Monday, April 23, 2007

Sox/Yanks, Phil Hughes and more

I can't say enough about last night's game, and it's mostly already been said anyway. I didn't catch much of the Sox historic back-to-back-to-back-to-back dingers because I was actually watching "The Sopranos" and only saw replays except for Varitek's bomb, which I caught live. Dice-K wasn't as sharp as we all wish he was, but he battled, and got a hard-earned victory. Big games last night were had by Mike Lowell, obviously, but getting lost in the shuffle was a possible break-out game by Dustin Pedroia. He hit the ball hard, especially on his first extra-base hit of the year, and made a potentially game-saving grab at a key spot late in the game. I think it was important for him to get out there and make a strong showing after Alex Cora had been so good in recent days. Pedroia of course has a much higher ceiling than Cora, but he'll need more games like last night to cement his place as starting 2nd baseman.

As I write, WMP just dove and made a catch on what actually did look like a trap, and then doubled off a very surprised Aaron Hill. We'll see what the final ruling is on that one. Timmy Knucks is dealing again, should be no surprise there. I'm not sure what it is but he's got more control over that knuckler this year than any time I can remember recently. Good for him, and definitely not good for opposing hitters. Now looking at the replay, it does look like Wily Mo did catch it. Hill was confused because the 3rd base umpire made the out call and not the 2nd base umpire. That's why you've always got to be on your toes, kiddies!

Thursday night, the Yankees will call up righty Phil Hughes, the 20-year-old phenom that graced the cover of the 2007 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, to make his MLB debut against at Rogers Centre in Toronto. I had lauded the Yanks for refusing to call him up during the recent troubles with their starting staff, but the decision to call on Hughes smacks of desperation after being swept by Boston. Hughes has had one good start out of three at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he had never pitched before this year. The book on Hughes is that he's the complete package, with stuff, command, and fortitude to be an ace in the Bronx. He figures to be the Yanks best homegrown starter since Andy Pettitte. Besides a mid-90s four-seamer and a high-80s two-seamer, he features an absolutely devastating curveball that according to BA is a "true power breaking-ball" in the low-80s. BA's concerns with him were his still-developing change up and his durability. They also felt like he'd make his debut in June, but the situation has dictated a much earlier call-up. I expect Hughes to struggle out of the gate, and it remains to be seen if this move is permanent. Certainly he'll be a fixture for the Yankees in 2008, but this will be a big test, with the Yankees really needing a shot of life right now. For fantasy purposes, someone probably already has him in your AL-only league, but in a mixed league, take a shot on him, stash him on your bench until he makes a big start, and then ride the wave because this guy is going to be the real deal.

Sad news about David Halberstam tonight, who died in a car crash in California at age 73. I have only read two of his books, "The Teammates" and "The Education of a Coach," plus his introduction to "The Best American Sportswriting of the Century," of which he was the main editor with Glenn Stout. What I have read of his was the top grade of American nonfiction writing, and made a significant impact on me as a young writer hoping to replicate his style. Halberstam was a genius with words and sentence structure, and I will read much more of his works to try and find exactly how he made his words sing so beautifully. The world of not just sports but the world of writing has lost a true legend.

Way to go Dustin, puttin' the Sox ahead. The Sox need more runs so they won't have to rely on Timlin or Piniero to finish the game. Later.

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