?  How has it been thus far being a member of the Phillies organization?
 
Cartwright:  I was overwhelmed and excited yet very nervous because I knew that it meant new people and a new system to get familiar with.  The trade came as a shock to me; I didn’t know what to expect.  But it has been smooth sailing so far, minus the injury.  We have a great facility and everyone I’ve met so far has been extremely welcoming.

 

MLB reports:  If you could send one message to the Philadelphia Phillies fans, what would it be?
 
Cartwright:  See you soon.

 

MLB reports:  Born in Winter Haven, Bahamas, at what age did you come to North America and start playing baseball?  What is the state of baseball in the Bahamas and can we expect to see many prospects come from there in the future?
 
Cartwright:  I’m glad you asked.  This has been a mistake on my profile from the day I started playing pro ball.  I was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas and moved to Delray Beach, FL in my sophomore year of high school to play baseball at American Heritage.  From there, I went to Polk Community College in Winter Haven, FL.  Now that I think about it, I’m not sure you can find any town by the name of ‘Winter’ in The Bahamas.
 
Baseball in The Bahamas is on the rise.  There are a lot of young talents and I think we will have some more guys in the near future playing minor and major league baseball.  As a matter of fact, a close friend from my hometown just made his breakthrough in the majors, Antoan Richardson with the Braves.  He sets a great example, both for me and for all the young players back home: if you keep pushing, you will make it to the top someday.  I am very happy for him!

 

 

 

Thank you again to Albert Cartwright for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Albert.  As well, please feel free to contact Albert directly by Twitter (@acartwright12).  He is very active on social media and welcomes your feedback! 

**The photographs in today’s feature were provided by our guest, Albert Cartwright**

 

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MLB 2011 DL: Injury Updates

 

MLB reports:  To answer many of our readers inquiries, here is an update on some of the casualties and wounded in the world of baseball and when each player is expected to return from the disabled list:

Phil Hughes:  Yankees

Hughes went on the 15 day disabled list in mid-April with a “dead arm” and has not returned since.  On April 28th Hughes received a cortisone shot and reports have indicated that his shoulder has responded well.  The timetable for Hughes to return to the mound is 6-8 weeks, which would put him sometime into July.  Hughes has not started throwing yet but has visited specialists who have ruled out surgery at this point.  With a dead arm type injury, it is not always easy to predict where the future lies.  Justin Verlander went through such an episode in his career and has come back stronger than ever.  The fear though is that the velocity will not return and surgery could be lurking in the background.  Until Hughes begins throwing and regains his velocity, Yankees fans will continue to huddle in prayer and hope for Hughes to come back and reclaim his 2010 form this year.

Carlos Guillen:  Tigers

Guillen has been bothered by a sore left knee and out of action since mid-March and going on the 15 day DL.  Reports have indicated that Guillen is taking ground balls, but no other baseball activities at this point.  The original prognosis of mid-May does not appear likely, with an end of the month or early June return a possibility.  With his wonky surgically repaired knee, Guillen will likely be a DH at best if and when he returns to the Tigers lineup.  There is a possibility of a relapse here, so the Tigers are progressing forward without Guillen and any contributions this year will be considered a bonus.

Joe Mauer:  Twins

The $184 million dollar man is off to a dreadful start in 2011, the first season of his monster contract.  After having surgery on his knee in the off-season, Mauer has been bothered by leg weakness all season.  Mauer has started hitting and throwing, but his return is up in the air.  Once considered to be the greatest catcher in baseball, talk has already started about a position change in his future.  After moving prospect Wilson Ramos, the Twins cannot be happy about the state of Mauer’s health.  Like the other members of this list thus far, Mauer’s return date is unknown at this point.  With the Twins off to a terrible start this season, there is much pressure to get Mauer into the lineup to get the team going.  But considering the investment in the catcher, the team will likely be cautious and continue to bring him along slowly in the fear that further damage could result in rushing him.  Expect Mauer back sometime in June likely, but his catching days appear to coming to an end in the near future unfortunately.

Josh Hamilton:  Rangers

After breaking a bone in his right arm from a home plate collision early in the season, Hamilton is nearing his return to the Rangers lineup.  Hamilton is taking swings and should hopefully ready soon for a couple of minor league rehab appearances.  I would expect Hamilton back in the Rangers lineup in the next two weeks if all goes well.  The brittle Hamilton continues to endure bad luck in the health department, with the Rangers sorely needing a healthy Hamilton in order to contend in the AL West.

Chien-Ming Wang:  Nationals

After 2 missed seasons, Wang continues to try to come back from a torn shoulder capsule and pitch once again in the majors.  After breaking his right foot in 2008, Wang ended up injuring his shoulder and has not returned to pitch in a professional game since.  Still rehabbing in the Nationals system, it appears unlikely that we will see Wang pitch again.  Fans still hope that the former back-to-back 19 game winner can find health and pitch again, but after a prolonged absence, the window of opportunity continues to close further every week/month that goes by.

Johan Santana:  Mets

Another torn shoulder capsule survivor, Santana underwent his surgery last September.  Reports have indicated a possible July return for Santana, which appear to be optimistic at best.  With a similar injury to Wang, there is no guarantees of when Santana and what condition he will be in.  Good news in that Santana is throwing off a mound and flat ground and reported no setbacks to date.  But with these types of injuries, relapses are always a possibility.  If the Mets flounder this year as expected, the smart advice is to rest Santana and bring him along slowly, with a 2012 return being the better bet.  Only time will tell if Santana will return and reclaim his spot as one of the top starting pitchers in baseball.  At this point, I would not be counting on it.

Chase Utley:  Phillies

With injuries all around in baseball, few have been more anxious than thedisappearance of Chase Utley.  With the Phillies offense built around Utley and Howard, a long-term absence by the second baseman was seen as damaging by the Phillies faithful.  Talk at the start of the season was a possible September return by Utley, based on the knee injury.  Philadelphia got a great shot in the arm when Utley’s rehab progressed so well to the point that he is already DHing this week in minor league rehab games, with a possible return by the end of the month.  Far ahead of schedule, the hope is that Utley is fully recovered and will be strong for the remainder of the season.  Utley’s story is one of the few bright spots in our long list of injuries in this report.

Scott Rolen:  Reds

Placed on the DL at the end of April with a strained shoulder, Rolen is no stranger to baseball injuries.  But being the professional he is, Rolen also works very hard and keeps himself in strong game shape to attempt to avoid long-term absences.  Rolen has been taking batting practice this week and has also been running the bases and participating in fielding drills.  No timetable on his return at this point, but based on his advanced baseball activity, I would expect a return by the end of this month.

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