07/18/2007 10:35 AM ET
Teammates value Inge's contribution
Brandon Inge is having quite a season at the hot corner, and many of his Tigers teammates think it's time he get some recognition.
"He makes plays. He saves games. He stops innings," says Sean Casey of Brandon Inge (pictured). (Al Behrman/AP)
"He is easily the most athletic guy on the team," reliever Todd Jones told the Detroit Free Press. "As many runs as he knocks in, that's how many he saves.
"He's one of those guys who don't show up in box scores because of bigger names. He's a 'glue guy.' You've got to have those to win."
First baseman Sean Casey thinks there may be some hardware in Inge's future.
"If he doesn't win a Gold Glove this year, I don't know who should," Casey said of Inge, who began his career as a catcher. "Those of us on this team who get to watch him every day, we know how much he means defensively. We see how invaluable he is. He makes plays. He saves games. He stops innings."
Oakland's Eric Chavez has won six straight Gold Gloves in the American League at third base, but Detroit manager Jim Leyland puts Inge in the same class.
"He's a great third baseman, no question about that," said Leyland. "As a matter of fact, he plays it about as good as anybody."
Saltalamacchia growing comfortable at first: Jarrod Saltalamacchia had been in a platoon role at first base, getting starts against southpaws. Braves manager Bobby Cox gave Saltalamacchia his first shot at what might become a full-time role at first base when he started him against righty Bronson Arroyo on Tuesday.
"I'm glad I'm getting the opportunity to get in there and face some right-handed pitching," Saltalamacchia told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A catcher by trade, the Braves have worked Saltalamacchia into the lineup at first base since they have All-Star Brian McCann behind the plate. Saltalamacchia has also seen time at catcher when McCann gets a day off. He's still a work in progress at first base.
"I've gotten a lot more comfortable," said Saltalamacchia, who made his 10th start at first Tuesday. "I'm not blocking the ball anymore, trying to actually use the glove. I'm getting there."
Ramirez grows into power role: Hanley Ramirez hit his 15th home run of the season Tuesday, leading the Marlins to a 4-0 win over the Cardinals. It leaves him just two homers shy of his total last year as a rookie.
Ramirez has more homers in one-and-a-half seasons in the Majors than he did in four seasons in the Minors, where he hit 27.
"I didn't like to open up," Ramirez told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, explaining the differential. "I just liked to hit .300. I wanted to get hits. I didn't go looking for home runs."
Ramirez is doing both now in the Majors. He's on a nine-game hitting streak and is batting .425 during this stretch. He's the third-leading hitter in the National League in July, batting .408 thanks to 20 hits in 49 at-bats.
"I'm using my hands, being patient," Ramirez said.
Injury-free Penny starts second half strong: After starting the All-Star game for the National League in 2006, Brad Penny struggled after the break.
In 2007 Penny again was an All-Star, but he got his second half off to a strong start with an 11-1 victory over the Phillies Monday night. Penny is not worried about a repeat of 2006 because he said last year's slide was due to an injury.
"I won 16 games last year, a career high," Penny told the Los Angeles Times, "but when I was struggling, people said I was overthrowing, trying to throw everything 100 miles an hour. The truth is, I was suffering from a bulging disk. I had trouble bending over, but it was easier for people to say I was overthrowing."
Penny spent the offseason doing exercises to strengthen his back and it has not given him any problems this year.
"He worked hard in the offseason because he felt he had something to prove," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "He's using all of his pitches now. Before, when things got tougher, he just [tried to throw] harder. Now he starts throwing his fastball 91, 92 and adds to it as the game goes on. All of a sudden, he's throwing 95, 96, but he's still smooth."
Phillips keeps coming through: Andy Phillips is doing all he can to become the regular first baseman for the New York Yankees. Phillips broke a 4-4 tie against Toronto Monday night with a two-run bloop single, giving him game-winning hits in back-to-back games.
On Sunday, Phillips not only drove in the go-ahead run, but he also made an outstanding play in the field to save a couple of runs against Tampa Bay.
"It's been a fun month for me," Phillips, who is batting .304 since his recall from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 19, told Newsday. "Certainly it makes it a lot of fun when you play well and help the team win."
Phillips' single Monday night dropped in front of center fielder Vernon Wells to score Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano.
"I was just trying to keep it simple," Phillips said. "Trying not to do too much."
Gabbard doing his talking on the mound: Kason Gabbard doesn't say a lot. That is because he lets his pitching do the speaking for him.
"When he first came up," Boston manager Terry Francona told the Boston Globe, "he didn't say two words. That's not necessarily bad. Now that he's been around a little bit, you at least get a hello out of him and a smile."
Gabbard threw a complete-game shutout Monday night, limiting the Kansas City Royals to only three hits. He became the first Red Sox rookie to throw a nine-inning shutout since July 4, 1993, when Paul Quantrill blanked Seattle. Gabbard is the first left-handed rookie to toss a shutout at Fenway Park since Roger Moret in 1971.
Gabbard was in control the entire evening as he went to a three-ball count only once. For the season, he is no 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts.
"The only one I think I threw was in high school," Gabbard said about tossing the complete game.
The outing is a culmination of a tough stretch for Gabbard. The 24-year-old has undergone three arthroscopic surgeries on his left elbow four years ago. The surgeries kept Gabbard from getting the notice some of the other Red Sox prospects have received.
"I think you have to remember this is a kid who faced a lot of roadblocks coming up through the Minor Leagues," Francona said.
Cubs think Kendall's a good fit: Newly acquired Chicago Cubs catcher Jason Kendall batted nearly .300 in his last 25 games before the deal that brought him to Chicago. One of Cubs general manager Jim Hendry's top assistants, Gary Hughes, had been scouting Kendall and was impressed with what he saw.
"We feel he still has a lot left in the tank," Hendry told the Chicago Tribune. "Gary Hughes has been watching over him quite a bit the last two weeks. It's a good fit for us. It makes us better on the field and in the clubhouse."
With a career average of just under .300, Kendall can be an offensive catalyst even if he doesn't hit for a lot of power.
"He ain't going to hit many homers, but he's going to put the ball in play," said third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who played alongside Kendall in Pittsburgh for five years. "He's going to give you everything he has. He's a slap-ball hitter and a good catcher."
Manager Lou Piniella says he plans to bat Kendall seventh in the batting order, and knows that historically his new catcher can get on base with regularity.
"He gives you a good, professional at-bat, and he'll take a walk," Piniella said. "Basically, he's been a .300 hitter his whole career."
Castillo gets another shot at third: Jose Castillo didn't win the Pirates' third base job out of Spring Training, but now he's Castillo is getting another chance to show what he can do.
"I've been waiting for my chance, and right now, it's my chance," Castillo told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's my opportunity, and I'm ready."
Manager Jim Tracy believes in Castillo's ability to play the position.
"As I've said all along, there is no doubt in my mind that he is capable of playing anywhere on the infield, and can play well," said Tracy. "He's a very, very good defensive ballplayer."
Third base coach Jeff Cox, the team's infield instructor, said Castillo should not have much trouble at all at the hot corner. "It will be a smooth transition for him," said Cox. "But he's going to have to think about playing third base."
Castillo, who was named the best defensive infielder in the Pirates organization back in 2003, says he is ready.
"Second base, it's more time to throw than third base," he said. "It's a better angle and position for catching a ball and throwing the ball. At third base, it's quick and hard, but I'm ready for anything."
Tracy, meanwhile, is looking forward to Castillo proving his worth.
"Over the next couple of weeks, he is going to get regular, consistent at-bats, and we'll see what he does with it," Tracy said. "If he gets himself going, he certainly can help us offensively."
-- Red Line Editorial