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National Pastime Archive: April 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Mike Moustakas, Royals

    The Kansas City Royals have finished below .500 in 14 of the past 15 seasons, with the one positive side effect being that they've consistently had high selections in the annual draft. Missing on a couple of those high first-round picks - Colt Griffin (2001) and Chris Lubanski (2003) - hasn't helped matters, and the jury is still out on guys like Billy Butler (2004), Alex Gordon (2005) and Luke Hochevar (2006). However, it looks like Kansas City has found a future cornerstone in 2007 No. 2 overall pick Mike Moustakas. Published April 29 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Jordan Danks, White Sox

    John Danks of the Chicago White Sox emerged as one of the better left-handers in baseball last season and is off to a great start this year, with a 2-0 record and 0.95 ERA in his first three starts. And while the White Sox are surely glad they acquired him from the Texas Rangers back in December 2006, Danks wasn't even the first member of his family that the team coveted. That distinction would go to his younger brother, outfielder Jordan Danks, whom they selected in the 19th round of the 2005 draft out of Round Rock (Texas) High School. Published April 23 2009

  • Catching up with Bobby Thigpen

    Bobby Thigpen played nine big league seasons and finished his career with 201 career saves, but he's best remembered for the 57 he notched for the White Sox in 1990. Dominant closers came and went over the next 17 years, but none managed to surpass Thigpen's single-season record. Until last season, that is, when Francisco Rodriguez racked up a whopping 62 saves for the Angels. "I knew it was a matter of time before somebody did it," said Thigpen, who now serves as pitching coach for the White Sox' advanced Class A affiliate, the Winston-Salem Dash. "I felt fortunate and happy that I kept it for 18 years." Published April 22 2009

  • Scouting Report - Chris Marrero, Nationals

    Chris Marrero, a 2006 first-round pick, entered the 2008 season ranked by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Nationals organization but got off to a slow start and then broke his leg sliding into home just as he was starting to heat up. Now that his injury is healed, Marrero is ready continue his climb up the minor league ladder. He's off to a fast start for the advanced Class A Potomac Nationals this season, hitting .320 with a pair of homers and 11 RBI in his first 13 games. On Tuesday, I had a chance to watch him play not once but twice as he and his teammates played a doubleheader consisting of two seven-inning games against the Winston-Salem Dash. Published April 21 2009

  • Welcome to the show, Brad Bergesen

    Brad Bergesen isn't usually the first guy mentioned when people talk about the Baltimore Orioles' top pitching prospects - that would be either Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta or Brian Matusz - but he'll be the first to get a chance to stick in the big league rotation. Bergesen, a 23-year-old right-hander who opened the season with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides despite an impressive showing in spring training, is set to make his Major League debut Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards. Published April 20 2009

  • Welcome to the show, Jordan Zimmermann

    Less than two years after the Washington Nationals made him a second-round pick out of Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is set to make his big league debut tonight - weather permitting - against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. The 22-year-old earned a rotation spot by going 15-5 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 205 K's in 187 minor league innings at three levels over the past two seasons and posting a 3.14 ERA in spring training. He started the year with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs because the Nats' schedule dictated that they didn't need a fifth starter for the first two weeks of the season. Published April 20 2009

  • 500 Home Run Club ain't what it used to be

    There is no doubt Gary Sheffield deserves congratulations for slugging his 500th career home run in the Mets' 5-4 win over the Brewers on Friday night. Sheffield's name surfaced in the Mitchell Report and he reportedly admitted to the BALCO grand jury that he used what he thought were undetectable steroids, but even if you're providing yourself with an unfair advantage, it is still a remarkable accomplishment to hit a ball thrown at a high rate of speed by a big league pitcher over a fence 300-plus feet away on 500 separate occasions. That said, Sheffield's milestone blast served to further water down the membership of what was once baseball's most elilte group. Published April 18 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - L.J. Hoes, Orioles

    Major League teams are scouring the globe for talent like never before, but every now and then they still find what they're looking for right in their own backyard. That's certainly the case with the Baltimore Orioles and L.J. Hoes, a lifelong O's fan who was born in Bowie, Md., and starred at St. John's High School in Washington, D.C. When what was perceived as a strong commitment to North Carolina scared off some teams and caused Hoes to fall to the third round of the 2008 draft, Baltimore scooped him up and persuaded him to sign for a $490,000 bonus. Published April 17 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Jack McGeary, Nationals

    A lot of clubs had scratched Jack McGeary's name off their lists before the 2007 MLB draft even began. The high school lefty from Massachusetts was widely considered a first-round talent, but most thought his strong commitment to Stanford would result in a wasted draft choice for whatever organization ended up calling his name. The Nationals had other ideas. They selected McGeary with the 190th overall pick and bucked MLB's slot system by giving him a sixth-round record $1.8 million bonus. They also agreed to allow McGeary to attend classes at Stanford from September through early June for the first three years of his pro career - and to pay for them. Published April 15 2009

  • Fan-tastic Voyage: A running diary

    Being away from home is always tough during the holidays. I miss my family, the Food Network-quality meals and the evening cocktails with the boys. This Easter Sunday, however, I felt right at home despite being 2,500 miles from the great state of Massachusetts. I have Red Sox Nation to thank for that, as four friends and I trekked 91 miles north from San Diego to The Big A to see what turned out to be a whippersnapper with the Angels. What follows is an account of the joyous journey. By SEAN RAPOSA Published April 15 2009

  • More cowbell!

    "I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!" If the great Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken taught us anything in their 2000 Blue Oyster Cult "Don't Fear the Reaper" Saturday Night Live skit, it was that you can never have too much of a good thing (knock, knock, knock, knock). With that in mind, I present you with the following collection of fantasy sleepers knowing full well you've probably already seen 100 such lists. Because as Walken said, "I think we got a dynamite sound here." By SEAN RAPOSA Published April 12 2009

  • Jeff Kent - Cooperstown Bound?

    It's been a long, cold winter, but now that the 2009 Major League Baseball season is in full swing, it's time to kick off another summer of Cooperstown Bound? columns. We had a great inaugural season in 2008, and the debate was closed on one of last year's subjects in January when Jim Rice was finally elected on his 15th and final year on the ballot. But while we addressed the Hall of Fame worthiness of 17 other very good and possibly great players last year, there are still plenty of guys on the Cooperstown bubble. So without further ado, let's take a closer look at the resume of Jeff Kent, who announced his retirement less than three months ago after 17 mostly stellar big league seasons. By NICK LECO Published April 11 2009

  • Questioning my fanhood

    I grew up in Massachusetts and agonized along with the rest of Red Sox Nation as the Yankees time and again snuffed out Boston's hopes of ending its championship drought. I was close to tears when Grady Little painfully left an out-of-gas Pedro Martinez in too long in the 2003 American League Championship Series and would have cried tears of joy when the 86-year drought ended the following year if I wasn't in the company of several lifelong friends who would have understood but ragged on me anyway. But with the first pitch of the 2009 Major League Baseball season just hours away, I'm having more trouble than ever before coming to terms with the current state of my fanhood. Published April 5 2009

  • Sheffield joins Mets' outfield mix

    Just three days after the Tigers decided to release Gary Sheffield and eat his $14 million contract for this season, the 40-year-old has found a home. The Mets agreed to a deal with the nine-time All-Star on Friday afternoon that will pay him the major league minimum of $400,000. The right-handed Sheffield will likely platoon with left-handed hitters Daniel Murphy and Ryan Church at the corner outfield spots. Sheffield's signing makes it possible that the Mets' new stadium, Citi Field, won't have to wait long for its first significant milestone, as his next home run will make him the 25th member of the exclusive 500-home run club. Published April 3 2009