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israel trip

Trailed by a documentary film crew, 10 Jewish ballplayers will be touring Israel from January 3-10, 2017

By Stuart M. Katz, correspondent

When centerfielder Sam Fuld and nine other Jewish athletes head to Israel on January 3 for what might be dubbed a ‘Baseball Birthright’ trip, they won’t be alone.

Wives, parents, sons, and a fiancée will be traveling with this minyan of Major League players and prospects, all of whom plan to represent Israel at the World Baseball Classic taking place in South Korea in March 2017. Team Israel qualified for the quadrennial contest by winning a qualifying tournament in September.

Also coming along for the ride? A film crew.

MLB.com reporter Jonathan Mayo (Twitter) and Ironbound Films co-founder Jeremy Newberger (Twitter) plan to create a documentary titled Heading Home about the one-week trip. For most of the players, it will be their first visit to the Jewish homeland.

“The idea for the film came first,” Mayo told Jewish Baseball News. “It wasn’t originally planned around the WBC, but after Team Israel qualified, it all came together.”

Mayo said he and Newberger, childhood friends from camp Young Judea, are getting a lot of help. Driving forces behind the project include the Jewish National Fund’s Project Baseball, JewishBaseballMuseum.com founder Jeff Aeder, and Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Although plans for the film have not been finalized, Mayo expects the documentary will be screened at film festivals and air on MLB.com.

Fuld, who sat out the Oakland Athletics’ 2016 season with a rotator-cuff injury, will be joined on the trip by Ty Kelly of the New York Mets, Josh Zeid of the New York Mets’ organization, Ryan Lavarnway of the Athletics’ farm system, Jon Moscot of the Cincinnati Reds’ system, free agents Ike Davis and Cody Decker, former MLB outfielder Gabe Kapler (now director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers), St. Louis Cardinals prospect Corey Baker, and former MLB prospect, Jeremy Bleich, currently playing in the Dominican Winter League. Danny Valencia of the Seattle Mariners planned to come but had to drop out for family reasons.

A key motivation behind the trip and documentary is to build support for baseball within Israel, where soccer and basketball are king. The Israel Association of Baseball, hopes to recruit new players as well as raise funds to expand the country’s meager baseball infrastructure.

In addition to visiting Masada, the Dead Sea, an Israeli Air Force base, the Old City in Jerusalem and Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, the 10 ballplayers will conduct public practices and meet local dignitaries and ballplayers.

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Stuart M. Katz is a die-hard Yankees fan. An attorney at Cohen and Wolf in Bridgeport, Conn., he chairs the firm’s Litigation Group, practicing mainly employment law, and represents employers as well as executives.

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Shocker! Kevin Youkilis to play in Japan

By Scott Barancik, editor

Free agent Kevin Youkilis has covered a lot of ground the past two seasons, playing for A.L. teams in Boston, Chicago, and New York.

This time, he’s moving a little farther afield: Japan. The three-time All-Star, 34, has signed a one-year, $4-million deal to play for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, the defending Japanese champion.

“He’s looking at this as a terrific life experience for his family,” agent Joe Bick said. Youkilis‘ wife and two children, ages 7 and 1, will spend the season with him.

Youkilis — who played just 28 games for the New York Yankees in an injury-plagued 2013 season — will be at least the fifth Jewish major leaguer to play in Japan. He is preceded by Micah Franklin, Gabe Kapler, Richie Scheinblum and Josh Whitesell.

MLBTradeRumors.com reported that Youkilis had “received interest from eight or nine Major League clubs” but had been in talks with the Golden Eagles for several weeks.

Rakuten ace Masahiro Tanaka, who recorded an astounding 24-0 record in 2013, has been the subject of fevered speculation recently in the States. A number of Major League clubs have expressed interest in signing him, but the Golden Eagles have yet to decide whether to allow it.

“Rakuten” is an Internet shopping company. The baseball team is located in Sendai, in the Tohoku region of Japan. The Golden Eagles’ stadium was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami there in 2011.

Like Youkilis, Tampa Bay Rays free agent Sam Fuld reportedly has received interest from Japanese teams about the 2014 season.

Kapler, who overlapped with Youkilis in Boston from 2004-06 and spent part of the 2005 season playing for the Yomiuri Giants, tweeted Friday that he “had a good talk with Youkilis re Japan. He’s excited about something completely new in his life. Amazing cultural opportunity for Yoooouuk!”

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It’s here: Team Israel reveals its roster

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

The long wait to see which players will represent Israel at World Baseball Classic qualifiers this week is over.

Team Israel’s 28-man roster (see below) includes two former Major Leaguers (player/coaches Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler), three Israelis, and 23 minor-leaguers. Because the MLB season is still underway, no current Major Leaguers are on the roster. Also missing are a number of Triple-A and even Double-A players whose teams wanted them around as potential call-ups later this month.

The double-elimination tournament takes place Sept. 19-23 in Jupiter, Fla., and pits Israel against teams from France, Spain, and South Africa. Whoever prevails will earn a spot in the main World Basic Classic competition, in November 2013. If Israel wins, the team it fields in 2013 likely will include a number of Major Leaguers (such as Kevin Youkilis, who already has committed to play) and Triple-A players.

Additional commentary on this week’s roster is shown below the table.

Team Israel: Roster for the WBC qualifying tourney
No.PlayerPos.AgeHometownMinor-league teamParent club
27COLVIN, DavidRHP23Mill Valley, CAClinton LumberKings (A)Seattle Mariners
34KAPLAN, JeffRHP27Dana Point, CABinghamton Mets (AA)New York Mets
36KOPP, DavidRHP26Coral Springs, FLErie SeaWolves (AA)Detroit Tigers
16LEICHMAN, AlonRHP23Kibbutz Gezer, IsraelN.A.N.A.
22LIPETZ, ShlomoRHP33Tel Aviv, IsraelN.A.N.A.
10LORIN, BrettRHP25Laguna Niguel, CAMobile Bay Bears (AA)Arizona Diamondbacks
21PERLMAN, MaxRHP24Jupiter, FLStockton Ports (A+)Oakland A's
(-)ROTHEM, DanRHP35Tel Aviv, IsraelN.A.N.A.
26SCHUMER, JustinRHP24Houston, TXSan Jose Giants (A+)San Francisco Giants
28ZEID, JoshRHP25New Haven, CTCorpus Christi Hooks (AA)Houston Astros
14BERGER, EricLHP26Goldsboro, NCColumbus Clippers (AAA)Cleveland Indians
35BLEIER, RichardLHP25Davie, FLFrisco Roughriders (AA)Texas Rangers
17GOULD, JeremyLHP24Buffalo Grove, ILSavannah Sand Gnats (A)New York Mets
29URLAUB, JeffLHP25Scottsdale, AZStockton Ports (A+)Oakland A's
37CUTLER, CharlieC26San Fransico, CAAltoona Curve (AA)Pittsburgh Pirates
3MARDER, JackC/IF22Calabasas, CAHigh Desert Mavericks (A+)Seattle Mariners
19RICKLES, NickC22Ft. Lauderdale, FLBurlington Bees (A+)Oakland A's
6DECKER, Cody1B25Santa Monica, CASan Antonio Missions (AA)San Diego Padres
25FREIMAN, Nate1B25Wellesley, MASan Antonio Missions (AA)San Diego Padres
9ORLOFF, Ben2B25Simi Valley, CACorpus Christi Hooks (AA)Houston Astros
2SATIN, Josh2B27Hidden Hills, CABuffalo Bisons (AAA)New York Mets
33HAERTHER, Casey3B24West Hills, CAArkansas Travelers (AA)Los Angeles Angels
7LEMMERMAN, JakeSS23Coronoa del Mar, CAChattanooga Lookouts (AA)Los Angeles Dodgers
15GREEN, ShawnOF39Des Plaines, ILN.A.N.A.
24GUEZ, BenOF25Houston, TXToledo Mud Hens (AAA)Detroit Tigers
18KAPLER, GabeOF37Hollywood, CAN.A.N.A.
31PEDERSON, JocOF20Palo Ato, CARancho Cucamonga Quakes (A+)Los Angeles Dodgers
23WIDLANSKY, RobbieOF/3B27Plantation, FLBowie Baysox (AA)Baltimore Orioles

Here are some other facts and observations on Team Israel’s roster for the qualifiers:

  • Of the 23 minor leaguers on the roster, three ended the 2012 season with a Triple-A team, 12 at the Double-A level, six at A-advanced, and two with a Single-A team.
  • Adam Greenberg, a former Major Leaguer who is trying to mount a comeback, was invited to Jupiter for tryouts but is not on the roster.
  • Josh Satin, who played briefly for the New York Mets in 2011 and 2012, is the only player with MLB experience.
  • The youngest player on the roster is 20-year-old outfielder Joc Pederson, who is ranked the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 3 prospect by MLB.com. The oldest player is 39-year-old Shawn Green, whose 15-year MLB career included five seasons with the Dodgers and ended with the New York Mets in 2007. Green’s 328 career HRs are second only to Hank Greenberg’s 331 among Jewish ballplayers.
  • Israeli player Alon Leichman plays for Cypress College, a community college in California.
  • During the qualifiers for the 2012 European Championship, Israeli pitcher Shlomo Lipetz was masterful, giving up just one earned run over 16-and-a-third innings while striking out 18 and walking three.
  • Three players on Team Israel are 6-foot-7-inches tall: pitchers Brett Lorin and Max Perlman, and 1B Nate Freiman. At 5-foot-8-inches, Alon Leichman is the shortest.
  • Nate Freiman and Cody Decker, teammates on the San Antonio Missions (AA), finished 2nd and 3rd in HRs this season among Texas League players.

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Good news Monday (8/20/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Fear not: there is still some good news in the world:

  • Sam Fuld‘s heroic fielding and hustle have earned him the nickname “Super Sam,” but Tampa Bay Rays fans may just want to call him “Sparkplug.” Though a wrist injury kept Fuld off the field this season until July 24, the club has gone 18-and-7 since his return. The 30-year-old utility outfielder’s impact was never more clear than on Saturday (8/18/2012). The Rays were down 8-0 to the Los Angeles Angels when Fuld singled in his team’s first run, launching a 7-run inning that ultimately propelled the Rays to an improbable 10-8 win.
  • Detroit Tigers prospect Ben Guez continues to enjoy a breakout year with the club’s AA and AAA teams. The diminutive outfielder — he is listed at 5’10” and 180 pounds, about the same size as Sam Fuld — is hitting a combined .300 with 8 HRs, 5 triples, 42 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, and a preposterously high .423 on-base percentage. He has spent roughly three-quarters of the season with the Toledo Mud Hens (AAA).
  • Two of the N.L.’s top home-run hitters are Jewish. Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun, the reigning N.L. MVP, hit four dingers over a 3-game stretch last week and leads the league with 33 overall. New York Mets 1B Ike Davis has hit a career-high 22 HRs, good enough for 12th place.
  • Not to be outdone are San Diego Padres prospects Nate Freiman and Cody Decker. Teammates on the San Antonio Missions (AA), the pair rank 4th and 5th among all double-A players in home runs, with 23 and 22 respectively. Decker had an additional 5 HRs with the Padres’ AAA team, giving him 27 overall. Freiman, a 6’7″ first baseman, is hitting .298 and leads all AA players with 98 RBIs8.
  • Craig Breslow made the most of his two-pitch appearance Saturday (8/18/2012). The Boston Red Sox reliever entered the game with one out in the 8th inning, a 3-1 lead, a man on first base, and New York Yankees 2B Robinson Cano at the plate. Breslow’s second pitch, a cutter, lured Cano into an inning-ending double play, but what caught the eye of many observers was his batterymate: catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Several Jewish Baseball News readers, including Jerome Deutsch, noted the rarity of this all-Jewish battery. (Yes, it has happened before.) But even rarer was the fact that both men attended Yale University. According to the Yale Daily News, Breslow (Class of 2002) and Lavarnway (Class of 2009) were the first Yale batterymates since 1883. Said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the game: “I got a lot smarter having them out there.”
  • We’re only a month away from Team Israel’s appearance at the World Baseball Classic qualifying round in Jupiter, Fla. Among those scheduled to play in the team’s September 19 opener against South Africa are player-coaches Shawn Green (ranked second among Jewish major-leaguers in career HRs), former MLB’er Gabe Kapler, a variety of of other current and ex-pros, and a handful of Israelis. Click here for tickets.
  • Joc Pederson is on a roll. Ranked the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 3 prospect by MLB.com, the 20-year-old son of former major-leaguer Stu Pederson is batting .400 over his past 10 games with 5 HRs, 4 doubles, 11 RBIs, 3 walks, and 2 stolen bases. An outfielder with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (A-advanced), Pederson is hitting .313 this season with 17 HRs, 59 RBIs, 22 stolen bases, a .397 on-base percentage, and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .918.
  • Danny Rosenbaum is the Jekyll & Hyde of 2012. After starting the year 5-0 with an 0.71 ERA and just four walks for the Harrisonburg Senators (AA), there was talk the Washington Nationals might call-up the 6’1″ lefty in September. (See Rosenbaum’s May 2012 interview with Jewish Baseball News contributor Zev Ben Avigdor.) But when his go-to catcher Sandy Leon was called-up to the majors, everything seemed to fall apart, and today the 24-year-old’s record is a less stellar 8-and-9 with a 3.73 ERA. On Saturday (8/18/2012), though, it looked like the ‘old’ Rosenbaum had returned. Danny pitched 7 shutout innings in a 2-1 win over the Erie SeaWolves, giving up just five hits and one walk.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Good news Monday (7/2/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Get ready to kvell, brothers and sisters. It’s Good news Monday!

  • San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman won the Texas League Home Run Derby last Thursday (6/28/2012). A 6’7″ first baseman with the San Antonio Missions (AA), Freiman’s first swing of the contest reportedly was “the sweetest.” He launched a shot that not only struck the scoreboard but hit the “i” in “Freiman.”
  • Talk about cleaning up your own mess. When Augusta GreenJackets (A) reliever Andrew Berger entered Friday’s (6/29/2012) game against the Savannah Sand Gnats in the 7th inning, he promptly gave up a single and double. But the 24-year-old San Francisco Giants prospect didn’t lose hope. Instead, Berger struck out the side, knocked down the Sand Gnats in order the following inning (one of them by strikeout), and struck out the side again in the 9th.
  • Texas Rangers reliever Scott Feldman and his wife hosted a softball game at Rangers Ballpark yesterday (7/1/2012) for  injured soldiers. The couple previously has hosted families of deployed soldiers as well as patients from a local veterans’ hospital.
  • Baseball fans voted two Jewish players into next week’s All-Star game. Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, who also played in 2008 and 2010, will be the back-up to New York Yankees 2B Robinson Cano on the A.L. squad. On the opposing team, Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun was chosen for the 5th consecutive year, this time as a reserve player.
  • Today is the deadline for Team Israel to turn in its 50-player roster for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in September. According to a person involved in the process, the roster includes players who have committed to play (including player/coaches Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler) as well as players who the team wants who have not yet committed.
  • Boston Red Sox prospect Ryan Lavarnway had a heck of a June. A catcher with the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA), the Yale University alum erupted with a .405 batting average, 4 HRs, 18 RBIs, 10 doubles, a .469 on-base percentage, and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.136.
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin probably wishes he could play against the Durham Bulls every day of the season. As Jewish Baseball News writer Zev Ben Avigdor pointed out in his Twitter feed, the Buffalo Bisons (AAA) first baseman was on fire during a recent 4-game series against the Bulls, going 10-for-14 with 2 HRs, 4 RBIs and 4 walks.
  • When Tampa Bay Rays OF Sam Fuld had surgery on his right wrist during Spring Training, doctors predicted he wouldn’t return to the lineup before August. But after taking batting practice Friday (6/29/2012), his first time doing so since March, Fuld was optomistic. “I think we can be looking at the end of this homestand,” he said.
  • New York Yankees prospect Jeremy Bleich, who hadn’t pitched a shoulder injury sidelined him in 2010, is back. In three short appearances with the rookie-league GCL Yankees, the 25-year-old Stanford alum is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. Bleich has given up 3 hits and one walk in 5-and-2/3 innings while striking out 7.
  • In case you missed it, here is a clip of President Barack Obama, a Chicago native, teasing Boston Red Sox fans for trading Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. Judging from the boos, the joke was too soon.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Authors: Peter Ephross, Martin Abramowitz

Published: 2012

Pages: 227

Price: $35 (Amazon.com or McFarland Publishing/800-253-2187)

Our rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Reviewed by Stuart M. Katz for Jewish Baseball News

Overview

In Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words, authors Peter Ephross and Martin Abramowitz present oral histories of 23 of the Jewish players who were on Major League rosters between 1918 and 2005. Beginning with Bob Berman, who played for the Washington Senators in 1918, and ending with Adam Greenberg, who played one fateful game for the Chicago Cubs in 2005, the book provides an unusual window into America’s pastime.

What’s Jewish about it

Some interesting and common themes emerge in the book. Most of the players from the first half of the 20th century identify themselves as traditional Jews, say they experienced anti-Semitism (although not as virulent as the discrimination they saw African-American players suffer), and typically didn’t play on the High Holidays. Jews who played more recently were more likely to be from mixed marriages and less likely to take the High Holidays off.

Jesse Levis, who played for the Indians and the Brewers, recalls playing on Yom Kippur in 1996. He explains that because he wasn’t a superstar, he didn’t feel he had a choice, although he did fast that day. “I’m not Sandy Koufax…I’m a Major League player trying to make a living,” he says. As it happened, Levis didn’t get a hit that day — or for that matter, he says, the rest of the season. “God punished me anyway.” Former 1st-round draft pick Ron Blomberg recalls playing in a game in 1973 that lasted into the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “The game was tied with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, but we had a man on third base. I had to make the decision: quit the game for Rosh Hashanah, or get a base hit….I got a clutch base hit to win the game – the biggest hit of my career. I cherish that at-bat more than anything else in my life.”

Regardless of the era, Jewish pride resonates throughout many of the interviews. Hank Greenberg, who died in 1986, said that when a Jew hears about a gifted Jewish athlete, statesman or artist, “you take a certain pride in the fact that one of your own people (has) made good.”

My take

Although much has been written about Greenberg and Koufax, far less is known about the careers of others featured in the book, men like Sam Nahem, Cy Block and Mike Epstein. Their stories as non-superstars are no less interesting. Among the most compelling chapters are the ones devoted to Elliott Maddox and Jose J. Bautista, whose Judaism was less obvious because they are African-American and Hispanic, respectively.

The obstacles that Jewish ballplayers faced in the 20th century resembled the assimilation struggles that most American Jews faced during that era. But as these oral histories reveal, maintaining Jewish traditions remained extremely important to the players. I look forward to a future volume featuring interviews with Braun, Youkilis, Breslow, Ian Kinsler, Gabe Kapler and other more recent players. I wonder if they will describe their connection to Judaism as clearly and proudly as those who blazed the trail for them.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Stuart M. Katz is a die-hard Yankees fan. An attorney at Cohen and Wolf in Bridgeport, Conn., he chairs the firm’s Employment & Labor Group and represents employers as well as executives.
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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

It’s been nearly 5 years since Shawn Green hung up his cleats, marking an end to a Major League career in which the tall slugger with the elegant swing hit .283, smashed 328 HRs, and drew a respectful 80 intentional walks.

Since then, the two-time All-Star has penned a book, created a social media site, and expanded his charity work.

But Green’s retirement is over. Former Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Brad Ausmus, who has agreed to coach Team Israel in the upcoming World Baseball Classic qualifiers, confirmed Monday that the Tustin, Calif., native will be on the roster.

It’s exciting, if nerve-wracking, news. Reflexes and eyesight degrade quickly, and few ballplayers have successfully returned from so long an absence. Green could be a hero; he also could embarrass himself.

Green has several things going for him. Because he skipped college to turn pro, the 15-year MLB veteran is just 39 years old. He also won’t be facing MLB-type pitching, or at least not right away; Israel’s opponents in the WBC qualifiers are baseball-weak Spain, France, and South Africa. If the outfield proves too difficult, he is an experienced first baseman. And though it’s not clear how fit he is, Green has not let his weight balloon since retiring, as this 2011 video shows.

Joining Green on the Team Israel roster will be former Major League outfielder Gabe Kapler, a fitness fanatic who last played for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 and undoubtedly remains in great condition.

One thing is for sure: we’ll be rooting for these guys to succeed.

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Our 2011 Spring Training Awards

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — At least 19 Jews got playing time during Spring Training 2011, including five pitchers and 14 position players.

Here are our awards honoring the best, worst, and most surprising performances:

Best All-Around Offense: Ian Kinsler. The Texas Rangers 2B didn’t look like the same player who sat out nearly 100 games last season with injuries. Kinsler, 28, led all Jewish batters with 7 doubles, 5 HRs, 13 RBIs (tied), and a .389 on-base percentage. Although Jewish batters as a group struck out way more than they walked (94 vs. 41), Kinsler was one of just two players who didn’t, matching his 5 Ks with 5 BBs.

Best All-Around Offense (runner-up): Ryan Braun. The Milwaukee Brewers LF batted only 40 times, but that didn’t stop him from hitting 4 HRs, driving in 11 runs, and leading all Jews with 15 runs scored, a .325 batting average, .700 slugging percentage, and 1.072 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).

Best All-Around Offense (honorable mention): Ike Davis. The New York Mets 1B pretty much matched the productivity of his 2010 rookie season, hitting .273 with 3 HRs, 13 RBIs (tied/1st), and a .344 on-base percentage.

Breakout offense: Sam Fuld. At 29, you can’t quite call the Tampa Bay Rays CF an up-and-comer. But Fuld made the most of what turned out to be his best chance in years to make an opening-day roster, hitting .277 with 1 HR, 5 extra-base hits, 8 RBIs, and 4 stolen bases. And he got his wish: a seat on the Rays’ bench.

Most disappointing offense: Kevin Youkilis. Whatever you chalk it up to — bad thumb, the distraction of switching from 1B to 3B, etc. — the Boston Red Sox stalwart, normally an on-base machine, struggled at the plate this Spring. Youk hit  just .175 with no HRs, 4 RBIs, a Jew-high 15 strikeouts, and just 4 walks. Teammate Ryan Kalish was a close second in this category, hitting .235 with 0 HRs and one lonely RBI.

Weirdest stats: Ben Guez. The Detroit Tigers CF has yet to play a regular-season MLB game and saw only limited playing time in Spring Training, getting 12 plate appearances and 7 at-bats. But oh, what Guez did with them. The 24-year-old singled twice, doubled once, and walked five times, good enough for a .429 batting average and .667 on-base percentage.

Nicest surprise: John Grabow. After a dismal 2010 in which he went 1-3 with a 7.36 ERA and “held” opposing batters to a .321 average, the Chicago Cubs reliever must have grown tired of being Public Enemy #1 in the Windy City. How else can you explain Grabow’s 2.57 ERA in Spring Training? A close second to Grabow in this awards category is Washington Nationals starter Jason Marquis, who went 2-9 with a 6.60 ERA in an injury-plagued 2010 season but finished Spring Training with a 1-1 record and a 4.02 ERA.

Worst surprise: Craig Breslow. Arguably the only Jewish MLB pitcher who didn’t embarrass himself last year, the Oakland A’s reliever went 4-4 in 2010 with a 3.01 ERA, holding opposing batters to a meek .194 batting average. But Breslow had an awful spring, with an 11.25 ERA and an opposing-hitters batting average of, believe it or not, .500. The saving grace? We’re only talking about 5 appearances and 4 innings pitched, not a lot to go on. Still, the Freaky Friday switcheroo Breslow and Grabow did this Spring has got us mighty confused.

Here are the final 2011 Spring Training stats for position players:

TEAM POS AB R 2B HR RBI AVG OBP
James Rapoport STL CF 1 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000
Ben Guez DET CF 7 0 1 0 0 .429 .667
Ryan Lavarnway BOS CF 9 1 1 1 3 .333 .333
Josh Satin NYM 2B 6 1 0 1 2 .333 .333
Ryan Braun MIL LF 40 15 3 4 11 .325 .372
Danny Valencia MIN 3B 65 6 6 1 8 .308 .333
Ian Kinsler TEX 2B 63 14 7 5 13 .302 .389
Sam Fuld TB CF 47 9 3 1 8 .277 .333
Ike Davis NYM 1B 55 5 4 3 13 .273 .344
Gabe Kapler LAD RF 45 6 3 1 7 .244 .277
Ryan Kalish TB LF 51 4 2 0 1 .235 .316
Jake Lemmerman LAD SS 5 1 1 0 0 .200 .200
Kevin Youkilis BOS 3B 57 3 2 0 4 .175 .238
Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 18 3 0 1 2 .167 .250
TOTAL 469 68 33 18 72 .269

And the final 2011 stats for pitchers:

TEAM W L ERA G IP H BB SO
John Grabow CHC 0 0 2.57 7 7.0 8 3 4
Jason Marquis WSH 1 1 4.02 4 15.2 15 6 9
Aaron Poreda SD 0 1 6.75 3 2.2 2 5 1
Michael Schwimer PHI 0 0 7.20 4 5.0 5 2 4
Craig Breslow OAK 0 0 11.25 5 4.0 9 2 2
TOTAL 1 2 5.35

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TEAM W L ERA G IP H BB SO
John Grabow CHC 0 0 2.57 7 7 8 3 4
Jason Marquis WSH 1 1 4.02 4 15.2 15 6 9
Aaron Poreda SD 0 1 6.75 3 2.2 2 5 1
Michael Schwimer PHI 0 0 7.20 4 5 5 2 4
Craig Breslow OAK 0 0 11.25 5 4 9 2 2
TOTAL 1 2 5.35
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Daily highlights

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here are your Daily Highlights for Thursday (3/17/2011):

The odds may not be in his favor, but 35-year-old RF Gabe Kapler is doing what he can to earn a spot on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ opening-day roster. On Thursday, his pinch-hit HR (see video) was part of a four-run 8th inning that rallied the Dodgers past the Arizona Diamondbacks, 6-4. Kapler is batting .250 this spring, with 1 HR and 4 RBIs in 28 at-bats.

Chicago Cubs P John Grabow played for the first time since the Cubs’ spring-training debut, pitching a scoreless 7th inning in a 6-5 heartbreaker to the Oakland A’s. Grabow is coming off of knee surgery, soreness in his throwing shoulder, and a disappointing 2010 season in which he went 1-and-3 with a 7.36 ERA, well above his career ERA of 4.24.

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Daily highlights

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here are your Daily Highlights for Tuesday (3/15/2011):

New York Mets 1B Ike Davis went 2/3 with 3 RBIs in a 5-2 win over the Washington Nationals, stroking a two-run double and an RBI single. Davis, who finished 7th in last year’s N.L. Rookie of the Year voting, is batting .360 in 25 at-bats this spring, with 2 HRs, a team-leading 9 RBIs, and a .484 on-base percentage.

Tampa Bay Rays CF Sam Fuld is hitting just .091 this spring (2/22), but on Tuesday the 29-year-old showed just how productive he can be, scoring 3 runs despite going 0/1 at the plate. In the 4th inning, Fuld walked, stole second, and scored on Evan Longoria’s single. In the 6th, he walked and scored on a double. In the 8th, he got on base due to a fielder’s choice and later scored on a double.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Fuld survived another round of cuts in his bid to make the Rays’ opening-day roste

Los Angeles Dodgers RF Gabe Kapler, another Jewish player seeking an opening-day roster spot, hit a pinch-hit RBI single in the 8th inning to help L.A. beat the Texas Rangers 8-7. In 27 at-bats this spring, Kapler is batting .222 with 3 RBIs.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Spring Training 2011 is just two weeks old. Many players are still shedding their off-season rust. But a couple Jewish players are already tearing the stitching off the ball.

Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, who was hobbled by injuries last season, leads all MLB players with 4 HRs, is tied for second with 7 RBIs, and is batting .444 (8/18). Figure in walks, and he has a nifty on-base percentage of .545.

Also hitting well is Minnesota Twins 3B Danny Valencia. After finishing 3rd in voting for the A.L. Rookie of the Year award last year, Valencia is batting .500 (6/12) with 3 RBIs and is tied for the A.L. lead in doubles, with four.

Here is how all Jewish position players were doing through Mon., March 7:

 

TEAM
AB H HR RBI BB AVG OBP
Danny Valencia
MIN
12 6 0 3 1 .500 .538
Ian Kinsler
TEX
18 8 4 7 3 .444 .545
Ryan Braun
MIL
11 3 1 2 1 .273 .333
Ike Davis NYM 12 3 1 3 4 .250 .438
Ben Guez
DET
4 1 0 0 3 .250 .571
Gabe Kapler
LAD
15 3 0 1 0 .200 .200
Kevin Youkilis
BOS
13 2 0 1 1 .154 .214
Jason Kipnis
CLE
13 2 1 2 2 .154 .267
Ryan Kalish
TB
16 2 0 0 2 .125 .222
Sam Fuld
TB
9 1 0 0 0 .111 .111
Ryan Lavarnway
BOS
4 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
Jake Lemmerman
LAD
1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000

Among pitchers, Washington Nationals starter Jason Marquis followed up a difficult 2010 with a strong spring-training outing, giving up just 1 hit over 3 innings in his only game played so far. Here’s how all Jewish pitchers were doing through March 7:

 

TEAM
W L ERA G IP H BB SO
Jason Marquis
WSH
0 0 0.00 1 3 1 0 1
Aaron Poreda
SD
0 0 5.40 2 1.2 0 4 1
Michael Schwimer
PHI
0 0 13.50 2 2 4 0 1
John Grabow
CHC
0 0 18.00 1 1 3 0 1
Craig Breslow
OAK
Scott Feldman TEX
Jason Hirsh NYY
David Kopp STL

To track Jewish players in Spring Training, visit Jewish Baseball News for our daily box score.

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TEAM
AB H HR RBI BB AVG OBP
Danny Valencia
MIN
12 6 0 3 1 .500 .538
Ian Kinsler
TEX
18 8 4 7 3 .444 .545
Ryan Braun
MIL
11 3 1 2 1 .273 .333
Ike Davis NYM 12 3 1 3 4 .250 .438
Ben Guez
DET
4 1 0 0 3 .250 .571
Gabe Kapler
LAD
15 3 0 1 0 .200 .200
Kevin Youkilis
BOS
13 2 0 1 1 .154 .214
Jason Kipnis
CLE
13 2 1 2 2 .154 .267
Ryan Kalish
TB
16 2 0 0 2 .125 .222
Sam Fuld
TB
9 1 0 0 0 .111 .111
Ryan Lavarnway
BOS
4 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
Jake Lemmerman
LAD
1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — The number of Jewish minor-leaguers who will be attending a Major-League spring training this year has reached nine.

According to MLB.com, the invitees include:

  1. Sam Fuld (Tampa Bay Rays)
  2. Ben Guez (Detroit Tigers)
  3. Jason Hirsh (New York Yankees)
  4. Gabe Kapler (Los Angeles Dodgers)
  5. Jason Kipnis (Cleveland Indians)
  6. David Kopp (St. Louis Cardinals)
  7. Ryan Lavarnway (Boston Red Sox)
  8. Aaron Poreda (San Diego Padres)
  9. Michael Schwimer (Philadelphia Phillies)

Jewish Baseball News will maintain a running list of these and other spring-training invitees through the end of March on our home page.

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Kapler signs minor-league deal with Dodgers

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — RF Gabe Kapler has signed a minor-league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB.com reports.

Kapler, a 35-year-old free agent, hit .210 last year with the Tampa Bay Rays, with 2 HRs, 4 doubles and 14 RBIs in 124 at-bats.

His contract includes an invitation to the Dodgers’ spring training camp, and thus an opportunity, however slim, to make the club’s major-league roster.

The deal represents a coming home of sorts for Kapler, who starred at William Howard Taft High School in Woodland Hills, a half-hour drive from Dodger Stadium.

Thanks to Jewish Baseball News reader Michael Lebowitz for the tip.

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Cubs deal Jewish CF Sam Fuld to Rays

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — The Chicago Cubs will send CF Sam Fuld to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a multi-player trade centered around Rays SP Matt Garza, ESPN.com reported today (1/7/2011).

The trade may signal renewed life for Fuld, a 29-year-old defensive specialist who has spent most of his professional career in the minors and was stuck behind a long line of standout players on the Cub’ outfield depth chart. Best known for his hustle, highlight-reel catches, and smarts (he’s a Stanford alum), Fuld is an on-base afficionado who nevertheless lacks the home-run power that many MLB teams want from their oufielders.

While playing for the “AAA” Iowa Cubs in 2010, he hit .272 with 4 HRs and 27 RBIs in 368 at-bats. Thanks to a great walk-to-strikeout ratio (66 BBs and 37 Ks), Fuld had a .383 on-base percentage. He had only 28 at-bats for the Cubs in 2010 (and a meager .143 batting average) but hit .299 in a longer stint the year before.

Just as Fuld is on his way to St. Petersburg, Rays RF Gabe Kapler may be on the way out. A 35-year-old free agent, Kapler hit just .210 with the Rays this year in a utility role.

Thanks to JBN reader Jessica R. for the tip on Fuld’s trade.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here’s the latest news on several MLB players:

Youkilis may switch back to 3B in 2011

Boston Red Sox 3B Kevin Youkilis, whose season-ending thumb injury helped scuttle the team’s playoff hopes year, says he’s ready to switch back to 3B if needed in 2011. It’s a possibility because Red Sox 3B Adrian Beltre has opted for free agency.

As you may recall, Youkilis began his MLB career at 3B, in 2004. The Bosox switched him to 1B in 2006, and in a remarkable demonstration of versatility, Youkilis won a Gold Glove at 1B in 2007, only his second year at the position. In 2010 he started all but two games at 1B.

Kinsler to work on speed in off-season

No one in Texas is complaining about Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler these days. After an injury-shortened regular season, Kinsler was a post-season star in 2010 (or at least until the World Series). But the 28-year-old isn’t happy with his stolen-base output, which totaled 15 in 20 tries this year. It was the fewest steals since his rookie year in 2006, although to be fair Kinsler had just 391 at-bats in 2010, his fewest ever, and began the season on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle. Here’s what he told Sports Illustrated recently:

“I just need to get my speed back,” he said. “I didn’t steal as many bases as I’d like this year. I didn’t really feel comfortable stealing bases because I wasn’t able to catch up with my speed after the spring training injury.”

Interestingly, Kinsler suffered a bigger drop-off in power in 2010 than he did in speed, hitting just 9 HRs after averaging 21 in his first four MLB seasons.

Knee surgery will delay Feldman’s 2011 debut

Texas Rangers SP Scott Feldman recently had surgery on his right knee and will have a limited role at 2011 spring training, ESPN.com reported.

Feldman, who was the Rangers’ pitcher of the year in 2009 and opening-day starter this year, had a dismal season, going 7-11 with a 5.48 ERA. He was moved to the bullpen mid-season and went on the 15-day disabled list in August for a bone bruise to the same knee.

Kapler is a free agent

Tampa Bay Rays RF Gabe Kapler is one of 10 Rays players to opt for free agency this Fall. Whether the weak-hitting defensive specialist will be picked up is unclear. Kapler hit .210 in 124 at-bats this year, with 2 HRs and 14 RBIs.

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Kinsler’s playoff heroics, and more

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here is your MLB playoff update for Thursday (Oct. 7, 2010):

  • In just the second playoff game of his career, 2B Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers hit a solo HR and an RBI single in a 6-0 win over the (beloved) Tampa Bay Rays. Rays OF Gabe Kapler remains on the disabled list and thus is not part of the team’s playoff roster. Texas leads the 5-game series 2-0 (sob); Game 3 takes place Saturday in Texas.
  • Rookie 3B Danny Valencia of the Minnesota Twins went 0/2 with one RBI in a 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees. The 25-year-old’s sacrifice fly put the Twins ahead 1-0 in the 2nd inning, but the lead didn’t hold up. The Yanks lead the 5-game series 2-0; Game 3 takes place Saturday in New York.

With the Philadelphia Phillies attempting to reach their 3rd straight World Series, the Jewish Exponent recently published an interesting article on the team’s general manager, former OF Ruben Amaro Jr. Though Jews are not uncommon in the front offices of Major League baseball, Amaro — whose Mexican-born father also played in the pros — is not widely known as Jewish. But his mother, Judy Herman, was a Jew, and although Amaro was baptized, “We did Passover, Yom Kippur, Chanukah,” he told the Exponent. “We were exposed to both faiths pretty equally.” Amaro and his Catholic wife are raising their children Catholic.

Thanks to Jewish Baseball News reader Jack W. for the tip on the Exponent article.

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Kapler joins hobbled-Jews list

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Tampa Bay Rays RF Gabe Kapler was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday (8/16/2010), his second such visit this season.

There is some speculation that Kapler was ‘listed’ not so much because of a twisted ankle but to make room on the roster for 1B Carlos Pena, who was returning from the DL and might provide the Rays with some much-needed power during the pennant race.

Either way, 2010 is turning out to be one of the most injury-prone seasons in recent memory for Jewish ballplayers.

Two players — Boston Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis and Chicago Cubs RP John Grabow — are out with season-ending injuries. Los Angeles Dodgers C Brad Ausmus only recently returned after spending much of the season on the DL, his first such stop in an 18-year MLB career. Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler is on the DL for the second time this season, and Washington Nationals SP Jason Marquis is back now after a lengthy stint away.

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Monday Roundup: Lots o’ good news

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here are the latest developments among Jewish professional baseball players:

MLB

  • Boston Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis is having a remarkable season. After 68 games, the “Greek god of walks” is hitting home runs and RBIs at the same pace he did last year, walking more, and striking out less. Far less. Consider this: in 136 games last season, Youk struck out 62 percent more often than he walked (125 strikeouts vs. 77 walks). In 2010, he has walked more times (47) than he has struck out (41). “It’s freakish,” Red Sox first-base coach Ron Johnson told the Providence Journal. “It’s really fun to watch. Where he’s come from and where he is now, to lower his strikeout totals and still have the power and drive in the runs and hit over .300, he’s up there with those superstar guys.” Alas, Youkilis probably won’t appear in next month’s All-Star Game. In fan voting through today, he is ranked a distant 4th among American League shortstops.
  • Since inserting rookie 1B Ike Davis into the cleanup spot on May 19, the New York Mets have gone 20-9 after a 19-21 start.
  • After serving as the ace of the Texas Rangers’ pitching squad in 2009, SP Scott Feldman got off to a disappointing start this season. But he’s begun to right himself lately. In his past four starts, Feldman has won three games, amassed a 3.70 ERA, struck out 19 in 26.67 innings and walked just nine. Feldman pitches tonight (6/21/2010) against the Houston Astros.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers C Brad Ausmus, 41, had only four at-bats this season before suffering a back injury that required surgery. But Ausmus — who had never before been on the disabled list — has begun taking batting practice with his teammates and recently caught his first bullpen session.
  • Tampa Bay Rays RF Gabe Kapler went on the disabled list June 12 after straining his right hip flexor.
  • For the third time this season, the Milwaukee Brewers called OF Adam Stern up from the AAA Nashville Sounds and then sent him back down. The 30-year-old’s initial call-up was a major accomplishment, given that he hadn’t had a major-league at-bat in four years. But Stern went hitless in eight at-bats during his stints with the Brewers this season.

Minors

  • The San Diego Padres promoted SP Aaron Poreda to the Portland Beavers, the franchise’s AAA squad. Since arriving, Poreda has pitched 7.33 scoreless innings in four appearances and struck out seven batters. The 23-year-old spent part of last season in the majors, pitching for both the Chicago White Sox and the Padres.
  • Springfield Cardinals SP David Kopp (AA/St. Louis Cardinals) has been named a Texas League All-Star. Kopp, 24, leads the league with an 8-1 record and has an 3.08 ERA. According to the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader:

For Kopp, the selection culminates a terrific first half in which he has re-claimed his prospect tag. Kopp underwent a pair of shoulder surgeries in 2008 and 2009, and reached Double-A late last season with little hype. He walked 11 and struck out six in five starts. This year, his line features 45 strikeouts in 69 innings as the right-hander has gone on the attack with a low-90s fastball. The pitch shields his sharp, tight slider from over-use, and managers and scouts are beginning to think of Kopp not in terms of a Double-A pitcher but one with the stuff to reach the majors.

  • Reading Phillies RP Michael Schwimer (AA/Philadelphia Phillies) is 5-3 this season and has struck out an impressive 47 batters in 34.67 innings, more than triple the number of batters he has walked (14). “He has good stuff, but he has been a little inconsistent,” Philadelphia Phillies assistant general manager Chuck Lamar told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He may get a shot by the end of the year to move up to triple-A.”
  • The New York Mets recently promoted 2B Joshua Satin to the AA Binghamton Mets. Since arriving, the 25-year-old has hit .320 in six games.
  • Likewise, the Cleveland Indians moved 2B Jason Kipnis up to its AA squad, the Akron Aeros. Kipnis wasted no time making his mark. After eight games with the Aeros, he is batting .355 with two home runs, three doubles, and an OPS of 1.090.
  • Corpus Christi Hooks C Jonathan Fixler (AA/Houston Astros) didn’t take it easy on Frisco RoughRiders SP (and fellow Jew) Richard Bleier this weekend. Fixler, 24, went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs during a 7-1 thrashing of the RoughRiders on Sunday (6/20/2010). Bleier gave up 7 runs and 13 hits in seven innings, and his record fell to 3-6.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals demoted C Charlie Cutler to its A-advanced farm team, the Palm Beach Cardinals. Cutler had batted just .205 with six RBIs for the AA Springfield Cardinals. But he’s batting .350 after six games with Palm Beach.
  • OF Ben Guez took an even bigger fall recently. The Detroit Tigers franchise sent him down from AAA Toledo, where he hit .273 with five RBIs in 66 at-bats, to the Lakeland Flying Tigers (A-advanced).

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — If the 2010 MLB All-Star Game were held today, Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun would once again appear in the National League’s starting lineup.

Braun, a 26-year-old in his fourth MLB season, had the third-highest vote tally among all NL players in 2009 and the most among NL outfielders, more than 4.1-million. He went 0-for-2 in a 4-3 loss to the American League.

As of Wednesday (6/2/2010), Braun again was the leading NL outfielder with 604,675 votes. The 2010 MLB game will be held on Sun., July 13 in Anaheim, Calif.

Unlike last year, however, when three Jews were named All-Stars — Boston Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis and SP Jason Marquis, then with the Colorado Rockies, were the other two — Braun may end up being the lone Hebe on the field. That’s because as of Wednesday, Youkilis was ranked fourth among AL first basemen and Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler was ranked 3rd at his position.

No doubt, many rankings will be shuffled in the final weeks of voting. Last year, for example, Kinsler led all AL second baseman in fan votes until the final week, when Boston Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia overtook him. Pedroia’s last-minute surge thwarted those who had hoped 2009’s All-Star Game would become the first ever to feature four Jews.

The biggest strike this year against Kinsler — besides missing the first 22 games of the season with an ankle injury and posting mediocre numbers since returning — is that he’s not a New York Yankee. As of Wednesday, Yankee players were ranked first at three positions (1B, 2B, SS) and second at two (3B, C). Moreover, Yankee manager Joe Girardi will have some say in who plays because he will be managing the AL squad.

Want to get out the vote for your favorite Jewish position players? MLB allows each fan to submit as many as 25 times, so click here t0 cast your ballots.

Pitchers are not selected by fans. The Jews you can vote for are:

American League

National League

Voting 25 times doesn’t take that long. MLB retains your personal info and votes from the previous ballot, so you can do all 25 in about 10 minutes. Fan voting ends on just before midnight on July 1.

— Scott Barancik

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Monday’s quick hits

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Little news snacks about Jews with bats:

  • As predicted, RF Adam Stern‘s recent stint with the Milwaukee Brewers was brief. Stern, 30, got his first MLB at-bats in four years but went 0-for-6 before the HeBrewers optioned him back to the AAA Nashville Sounds. Stern’s demotion follows that of RP Scott Schoeneweis, whom the Boston Red Sox recently dropped from their roster.
  • The Boston Globe — whose Red Sox begin a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays tonight (5/24/2010) — had some nice things to say about Rays RF Gabe Kapler yesterday (5/23/2010). Kapler, who typically comes off the bench to bat against left-handed pitchers, is more than just a platoon player, said writer Nick Cafardo:

(Kapler) is unique because he has seen things from a perspective few players ever will. The one year Kapler left baseball as a player (2007), he managed the Red Sox’ Single A team in Greenville, S.C. When he looks at teams, he can break them down pretty well. He understands the ebb and flow more than most. He understands team karma, chemistry, the banter in the clubhouse, the way guys react to wins and losses, and what they do to prepare for the game that night.

  • Jeremy Bleich, a starting pitcher with the New York Yankees’ AA squad (Trenton Thunder), has been placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. The New York Post called surgery “the most likely outcome.” Bleich, 23, is 3-2 with a 4.79 ERA in eight starts this season.

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