Scott Linebrink believes that playing long toss helped turn around his season.
Players often do long-toss in the outfield before games to loosen their arms, while strengthening them at the same time. Linebrink, a setup reliever for the Padres, also uses long-toss sessions as a way of sharpening his mechanics.
Linebrink said a long-toss session in May helped him find his best release point. He has pitched well since then, helping the Padres bullpen to the lowest ERA in the National League.
"You like to see if you've got the good backspin going and if the ball is going straight instead of tailing and cutting," Linebrink told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It's hard to do long-toss properly if there's something that's flawed in your mechanics."
Linebrink was in a rough stretch before his long-toss session, allowing four home runs in 14 2/3 innings. After his throwing routine, he has put together 13 consecutive scoreless outings.
"For me, it's all about being in front (with his arm), and I've been getting good extension on my pitches," he said.
Loney happy to be back with Dodgers: James Loney made noise when he was called up at the end of last year, when he slugged 15 extra-base hits in 102 at-bats for the Dodgers. Then he proceeded to hit .414 in Spring Training before getting sent to the Minors.
"Any competitive person would have been upset," Loney told the Los Angeles Times after being recalled by the Dodgers. "If you are not upset, you're probably not tough enough to play this game. Once I got down there, the could-haves, should-haves kind of went away."
Loney posted 32 RBIs in 58 games this season in Triple-A.
"We certainly know what he did for us last season," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "When we brought him back up at the end of the season, he put together some great games and he had a great Spring Training for us. This kid is ready to play in the Major Leagues."
Loney figures to get playing time filling in for Nomar Garciaparra at first base. He will also see some time playing a corner outfield spot.
"We are coming into a point of the season where players are going to be needing more time off and when you can allow time off for quality players like this, that says a lot for the organization," Little said. "Everyone is going to get lot of playing time from here on out."
Cards excited to add Percival: Troy Percival has signed a Minor League contract with the St. Louis Cardinals as he hopes to revive a career during which he has earned 324 career saves -- 316 of which came with the Angels.
When St. Louis brass went to watch the veteran pitch last week, they knew they wanted to bring him in -- even if he's not 100 percent ready to pitch in the Major Leagues quite yet.
"You could tell he needed to pitch himself into shape as far as throwing often and sharpening up his command," manager Tony La Russa told the Belleville News-Democrat. "But he was throwing free and easy.
"What it does is deepen our bullpen. If he's anything close to himself, he'll be a real weapon there. We have high expectations that he's going to be good for us. It will make a good situation even deeper."
La Russa said that he and the rest of the Cardinals organization is confident that Percival would not be making this comeback attempt unless he was sure he had something left. Percival last pitched in the Majors in 2005.
"I think he's a guy who's got experience, and he's honest with himself," he said. "He's not going to come back and go through all of this to embarrass himself. I think there's a realistic chance he's going to pitch for us and pitch well.
"He missed quite a bit of time. (But) if you're a pitcher and you prepare yourself and you're in no pain, you want to try it again."
La Russa added that once he is ready to pitch in St. Louis, the Cardinals planned to use him in a setup role for closer Jason Isringhausen.
Lieber's hectic schedule yielding results: It's been one heck of a crazy few weeks for Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Job Lieber. After flying home to Mobile, Ala., on June 1 to witness the birth of his son, Jonah Kyle, he returned to the Phillies to pitch last Sunday.
Soon thereafter he flew back to Alabama, and was reunited with the Phillies on Friday night. On Saturday, he managed to toss a three-hit shutout against the Kansas City Royals in a game that lasted just over two hours.
"It's hectic," Lieber, who struck out 11 on the night, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I went through it with my second child, Jared. I didn't have as much time. That's why I appreciate the Phillies letting me go back and spend as much time as I did. It can be hectic during the season, and obviously I'm a little fortunate being a starting pitcher. It might be a little different if I was a position player."
With an ERA of just 3.72 but only three wins to show for it, Lieber hopes that this is the start of a nice run for him.
"I feel like I've had it," Lieber said. "I feel like I'm still there. I know it's been, 'Here we go again. He's pitching like it's 2006.' I'm not even close to that. The results can be deceiving, especially if you watch the game. I don't think I've done anything differently. It's just being able to throw the ball, get strikes, pitch ahead, and get the guys on and off the field."
Sabathia leads Indians both ways: Despite pitching nine shutout innings and picking up two base hits on Sunday, Indians ace C.C. Sabathia came away with a no-decision as the Indians fell to the Cincinnati Reds and Aaron Harang, 1-0, in 12 innings.
Harang worked seven scoreless innings himself, as the Reds surrendered just seven hits, including the two to Sabathia.
"I guess it's easier for me because there's no pressure," Sabathia, who has hit .297 in interleague play, told MLB.com. "I'm just swinging as hard as I can. It's all fun and games for me."
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said that the effort of his pitcher was outstanding.
"C.C. was out there, blood and guts," said Wedge. "That's why we left him out there. We were thin in the bullpen after [Saturday] night, and C.C.'s our guy. I can't say enough about his effort. He's been unbelievable for us."
Sabathia, meanwhile, downplayed the outing.
"I'm just trying to throw my pitches for strikes," he said matter of factly. "I've tried to mix it up, and I've been able to do that the last two games."
Teixeira finally misses one: For the first time in 507 games, Mark Teixeira didn't appear in a game for the Texas Rangers on Saturday. The first baseman saw his consecutive-games streak come to an end when the club placed him in the 15-day disabled list with a strained left quadriceps.
"It was going to end eventually," Teixeira told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I never had any delusions of Cal Ripken's streak or anything like that. It was more of I don't need to take a day off."
While Teixeira didn't come close to breaking Cal Ripken's record of 2,632 consecutive games played, he does own the club record, breaking the old mark of 483 held by Alex Rodriguez.
"If you know [Teixeira], to stop him from hurting himself, we decided to go put him on the DL," manager Ron Washington said. "He's walking -- not normal, but he's walking."
Teixeira left Friday's game in the sixth inning after hitting a grounder to Milwaukee pitcher Jose Capellan, nearly beating the throw to first base. Teixeira said he strained the thigh muscle when he stepped on the base and overextended himself.
The next day he had an MRI and both the doctors and the training staff said time off would be the best thing for Teixeira.
"It's absolutely a shock," Young said. "It goes to show you know that you can't take for granted that your players are going to stay healthy. You can assume they are and you can hope that they will, but you never know when a guy is going to get hurt."
Hart benefits from regular time: Two weeks ago, Milwaukee manager Ned Yost decided to insert Corey Hart into the leadoff spot in an effort to give him consistent playing time and get his bat going. The move has worked out.
Since the move into the lineup on an everyday basis at the top of the order, Hart has raised his average from .258 to nearly .300 and is hitting better than .350 in his last 10 games.
"Obviously that's all you can ask for is a chance to be in there every day," Hart told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I wasn't really forcing the issue because I wasn't really playing that great. And if you're not really doing that well, you're not forcing your way into a playing spot because we've got so many guys that can play every day.
"For me, it was kind of hard because I want to be out there every day. When you're not in there every day, it's kind of tough to get going. But in the last week and a half, I've been in there almost every day and been able to get comfortable and kind of get in a rhythm. I feel like I'm one of the guys again."
Yost had intended for Hart to get most of the playing time in right field this year. However, strong play by both Kevin Mench and Tony Gwynn Jr. has made the Brewers' outfield something of a juggling act for a manager.
"He (Mench) was playing great and Tony's been playing great all year, so if you're not doing extremely well it's hard to get in there because we have some guys that can get in there where he can use matchups, a lefty-righty kind of thing," Hart said. "I didn't get off to such a good start and I didn't force them to put me in every day."
Hart is now healthy, and the numbers he is producing prove it.
"Any time you sprain your wrist it hurts and you lose a lot of strength in there," Yost said. "Any time you have a healthy wrist it makes a big difference."
Navarro survives a scare: Tampa Bay catcher Dioner Navarro doesn't really remember what happened after being hit in the throat by a bounced pitch Friday. Perhaps that is a good thing.
"All I remember was that it was hard for me to breathe. It was one of those situations where I needed to calm down, but I couldn't, " Navarro told the St. Petersburg Times. "All I was trying to do was breathe, but I couldn't. ... It was a scary moment."
Navarro was able to avoid serious injury, though he did have an ugly scar where the ball hit the top of his chest before then hitting him in the throat.
"I feel much better, " he said. "It's a little sore in my throat. When I swallow, it hurts a little bit."
Navarro was taken off the field on a stretcher and then went to Broward General Hospital for tests. Once in the ambulance, he said he started to feel better and was breathing by himself. Those close to Navarro, including his wife Sherley and his parents in Venezuela, however, didn't know of his status and inundated Navarro with messages.
"When I checked my phone, I had like 13 messages, " he said.
Cabrera's play key for Yankees: New York Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best fielding outfielders in the game.
Facing the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend, Cabrera robbed Ronny Paulino of extra bases, and perhaps a home run, when he raced back to the center field wall an snagged a liner off Paulino's bat.
In what is becoming a familiar scene, Melky Cabrera took off with the crack of the bat, raced back to the centerfield wall, timed his leap and speared Ronny Paulino's drive with his glove above the wall.
The play drew chants from the Yankee faithful, and those chants only intensified when Cabrera ran down a short liner to center off the bat of Jack Wilson only moments later.
"Melky is a difference-maker, a 100 percent difference-maker on both ends of the ball," Alex Rodriguez told Newsday.
Cabrera is also getting the job done at the plate. He was 1-for-3 Saturday with two runs scored and a steal of third base that helped created a two-run sixth inning. He also had a sacrifice bunt in the 10th inning Friday night, helping produce the game-winning run. On Sunday, he was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
"There's so many things he's doing to help us win," Rodriguez said.
Cabrera is hitting .390 (16-for-41) while making 11 straight starts. During his streak, the Yankees are 9-2 and winners of six straight games.
"I'll be honest with you," Rodriguez said. "I don't think we'd be on this winning streak without Melky."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.