TSN Baseball Insider Steve Phillips answers three questions each week. This week, topics cover the Toronto Blue Jays and their crowded bullpen, the early success of journeymen pitchers, the comments of Archir Bradleys agent and the diminishing number of African-American players. 1. The Toronto Blue Jays are currently carrying an eight-man bullpen and with Adam Lind banged up, the Jays only had two bench players for their first game against the Twins on Thursday. Is an eight-man bullpen feasible over the duration of the season? Certainly an eight-man bullpen provides depth and flexibility for the manager to handle moves during the course of the game. It typically will allow John Gibbons the ability to work matchups for any situation. When a starting rotation does not go deep in the game, the added bullpen depth allows the manager to try and hold the lead or hold the deficit on a daily basis and gives him the best chance to win. With a doubleheader scheduled on Thursday, the extra arms protect Gibbons from having to do what White Sox manager Robin Ventura did when he pitched a utility infielder in the 14th inning of a tie game (and lost). Of course, with the one or two extra relievers, there are limitations in other areas. It doesnt allow the manager much creativity on the offensive side of things. In the American League, it is easier to carry an extra pitcher or two on the roster because they generally dont have to pinch hit for the pitcher. The Jays greatest weakness is their starting pitching and therefore bullpen support is critical. I dont suspect the Jays will go with 13 pitchers all season long but there will be times when it is necessary and appropriate. 2. Weve seen hot starts from a trio of journeyman pitchers who were pressed into starting duty because of injuries to their teams regular rotations in Atlantas Aaron Harang, Jesse Chavez of the Oakland Athletics and Alfredo Simon of the Reds. It doesnt seem realistic to expect any of the three to maintain their torrid paces, but who do you think has the best chance to stay successful? Teams that have successful seasons find ways to deal with adversity. Injuries can cause tremendous problems over the course of the season. There is a saying in baseball that you never have enough pitching. There is nothing more true. Each teams has to go into the season understanding that they will need potentially 20 major league-ready pitchers over the course of 162 games. There will be injuries and underperformance that will prompt a change in personnel. As soon as you think you have enough pitching, the "baseball gods" remind you who is boss. Journeyman pitchers are journeyman pitchers for a reason. They have good enough stuff to retire hitters at the major league level but lack the long-term consistency to do it on a regular basis. Aaron Harang, Jesse Chavez and Alfredo Simon all have experience and decent stuff. Yet at this point in their careers, they are part of the inventory that their teams carry to deal with the adversity of the season. Chavez with the As, is with his fifth major league organization. He is now 30-years old. He hasnt been able to secure a full-time position on any staff. He has made three starts so far without earning a decision but he does have a 1.35 ERA and has struck out 22 batters in 20 innings. You may look at this and think that he has figured something out. But you cannot judge a player by just a three-start window. He has 11 years worth of performance as a professional that led him to be inventory for Oakland. Certainly, the As are ecstatic about what he has given them but they understand what he is and where the season may progress from here. I actually broadcasted games that Harang and Simon threw against the Mets this season. Both pitched well. Simon (1-1 1.20 ERA) is a big hard-throwing righthander with a good slider. His stuff is better suited for the bullpen but out of necessity, he has been asked to start. His versatility is valuable in a pinch because he can easily move from the bullpen to the rotation. Every team would love to have a guy like him on their staff but you wont win with 12 guys like him on the staff. Harang (2-1 0.96 ERA) has a far superior track record than the other two. He led the NL in strikeouts once as a starter for the Reds. He has won 112 major league games. That being said, Harang couldnt make the Indians rotation in spring training. The Braves picked him up once it was clear he wasnt in the Indians plans. Harang has a career 4.25 ERA but over the past three seasons, his earned run average has been in the high 4s or low 5s. He is starting to deteriorate at the age of 35. Of the three, Harang has the best chance of success this season but at some point, all three of these pitchers will be part of their teams adversity. They will start to perform like the pitchers that they are and need to be replaced. 3. The Arizona Diamondbacks are off to a horrendous start, and have a team ERA over 6.00, which is almost a half-run more than the 29th-placed team. The agent for their top pitching prospect, Archie Bradley went to media to complain that Bradley wasnt called up yet. Does this affect how Bradley is viewed by the organization, or is this just part of doing business in the Majors? So you wonder where the "us against them" mentality gets started. Agents telling players that their organization is treating them poorly and unfairly can lead to an animus relationship. Players need to understand that when their agent speaks, it is them speaking. The agent works for the player. When he says something, it is as if the words are coming out of the players mouth. Agents sometimes forget that and players sometimes dont realize it. As a general manager, I reminded myself that sometimes agents step over the line. They think they are just doing their job. I didnt want resentments between me and an agent. I would speak to a player and remind him that his agent is representing him with everything he says and does. I wanted my minor leaguers to think they were ready to be big leaguers. I wanted them to keep fighting and pushing to prove they were ready. So the fact that a top prospect is so confident that he thinks he is able to compete at the highest level is actually a good thing. Is Archie Bradley better than at least one of the starters on the Dbacks. You tell me? Their starting rotation has a combined 7.63 ERA (30th). The next closest teams starters have a 5.21 ERA. Arizonas starters are far and away the worst in baseball so far. A little known fact is that no team starts their season with the best 25 players on their major league roster. Every team has a prospect that is better than a role player on the major league club. But the prospect starts the season in the minor leagues to better refine his skills so when he is ready for the majors, he isnt just a middle reliever, utility infielder or extra outfielder. Archie Bradley has all the makings of a successful starter at the major league level. He has quality stuff, a presence on the mound, poise and athleticism. He will be a big leaguer. It is just a matter of when he will get the call. The Dbacks wanted him to refine his abilities so he started the season in the minors. He has only made three starts (1-2 3.31 ERA) there. It is his first season at the AAA level. He needs time to refine his command and control and consistency of his off-speed stuff. The Dbacks dont want to rush him to the majors and set him up to fail. They dont want the pressure on the youngster to have to be the savior of the team, which is impossible. All five of Arizonas starters have been bad. One young kid is not going to improve them every night. Their problems are far greater than just the one start he would make every fifth day. The Diamondacks will likely, at least, wait until early June before even considering a call-up. They want to get beyond a certain date to protect him from becoming arbitration eligible any sooner than he has to. It is the organizations prerogative and it is the right thing to do. Bradleys agent would be better served telling his client that he needs to stay focused and ready. That it is not a matter of if he will be a big leaguer but only when. He can only control what he does, not what the organization does. So in the long run, there will not be lingering hard feelings about the pressure the agent is applying unless the agent keeps planting a seed of distrust in the players mind. 4. What has happened to all of the African-American baseball players? This is a question that was asked quite a bit this week. April 15 was the 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in major league baseball. It is a good time to evaluate the progress that the game has made since Robinsons heroic efforts. I think it is safe to say that if Jackie were alive today, he would be disappointed in the number of African-American players in the majors. In 2014, only 8.3 per cent of big leaguers are African-American, which is down from a high in 1981 of 18.7 per cent. In contrast, the number of foreign-born players has grown to 26 per cent of the 2014 rosters. When Jackie Robinson broke into the majors, that number was less than 1 per cent. Baseball scouts and executives are color blind. It doesnt matter what you look like or where you come from. If you can play and help me win, then I want you on my team. The decreasing number of African-Americans is not a byproduct of racism or discrimination, it is strictly a scouting issue. Scouts go where the players are. The numbers indicate that baseball is growing internationally. A fisherman throws his line in where he has the best chance to catch the most fish. Scouts are the same way. It is not that scouts dont want to sign African-American kids. It is just that there are fewer African-American kids playing baseball and putting themselves in a position to be drafted. So why is this the case? I believe part of the issue is that organized baseball had diminished in size and numbers in the inner cities. MLB has tried to bring the game back with the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner cities) academies. There are now six in the U.S. that have about 220,00 kids participating. But because so many fewer kids were playing baseball, it dried up the number of prospects scouts were finding. Baseball is a more expensive sport than basketball. A glove, cleats, bat and bag can run about $300. All a kid needs to play hoops is a pair of sneakers and a buddy with a ball. Plus there are fewer baseball fields around the cities than there are basketball courts. One of the other financial challenges faced today is the fact that the higher levels of baseball are played as part of elite travel teams. These teams may demand a $1,500 participation fee in addition to the cost of equipment. Many of these teams travel to weekend tournaments, which can cost a family a significant amount of money for hotels and meals. In order to get drafted or offered a scholarship, players may need to participate in showcase events around the country. These can be expensive propositions as well. For a family having difficulty making ends meet, these can be out of the question. In addition to the financial challenges, there are limits to the number of baseball scholarships available to student athletes. When a player is recruited to play college football, he gets offered one of 85 full scholarships from a Division I school. When he plays basketball, he may be offered one of the 13 scholarships available. But in baseball, up to 30 kids split 11.7 scholarships. So there is far less return on investment for a baseball player than the other sports. Finally, I think there are fewer kids playing baseball overall because they think the game is boring. It moves too slowly for them. Kids today want the quick hit. They want instant and constant action. The pace of baseball pushes some kids away to other sports. Kids need to be taught the game within the game so their interest can grow. As much as I would love to see more African-American players in baseball, I just dont think the trend will be easily reversed. Lets hope the RBI programs work and we can restock the inner city ponds for the fishermen. If not, the game will continue to grow internationally until it can no longer be declared "Americas Pastime." Mark Walton Jersey
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. -- Cole De Vries had a couple of key strikeouts during what could have been the inning that doomed him to defeat against the Kansas City Royals, allowing him to escape further damage and keep the game tied up.KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The vast rebuilding job that Ned Yost inherited as the manager of the Kansas City Royals was strikingly similar to the one he took on when he was hired by the Milwaukee Brewers. The difference this time is that Yost will have a chance to stick around. The Royals and Yost agreed to a two-year contract extension Tuesday after wrapping up an 86-76 season, the best finish for the franchise in 24 years. Yosts contract was set to expire after the season, though both sides had expressed a desire for the manager to remain on board. "Our main goal is to win the World Series, but we took a major step this year," Yost said. "We finished 10 games over .500. That was huge for us. That was a big step." The next big step is to make the playoffs, something that Yost had the Brewers on the verge of when he was fired in 2008. He eventually landed in Kansas City and became the interim manager in 2010, and then lost more than 90 games each of his first two full seasons in charge. His biggest task then was to help develop one of the youngest rosters in baseball, and the work began to pay off this year. The Royals rebounded from a disastrous May to go 43-27 after the All-Star break, and werent eliminated from wild-card contention until their penultimate series. "Milwaukee was a great experience for me, like May was a good experience for our team," Yost said. "Im thankful for that opportunity because it made me stronger. It made me a better manager. The May we went through, it made us better, it made us stronger, because we endured it, and we were better for it the rest of the year." Yost, who is 741-831 in 10 seasons as a manager, held off on discussing a new contract until after the season. It came together quickly on Monday. "When you have something good you need to stick with it," outfielder Alex Gordon said after the final game, "and I think thats what we have. We have a good manager that gels well with the guys on this team and we all have a good relationship." Yosts two-year deal creates a strange situation in the organization in that general manager Dayton Moore is only under contract through next season. Moore declined to discuss whether he will also seek an extension this off-season, saying only that hes "secure" with his situation.dddddddddddd "Im at peace about where I am and what weve done," Moore said. "Theres an emotion and an expectation and excitement around this group of players, and in a small way, I feel like weve won the World Series, because we have a fan base thats excited." Now that Yost is under contract, Moore will soon turn his attention to putting together a roster for next season. Most of the lineup will return intact, led by promising young players such as first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Salvy Perez. But plenty of questions remain, starting with right field and what was one of the best starting rotations in the big leagues. The Royals cobbled together right field when Jeff Francoeur fizzled out, and David Lough and Justin Maxwell were platooning there late in the season. But Yost and Moore both have indicated they would like to add a bat with power to the lineup, and right field is the natural fit. In the rotation, Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen are both eligible for free agency. Santana may have priced himself out of the Royals with the best season of his career, but Moore said that he anticipates having the resources necessary to make a competitive bid to keep both pitchers. If that doesnt happen, Moore said that youngsters Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and Kyle Zimmer are prepared to compete for a starting job in spring training. "Every team has holes. We certainly are not immune to that," Moore said. "Well look at the areas where we can improve, but you can only improve with talent and opportunities available to you, and I have no idea what opportunities are going to be available going forward." Moore did say that he expects the Royals payroll, which was a franchise-record $81,241,725 on opening day, to remain the same or perhaps even increase next season. "You have a deep-pitted feeling in your stomach every year youre not in the playoffs," Moore said. "We want that for our fan base. We want that for our players in the worst way. So were going to continue to work to press the right buttons." Cheap Jerseys Store Jerseys NFL Cheap Cheap NFL Black Jerseys China Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Wholesale Wholesale Jerseys Camo China NFL Jerseys
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