Sean Doolittle debuts, strikes out three in an inning and a third

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Yesterday we noted the improbable rise to the bigs by one Sean Doolittle, the very recently converted slugger who now strikes out guys by the bucketful as a relief pitcher.  He made his major league debut last night for the A’s. And he was good.

Doolittle pitched an inning and a third. He threw 21 pitches. All 21 of them were fastballs. He faced four guys, striking out three of them. Doolittle:

“It was really surreal. Still kind of sinking in to be honest,” Doolittle said. “I was so focused on controlling my breathing and trying to calm myself down that it didn’t really let me get too worked up about the situation I was coming into or the guys that I was going to face.”

The guys he faced:

  • Nelson Cruz, with a runner on third. Doolitle struck him out after going down 2-0 to him;
  • Mike Napoli, who he struck out;
  • Yorvit Torreabla, who he struck out; and
  • Craig Gentry, who lined out.

Doolittle’s fastballs averaged 94.35 m.p.h. and he topped out at 96.2.  As far as debuts go, I think this one qualifies as pretty frickin’ keen.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”