Author: Bob Harkins


Nyjer Morgan returns to hockey roots, appears to have a blast


Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan took to the ice to play a little hockey on Wednesday, practicing with the San Jose Sharks for about 30 minutes.

Morgan played junior hockey for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey before giving up the sport to focus on baseball about a decade ago. He handled himself well, and even scored a goal on Sharks backup Thomas Greiss during a shootout contest.

Sharks star Joe Thornton characterized Morgan’s performance as “Not bad. It was better than I thought.”

You can read more details in Mike Halford’s post over at PHT, and the always engaging Morgan talks about the experience in an entertaining interview with CSNBayArea below.

Stay cool, Tony Plush.

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Marlins sell out first game at new stadium — sort of


The Miami Marlins have figured out a way to erase the embarrassment of poor attendance figures: Make fewer tickets available. Brilliant!

The Marlins have announced a sellout for their first game at their new ballpark, a contest against the University of Miami on March 6, reports the Miami Herald.

Of course calling it a sellout is a tad misleading, as the team limited capacity for the game to 10,000. For some reason, there are 15,000 seats available for the Marlins’ game against Florida International the next day. That matchup, not surprisingly, has yet to sell out.

To be fair (which takes the fun out of everything!) we’re talking about exhibition games here. Drawing 10,000 for a non-counter against a college team isn’t too shabby.

Smartly, the Marlins have kept the actual capacity of their new stadium on the smallish side – 37,000 – so with a pretty exciting team featuring the likes of Jose Reyes, Mike Stanton and Josh Johnson (and Yoenis Cespedes?), the Marlins ought to be able to claim some actual sellouts in 2012, at least during the early part of the season.

You can view progress on the completion of the new stadium here.

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Eric Wedge ‘leaning’ toward dropping Ichiro from leadoff spot


The Seattle Mariners remain in a transition phase, attempting to undo the messes of Bill Bavasi while playing in a beefed up AL West division that includes two teams — the Rangers and Angels — that are throwing money around like they just got some magic pants.

A big part of that transition will involve 38-year-old right fielder Ichiro, whose contract runs out after the 2012 season. He’s coming off his worst season in the big leagues and will make $17 million in 2012, money the M’s would no-doubt like to spend elsewhere.

It seems that manager Eric Wedge is already preparing for life without Ichiro, saying in an interview with 710 ESPN in Seattle on Wednesday that there is “a good possibility,” he’ll be dropping Ichiro from his customary spot at the top of the batting order.

“I’ve been doing a ton of thinking about that and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’ve got a vision in mind in regards to what I want to see happen. Obviously I’ve got to work off of Ichiro a little bit, but ultimately I’m going to do what I think’s best to give us the best chance to score runs, because it’s too important for us to make a huge step offensively.”

Pressed on the question of removing Ichiro from the leadoff spot, Wedge admitted that “if you had to put a gun to my head right now I’d probably be leaning in that direction.”

Wedge said his ideal leadoff hitter gets on base a lot – which Ichiro used to do (.370 career OBP), but didn’t in 2011 (.310) – and sees a lot of pitches – something Ichiro has never done. He mentioned Dustin Ackley, who hit .273/.348/.417 in 90 games as a rookie in 2011, as a possible replacement.

Click through for the entire interview, as Wedge talks about other things, too, including Jesus Montero: “We think he’s going to be able to catch.”

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Ricky Romero talks of family, hard work, rise from East LA

Ricky Romero

We got a glimpse of Ricky Romero’s personality and history at the All-Star game last July.

The Toronto Blue Jays left-hander couldn’t contain his glee at being selected as a replacement player for the big game in Phoenix, and he spoke with pride of the hard work it took him to rise from the ballfields of East Los Angeles to the big leagues.

Romero isn’t resting on his laurels, as KTLA in Los Angeles reports. In it, we learn more details on the pitcher’s drive to improve, his history, the influence of his family and his ability to stay grounded.

Check it out below.

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Manny aims to ‘be a role model,’ rehab image


Manny Ramirez left Major League Baseball in disgrace early last season after violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy for the second time.

Rather than face the mandated 100-game suspension, and the negative attention that would come with it, Ramirez opted to retire after just five games – and one measly single in 17 plate appearances – with the Tampa Bay Rays. As if his image couldn’t fall any further, he was arrested in September and charged with battery in a domestic dispute with his wife.

Now he wants a chance to not only write a happier ending to a career that once looked like a slam dunk for Cooperstown, but also to rehabilitate his image. He pulled out all the stops in an earnest and at times emotional interview with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez. (Watch the video)

“I want to show people that Manny can change, that he can do the right thing,” Ramirez told ESPN’s Pedro Gomez in an interview. “And to show people that I still can play. I don’t want to leave the game like I did. I also want to show my kids that if you make a mistake, don’t quit. Just go back and fix it. And if you’re going to leave, leave the right way.”

Asked why a team should give him a chance, Ramirez made two points:

1. “I still can play.”

2. “I’m gonna be a role model.”

I’ll give the more cynical readers a chance to stop laughing before I continue … OK, ready?

I have to admit I had a good chuckle over Manny’s two-pronged argument, but in watching the video, you can’t help but get the feeling that he actually believes what he’s saying, and if he believes it, who knows? Maybe Ramirez does have the pride and the drive to re-write his own ending.

The real question, of course, is whether anyone will give him a chance. Ramirez does have 555 career home runs and a .312/.411/.585 line to go with it, but it’s difficult to imagine any team offering more than a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training at this point, and you have to wonder if a guy who has made more than $200 million over the course of his career will be willing to swallow his pride and take such an offer. That could be the real test to see just how serious Ramirez is.

And as earnest as Ramirez seems in his interview with Gomez, there are a couple of red flags that crop up in the video.

  • One is that Gomez says Manny “forgot how to pick up a bat during his time away,” and that he is working to retool his swing in the batting cages. That’s not a good sign given how he slid after his first failed drug test.
  • Another warning sign is his cutting edge workout regimen, complete with shower cap. Just look and see for yourself.

On the bright side, Ramirez’s suspension has been reduced to 50 games (he would begin serving it on opening day should he sign). So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

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