Five to forget for Rios
No one would quibble that Randy Johnson(notes) deserves props for his 300th victory, but the San Francisco Giants left-hander is one of 24 pitchers to reach that mark. Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios(notes) stands alone for what he did Thursday, and he went all but unnoticed.
Rios struck out in all five of his plate appearances in a 6-5 loss to the Angels in the Rogers Centre. He is not the first player to have done so, of course. Forty-one players since 1954 have whiffed five times in five plate appearances in a nine-inning regular-season game, according to Baseball-Reference.com, the terrific on-line research tool. (Reggie Sanders(notes) is the only player to whiff all five times in a postseason game dating back to 1903; he did so for the Reds in Game 3 of the 1995 division series against the Dodgers).
But here’s where Rios sets himself apart. He is the only player in the last 55 years to have had two nine-inning games in which he whiffed in all five of his plate appearances. Rios had his first five-K game on July 29, 2006. (Two other players, Dick Allen and Andruw Jones(notes), also performed a double 5-K, but they needed extra innings).
Rios also became the first player to whiff five times in five plate appearances in the same game in which another player went five for five, in this case Blue Jays teammate Adam Lind(notes), who tied a club record with eight consecutive hits over two games.
Being fitted again with what is known as the platinum sombrero obviously didn’t set well with Rios, who can be seen on YouTube cursing a heckler after he walked past a child seeking an autograph while out on the town Thursday night.
A review of Rios’ afternoon: He took a called third strike in the first inning on a 92-mph fastball from Angels right-hander John Lackey(notes). And he went down swinging in his final four at-bats: Lackey got him on an 84-mph curve in the fourth, an 82-mph slider in the sixth and an 83-mph slider in the seventh, and Brian Fuentes(notes) whiffed him on a 77-mph slider in the ninth.
In all, Rios faced 22 pitches. None of his at-bats went more than five pitches, and he made contact with just three of them: foul balls in at-bats in the first, seventh and ninth innings.
And here is where it gets a little weird. While this was the first time one player whiffed five times while another went five for five in the same game, I was curious if it had happened on the same day. Turns out it has happened four times, and the most recent was Rios’ previous five-K game. While Rios was whiffing five times in Oakland, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski(notes) was going five for five in Baltimore, and Tampa Bay utilityman Tomas Perez(notes) was doing the same in Yankee Stadium.
And yes, five-K games are increasing in frequency. Between 1954 and 1970, only five players struck out in all five plate appearances in a nine-inning game. It has happened eight times since the start of the 2006 season.
One last Rios whiff note: He also struck out in his last two at-bats Wednesday, giving him seven straight Ks and prompting this observation from Toronto manager Cito Gaston on how overmatched he was by the Angels: “They’ll call him on his cell, that’s how much they had his number.”
Back story: The groundwork for the Braves’ trade with Pittsburgh for all-star outfielder Nate McLouth(notes) was laid last July when Atlanta came within minutes of dealing for Jason Bay(notes). Atlanta decided against it because at the time it didn’t want to part with outfield prospect Gorkys Hernandez. This time, the Braves agreed to include Hernandez in the deal for McLouth, while refusing to include three other prized prospects: pitcher Tommy Hanson(notes), outfielder Jason Heyward or first baseman Freddie Freeman.
Tampa Bay had also come very close to acquiring Bay before last July’s deadline, while the Florida Marlins, instead of the Dodgers, thought they were going to be the team getting Manny Ramirez(notes) in the three-team deal that sent Bay to Boston. That trade blew up when the commissioner’s office stepped in and said Boston could not send a couple million dollars to the Marlins as compensation for the draft picks they would lose because Ramirez intended to decline arbitration. “The baseball people didn’t want to do it,” one insider said of the Marlins’ interest in Ramirez, “but ownership did.”
McLouth gives the Braves a Gold Glove center fielder and a power threat, elements the club was lacking, especially when rookie outfielder Jordan Schafer(notes) proved overmatched and was sent down. The Braves feel Hernandez, who is outstanding defensively, and the pitchers they surrendered in the deal, Triple-A right-hander Charlie Morton(notes) and Class A left-hander Jeff Locke, will all play in the majors for the Pirates. “Probably a No. 3 on the high side,” an executive for another NL team said of Morton, “no worse than a 4, and the lefty (Locke) is a terrific competitor. Hernandez has a lot of upside, but you look at Cameron Maybin(notes) (an outfielder the Marlins got in the Dontrelle Willis(notes) deal), and he was supposed to be an impact player already, and that hasn’t happened.”
Braves icon Tom Glavine(notes) remained bitter Friday that he was released after completing his rehab assignment, claiming that the decision was financially motivated. The Braves, who re-signed Glavine for $1 million plus incentives in February, would have owed him $1 million upon adding him to the 25-man roster, and then an additional $1.25 million apiece for 30 and 60 days spent on the roster. Glavine made no mention of the fact that the Braves paid him $8 million in 2008, when he won only two games before elbow and shoulder problems sidelined him.
GM Frank Wren insisted that the decision was driven by performance, not dollars, that top prospect Tommy Hanson deserved his promotion. Braves scouts, meanwhile, had Glavine topping out at 84 miles an hour and pitching at 80-81. “We gave him an opportunity to come back from elbow and shoulder surgery because he was Tom Glavine,” a Braves executive said. Sentiment may have gotten in the way of a baseball decision then; it was painfully set aside this week.
Land of the lost?: Losing three in a row to Pittsburgh this week, including a blown five-run lead in the first game, a loss by ace Johan Santana(notes) in the second, and an 11-6 wipeout in the series finale, portends a perilous road ahead for the New York Mets. The Mets have somehow stayed competitive despite a run of injuries that has reached the absurd stage. Already missing star slugger Carlos Delgado(notes) until perhaps August, they may now be without shortstop Jose Reyes, who tore a calf muscle while on rehab assignment, and setup man J.J. Putz(notes), who plans to undergo elbow surgery Tuesday for a bone spur and is expected to miss at least two months. Putz hadn’t been effective, allowing seven earned runs in his last 1 1/3 innings.
One NL scout who saw Putz this week said, “His confidence is zero. He was throwing 93-94 with a good slider, but his split was average. He used to throw a dominating split. No sign of that pitch.”
Since the start of the season, the Mets have placed Tim Redding(notes), Brian Schneider(notes), Oliver Perez(notes), Delgado, Alex Cora(notes), Ryan Church(notes), Ramon Martinez(notes), Reyes and Putz on the disabled list. Gary Sheffield(notes) is 40 years old and has sore knees, and star outfielder Carlos Beltran(notes) has missed five games in the last 10 days, two with a bruised right tibia, then three this week because of a stomach virus. They’ve survived so far, but after a series this weekend in Washington, the Mets will face a merciless schedule, playing 22 of their next 29 games against teams that as of Friday led or shared the lead in their divisions. That would be a challenge even if the Mets were intact; crippled, they’ll be in jeopardy of losing valuable ground to the Phillies.
Young, gifted and primed: From a scouting report on Hanson, the highly regarded Braves pitching prospect who makes his debut Sunday (rain pushed it back a day): “He mixes, locates and competes. His slider paralyzes right-handed hitters, his curveball seems to stop in midair then darts down. Short-armer who has a deceptive delivery and his fastball has plus sink. He was overmatching International League hitters. Good demeanor on the mound. Good athlete. He has three potential out pitches. Legitimate top-of-the-rotation guy. He’s ready.” Another scout likened Hanson to Tigers rookie Rick Porcello(notes). “Remarkable poise,” the scout said. “They give you a similar look, though Porcello may be more aggressive outwardly.”
Strike a match: As good as Hanley Ramirez(notes) is, and the 25-year-old Marlins shortstop entered the weekend batting .342, Marlins officials are convinced he could be even better with an added shot of intensity. “Hanley is going to be Hanley,” one official said. “He’s a smart kid, a good-looking kid, and a single kid with more money than he ever dreamed. I love the guy; he’s probably one of the five best players in the game. But it’s like in 1997, when we had Moises Alou(notes), Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson, all good guys. Then we got (Darren) Daulton, who got into people’s faces, and shook the whole team – all the way to the World Series. Our energy guys now are guys like (Emilio) Bonifacio, and he’s a young guy. Once Hanley matures a little more in the next few years, that’s when you’ll see him at his best.”
FC trivia: There are two active players who rank in the top 10 for most home runs by a player who never led the league in home runs in a single season. Hint: They are now teammates (Answer below).
Fungo hitting: One club not involved in the McLouth deal said it was caught by surprise that the Pirates made him available. “Especially after they signed him this spring, we thought he’d be a face-of-the-franchise kind of thing.” … As down as the Red Sox have gotten on shortstop Julio Lugo(notes), a major defensive liability who also isn’t hitting, one scout said he was mildly surprised that Boston hasn’t made an overture to the Astros about Miguel Tejada(notes), who ranks second in the National League in hitting entering the weekend. The downside to going after Miggy is considerable: He’s 35, he’s making $13 million, and his range has shrunk so much he should be playing third base. Pittsburgh’s Jack Wilson(notes) still looks like the best fit, especially if the Pirates are in selloff mode. … The Nationals continue to explore trading Nick Johnson(notes) to the Mets or Red Sox, with a third club also showing interest in the Washington first baseman. … Only one other first-round draft choice for the Chicago White Sox has made it to the big leagues faster than infielder Gordon Beckham(notes), who was the team’s first pick in 2008 and was called up Thursday, going 0 for 3 in his debut. Pitcher Alex Fernandez was drafted first out of the University of Miami in 1990 and was summoned to the majors 58 days later. “He’s got more power than he looks like he should,” one scout said of Beckham, “and he’s got very good tools. He was a little pull-happy when I saw him, but I’m sure he’ll adjust.” Said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen: “He’s very cocky. I like that.” … Sweet gesture by Red Sox manager Terry Francona and his bench coach Brad Mills(notes), sending 500 roses to their wives after Francona won his 500th game in the big leagues Tuesday in Detroit. Among Red Sox managers, only Joe Cronin (1,071) and Pinky Higgins (560) have more wins. Neither, of course, can claim ownership of a World Series ring; Francona has two. … Just completing his freshman season at the University of Southern California was Shane Boras, the son of uber-agent Scott Boras. Boras, who like his father is an infielder, played sparingly in his first year, appearing in 10 games and making one start. He had one hit in 13 trips. He was drafted out of high school in the 35th round by St. Louis. … The ownership issue is impacting how the Cubs may approach next week’s draft. The Cubs in recent years have not hesitated to take an over-slot pick, like pitcher Jeff Samardzija(notes), the Notre Dame wide receiver who they grabbed in the fifth round in 2006 and signed to a $1 million signing bonus, with a stipulation that he’d receive a lot more if he chose baseball over football. The Cubs were uncertain this week whether they’d be allowed to go over-slot this go-round. … While rumors continue to float that the Marlins have interest in Pedro Martinez(notes), it is more likely the club will focus on straightening out Ricky Nolasco(notes), who was just recalled from Triple-A after two encouraging starts there, and using the money that Martinez would cost in next week’s draft. … Financially, it doesn’t add up, but one scout insists that the Braves inquired about J.D. Drew(notes) of the Red Sox. … The list of pitchers potentially available in a trade hasn’t changed much in recent days. Brad Penny(notes), Jake Peavy(notes), Jason Marquis(notes), Cliff Lee(notes), Jarrod Washburn(notes), Erik Bedard(notes) and Andy Sonnanstine(notes) are names being circulated, with Roy Halladay(notes) and Matt Cain(notes) considered real longshots. The Giants might be persuaded to entertain offers for Jonathan Sanchez(notes); they have a number of good young arms making their way up through the system. Closer Heath Bell(notes) looms as the Padres’ most likely trading chip. … With 51 RBIs in his first 50 games, Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez(notes), recommended by outgoing GM Pat Gillick, looks like a shrewd signing. … He hasn’t received the national attention that Hanson is getting, but Phillies rookie lefty Antonio Bastardo(notes) was very impressive in his debut Tuesday against the Padres, allowing one run in six innings while striking out five. Bastardo is only 5-foot-11 but he throws in the low to mid-90s, has a lot of deception in his delivery that results in swings and misses on his fastball, and has an excellent slider and a rapidly developing changeup.
FC trivia answer: Gary Sheffield and Carlos Delgado of the Mets. Sheffield, with 504 home runs entering the weekend, is third behind Rafael Palmeiro (585) and Frank Thomas(notes) (521) among players who have never won a HR title. Delgado, with 473, is fifth, also trailing Stan Musial (475). Two other players are close to moving into the top 10: Chipper Jones(notes) (413) and Jason Giambi(notes) (404) are within reach of Billy Williams (426), who ranks 10th.