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National Pastime Archive: May 2009

  • Welcome to the show, Matt Wieters

    In the April 1, 1985, issue of Sports Illustrated, the late George Plimpton introduced the world to mysterious New York Mets phenom Sidd Finch. The 28-year-old eccentric had dropped out of Harvard and traveled to Tibet to learn "yogic mastery of the mind-body," which allowed him to throw an absurd 168 miles per hour. Many fans were understandably disappointed when Sports Illustrated reported in its next issue that Finch had retired from baseball. The following week, the magazine confirmed that the Sidd Finch tale was nothing more than an unusually creative April Fools joke. Published May 28 2009

  • Welcome to the show, Fernando Martinez

    It's Fernando Martinez's potential that has made him a staple at the top of prospect lists in recent years, but it's his production so far this season that punched his ticket to the big leagues. The Mets summoned the 20-year-old outfielder from Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday after he hit .291 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 42 games. He'll get the majority of the starts in right field as long as Ryan Church's troublesome right hamstring keeps him on the disabled list, and could stick for good if he performs well. Published May 26 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Robbie Grossman, Pirates

    The selection of Pedro Alvarez with the second overall pick made all the headlines, but the slugging third baseman from Vanderbilt isn't the only top talent the Pittsburgh Pirates snagged in the 2008 draft. Texas high school outfielder Robbie Grossman looked like a potential first-rounder as a junior in 2007, but a less impressive senior season and what was perceived as a strong commitment to the University of Texas caused him to fall to the sixth round. The Pirates pounced and persuaded him to sign by offering a $1 million bonus - more than 10 of the 16 supplemental first-rounders got - and agreeing to pay his college tuition. Published May 25 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Pedro Alvarez, Pirates

    The Pirates famously passed on Matt Wieters in the 2007 draft because of his record bonus demands and instead selected left-hander Daniel Moskos with the fourth overall pick. The gaffe proved to be the final straw for GM Dave Littlefield, who was fired two months later, and while Moskos scuffled in advanced Class A last season, Wieters - taken with the very next pick by the Orioles - slugged his way to Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year honors. Given that backdrop, it came as no surprise when new GM Neal Huntington took Vanderbilt's Pedro Alvarez, the best hitting prospect available, with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft despite reports that Alvarez's agent, Scott Boras, was seeking a $9 million major league contract. Published May 21 2009

  • In search of the elusive fantasy fix

    If your fantasy team is struggling like mine is - thanks, Jon Lester! - you're probably busy scouring the waiver wire or trying to concoct a blockbuster trade that will help it bust out of its slump. After all, you're stuck with this squad for the next four-plus months - better make the best of it, right? Unfortunately, both of those quick-fix methods have inherent flaws: Players that are still on the waiver wire near the end of May are usually there for a reason, and you generally only get what you give in trades. Don't fret though, because you might find the solution to your fantasy squad's problems in the same place that big league teams often find the solutions to theirs. Published May 21 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Zach Britton, Orioles

    Zach Britton is rarely the first guy mentioned when the subject of Baltimore Orioles pitching prospects comes up - that distinction would go to either Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta or Brian Matusz - but if the 21-year-old keeps dealing for the Frederick Keys, Baltimore's Big Three could quickly morph into a Fab Four. Britton, a 6-foot-2, 172-pound lefty, has shown steady improvement since the Orioles took him in the third round of the 2006 draft, and he's off to a great start this year in his first taste of advanced Class A ball. Published May 17 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Derek Norris, Nationals

    No Washington Nationals minor leaguer raised his stock more than 2007 fourth-round pick Derek Norris did last season. After struggling in his pro debut, the 6-foot, 210-pound catcher put on a season-long hitting clinic in 2008 for the short-season Class A Vermont Lake Monsters. Norris slugged 10 home runs - good for sixth-best in the New York-Penn League - and easily led the circuit in both walks (63) and on-base percentage (.444). Baseball America took notice and ranked him as the fourth-best prospect in the New York-Penn League and the sixth-best in the Nationals organization. Published May 15 2009

  • Welcome to the show, Nolan Reimold

    International League pitchers breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday night when they learned that the Baltimore Orioles had summoned Nolan Reimold to the majors. The 25-year-old outfielder launched a mammoth shot on Opening Day and never cooled down, hitting .394 with nine home runs and 27 RBI for the Norfolk Tides in his first taste of Triple-A ball. With Luke Scott and Adam Jones dealing with injuries, the Orioles are hoping that Reimold will continue his season-long tear with the big-league club. Published May 14 2009

  • Catching up with Steve Lombardozzi

    Defense was Steve Lombardozzi's calling card during his six-year big league career, but it's the hot bat he wielded in the 1987 World Series that he'll always be remembered for. The second baseman hit just .238 for the Twins during the regular season that year but stepped up his game in the Fall Classic, hitting a Series-best .412 with a home run and four RBI to help them defeat the Cardinals in seven games. "It's the absolute best feeling to know that in the ultimate pressure situation, I was able to come through," Lombardozzi said Monday night while watching his son, Steve Lombardozzi Jr., play for the Nationals' Class A affiliate, the Hagerstown Suns. Published May 13 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Ryan Kalish, Red Sox

    Legend has it that Boston Red Sox prospect Ryan Kalish didn't swing and miss at a single pitch as a high school senior in Red Bank, N.J. That may or may not be true, but anyone who has seen him take his cuts for the advanced Class A Salem Red Sox so far this season can understand how a rumor like that might get started. Through 30 games, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound outfielder is hitting .292 with five homers and 21 RBI, and he ranks fourth in the Carolina League with a .433 on-base percentage. Published May 12 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Xavier Avery, Orioles

    When the University of Georgia football coaching staff saw Xavier Avery take the pigskin and accelerate during his days as a running back at Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Ga., they envisioned him as a possible replacement for Knowshon Moreno. The Baltimore Orioles, on the other hand, believed Avery's future was on the diamond, as a speedy outfielder in the Carl Crawford mold. Luckily for the O's - and much to the dismay of the Bulldogs - baseball is Avery's first love, and he opted to sign for a $900,000 bonus last summer after Baltimore made him a second-round pick. Published May 10 2009

  • Catching up with Joe McEwing

    When 25-year-old rookie Joe McEwing walked into the Cardinals' clubhouse for the first time in September 1998, he not only fulfilled a childhood dream, but also stepped right into the middle of baseball history in progress. "My big league debut happened to be when [Mark] McGwire hit home run No. 57, which was a National League record at the time, and I pinch-hit right after that," said McEwing, now 36 and managing the White Sox' advanced Class A affiliate, the Winston-Salem Dash. McGwire, of course, went on to shatter Roger Maris' single-season home run mark, hitting his record-breaking 62nd homer on Sept. 9 and finishing the year with a whopping 70 longballs. Published May 8 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Kyle Skipworth, Marlins

    Kyle Skipworth was often compared to Joe Mauer during his high school days, so it's only fitting that he went on to become the first prep catcher taken in the top 10 picks of the amateur draft since the Twins took Mauer first overall in 2001. The Marlins selected the 6-foot-3, 195-pound backstop with the No. 6 pick in last year's draft after he earned Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year honors by hitting .543 with 13 homers for Patriot High School in Riverside, Calif. Skipworth's outstanding senior season included a stretch in which he reached base in 25 consecutive plate appearances. Published May 6 2009

  • Prospect Q&A - Danny Duffy, Royals

    The Kansas City Royals boast a pair of front-line right-handed starters in Zack Greinke and Gil Meche, and if Danny Duffy keeps mowing down minor league hitters, it might not be long before they have a top-flight southpaw in their rotation as well. Duffy is still a few rungs down the ladder - he's currently pitching for the advanced Class A Wilmington Blue Rocks - but his 13-8 record, 2.36 ERA and 189-to-51 K-to-walk ratio in 144 2/3 pro innings to date suggest he's a good bet to climb quickly. Published May 3 2009

  • Welcome to the show, Matt LaPorta

    Matt LaPorta became a household name last summer when the Milwaukee Brewers shipped him to the Cleveland Indians along with two lesser prospects in exchange for reigning American League Cy Young award winner CC Sabathia. Sabathia bolted for the New York Yankees this past offseason, but not before leading the Brewers to their first playoff appearance since 1982 with some clutch pitching down the stretch. Now that LaPorta has been summoned from Triple-A, it appears it's the Tribe's turn to reap the benefits of the blockbuster deal. Published May 2 2009

  • Juan Gonzalez - Cooperstown Bound?

    If not for his one plate appearance for the Cleveland Indians in 2005, Juan Gonzalez would have appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot this year. It is probably just as well for the longtime Texas Rangers slugger and two-time American League MVP, as it will allow him more time to distance himself from performance-enhancing drug-related allegations that came up in the Mitchell Report. "Juan Gone" was one of the most lethal and intimidating sluggers in baseball during the '90s and finished his career with 434 home runs, but is he Cooperstown material? By NICK LECO Published May 2 2009