Bob Harkins

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Is this the end of the line for a true baseball character?

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At the start of the season, I wrote a series of stories on the difficulties of making it to – and staying in – the major leagues.

One of those players was 35-year-old catcher Corky Miller, a classic baseball vagabond currently in the Cincinnati Reds system who has played for 14 teams, including five major league teams, over the past 13 seasons. Over the past decade, he’s managed to play at least one game in the big leagues in every season, hitting a mere .188 in only 575 plate appearances.

During spring training, Miller had this to say about his difficult journey:

“If you get to the big leagues, you bust your ass to stay there. If you’re in Triple-A, you do what you need to do to be ready when they call you.”

For the first time since 2000, it looks like they’re not going to call Corky Miller.

At least it appears that way, with the Reds planning to call up top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco when rosters expand on Thursday.

The game tosses aside players every season, and .188 hitters don’t tend to stick around as long as Miller has. But Miller has proven that a defensive-minded catcher who calls a good game and tutors pitchers well can find a place.

John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer caught up with Miller, and his story from last week is both illuminating and entertaining.

Click through to read the whole story, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Dontrelle Willis credits Miller with helping him rediscover his form, saying “He’s like Halley’s Comet – he’s a once-in-a-lifetime guy.”
  • Pitcher Matt Maloney says Miller has some Crash Davis in him, “but I don’t know if he’d necessarily like the comparison.”
  • Corky is his given name, but his mother gave him Abraham as his middle name in case he became president.
  • The lone stolen base of his career was a swipe of home in 2001. “We’re still hearing about it,” Mesoraco said.
  • Early in his career, Miller was called up to the bigs, only to sit on the bench. He asked to be sent back down so he could play.

And finally:

What if this season were to be his last as a player? How would he want to be remembered?

“As a professional, a guy who went out and did his job, and a good teammate,” Miller said.

“To me, that would be everything.”

Mission accomplished.

Phil Humber takes a lickin’, keeps on tickin’

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Phil Humber apparently has a hard head.

The Chicago White Sox pitcher was hit flush in the head by a line drive off the bat of Cleveland Indians outfielder Kosuke Fukudome in the second inning of Thursday’s game, yet was on his feet to greet trainer Herm Schneider, and actually tried to convince Schneider to let him stay in the game.

Brett Ballantini of CSN Chicago has the goods:

Schneider asked Humber where the ball hit him—the pitcher attempted to block the blow with his glove but was too slow—and once Humber admitted he was hit flush on the head, Schneider insisted he leave the game, to the mild-mannered pitcher’s polite protests. Three of his four outs were strikeouts, although Cleveland tapped out three hits in his 1 1/3 innings.

The White Sox said that the preliminary tests on Humber indicate he was alert and responsive once removed from the game, and that he will be further evaluated on Friday.

Humber joked about his inability to avoid line drives, noting that he was hit in the cheek by one last season. “I’ve got to get on some drills or something to get my reflexes a little faster I guess.”

He also said he expects to make his next start, though admits that “some of that’s not up to me.”

“I feel very fortunate.” No kidding.

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Morrow takes to Twitter, apologizes for grazing Wells’ ‘schnaz’

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You’ve got to love how social media brings people together. In fact, I’d like to nominate Twitter for The Nobel Peace Prize.

Can I do that? As it turns out, no.

But I’ll forge ahead anyway in praising the peace-making qualities of Twitter. Case in point:

Last night, in his first start in Seattle since the Mariners traded him to Toronto, Brandon Morrow came up-and-in with a fastball to Casper Wells, hitting him in the nose. It was a glancing blow, but scary nonetheless, and one had to wonder if it was payback for Blake Beavan buzzing some Blue Jays earlier in the game, or some sort of in-your-face message to Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.

Not so, it appears, as Morrow took to Twitter to apologize to Wells last night:

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Wells responded within a couple hours with some light-hearted humor.

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Then someone pulled out an acoustic guitar – it was Bernie Williams, I think – and everyone gathered around the camp fire and sang Kumbaya. I might have made that last part up. But it does warm the heart doesn’t it?

As far as Seattle being amazing. Yes it is, fellas, but get back to me in February.

(H/T to Gerry Spratt at the Seattle P-I)

You can follow Bob on Twitter here, or if Facebook is your thing, be his friend here.