It's never too early to start exploring your future options, and Curtis Granderson is proving to be a natural in the media field.
10/08/2007 11:16 AM ET
Granderson is a natural analyst
During the season, the Tigers' speedy young center fielder authored a well-received blog for ESPN.com and now he's serving as an analyst for TBS during the postseason.
"Curtis was on a short list of ours because of his charisma," TBS Sports senior producer Howard Zalkowitz told MLB.com. "He's always a very good interview, very polished for a player at such a young age, but also very genuine. But we didn't anticipate the Tigers being out until the end of the regular season or the postseason."
For Granderson, what was going to be something interesting to do on the side may end up being a great move for the future.
"At first it didn't really seem like [a career move]," he said. "I just thought it was a very interesting thing to do, to talk about the playoffs. Because before I got into [the Majors], I watched that. Now, more and more people are talking, saying this is the first step towards it if I want to do it. Hopefully I don't have to start thinking about it just yet. It would be great whenever my career does wind down."
Zalkowitz, meanwhile, likes what he has seen thus far in Granderson.
"I think that Curtis with his postseason experience last year, both with his success and having difficulty in the postseason as well, will lend himself to a real good viewpoint," said Zalkowitz. "You never know if a good interview will translate into being a good [analyst]. Hopefully he can do that.
"He's very serious about TV, and that's interesting."
Nothing bugs Fausto Carmona: For anyone that didn't know who that was pitching for the Cleveland Indians on Friday night, it was Fausto Carmona -- one of the best, yet seemingly unknown, pitchers in the American League. Facing the New York Yankees in the playoffs might unnerve a lot of young pitchers -- but not Carmona.
While working nine innings, Carmona allowed just one run on three hits in a game the Indians eventually won in 11 innings. He was, in a word, dominating. Nobody on the Indians roster seemed to be surprised.
"That doesn't really impress us because he's been doing it all year," center fielder Grady Sizemore told MLB.com.
"He was aggressive and he was working down in the zone," added catcher Victor Martinez. "When he's working down in the zone, he's tough to hit."
First baseman Ryan Garko says that to him, Carmona is certainly among the best in baseball.
"His stuff is as good as anybody, maybe the best in the league," said Garko of Carmona. "Veteran guys who are great hitters, they want no part of him."
Carmona said after the game that he didn't feel any pressure before taking the mound.
"Going back through the whole year, the way I've been pitching, I was thinking when I was on the mound like it was just another game," said Carmona, through translator and first-base coach Luis Rivera. "I didn't put any pressure like it was a playoff. I just continued pitching the way I had been pitching the whole year. That's the way I found out I was calm on the mound."
Even when a swarm of bugs covered him, Carmona just kept pitching.
"Fausto didn't flinch. He didn't blink. That says a lot about him," said Garko. "You've got to give him credit. There was some adversity thrown at him. That might have been my favorite part of the game. He didn't step off the mound once."
"It's great that he did it on this stage because he deserves a lot of recognition," added Garko.
"To do what he did against that lineup," added Cleveland third baseman Casey Blake of Carmona, "it's almost indescribable."
Byrnes' hustle leads to important run: With one out in the fourth inning, Arizona had the bases loaded. Cubs reliever Michael Wuertz was one ground ball away from a possible double play and allowing Chicago to escape the jam without allowing a run.
Wuertz got the ground ball he wanted off the bat of Eric Byrnes, who chopped the ball to third base. But Byrnes raced down the line and beat the relay throw from second base, allowing Arizona to score an important insurance run as the Diamondbacks went on to sweep the Cubs in the first round of the NLDS.
"I'm not sure if I've ever run so fast in my entire life," Byrnes told the Arizona Republic.
Making sure he wasn't known only for his hustle to first base, Byrnes hit a home run and singled to end the series 3-for-12.
"Up to that point, it wasn't really a great series for me," he said. "It was really one of those times when I knew I had to do that to help us. To find a way. That's what this team is all about, if you think about it. It could have been any one of our guys who would have run hard and done the exact same thing."
Rest does Boston's Okajima well: During the middle of September, the Boston Red Sox decided to sit reliever Hideki Okajima. The team wanted him to rest and build up his strength for the postseason. It appears the move worked.
"You can tell, not just in what he's doing and throwing, but in his body language," fellow reliever Mike Timlin told the Boston Herald. "He's more confident. When you're not in pain, your confidence is a little higher. He looks like the guy who was here the second week (of the season)."
Okajima retired all four batters he faced in Boston's Game 2 win over the Angels, striking out two. While his pitches were in the mid-80s most of the time, he got four swings and misses, showing that his comand was back. Before taking 13 days off in September, Okajima's pitches were starting to stay in the hitting zone.
"We just tried to stay with him," manager Terry Francona said. "When it got to a certain point one day we thought, OK, you know what. ... because I actually stated probably time and time again I don't think he's fatigued. And I really didn't.
"And then when it became evident that he was starting to (tire), we were trying to beat it to the punch rather than overdo it. I think we could have got away with pitching him. I don't know that it would have been the smart thing to do."
Damon's been in this spot before: Johnny Damon is a part of Boston Red Sox lore, helping the team rally from a three-games-to-none deficit to the Yankees in 2004 en route to a World Series title. If New York can accomplish the same feat against the Cleveland Indians this year, Damon could easily become a folk hero in New York as well.
Needing a win to keep their season alive, Damon lifted the Yankees to an 8-4 victory with an RBI single and a game-turning three-run home run.
"We know our backs are up against the wall," Damon told Newsday. "We know we have to come out and play well, do well. There's a lot on the line."
Cleveland jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Yankees cut the deficit to 3-2. In the fifth inning, Damon came to the plate with two runners on base. Getting a pitch he could handle from Jake Westbrook, Damon slugged the ball into the right field seats to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead and ignite the New York fans.
From there, Phil Hughes and the New York bullpen did the job. Pitching in relief of Roger Clemens, who was unable to make it out of the third inning, Hughes threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief to keep Cleveland at bay. After allowing a two-out RBI to Jhonny Peralta, with the run charged to Clemens, Hughes allowed only one hit and no walks while striking out four.
"That was pretty much the big story of the game," Derek Jeter said, "was Hughes. I mean, besides Johnny's home run."
Indians' Perez a spark in the bullpen: In the first two games of their series with the New York Yankees, the Cleveland Indians jumped out to a two-games-to-none advantage (the Yankess won on Sunday to move the series to 2-1 in favor of Cleveland), and a big part of their success in those first two games was the bullpen work of Rafael Perez.
In the two games combined, Perez set down all 12 of the Yankees that he faced.
"I was able to concentrate on the mitt of Victor [Martinez]," Perez told MLB.com through an interpreter. "I knew that I had to do it to be able to get the outs."
Manager Eric Wedge has been pleasantly surprised with Perez's body of work.
"If you asked me three months ago, I would say he's surprised me," said Wedge. "It's important [for young players] to understand it's still baseball. You've just got to go out and play your game and control what you can control, and he's done a good job at that."
In 44 appearances this season, Perez posted a 1.78 ERA -- third best in the American League among relievers. "He's just been tough as nails for us," said Tribe ace C.C. Sabathia.
Perez, who did not appear in the Indians' loss on Sunday night, takes a lot of pride in his work and in being the sole financial provider for his family.
"When I come to the stadium, I only think of my family, because whatever I do there, they're going to feel better and they're going to be watching me," said Perez, who is the only boy in a family of four. "I know when I win, the win belongs to my family, too."
J.D. Drew tough to rattle: While J.D. Drew is in the middle of the playoffs, his personal life has been on an emotional roller coaster. His wife is eight months pregnant and his 19-month-old son, Jack David, is two months removed from a development displacement of the hips, which required seven hours of surgery and a cast from chest to toes. Through it all, Drew keeps the same stoic demeanor at the ballpark.
"I've always been pretty much a family man and blessed with the ability to play baseball," Drew told the Los Angeles Times. "But even though you don't see it, it really is an internal battle with me. I'm as hard on myself as anybody, but I don't blow up or show it. It's the way I was raised; I just play the game."
With the Red Sox and Diamondbacks advancing to the League Championship Series, the possibility exists that J.D. will face brother Stephen in the World Series.
"I've contemplated that," Drew said, remaining reserved till the end.
Matsui back to his old self: Colorado second baseman Kaz Matsui was never comfortable in New York when he played for the Mets. But since becoming a member of the Rockies, he has displayed the talent that made him a seven-time All-Star in Japan.
"I wasn't Kaz Matsui in New York," the Rocky Mountain News quoted the 31-year-old Japanese infielder through his interpreter. "I don't know why, but I wasn't the player that I am.
"I'm so glad I'm here. I'm really comfortable now."
Since arriving in Colorado, Matsui has thrived. He hit .288 with four home runs and 37 RBIs and scored a career-high 84 runs in 104 games. Matsui also stole a career-high 32 bases in 36 chances and committed only four errors in 515 chances.
"I got in a good environment on a good team and I'm so happy about that," Matsui said.
"He's a pest," Phillies reliever Jose Mesa said. "He makes contact and he hits pitches you don't expect a hitter to hit."
Hernandez gives Arizona reason to be patient: The Cubs had Arizona pitcher Livan Hernandez on the ropes during Game 3 of the NLDS Saturday night. Chicago had the bases loaded and only one out. All three runners reached base by walks.
But Hernandez remained cool and calm on the mound, not letting the raucous crowd get to him. Instead, he induced a double play to get out of the inning and let the wind out of the Chicago sails as the Diamondbacks went on to win 5-1 and sweep the best-of-five series.
"I've been in this situation before," Hernandez, who was the 1997 World Series MVP with the Florida Marlins, told the Arizona Republic. "I see the fans get up when (the count) is 3-1, it's something that doesn't bother me."
The double play was one of three turned behind Hernandez and one of four in the game for the Diamondbacks. The twin killings allowed Hernandez to overcome five walks and five hits allowed in six innings of work.
Hernandez seemed to dance in and out of trouble throughout his time on the mound, but manager Bob Melvin stuck with his veteran right-hander.
"He's a guy you've got to have some patience with, because he will have some runners on base, and he will find a way to pitch his way out of it," Melvin said. "This time of the season, it can be a little more difficult to be patient at times. But up until a certain point in the game, unless we really look like we're stuck, we don't have better than him. He's been in this type situation before. It was an outstanding effort."
-- Red Line Editorial