The art of scuffing

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Dirk Hayhurst used to be a professional pitcher. A professional pitcher with arm trouble. As a result, he had to go all Eddie Harris from time to time. Today, at Sports on Earth, he reveals what he knows about the fine art of the scuff:

Doug Brocail could get a fresh ball back from the umpire and, within three windmill-like movements of his throwing arm, have a ball so scuffed you’d think he just took sandpaper to it, though he used nothing more than his thumbnail. My pitching coach in A ball, Dave Rajsich, told me of a teammate who once cut the red Rawlings “R” out of his glove only to replace it with a red (painted) sandpaper facsimile, with a painted white “R” in the center. He’d pass the ball over the letter like he was casually adjusting his mitt.

Great stuff. And an excuse to think about Joe Niekro and his emery board. The best part of which was his smooth-as-crap attempt to get rid of it as the umps searched him. I could watch it all day.

Must-Click Link: “Skunk in the Outfield”

Associated Press
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Sam Miller of ESPN has an amazingly fantastic story today. It’s about a high school tournament baseball game in Rhode Island in 2006. It’s not your typical game story or oral history or look-to-the-past-to-see-the-future kind of thing. The only nod to such conventionality is mention of the fact that former Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland played in the game. That’s mostly a footnote.

No, the article is about a trick play — “skunk in the outfield” — concocted by one of the coaches. About how it played out and what went into it before, during and after it happened. Along the way Miller talks about the nature of trick plays and offers a good three dozen amazing insights into the psychology of young baseball players and the strategy of baseball as it unfolds in real time.

Each of these observations could anchor its own story but here they form a grand mosaic. And that’s only mild hyperbole, if in fact it’s hyperbole at all. Indeed, most treatments of such a play would be some video clip with a “wow, look what happened here!” sort of couching. Miller gives a more than ten-year-old trick play an epic treatment that is every bit as enlightening as it is entertaining.

Set some time aside to read this today.

Rubby De La Rosa to undergo a second Tommy John Surgery

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This is unfortunate: Diamondbacks reliever Rubby De La Rosa will undergo Tommy John surgery. This will be the second Tommy John procedure of his career, the first coming back in 2011.

De La Rosa has had elbow  issues for his entire career. Last year his UCL was barking again and he underwent stem cell therapy to try to avoid a second surgery, but it obviously hasn’t worked out. He’s pitched in only nine games this year, allowing four earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings, striking out 12.

I first saw De La Rosa in spring training in 2011. I thought his stuff was pretty phenomenal and figured he’d be a good one. Great stuff is often a function of heavy strain on an elbow, however, and pitchers breaking is, unfortunately, the rule in baseball far more than the exception.

He’ll miss a year at least. We likely won’t see him until spring of 2019, most likely on a minor league deal.