30 July, 2006

Tottenham: King crocked

The "It never rains..." Department:

The day after Spurs and Man U agreed terms for the transfer of England midfielder Michael Carrick, the London side have suffered a further blow to their pre-season preparations.

Defender and club captain Ledley King has suffered a knee injury which will cause him to miss 6-8 weeks. That means King will miss at least the first month of the 2005-6 Premier League campaign and could be ruled out of Spurs' first UEFA Cup tie.

King, a semi-regular for the national side, missed the World Cup with a broken bone in his foot.

29 July, 2006

MLB Debut - Chris Britton

At 6'3" 278lbs, Baltimore reliever Chris Britton is rather hard to overlook. Here at Donutball we missed posting on Britton back in April when he made his debut. Chris, no slight dude. We can see you. Bear in mind, this was around the time that 6'6" Chris Hammel made his debut for Tampa Bay, replacing 6'9" Mark Hendrickson on the roster, and giant Aussie Peter Moylan came, saw and walked a few batters for Atlanta.

Righty Chris Britton was called up from Double-A Bowie on 13 April when the Orioles optioned RHP Cory Morris to Triple-A Ottawa. Morris himself had only been recalled on 9 April, but did not appear for Baltimore.

Britton debuted on 12 April away to Tampa Bay, a game the O's lost 7-4. He pitched 2/3 of an inning in relief of Sendy Rleal in the 8th after the fellow rookie had given up a grand slam which broke a 3-3 tie. Britton walked one and struck out one.

Since that game Britton made three more unforgettable appearances before the Orioles optioned him back to Bowie when Todd Williams was reactivated from the 15-day disabled list. At Bowie, Chris worked 11 innings allowing 8 hits and 3 walks whilst striking out 18 batters.

He got the callup again on 15 May when Daniel Cabrera went on the DL. Britton has subsequently made himself a valuable contributor to the O's 'pen.

The big righthander has been one of the more dominant relievers during his four years in the Orioles system. In 2005, he struck out 110 in 78.2 innings. His WHiP was an impressive 0.89 as he blew through the Single A Carolina League with the Frederick Keys. Despite his size, it's Britton's curve which is his out pitch. His fastball and slider are serviceable and he's working on a changeup too. But, it's the yakker that has been his meal ticket to the Bigs.

That journey has included a couple of lengthy outages injured, including the whole of 2003. He plays with a metal plate in his head, courtesy of a line drive in 2002. His size makes health and conditioning an issue. That aside, the O's like the look of the big man.

Chris lists huntin'n'fishin' as his hobbies. We're not going to argue with him.

Baseball Cube

28 July, 2006

Tottenham Hotspur: Michael Carrick leaves

What has otherwise been a fairly satisfactory off-season for Tottenham Hotspur turned sour today as the protracted move of midfielder Michael Carrick to Man United has been finalised.

Man U's original £10 million bid for Carrick during the World Cup was resisted by Tottenham. But, it became clear after England were knocked out that the deal was going to be done. Carrick, Donutball's player of the season, rejected a new contract and the club were not willing to break the salary structure to accommodate him.

The silver lining, or more like it brass lining, is that Spurs got the transfer fee up to £18 million, a profit of over £15 million. That's the second highest fee paid by a Premier League over the summer after Chelsea's outrageously stupid lump for Andrei Sevchenko.

Cash in the bank for Tottenham is welcome and could be used to further strengthen the squad, but Carrick leaves a big whole in the centre of midfield. I doubt any of the existing midfield corps - God, I didn't realise Edgar Davids was still there - can fill his boots. Time is running out in the transfer window to find a suitable replacement.

On the positive side, Spurs have signed a couple of quality players over the summer. Didier Zokora, Ivorian midfielder, adds class and unpredictability. Up front, Dimitar Berbatov replaces the ever popular Mido and keeps up the competition for the two striking positions. Man U have also been linked with England castoff Jermain Defoe.

In other news, the Guardian also reports that Spurs arexaminingng moving to the London Olympic Stadium in 2013. White Hart Lane, with a capacity of only 35,000, is inadequate and there is almost no prospect of further improving the ground which sits off the crowded Tottenham High Road. Public transport links to White Hart Lane are, to be polite, crap and unlikely to get better. Moving to Straford, the site of the Olympic stadium, would break a 130 association with North London and almost certainly be resisted by die-hard supporters. The stadium is likely to retain a running track, another demerit. This one needs watching.

Donutball may, or may not, be posting a Premier League preview in August. But, we'll probably be watching the cricket, cycling around South London or working on a never ending supply of MLB Debut posts.

26 July, 2006

MLB Debut - Matt Albers

Houston Astros' prospect Matt Albers made his Major League debut on 25 July against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched to two batters allowing a double to Scott Hatteberg before getting a ground out. The Reds beat Houston 2-0 behind Aaron Harang's 8 inning, 4 hit effort.

Albers was promoted on 20 July from AA Corpus Christi replacing lefty Wandy Rodriguez in the bullpen. Houston sees Rodriguez as a long term starter optioned him to AAA Round Rock where he takes up a place in the Astros' affliate's rotation.

The 23 year old right hander has put up some outstanding numbers in AA this season going 10-2 with a 2.17 ERA. He allowed 96 hits and 47 walks in 116 innings of work spread over 19 starts. That's a huge improvement over 2005 when he struggled to maintain the excellent progress he had made in the Houston system. Drafted out of San Jacinto Junior College, Albers is a local product. He went to High School in Sugarland in the Houston area.

His fastball is already a plus pitch and scouts say his curve and slider have the same potential. Albers problem is attitude and preparation. That and problems with his mechanics hindered his progress last season, but by all accounts he has got back on track in 2006. His promotion to the big club is a reward for an improved work ethic.

The Astros project him as a candidate for the bullpen despite starting all but a handful of 97 Minor League appearances.

Manager Phil Garner said:
"The difference between last year and this year was a 100-percent turnaround," Garner said. "He's matured to the point where he really opened a lot of eyes. In Corpus ... he's leading the league in ERA. He's been nasty. Even though he's been a starter, we're going to put him in the bullpen, and let's see what he can do."

The Baseball Cube

Alexander Smit Dispatches - Mike Sweeney Edition

Donutball's adopted Minor Leaguer, Alexander Smit, made another start on 25 July. He worked five innings conceding 2 runs on four hits, including a home run. Smit struck out 8, but also walked three.

Beloit lost the game 3-2 as Burlington Bees' third baseman Mario Lisson singled home the winning run in the 9th inning to break a 2-2 tie.

Royals' first baseman Mike Sweeney started for the Bees on a rehab assignment and went 0-for-3.

25 July, 2006

MLB Debut - Tony Pena (1)

Tony Pena. You've heard that name in a baseball context before. Though the Tony Pena you usually think of retired at the age of 78 and his knees are made out of zircon. Meanwhile, Ramon Antonio Pena is the second debutante Tony Pena this year. We'll cover Tony Francisco Pena Jr, fellow Dominican, at a later date.

Tony Pena. Only, this Tony Pena started his US baseball career as Adriano Rosario and five years younger. When his identity falsification emerged, he became Ramon Pena. Some guides list him as Antonio Pena.

Right that out the way, he has still managed to make it to the majors. That's because Pena has a plus fastball and a serviceable slider and curve, and he shows good command. Though he's featured almost exclusively as a started in the Minors and was tabbed as a possible back-end starter for the D-Backs in Spring Training, Pena will most likely end up as a reliever.

He was recalled by Arizona on 18 July when Tony Clark went on the DL. Pena had racked up 13 saves this year operating out of the 'pen for Tennessee (20.1 innings, 0.89 ERA, 1.31 WHiP) and Tucson (26.1 innings, 1.71 ERA, 0.72 WHiP).

Pena recorded a 1-2-3 seventh inning in his maiden appearance on 18 July versus the Dodgers at Chase Field. He was tagged for a Nomar Garciaparra triple in his second inning of work chasing home Kenny Lofton who had doubled in the previous at bat. The Dodgers won 4-1 behind 7 strong innings from Chad Billingsley who picked up his first Major League win.

Five days later, Pena pitched two flawless innings against the Rockies. Whatever his name, this guy might stick.

The Baseball Cube

MLB Debut - Manuel Corpas

[Placeholder for photo - Blogger are teh suck]
Okay, you want to be a Major Leaguer. Pitcher. Great, you get to be the focus of everyone in the park. You control the game. Better still, you have a 95-97 mph fastball. Throw from three-quarters? Ok, quirky, but that release point can fool batters. Sinker? Great! Sure, you'll probably only last as a reliever, but you might bounce around for 5 or 6 years. That'll do.

Crap. You've signed with the Colorado Rockies. You have to play half of your games at mile high altitudes. You know what that means. Deep power alleys or not, you'll struggle to keep your ERA under 5.00. Coors Field is the best hitters park in the National League over the last 3 years (and probably longer). Er, that means it's the worst pitcher's park.

Congratulations, Manuel Corpas - new meat in the Colorado bullpen.

When the Rockies reshaped their bullpen on 18 July, Corpas was a surprise promotion from Colorado Springs (another place that induces altitude sickness in pitchers).

Corpas had not pitched above Class A in six seasons in the Rockies system. But, he started putting things together last year and continued the good work over the winter in Venezuela pitching in 22 games with a 2.42 ERA. That helped earn him a place on the Panamanian WBC team where he pitched one inning allowing two runs.

This season he started at AA Tulsa where he saved 19 games before a mid-year promotion to Colorado Springs. In 8.2 innings he gave up one run on five hits.

Corpas relieved starter Jeff Francis on 18 July as the Rocks downed the Pirates 13-4. In true Rockies tradition, Corpas was greeted with a long ball though in Pittsburgh's less rarefied air. He worked an inning notching 2 strike outs with no walks and just Craig Wilson's bomb in deficit.

Corpas is your classic one pitch pony - bullpen fodder. In addition to his mid-nineties heater, he features a slurve which ain't getting anyone out and a changeup of no distinction. He has made great progress over the last year and might hang on in the bullpen. For his sake you've got to hope he gets out of Colorado.

The Baseball Cube

24 July, 2006

MLB Debut - Carlos Quentin

Arizona Diamondbacks first round pick from the 2003 Amateur Draft, Carlos Quentin, go the call to the big club on 20 July. Quentin replaced pitcher Edgar Gonzalez on the 25 man roster.

Quentin started the same day in left field, spelling regular starter Luis Gonzalez. The 23 year old righty swinger went 1 for 4. His only hit was a two run homer in the bottom of the sixth of Dodgers' starter Mark Hendrickson.

Before his call-up to the bigs, Quentin was hitting .289 for Tucson and led the PCL with 30 doubles. He also had 9 HRs and 52 RBIs. Quentin was hit by pitches 29 times in 2005, but has already surpassed that this year with 31.

As you'd expect, Quentin crowds the plate, hits for power and average. He hit .301/.422/.520 in a full season at Tucson in 2005. With nothing left to prove he was spinning his heels in southern Arizona until last week. But, it looks like he'll have to settle for spot starts as the D-Backs are crowded at the corner outfield places.

Quentin is a complete athlete, was a three sport standout at High School and had three monster years at Stanford. His range and arm are above average. He's got little speed, but with all the other skills at his disposal, he looks like a solid Major Leaguer.

The Baseball Cube

MLB Debut - Melvin Dorta

Infielder-Outfielder Melvin Dorta got the call from the Washington Nationals on 20 July to fill in for Jose Guillen DL'd with an elbow injury. Dorta's chief asset appears to be his versatility.

"I've seen guys that could play short and center field. But this guy plays left, center, right," Stearns continued before pausing for a breath, "third, short, second and first. We've had him at all those positions this year. And to tell you the truth, he's our emergency catcher if we ever get two catchers hurt in the same game."

Hat tip the Nationals Farm Authority.

The Venezuelan debuted 21 July in the Nats Re-opening Day 7-6 win over the Chicago Cubs. He pinch ran for Alex Escobar in the 9th inning only to be caught stealing. The next day he pinch hit in the 8th for relief pitcher Jon Rauch, lining out to Alex Ramirez.

Dorta joined Montreal back in January 2004 in a minor trade (for PTBNL) after five undistinguished seasons in the Red Sox organisation for whom he signed as a free agent in 1998.

He was hitting .277/.381/.329 for Harrisburg when he got called up. He's also turned his hand to pitching allowing 4 runs in one inning of relief work.

Dorta has spent the whole of the last two seasons with the Senators.

One of the accomplishments Dorta is most proud of during his time with the Senators was being selected by the fans during the last two home stands of the 2005 season as the "“Fans'’ Favorite"” Player.

His versatility counted for nothing during his cup of coffee at RFK. Following after Sunday's game Dorta was sent back to Harrisburg to make way for Damian Jackson who the Nats will/should/have/were supposed to activate from the Disabled List today.

The Baseball Cube

23 July, 2006

MLB Debuts- Kason Gabbard

Lefthanded starting pitcher Kason Gabbard is the poster chiled of "Sleepers".

You have to go to page No. 600 in the Red Sox's media guide to find information about Gabbard, who was pick No. 872 overall by Boston in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, fresh out of Royal Palm Beach School in Florida.

Yow. He's not in any of the guides I own either.

Anyway, Gabbard put up reasonable numbers in two stops this season at AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket. With the Bosox in desperate need of a starter on Saturday after Tim Wakefield was put on the shelf with a fractured rib, Gabbard got the call.

He did a creditable job hurling 5 1/3 innings against the Mariners allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 8 hits. All this in a matchup with one of the hottest young pitchers in the big leagues, Felix Hernandez.

Gabbard has suffered a number of injuries so had logged just 288 innings in his first 5 seasons of pro ball, nearly a half of those last year at Portland where he was less than spectacular (9-11, 4.61, 1.45 WHiP). This year Gabbard started again at Portland where in 13 starts he posted a 9-2 record with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.03 WHiP. At Pawtucket (just outside of Quahog), Gabbard made 5 starts going 1-3 with a 4.97 ERA and a 1.38 WHiP.

The 24 year-old out of Oxford, Ohio was the Sox ninth rookie starter this season.

Donutball can't say much about Gabbard's stuff or the pitches he throws. But, we'd guess he'll get a few more chances so long as Terry Francona is around.

The Cube

Alexander Smit Dispatches: Starting to get better

When last Donutball reported on Alexander Smit, the young Dutch lefthander was struggling with his control and quickly slipping down the prospects list.

Smit, as you may recall, was signed at 16 by the Minnesota Twins. We picked up his progress last August in his repeat season at Rookie ball. At Elizabethton, he put up gaudy numbers fanning so many (86 in 46 innings) that the temperature dropped 3 degrees.

This Spring he returned to Beloit in the Midwest League where he had struggled for a couple of months in 2005 (1-9, 5.98, 1.72 WHiP) leading to his demotion back to Tennessee. As a result, Smit fell back from No. 20 to No. 30 on Baseball America's prospect list for the Twins.

Before returning to Beloit this Spring, Smit was on the roster of the Netherlands entry in the World Baseball Classic. Donutball reported on his one and only, less than auspicious, appearance. Beloit was a come down. Smit lost control and was by all accounts pressing. With an ERA over 9.00, things looked unpromising.

Since our last visit to Beloit (May or June or whenever), a series of improving relief appearances - a 0.00 ERA in six June appearances, while striking out 21 batters in 10.2 - and an injury to Beloit starter Eddie Morlan gave Smit a chance. He made his first start - in place of Morlan - of the season on 28 June against Kane County pitching 4.1 innings in an 11-3 win. He allowed 2 runs on five hits, including a homer, and struck out 4.

Since then Smit has had a couple more starts and currently has an 11.2 inning scoreless streak. Last Thursday he worked 5 2/3 frames for the win over the Clinton Lumberkings conceding just three hits and two walks. The Dutchman struck out 8 bringing his total for the season to 72 in 60.2 innings. His ERA has dropped to 3.65 and his WHiP is at 1.35.

01 July, 2006


So, it's over. England lose on penalties in the World Cup again.

Thanks very much Mr Show Pony for getting Rooney sent off. What an overrated w@nker C Ronaldo is. Uncharitable yes, but I hope he gets kicked all over the Premier League. Disgraceful.

Rooney got sent off for being fouled twice by the cheat Carvalho. Ronaldo - almost as bad teeth as his namesake with Brazil - cons the ref. F&cking ludicrous.

Upset, sure. England never performed in the tournament until their backs were against the wall (fnarr, fnarr) in the quarter-final. The effort put in by Owen Hargreaves deserves special mention. Pilloried throughout the World Cup, but when the chips were down he was magnificent.

Eriksson. Good riddance. The selection was all wrong. The tactics were all wrong and the substitutions were mostly wrong.

Few of the players lived up to their reputation, but why on earth did Eriksson take four strikers - two injured, one who he'd never seen in a live game and one who was Plan B. As for the midfield, it never worked with Gerrard (lukewarm throughout) and Lampard (awful from the first kick). Spurs fan I may be, but Carrick wasn't the answer. Lennon though was the option on the right.

Blah, blah, sour grapes.

Well done Portugal. You were awful You cheat and con the referee and I hope you get thumped by Brazil. No ambition playing 11 against 10. England looked more like scoring. Looked like you were playing for penalties.

I need another beer.