Author: Bob Harkins


M’s emergency catcher is Adam Kennedy, who has never caught


To follow up on Craig’s earlier post on the Seattle Mariners’ catching situation – always a big water cooler topic – it turns out they do have an emergency catcher after all.

His name is Adam Kennedy.

And it’s possible there has never been a more reluctant emergency catcher on the history of baseball. Kennedy said today that he has never caught, not even in Little League. And Chris Gimenez, whose oblique injury landed him on the DL today, knew he had to stay in the game last night after taking one look in Kennedy’s eyes.

“I’m not going to put anybody else in jeopardy of getting hurt,” Gimenez said. “Adam already looked like he wanted to puke just from the fact he possibly could have to go in if something else happened.”

Rest assured no one was happier than Kennedy to see Josh Bard called up today, though with Miguel Olivo battling a hamstring cramp, there still could be a need for his services behind the dish.

Which raises the question of how the Mariners chose Kennedy to be their emergency catcher? I’m guessing it went something like this:

Eric Wedge: Alright everybody listen up. I want everyone who would like to volunteer to be the emergency catcher take one step forward.

Entire team, except Adam Kennedy, takes one step back.

Kennedy: Ahh @#^*&^@!!

You can follow Bob on Twitter, and get all your HBT updates here.

Back injury puts Roy Oswalt’s career in jeopardy


Roy Oswalt left the Phillies’ 12-2 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday night after allowing four runs in two innings and feeling tightness in his lower back.

Later, we discovered that the pain in Oswalt’s back would cause him to miss his next start.

Now, the news has become grim, as the veteran right-hander is talking about the possibility of his injury sending him to the sideline for good.

From Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly:

“You throw as long as you can and when you can’t throw anymore you don’t,” the 33-year-old pitcher said after the game. “Hopefully it’s not to the point where I can’t throw anymore. If it’s at that point, you just have to accept it.”

Oswalt said he will have an MRI on Monday – doesn’t that seem a little far off for something this serious? – and if the examination brings the type of news that puts his career in jeopardy …

“I’ve had a pretty good one,” Oswalt said with resignation.


Oswalt has been dealing with back issues for years, and told Salisbury that he has had “a lot” of cortisone injections over the years. An MRI “a year or two ago” revealed two degenerative discs. This season, Oswalt says, he has felt pain “when I sit down, stand up, walk, pitch, sleep,” and he already spent more than two weeks on the disabled list earlier this season.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said “he’s had trouble for quite a while. This started back in Arizona (in April). … I’m definitely concerned about it.”

The loss of Oswalt would be a blow to a team built around its starting rotation of Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. No. 5 starter Joe Blanton has been sidelined since mid-May with elbow inflammation, but rookie Vance Worley has been solid in his place, going 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA in seven games (five starts).

Kyle Kendrick, who allowed two runs in four innings in relief of Oswalt on Thursday, would seem to be the likely candidate to step into the rotation. He is 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 18 appearances (including five starts) this season.

Oswalt, a three-time All-Star, is 154-89 with a 3.52 ERA in his 11-year career. He has a mutual option with the Phillies for $16 million next season. If he walks away, or the team buys him out, he’ll be owed $2 million.


Charlie Manuel makes plea for a right-handed hitter


At 47-28, the Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in baseball.

They allow an MLB-best 3.2 runs per game, and trail only the Yankees and Red Sox in run differential.

But this team could be better, and Charlie Manuel knows it.

The Phillies manager is making a rather public plea for help for his lineup, and a solid right-handed hitter tops his wish list, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.

“We could use a hitter in our lineup,” he said Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium. “At least one. We could definitely use a solid right-handed hitter.”

If the Phillies were to add a right-handed hitter, he would ideally be able to pick up some at-bats in the No. 5 spot in the batting order. Phillies’ No. 5 hitters are batting just .207 with a .609 on-base plus slugging percentage.

In fairness, Placido Polanco is a good hitter (though he has no power), Carlos Ruiz is serviceable enough at catcher (you’ve got to love the .370 OBP), and Shane Victorino is a switch-hitter who destroys left-handers (.362/.464/.787).

Also, the Phillies are 15-6 against left-handers this season, so it’s not like they’re helpless from the right side. What Manuel really should have said was this: “I really miss Jayson Werth. Without Jayson, we don’t have anyone with a sweet beard who can put the fear of God into a left-handed pitcher.”

Of course, Werth is hitting .172/.313/.344 against southpaws this season, so never mind.

The bigger issue here, as far as the Phillies are concerned, is money. Their payroll for 2011 is at $175 million, the second-highest in baseball and just $3 million shy of the luxury tax threshold. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room, and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is already on record as saying “you will not see a major move this year.”

Salisbury reports that Oakland’s Josh Willingham interests the Phillies, and San Diego’s Ryan Ludwick, Kansas City’s Wilson Betemit, and Colorado’s Ryan Spilborghs are also possibilities. Of course, even Manuel admits that the money issue could be “a huge problem.”

Still, it never hurts to ask. After all, Manuel asked for a pitcher last season and ended up with Roy Oswalt. Not too bad.

Yankees’ Gardner not sure how to earn more playing time



Brett Gardner has been one of the Yankees’ hottest hitters for the last two months, hitting .357 with a .440 on-base percentage since April 28.

He’s reached base nine times in 15 plate appearances in the three games since replacing the injured Derek Jeter at the lead-off spot. And in his last 50 games, Gardner has a higher batting average than Robinson Cano, a higher slugging percentage than Alex Rodriguez, and is tied with Curtis Granderson for the team’s highest OPS (.943).

Of course none of this means anything once Jeter returns from his calf injury. Joe Girardi confirmed as much on Tuesday, telling Ben Shpigel of the New York Times that “Derek’s been our leadoff guy. We’ll see how he feels, but yeah.”

Whether Gardner’s overall success will earn him some more starts against left-handers remains to be seen. His splits vs. lefties (.286/.390/.343) isn’t much worse than his numbers vs. righties (.294/.366/.465). One thing that is certain is Gardner would like more playing time:

The Yankees, though, are scheduled to face right-handed starters for at least the next six games. When asked what he could do to change Girardi’s mind, Gardner said, “Hit .400 against them, I don’t know.”

Gardner said the sporadic starts could grow frustrating because, “if you’re not getting a lot of at-bats against lefties, it’s hard to get better against them.”

Gardner’s frustration is understandable, as he’s put together nearly two months of extended success at the plate. Maybe he deserves more opportunity to show what he can do, and maybe he deserves to hit lead-off even after Jeter returns. Then again, you have to wonder if Gardner’s success is partly due to Girardi putting him in situations where he is more likely to do well.

Do you need playing time to succeed, or do you earn playing time by succeeding? Players, naturally, will always argue the former, but it’s a chicken-or-the-egg sort of thing.

Of course, I wouldn’t complain too much if I were Gardner. After all, Girardi gave him a shot to share lead-off duties with Jeter to start the season, and Gardner responded with a 6-for-40 slump. Will Gardner get another chance? If he keeps hitting like this, we’ll find out soon enough.