Category archive: Nyjer Morgan

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 25

February, 25, 2010
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb feels good after his latest throwing session.

The former Cy Young winner is coming back from surgery on his right shoulder last August. He threw 45 pitches on Thursday and calls it another step forward in his recovery.

Webb expects to be ready to start the Diamondbacks' third game of the regular season. Dan Haren will pitch the opener, followed by Edwin Jackson.

-- The Associated Press

Russell Branyan, his one-year, $2 million contract freshly signed, reported Thursday to the Indians' spring training camp in Arizona and prepared for his second go-around with Cleveland.

"There are a lot of good, positive things in coming back," said Branyan, who will get the majority of playing time at first base. "This is where I started. To get this opportunity, it was hard to turn down. It means a lot to me."

Branyan came through Cleveland's minor league system in the late 1990s. It was thought he would join the list of sluggers the Indians produced during the decade, which included Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. Standing 6-foot-3, Branyan hit 30 or more homers in three minor league seasons before being traded to Cincinnati in 2002.

Eight years and eight organizations later, Branyan believes he's learned from his experiences.

"I understand people a lot better," he said. "I don't let small things bother me as much anymore."

The Indians will hold their first full-squad workout Friday under new manager Manny Acta.

-- news services

The future spring training home of the Boston Red Sox will have a replica Green Monster and duplicate the dimensions of Fenway Park.

The Red Sox, Lee County and Populous released preliminary renderings Thursday of the 11,000-capacity, $75 million ballpark, which is scheduled to open in 2012 about 10 miles from the current stadium. Five practice fields will be outside the main stadium, combining training camp for the Red Sox into one facility from the current two.

The Green Monster will have a manual scoreboard and seats atop the wall, which will be 310 feet from home plate down the line. The right-field fence will be 302 feet from the plate, and the bullpens will be beyond the fence in right-center, just as they are at Fenway.

"I like the Fenway similarity," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. "The charm of Fenway Park. The Florida look and feel. Not a duplicate of Fenway Park with heavy red brick and New England style. It's meant to be different and lighter and airier and breezier and more Florida-like."

-- The Associated Press

Nationals rookie right-hander Stephen Strasburg threw his longest bullpen session of spring training on Thursday, a 12-minute effort in 47-degree temperatures with winds in excess of 20 mph.

Pitching coach Steve McCatty was impressed with how the rookie fared in challenging conditions, noting that the winds made it difficult for Strasburg to throw his breaking ball.

Strasburg, the Nationals' No. 1 pick in last year's amateur draft, is already generating a buzz in spring training. On Sunday, about 150 fans, twice the normal number for Washington's first workout, watched Nationals pitchers and catchers practice -- and most were watching the hard-throwing right-hander from San Diego State.

-- news services

FEET, DON'T FAIL ME NOW (3:42 p.m. ET)
Nyjer Morgan is going feetfirst in trying to avoid headfirst slides, as part of the Nationals' new strategy for keeping their speedy center fielder in the lineup and off the disabled list.

Morgan fractured his left hand sliding into third base in Chicago in August, short-circuiting a promising start with a new team. After being traded from Pittsburgh to Washington on June 30, Morgan hit .351, stole 24 bases in 31 tries and played sparkling defense before missing the final five weeks of the season while on the DL.

Part of Morgan's penchant for the headfirst approach has been vanity. "I just like to get dirty," he laughed. "When you're all dirty, you look like you've been playing hard, and I play hard."

Morgan isn't the only Nationals player perfecting the new move. Manager Jim Riggleman wants players throughout the organization to employ the feet-first approach because it cuts down on hand, finger and wrist injuries.

"There's a transition there. It takes a little time, but that's why we got to keep practicing it," Riggleman said. "Our message to the guys -- not just Nyjer, but all of them -- is any of them who have always slid headfirst, we would like to get you going feetfirst."

-- The Associated Press

Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez, still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, hopes to begin taking ground balls within a week. If that goes well, he'll graduate to swinging a bat.

Sanchez is working out seven days a week with Tony Reale, the Giants' physical therapist. He's already throwing -- about 35 tosses from a distance of 75 feet -- but the Giants are still in one-step-at-a-time mode with him.

There's no timetable on Sanchez's return to the lineup, but it's a virtual certainty that he'll miss the start of the season. Juan Uribe can play second base in Sanchez's absence, and Eugenio Velez, Emmanuel Burriss and Kevin Frandsen will all get a look at the position in spring training.

The bigger issue for manager Bruce Bochy is reconfiguring his lineup without Sanchez in the second spot. Shortstop Edgar Renteria could hit second to begin the season, then drop down to seventh or eighth once Sanchez returns. But Renteria had a .290 on-base percentage in the No. 2 hole last year, so he's not a good fit for the top of the order.

-- Jerry Crasnick,

In less than a year, Scott Feldman has progressed from afterthought to anchor of the Texas Rangers' starting rotation.

Winning 17 games in five months last season -- and entering the closing weeks with a chance to reach the coveted 20-victory mark -- will do that for a pitcher.

"I thought it would have been cool if I could have gotten 20," Feldman said. "Just to get 17 was a pretty cool thing. We had a good team."

Feldman was a large part of that success, posting a 17-8 record and 4.08 ERA in 31 starts. Despite not joining the rotation until late April, the right-hander was second on the club with 189 2/3 innings pitched.

Though he has just 56 career starts under his belt, the 27-year-old has become an elder statesman in a rotation that this year adds oft-injured veteran Rich Harden. It's a role that Feldman didn't necessarily expect but has embraced since the departure of Kevin Millwood.

"It's about your work ethic around here," manager Ron Washington said of Feldman on Thursday. "He's a great guy to model. You can't put leadership on people. Your teammates draw it out of you. And he's got the work ethic."

-- The Associated Press

The Braves are very encouraged about their starting pitching for several reasons.

First, Tim Hudson says "I haven't felt this good in six years." The discomfort in Jair Jurrjens' right shoulder has diminished "from a 7 to a 0.5," says manager Bobby Cox.

And, the Braves will have Tommy Hanson for the entire season.

When another top Braves starter, Derek Lowe, was asked what impressed him most about Hanson, he said, "Where do you want me to start?"

That's how good Hanson is. "Every pitcher in the big leagues has good stuff, the difference is the guy who has it mentally, and he does," said Hudson. "You could see it last spring. When he got to the big leagues last year, he thought he was better than the hitters."

"His stuff is sensational," Lowe said of Hanson. When asked about the trade of ace Javier Vazquez, Lowe acknowledged that the Braves had lost a terrific pitcher, but he said, "We're going to get 15 more starts from Tommy Hanson. That's a pretty good start."

-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine

Braves right fielder Jason Heyward has had some prodigious batting practices so far this spring.

"It sounds like a 30-aught six going off when he hits the ball," said Braves pitcher Tim Hudson. "I was walking through the outfield, I heard that sound, turned and said, 'What in the heck was that?' "

Pitcher Derek Lowe agreed about the sound, saying, "His BP is frightening."

Heyward said Thursday that he weighed in, clothed, at 250 pounds. He said in spikes, he stands 6-foot-6.

"He is huge," said Braves catcher David Ross. "His hands are huge. Hank Aaron was here the other day and talked about how big Jason's hands are. And Hank has big hands."

-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine


March, 6, 2009
CC Sabathia is off to a steady start with the New York Yankees.

The big lefty allowed an unearned run and two hits over two innings Friday night in his first outing for the Yankees, helping them to a 7-3 spring training victory over the Detroit Tigers. He struck out two during a 26-pitch outing that included 20 strikes.

Tigers designated hitter and former Yankees slugger Gary Sheffield thinks Sabathia will have no trouble adjusting to playing in New York.

"Like I told CC, I talked to him before he signed here, I told him, 'They're going to love you, man,'" Sheffield said. "Just pitch the way you always pitch. Make a bad pitch, give up a big inning, know that you're still CC and go back to the dugout. That's all you have to know. Try to focus on everything and carry a team, this ain't the team to carry. They've got a lot of superstars over there that know what they're doing. Just do your part and you'll be fine."

-- Associated Press

Spring Training Video: Injury Updates

Tim Lincecum is dominating hitters this spring the same way he did last season.

The 2008 NL Cy Young Award winner pitched three hitless innings for the San Francisco Giants in a 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, giving him a total of seven scoreless innings in three exhibition starts.

Brad Coon hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to win it for the Angels in front of their first big crowd this spring (7,364).

-- Associated Press

Andruw Jones got quite a workout at Texas Rangers camp Friday.

Jones went 2-for-4 with a walk in Texas' 8-7 loss to Kansas City, a game that started less than an hour after the five-time All-Star and non-roster outfielder went 3-for-5 with a home run in a "B" game against the Royals on a back field.

Brandon Boggs, one of the outfielders who could end up back in the minors if Jones makes the team, went 3-for-5 with three RBIs for the Rangers. Boggs' RBI double in the eighth scored Jones to snap a 4-all tie before John Whittleman's two-run homer.

-- Associated Press

Chris Carpenter is healthy and making progress.

Beset by arm injuries the past two seasons, Carpenter made his second start of the spring Friday and pitched out of trouble for two scoreless innings in the St. Louis Cardinals' 5-4 loss to the New York Mets.

"He didn't have great command of his fastball, but they didn't score -- and they had guys on base to do it," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "I would rather him not get taxed, but he passed the test and felt fine."

It wasn't as smooth as Carpenter's first outing last Saturday, when the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner tossed a pair of hitless innings on 19 pitches against Washington. But he managed to keep the Mets off the scoreboard, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out one.

-- Associated Press

Rangers right-hander Brandon McCarthy threw 62 pitches in three innings in a "B" game Friday without any problems in his shoulder.

McCarthy felt stiffness in his right shoulder this week. The team scratched him from his Friday Cactus League start but later decided to let him pitch in a "B" game against Kansas City after he played long toss and threw off a mound Thursday.

"It felt good. I came out of it with positive thoughts," McCarthy said. "It was loose, ready to go. ... It felt like a normal arm."

Left-handed reliever C.J. Wilson, who left Thursday's game with a swollen left index finger after facing only one batter, said his finger was feeling better and he planned to play catch.

Wilson was injured when he reached up to field a chopper, and the ball ricocheted off his bare hand. The swelling had subsided and his range of motion increased Friday. X-rays didn't reveal any breaks, though the Rangers' team doctor was expected to evaluate it this weekend.

-- Associated Press

Reliever Russ Springer had planned to retire after the 2008 season, but he elected to return on a one-year, $3.3 million contract with Oakland. Springer has pitched 16 seasons, and the Athletics are his eighth professional organization.

Springer, 40, vows that this is absolutely, positively his final career stop.

"My little girl told me, 'Daddy, you said the same thing three years ago. You're going to be going out there pitching with a walker,' '' Springer said. "But this is going to be my final season. I'm 99.2 percent sure I'm done.''

-- Jerry Crasnick,

Despite having soreness in his left shoulder, Tom Glavine was satisfied after throwing about 20 pitches with the Atlanta Braves in his first round of batting practice Thursday.

Glavine, who turns 43 on March 25, underwent elbow and shoulder surgery in August.

"There's always that little bit of concern in the back of your mind when you're not feeling as good as you want to," Glavine told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "But I feel good about everything being structurally sound, based on the way I was able to do what I did today. It's just a matter of getting my arm strength back to where I want it to be."

Glavine was happy with his location and spin after throwing to Matt Diaz, Jason Heyward and Brandon Hicks, but will continue to work on his velocity in his next round of batting practice on Sunday.

Glavine is aiming to play in a game late next week.

"He's got 43 days," manager Bobby Cox said, according to the report. The Braves will not use a fifth starter until April 19.

Pittsburgh Pirates manager John Russell would love to bat Nyjer Morgan in the leadoff slot this season. That is, if Morgan can play like he did last August upon returning from Triple-A Indianapolis, when he reached safely in 25 of 27 games, scored 20 runs and hit .366 -- and not the way he did to earn that demotion, when he batted a paltry .142.

So who's the real Nyjer Morgan? "I know which one," Morgan said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I just have to bring it out all the time. That's the key."

"I'm very comfortable at leadoff, and I have been since I was a kid," Morgan said, according to the report. "I feel like I have so much energy, and I love to be out there trying to get the boys going, be a pest, you know? That's my game."

Morgan still has to earn the job, however, And so far, not so good: He's hitting .211 (4-for-19) this spring. If he can't get it going, Eric Hinske could be the Pirates' starting left fielder.

"It's a huge opportunity, and I know that," Morgan said, according to the report. "This is what every kid dreams of, and I want it to be mine."

MY LEFT FOOT (11:49 a.m. ET)
Kansas City Royals left-hander Ron Mahay was on his way to a strong 2008 when the pain in his left foot became too much to pitch through. But two months after surgery to alleviate plantar fasciitis, he's back on the mound and feeling good, making his debut with a scoreless inning against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday.

For the Royals, that's a good thing. Mahay's being counted on to bolster the bullpen, with John Bale recovering from thyroid surgery and Jimmy Gobble having difficulty getting out right-handed hitters.

"The foot is fine," Mahay said, according to The Kansas City Star. "I don't think about it because I know it's fine. I'm going to do what I normally do. If I have to field a bunt, I'm going to go after it like I would normally."

"We're gradually working into things," he said, according to the report. "We're just not going to pound [the foot] to the point where it's an issue."

Mahay, 37, entered August at 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA in 47 appearances. But the swelling and pain in his foot worsened and limited him to 10 appearances over the last two months. Without the ability to push off the rubber with his left foot, he struggled in those 10 games, allowing 14 runs and 16 hits in eight innings as his ERA soared to 3.48.

The San Francisco Giants released veteran outfielder Dave Roberts on Thursday, a surprise move that could cost them $6.5 million this season.

The 36-year-old Roberts signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Giants in 2007, but played only 166 games in his first two seasons because of elbow and knee injuries. He entered camp this spring as the fifth outfielder behind starters Fred Lewis, Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn, and young prospect Nate Schierholtz.

"It's a surprising blow. I have to rebound from this. I was expecting to see this thing through. I love the makeup of this ballclub. I really wanted to be a part of things," Roberts said.

"There just wasn't a light at the end of the tunnel for him," Giants GM Brian Sabean said. "I was honest with him. We wanted to get younger and quicker. That's not his résumé. To wait any longer would have been an injustice to our kids. This will also give him a chance to find a place to play."

-- Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.