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09/07/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY (September 7, 2008)"
by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International
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MARLINS CALL UP McPHERSON AFTER BIG YEAR IN PCL
When Dallas McPherson reported to training camp with the Florida Marlins in February, he was at best a long shot to make the major league roster. An injury-plagued 28-year-old free agent signed from the Angels, McPherson's bid to return to the big leagues was blocked by third baseman Jorge Cantu and first baseman Mike Jacobs, who've combined to hit 51 homers while driving in 153 runs thus far this season. After being sent down to Class AAA Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League, the 2004 Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year put together the kind of numbers Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez couldn't miss, and McPherson was called up last Monday.
What kind of numbers? McPherson led the minor leagues with 42 homers for the Isotopes while batting .275 with 98 RBIs in 127 games. Quite a difference from 2007, when McPherson missed the entire season with the Angels after undergoing back surgery before spring training opened that season. The Citadel product had some minor hurts this spring, too, and only batted 21 times in the Grapefruit League before being sent down to the minors.
“That's a guy who can hit the ball out of the park,” says Gonzalez. “We know he's got that power...I'm looking forward to having him over the next month, getting him some playing time and seeing what he can do for us.”
The Marlins are in third place in the National League's East Division with a 71-69 record, eight games behind the division-leading New York Mets and three in back of the Philadelphia Phillies. The Chicago Cubs lead the NL Central, while Arizona is tops in the West.
PERCIVAL REJOINS RAYS FROM DL, LONGORIA RETURN UNCERTAIN
The Tampa Bay Rays got some welcome news last week when closer Troy Percival returned from the 15-day disabled list, but the American League East leaders aren't sure when star rookie third baseman Evan Longoria will be back in the lineup.
The 38-year-old Percival went on the DL for the third time this year August 14 when he damaged some cartilage in his right knee in a game against Oakland. Despite all the missed time, Percival leads the Rays with 27 saves. He says he's not sure whether he'll wear a knee brace, but admits to feeling better having one on when he fields bunts.
Dan Wheeler filled in as closer during Percival's absence, but the Tampa Bay reliever says the veteran's return will be invaluable. “Just his presence out there,” Wheeler says. “His experience with over 300 saves...Just knowing he's the last guy out there, and he's been there and done that, is a comfortable feeling.”
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon and the rest of the Rays would no doubt feel more comfortable knowing when the 22-year-old Longoria will be able to play again. One of three Tampa Bay players at this year's All-Star Game, Longoria was batting .278 with 22 homers and 71 RBIs in 104 games before having his right wrist broken by a pitch from Seattle's J.J. Putz on August 11. He's expected to start swinging a bat this weekend, but no firm timetable has been established for his reactivation.
The 84-53 Rays are three games ahead of Boston in the AL East, the Chicago White Sox lead the AL Central, and the Los Angeles Angels top the AL West by 17 games.
200 GAME WINNER NAMED CENTRAL LEAGUE PITCHER OF MONTH
Chunichi Dragons left-hander Masa Yamamoto was named Pitcher of the Month for August in Japan's Central League after going 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA and reaching the 200-win milestone for his career. The 43-year-old Yamamoto tossed two complete games in August en route to becoming the oldest player in either league to win the monthly award, surpassing former Hiroshima pitcher Yutaka Ono, who was 41 when he last claimed the honor. It was the eighth time Yamamoto has won a monthly MVP award (a Central League record), but the first time in nine years.
Other winners were Yokohama outfielder Seichi Uchikawa, who won Central League Player of the Month by hitting .449 in August; Pacific League Player of the Month Alex Cabrera, a first baseman who is the first foreigner to win five such awards after hitting .405 with ten homers and 24 RBIs for Orix; and PL Pitcher of the Month Takayushi Kishi of Seibu, who was 3-0 with 37 strikeouts and a 1.32 ERA.
In the standings, the Hanshin Tigers lead the Central League with a 69-45-1 record, but the defending champion Yomiuri Giants are within striking distance five games behind at 64-50-2. In the Pacific League, the Seibu Lions are a comfortable eight games in front of both the Softbank Hawks and Orix Buffaloes with a 67-49-4 mark.
JOHNSON'S 15-GAME WIN STREAK IN TAIWAN ENDS
La New Bears pitcher Mike Johnson's perfect season came to an end September 1 when he dropped a 5-2 contest to the dMedia T-Rex in Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League. The loss was Johnson's first of the season after 15 consecutive wins for the Bears.
Johnson lasted only three innings, coughing up five runs on seven hits and two walks. T-Rex third baseman Wei Kao was named MVP for the game by going 3-for-4 at the plate with a double and two RBIs, while dMedia leftfielder Chen Chi-Peng and catcher Chen Ko-Fan were each 2-for-4 with a double. Gary Burnham singled and doubled with an RBI for the Bears, but the game belonged to the T-Rex. Starter Chiang Pai-Ching went five frames for dMedia in lifting his record to 3-1 for the season.
The President Lions lead the Taiwan table with a 52-26 record, five games up on the 45-29-4 La New Bears. The Lions have beaten the Bears seven times in 12 games this year.
WOORI DROPS KOREAN TEAM SPONSORSHIP IN MID-SEASON
The twisted tale of confusion that has personified the Woori Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization has taken yet another turn, and not for the better. The former Hyundai Unicorns were purchased in the offseason by the Centennial investment group of Seattle, who then essentially leased the franchise to the Woori tobacco company. After several rounds of cost-cutting moves during training camp that nearly resulted in a strike among their players, the Heroes took the field for the regular season.
However, Woori missed the deadline for the first installment of their three-year, $27.5 million deal, and the company has sought to sever their ties with the KBO, claiming their connection with the baseball team has damaged their corporate image and cigarette sales, according to the JoongAng Daily newspaper. The Woori name has been stricken from jerseys.
By whatever name, it's been a long season for the 40-62 Heroes, who are seventh in the eight-team KBO. The LG Twins are in the cellar with an awful 37-70 record. The defending champion SK Wyverns are dominating the league in 2008. The Wyverns are 66-34, and hold a 9.5-game lead over the 57-44 Doosan Bears.
SAN MARINO LEADS ITALIAN SERIES AGAINST NETTUNO
Danesi Nettuno scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning last Wednesday to break an 8-8 tie, and went on to beat T&A San Marino 10-8 to win Game Five of the 2008 Italian Series in San Marino. Despite the loss, San Marino leads the best-of-7 series, three games to two.
San Marino held a 4-3 lead in Game Five heading into the top of the seventh inning, when Nettuno exploded for five runs. Igor Schiavetti stroked a two-run single to key the four-hit attack, as Danesi went up 8-4. San Marino came back with four runs of their own in the bottom of the seventh, featuring a two-run double by Max DiBiase and a two-run homer from Dean Rovinelli to tie the contest at 8-8.
Nettuno broke the deadlock one inning later when reliever Luca Martignoni issued a bases-load walk to Giuseppe Mazzanti, followed by a sacrifice fly by Ramon Tavarez. Victor Arias took the win for Nettuno, pitching 2.1 perfect innings in relief, while Martignoni absorbed the loss for San Marino. The teams are concluding the Italian Series this weekend.
REGENSBURG TO PLAY MANHEIM IN GERMAN FINALS
The Regensburg Buchbinder Legionaere were able to beat the German League's most dominant regular season team in their best-of-5 playoff semifinal series in four games to advance to the championship series against Manheim.
Regensburg defeated the Solingen Alligators 2-0 to clinch the series, 3 games to 1, as Craig Crow and Phillipp Hoffschild combined on the shutout. For all intent and purposes, the game was decided in the first inning when Regensburg's Alex Lauterbach launched a two-run homer off Solingen starter Andre Hughes for the only runs of the game. Hughes pitched scoreless ball the rest of the way for Solingen, but got no offensive support. Prior to the playoffs, the Alligators won 27 of 28 regular season games.
Manheim reached the title series by sweeping the Heidenheim Heidekoepfe in three straight games. Manheim capped their semi series with a 6-1 win in Game Three. Manheim held a 2-1 lead over Heidenheim going into the eighth, when the Tornados broke things open with a four-run outburst, capped by a two-run single from Jens Heymer to bring to the score to 6-1. Paul Waterman earned the win for Manheim, allowing one run on five hits and a walk over seven innings. The finals begin next weekend in Regensburg.
BRITISH LEAGUE FINAL FOUR THIS WEEKEND
The British National League concluded its regular season last weekend, and four teams remain for the league payoffs this weekend at the Roundshaw Playing Fields in Croydon. Two divisional champions are considered favorites going in.
One of those teams are the London Mets, who finally lost a game this year, dropping an 8-4 decision to the Croydon Pirates at Roundshaw on August 21. The loss stopped a 21-game winning streak for the Mets, who went on to win the North Division title with a 23-1 mark, eight games ahead of the 15-9 Richmond Flames. The other favorite for the British pennant are the 20-2 Manchester Eagles, who have won their past 16 games to finish eight games ahead of the 12-8 Menwith Hill Patriots in the South Division, which was reduced to two teams after the Liverpool Trojans dropped out of the league with two weekends left.
London was scheduled to play Menwith Hill in one of the semifinals, while Manchester was due to take on Richmond in the other semi. The two winners were then slated to meet in a best-of-3 series for the British National League pennant, also this weekend in Croydon.