Nyjer Morgan is growing into his role as a leadoff hitter for the Pirates and is trying to find the optimum blend of patience and aggressiveness.
05/19/2009 9:30 AM ET
Morgan comfortable in leadoff spot
Pirates outfielder's hitting continues to surprise
"I still try to be an aggressive guy, but I understand each day as I come out there what role I have that day," Morgan told MLB.com. "I just go over my approach with [batting coach] Donnie Long; that's what helps me out.
"More than anything, it's just relaxing and understanding what I can do and how I can be effective. It's knowing what pitch I want, understanding how Donnie wants me to approach the game as a leadoff hitter. A lot of that comes with paying attention to the task and listening to what my instructor has to say."
Oliver not ready for golf quite yet: Darren Oliver mulled retirement in the offseason, but the Angels reliever has been one of the team's best options out of the bullpen. Oliver has a 1.10 ERA with three walks and 13 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings this season.
"My wife was the only one who didn't want to see that," Oliver told the Los Angeles Times of his hot start. "I thought that was pretty funny."
"D.O. was the unsung hero of the bullpen last year, and we've seen what a big piece of the bullpen he is this year," manager Mike Scioscia said. "When he wasn't there, we felt it."
Rally-hawk keeps Pence a cut above: Hunter Pence kept abreast of Game 7 of the Rockets-Lakers NBA playoff series while he was in Chicago with the Astros on Sunday. Pence has become friends with the Rockets' Shane Battier and even sported a new haircut in support of the team.
Following the lead of Von Wafer and Ron Artest, Pence trimmed the sides of his hair short and is spiking the middle into a Mohawk.
"Basically, everybody seems to get a laugh out of it or like it," Pence told the Houston Chronicle of what he calls his rally-hawk. "It makes me not take anything too seriously. It lightens me up and loosens me up. We're 6-2 since the rally-hawk."
The Rockets lost Game 7 in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Zambrano finds rehab outing effective: Carlos Zambrano worked 3 2/3 innings on Sunday for the Class A Daytona Cubs, after which he said he would be ready to pitch for the Cubs on Friday against the San Diego Padres.
"No problems," Zambrano told the Chicago Tribune after his 67-pitch outing. "I feel 100 percent. I just had a little problem with my release point. But this week, before my next outing, we'll correct it."
Reimold to get extended stay: Nolan Reimold's stay on the Orioles' roster is being extended with Luke Scott going on the disabled list.
"I'm getting my feet wet and just want to play as well as I can for as long as they need me," Reimold told MLB.com."
More strikes brings confidence to Ohlendorf: Russ Ohlendorf, who has an impressive 3.77 ERA this season for the Pirates, hopes to continue his recent success.
"I feel good about the way I'm throwing the ball," Ohlendorf told MLB.com. "Throwing strikes is the big difference from last year. I'm throwing more strikes and pitching with more confidence."
Willis making things simple again: Dontrelle Willis wants to prove himself all over again now that he's back in the Major Leagues.
"My mindset is just simplified -- going out there and really just thinking about myself and not really caring about anybody else, as far as what they think," Willis told MLB.com. "I'm ... just going out there and having fun. You make a pitch, and if you don't [execute] it, go on to the next one."
Cantu not letting wrist slow him: Despite playing with a sore wrist since the third game of the season, Jorge Cantu leads the Marlins with eight home runs and has played in 33 of the team's first 38 games.
"I like to play," Cantu told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "What can I say, man? I don't like to sit on the bench. I like having the opportunity to be a starter, and I have to take every single advantage of it."
Detwiler called up for start: With Scott Olsen sidelined with shoulder tendinitis, the Nationals dipped down to Double-A to call up top prospect Ross Detwiler, who who was scheduled to start on Monday. At Harrisburg, Detwiler had a 2.96 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings pitched.
"We're going to take this start with Detwiler one start at a time," acting general manager Mike Rizzo told the Washington Post. "He's still in a developmental stage in his career, and we thought he was the best option for us on a short term as a fill-in for an injured player. But long-term, we're still trying to figure out what our options are."
Kershaw sets benchmark for pitch count: Clayton Kershaw carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Marlins, but a leadoff double ended any thoughts of a no-hitter on Sunday. The Dodgers' pitcher threw a career-high 112 pitches before being taken out of the game after the hit.
"You get to a point where you can see he's laboring, then you have to be careful not to get him hurt," Dodgers manager Joe Torre told the Los Angeles Times. "I thought he had enough left, but I never had to make that decision."
Aardsma calm and cool against old team: David Aardsma picked up a win and a save in the Mariners' three-game set with the Red Sox. Aardsma had a 4-2 record in Boston last year but was designated for assignment before being picked up by Seattle, where he is acting as the Mariners' closer.
"In the fourth inning, my heart was just racing," Aardsma told the Seattle Times of the possibility of facing his old team Friday night. "But the second they called down, I got the ball, started warming up and didn't feel anything."
McCarthy prepares for role as hitter: With interleague play set to start this weekend, the Rangers pitchers are working on hitting, bunting and, according to Brandon McCarthy, trying to avoid looking foolish in the batter's box.
"Don't end up on SportsCenter for something stupid," McCarthy, who is 0-for-5 with four strikeouts and one sacrifice in his career, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "If it's a situation where you can swing, I try to put together a good at-bat and do something productive. Going up there and waving at three pitches doesn't do much."
Chamberlain finds success with pre-game routine: Joba Chamberlain decided to alter his pre-game routine on Saturday, and the results were good.
After warming up as he usually does before a game, Chamberlain rested for a few minutes and then threw a simulated first inning with bullpen coach Mike Harkey standing in the batter's box. Chamberlain then struck out the first two Minnesota hitters he faced and retired the side in order.
"It was more of a mental adjustment," Chamberlain told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Physically it was there. It was just getting over that hump of getting through it and getting off to a good start."
Beckett digs deep into pitch count: Josh Beckett threw 120 pitches in seven innings against Seattle in the Red Sox's 5-3 victory on Saturday. That was only six pitches shy of his career high, set in 2004.
"I didn't even know," he told the Boston Herald of his pitch count. "I just go out there until someone takes the ball out of my hand or the game's over. I don't even worry about it."
Flores overcomes surgery, earns callup: With the Rockies making changes in the bullpen, Randy Flores is happy to get a chance to prove himself.
Coming off shoulder surgery last September, Flores pitched well at Triple-A Colorado Springs, earning a promotion to the Rockies.
"I was trying to recover, and you don't really have time for that when you are trying to make a team," Flores told the Denver Post. "Once the season started, I felt good. I have been in the Minor Leagues a long time during my career, so I try not to pay attention to what's going on with the big league club. It will drive you crazy. I am just happy for this opportunity."
Carpenter to get the start on Wednesday: In his second start of the season, Chris Carpenter felt a tug in his side, a problem with his oblique muscle that has kept him out of the lineup ever since. On Friday, after a 120-pitch bullpen session, the Cardinals pitcher declared himself ready to return on Wednesday against the Cubs.
"I'm excited about going out and competing," Carpenter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "That's what this is about. That's what this game's all about, and that's what pitching is about. I enjoy doing it. I'm looking forward to Wednesday."
Garza sets new high with pitch count: Matt Garza threw a career-high 120 pitches on Saturday in a win over Cleveland. His six innings were appreciated by the Rays' bullpen.
"There's probably no one we want on the mound more than Matt right now," reliever Joe Nelson told the St. Petersburg Times. "One hundred twenty pitches to him -- he'll do it every start if he needs to. He's one of our studs."
-- Red Line Editorial