Monday, December 3, 2012

Firing up the Red Rocket

NBA Life Transcript. Matt Bonner with Kevin Gray and Chris Ryan ...

The Spurs ended their six-game road trip with a tough loss — and controversy — on Thursday night in Miami. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green all were sent home prior to the game, a move to rest key players and help them recover from a 10-day road trip.
Concord native Matt Bonner made his first start of the season, scoring 10 points with 10 rebounds, as the defending champions posted a 105-100 win. On Friday, the Spurs were fined $250,000 by the NBA.

Question: What do you think coach Pop was thinking?
Matt Bonner: He’s thinking big picture and trying to keep those guys rested and healthy for the entire season. It’s a tough break that it happens on a night we’re playing at Miami and on TNT, but coach Pop is more concerned with the overall wellness of the team. It feels like we’ve been on the road the whole season. We had an eight-day road trip before this trip, then went home for four days, then back on the road.

Q: Wouldn’t those guys want to play against the Heat?
MB: Absolutely. Professional athletes have a competitive nature and want to compete, but coach Pop has the final say.

Q: The Spurs really showed a lot of character in that game.
MB: We had a lot of strikes against us heading into that game. We played four games in five nights on a 10-game road trip. Four starters weren’t playing. A lot of the guys on the team haven’t been playing, and it’s hard to stay sharp and stay in shape when you’re traveling so much on the road. Despite all these so-called excuses, we came together before the game and decided to play as hard as we can and play Spurs basketball. They’re a great team. Defending champs. They showed it down the stretch and got the win. We had them. We had a couple tough turnovers and shot ourselves in the foot in the last minute, but you have to credit them.

Q: Ray Allen’s 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining was the dagger.
MB: That three by Ray was huge. We almost had the steal on LeBron (James) on that play. He somehow got it back and found Ray for the 3-pointer. Everyone back home knows what he usually does in that situation.

Q: What will it take for the Heat to become one of the NBA’s all-time greatest teams?
MB: It’s way too early. If you look back at the Celtics and Lakers and some of the great teams, they were great for 8-10 years. No doubt the Heat have an amazing roster and are the defending champs but if you want to be in that conversation, you need longevity.

Q: Are the Heat a better team right now than they were last season?
MB: I think they did get better. Those new guys (Allen and Rashard Lewis) add a whole new dimension and create more space for guys like LeBron and Dwyane Wade to slash.

Q: Is there any way to actually defend LeBron?
MB: We certainly have a theory of playing team defense. It’s almost impossible for one person to check the best offensive players in the league. You need to rely on your overall system, the weak side and rotations.

Q: Manu Ginobili said you are one of the core players and leaders of the team after playing seven years with the Spurs. What does that mean to you?

MB: It means a lot. Obviously, I’ve played a lot of games with those guys. I have tremendous respect for them as basketball players, competitors and human beings. The bottom line is the Spurs are all about doing things the right way and winning. When I was faced with a choice (two years ago) of being a free agent and maybe trying to get more money or increase my role somewhere else, it just wasn’t worth it. I have it good here.
Bonner discusses The NBA Life each week with radio broadcaster Chris Ryan and New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Kevin Gray, and the interview appears weekly in the N.H. Sunday News.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thanks, Joey Bats, for a helluva night

Jose Bautista provided the highlight of the 2012 Fisher Cats season, making a rehab stop on Aug. 23 before rejoining the Blue Jays. Joey Bats is a classy guy with lots of talent. He became baseball's greatest power hitter by obsessing over the mechanics of his swing and finally locking it down in 2009. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Longest home game in Fisher Cats history

That's a night at the ballpark I'll never forget. To recap the 17-inning game between the Fisher Cats and SeaWolves in Manchester, N.H., last night:

Ryan Schimpf contributed to one of the most incredible games in Fisher Cats history with a home run in the ninth, triggering a Thursday-into-Friday marathon at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. New Hampshire erased a four-run deficit in the ninth inning and a one-run deficit in the 11th inning but lost to Erie, 9-7, in the longest home game in club history. Highlights and historic notes from my game story in the New Hampshire Union Leader:

1. Erie slugger Jordan Lennerton fouled off four straight pitches before doubling off Chorye Spoone in the 17th, driving home Niuman Romero, and ending the 5 hour, 39-minute contest. Spoone (2-2) was the game's 13th pitcher.

2. Schimpf, called up from Single-A Dunedin this week, broke an 0-for-8 stretch with a two-run homer against fireballer Bruce Rondon. The Erie reliever blew the save but registered 100, 101 and 102 mph on radar guns.

3. New Hampshire trailed by four runs when Ryan Goins (4-for-6) stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. Goins' train-track homer against Kelvin De La Cruz launched New Hampshire's four-run rally.

4. Erie pulled ahead in the 11th on Jamie Johnson's sacrifice fly, but once again the Fisher Cats played long ball to force extra frames.

5. This time, Kevin Howard cranked a first-pitch fastball from Ryan Robowski over the right-field wall, tying the game at 7-apiece.

6. In the 16th, the Fisher Cats loaded the bases with no outs. Reliever Michael Morrison entered to strike out Schimpf, Sean Ochinko and Brian Bocock. Morrison (3-3 ) worked two innings, striking out five straight, for the win. More in the Union Leader.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sobo says:

"This is a reminder for everyone to take care of your skin and use lots of sunscreen. Beaches, boats, and the outdoors are all great, just please be aware that sun exposure has consequences in time" -- Mark Sobolewski

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sam Dyson's Fourth of July surprise

RHP Sam Dyson "shed a few tears" after learning he was being up called by Toronto. The 24-year-old will join the Blue Jays on Thursday, becoming the 56th New Hampshire Fisher Cat to reach the majors. Apologies for the quick edit.

July 4th Walk-Off

Fisher Cats RHP Sam Dyson has been called up by the Blue Jays following an INCREDIBLE night here with the Fisher Cats and Sea Dogs. Players are pretty pumped up for Dyson, who has been throwing 92-96-mph and touching 97 and 98 with a few pitches. Packed house in Manchester: 8,544, the largest attendance of the season and fifth-largest in franchise history. Kevin Howard belted a first-pitch fastball in the 11th inning to beat the Sea Dogs, 11-10, capping the incredible walk-off win. New Hampshire rallied for three runs in the ninth to force extras. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford had hits, and Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley, Jr., went 4-for-6 with knocks against Chad Jenkins and Scott Gracey. Postgame interviews with the Red Sox All-Star outfielders. Oh, and Ryan Sweeney is also playing for the Sea Dogs on Thursday.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy July 4! The Keene Swamp Bats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, fittingly, defeated Great Britain, 33-0, on the diamond last night. As part of the Independence Day festivities, Keene took on the Great Britain U-23 national team. Once again, we crushed the Redcoats.

Looking forward to tonight's Fisher Cats-Sea Dogs game in Manchester. Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury are joining Double-A Portland, but the best outfielder in the game will be Jackie Bradley, Jr., a lightning-quick 22-year-old who recently was promoted to Portland. My UL story on the series here.

Fisher Cats RHP John Stilson, a Blue Jays prospect and Texas A&M legend (too strong?), will pitch on Friday. The 21-year-old has gone 2-1 (3.18 ERA) in four starts at Double-A, giving up one earned run in his past two starts. "It's been a learning experience. I'm trying to locate my fastball better and not spray everything over the plate," he told me after yesterday's bullpen session. I've been working on trying to stay back over the rubber and not lean forward so much, which causes my arm to drag behind." 

Stilson's fastball has been sitting in the low 90s and occasionally touching 95 and even 96 on radar gun. There's more in the tank, too, he said. "I'm very satisfied with (the velocity). I just need to get my mechanics straightened out. Right now, I can’t really give it everything because my fastball command isn’t quite there yet.”

Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury are both joining the Portland Sea Dogs on the start of their three-game trip to Double-A New Hampshire. Crawford made his Eastern League debut last night at Hadlock Field, going 1-for-2 with an infield hit and a pair of walks. He also fouled a pitch off his right knee in the third inning, falling to the dirt in obvious pain. He hobbled to first base and stayed in the game, eventually exiting in the 7th. Here's more on Fenway North in my story in today's Union Leader.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Podcast Excellence Award

Check out my boys in Back in Blue Episode XXV getting it done at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. These guys did a tremendous job on this podcast. 

Fisher Cats Player Watch

Fisher Cats third baseman Mark Sobolewski has caught fire over the past 10 games, belting four homers and posting a .372 average and 1.121 OPS. Let's be honest. Brett Lawrie isn't going anywhere. I'd like to see Sobo involved in a trade or eventually get picked up in the Rule 5 Draft. He's one of those guys always doing extra work. Pulling for him.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rehabbing Red Sox take on Fisher Cats

Update: Carl Crawford has joined the Portland Sea Dogs and will play the outfield in Tuesday's 6 p.m. game against Trenton. He had a workout at Hadlock Field today and spoke with Mike Antonellis here. Sea Dogs play at New Hampshire on Wednesday. Do you have a ticket to watch Crawford play center field? The Fisher Cats ballpark could become Fenway North with CC and Jacoby Ellsbury in the house. Maybe even Ryan Sweeney.

We've seen A.J. Burnett pitch for the Fisher Cats, and we've watched Lyle Overbay beat the Sea Dogs with a grand slam. Major Leaguers who made rehabilitation stops in Manchester, including the year and attendance:

2010 - Travis Snider, 7,598
2010 - John Buck, 6,238
2009 - John Smoltz, 8,903
2009 - Jed Lowrie, 6,014
2009 - Daisuke Matsuzaka, 7,860
2006 - A.J. Burnett, 7,575
2007 - Lyle Overbay, 7,424
Lots of buzz today about Jacoby Ellsbury joining the Portland Sea Dogs for a rehab stint in the Eastern League. If you had tickets for Sea Dogs-Fisher Cats series, looks like you're a winner! Red Sox manager told the media in Seattle that Ellsbury could be joining Portland on Tuesday. That means the World Series champ/All-Star/Gold Glover could be playing against the Fisher Cats in the three-game series beginning Wednesday, weather permitting. I talked to Ben Cherington today, and he said Ellsbury will spend Tuesday in Florida with the Gulf Coast League. No decision on his next stop. In April, Ellsbury went down with a shoulder separation. He has been working his way back to the majors, making his first rehab stop in the Gulf Coast League. Kevin Thomas of the Portland Press Herald was all over this on his blog earlier today ... Would be cool to have Ellsbury playing the outfield with Jackie Bradley, Jr., who I wrote about yesterday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

UM, NOT SO MUCH. I challenged Matt Bonner to a game of P-I-G at his basketball camp in Concord, N.H., and was skunked. Couldn't get the roll. Not to mention Mr. Red Rocket hit a crazy clinching shot from halfcourt:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Law Enforcement Night

Wow, what a powerful night with the Fisher Cats, who honored police officers throughout the state and raised thousands for charity during tonight's game against Reading. Before the game, I met Manchester police officer Dan Doherty, 26, who was shot four times in a March gunfight and spent more than a month in the hospital. He threw the ceremonial first pitch for Law Enforcement Night, firing a strike before dozens of men and women in uniform. He told me about the night he was shot in the abdomen, hip and leg -- after responding to a report of an armed man on the West Side -- and how he constantly deals with flashbacks. "I think about it daily, hourly. I always think about what could've happened. I'm glad to be here now," he said. "It's a special night."

Greenland police chief Mike Maloney, killed in the line of duty in April, was an honored during pregame. It was a privilege to be part of the annual Law Enforcement Night -- and the Fisher Cats again did a tremendous job organizing this event.

Fisher Cats Focus: John Stilson

I enjoyed getting to know Fisher Cats newcomer John Stilson the past couple days as we conducted pregame interviews and had a photo shoot. Anxious to see him pitch tonight against Reading. There are some legendary stories about Stilson pitching through a shoulder injury (labrum tear) and sacrificing himself for the good of Texas A&M. As a sophomore, he set programs records and led the nation with an 0.80 ERA. As shoulder cartilage began to deteriorate as a junior, but he kept on trucking. Highlights from the interview and story in today's Union Leader:

"I knew I was hurt, for sure. I felt it on one pitch. I probably should have stopped right then, but I kept going and threw threw three or four more games. It kept getting worse and worse, but that's the type of pitcher I am. I'm not coming out unless you pull me off the field," he said. 

"I went out there and tried to help my teammates. It ended up hurting me more than it helped me, but that's all in the past. Everything happens for a reason. I'm just thankful the Blue Jays gave me this opportunity."

Asked if it's fair to say he was overworked by Aggies coach Rob Childress, Stilson made sure he didn't throw the skipper under the bus. "(College coaches) are in a tough spot. They either have to win or they get fired. They have to win ball games to make a living and support their family. I understand. It was also my choice to go out there and pitch."

Get this: Stilson once threw about 30 pitches against Dartmouth at Coral Gables, Fla., waited through a 1-hour rain delay, and returned to the mound. Later that night, he pitched in relief, earning a save as Texas A&M beat Miami. That's essentially three separate appearances on the same day! Hello.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Father's Day Pledge

TO MY SON AND DAUGHTER on Father's Day, There are lessons every dad should teach his children, and, along with looking both ways before crossing the road, I pledge to teach the game of baseball. Funny how what you learn on the diamond -- and from other sports -- can be applied to life. Presenting 10 baseball lessons every father should teach his kids:

1. Respect the game -- Great effort goes without saying. Hustling on and off the field and proper behavior are some of the ways to honor baseball's tradition and those who have played before us. It's a privilege to wear the uniform and represent the school or name on your jersey. Don't take it for granted.

2. Always have fun -- After all, isn't that what it's all about? Whether covering Little League games or World Series games, I've found a common theme from the most successful players and teams through the years.
"You want him to play the game like he's having fun and play hard. I look for that first, as a dad, to make sure he looks like he enjoys it," said Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, asked about his son, Beau, who played against the Fisher Cats last week.

3. Teamwork -- In sports, there is nothing more rewarding than everyone believing in a common goal and pulling for each other, putting individual accomplishments aside. Championships, not batting averages, are what everyone remembers in the end.

4. Play by the rules -- There is no substitution for hard work. And no short cuts.
"You can't skip ahead in life," New Hampshire pitching coach Tom Signore said. "If you want to be a lawyer, you've got to go to law school."

5. Sportsmanship -- Respect your opponent and umpires. Win with humility and lose with dignity. Failure is part of the game, and throwing your bat or helmet will not be tolerated.

6. Throw a fastball for a strike -- Forget the off-speed stuff until learning the importance of commanding your fastball. Then think about throwing a changeup.

7. Don't forget defense -- Fisher Cats manager Gary Cathcart says it's the most neglected part of the game among youngsters. How to field a grounder? "Get in a ready position. Move your feet. Get your glove in a good position to make the play," he said.

8. Throw some more -- There is some truth to an old-school philosophy: A sore arm is a sign of not enough throwing. Play catch. Throw a bullpen session. Long toss will help strengthen the arm.

"Too many pitchers only pick up the ball when they play," Cathcart says. "Our pitchers throw every day during the season."

9. Listen to coach -- Pay attention. Ask questions. Be coachable. It's a game of endless fundamentals and strategy -- and it keeps getting better with the more you learn.

10. Baseball is life -- Some of life's most valuable lessons are right there in our national pastime: focus on what you can control. A strong work ethic is needed to succeed. Be tough. Rise above critics. In the end, character and integrity are more important than hitting home runs.

-- From a 2009 Father's Day column in the New Hampshire Union Leader

Monday, June 4, 2012

D.J. Davis video by Baseball America

With the 17th overall draft pick, the Blue Jays selected high school outfielder D.J. Davis of Mississippi. Check out the swing and speed. The swing is compact and short to the ball. Early stride and load and establishment of front-side resistance, which is what I try to teach my 13-year-old AAU team. Judging from this clip -- and let's not get crazy -- but Davis appears to show an advanced approach. Anxious to see the other tools. John Lott's early story here.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ryan Goins breaks Travis d'Arnaud's record

Love getting the double apostrophe into a headline. The Fisher Cats lost again, 6-5, in a battle with the New Britain Rock Cats today, but I'm here to tell you about the silver lining. That's because I'm flat-out cheery today. Shortstop Ryan Goins had three hits, breaking a club record with his 41st base knock of the month. Travis d'Arnaud had the record for hits in a month (40) last July en route to winning Eastern League MVP honors. "I feel way more relaxed this season at the plate with my swing path and looking for pitches I'm getting to hit. I have confidence up there every day, just trying to be patient and be the best that I can be," Goins said ... Helluva month for Goins, who batted .357 with seven doubles. Excellent situational hitter knows how to move runners. Clutch, too. On the season, the kid is 21-for-47 (.447) with runners in scoring position.

Paul Blart would be proud

I observe, gather content and report. That's the job. Worked my butt off to get here. I won't be pushed around or intimidated.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Public Enemy No. 1: Ram of War

This is "Ram of War." He keeps it real. He dominates children in on-field challenges, always winning games of tug-o-war and feats of strength. He should beat them because he's bigger and stronger. That's life. Dude is a solid four bills. He's pretty much the greatest thing happening at Fisher Cats games this season. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sal Fasano will punch you, fine you and take your iPad after checking your "Face Book"

The Sons of Sal can't say "swag," either, but that's old news as we talked about in this interview. This list is posted in the clubhouse, near the food spread and on the bulletin board for everyone to see. If you ever wondered about player expectations here in Double-A -- and the evolving landscape of social media facing today's athletes -- the Fasano Edict pretty much covers everything. At least the important stuff. Tonight's music selection was up to Chad Jenkins. Personally, I think it's a pretty good list, though we need some clarification on facial hair (Sal Fasano Bobble Stache Night is June 24). Others on Twitter seem to love it. Click on the picture to enlarge:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stream of consciousness entry

Just got home and turned on the Jays game. Brett Lawrie struck out on a called strike that was at least 6 inches off the plate. All umpires are terrible.Yeah, it was a 14-3 game, but that's not a strike if bad-boy Brett wasn't standing there. Wonder how long the umps will haze him ... Robinson Cano's homer to center field off Tyson Ross was an insane back-spin blast on a pitch below his knees. Oh, my, nobody has more fun playing pro baseball than Nick Swisher. In a related note, his dad. Steve, managed the Reading Phillies in 2004. Ryan Howard hit a bomb off the JFK Coliseum that season ... Happy for Brian Van Kirk and Brad Glenn, who homered for the Fisher Cats tonight. Brad Glenn and Van Kirk each blasted two-out homers off Binghamton Mets starter Darin Gorski. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday night notes

RHP Sam Dyson hit 97-mph on Wednesday, the hardest pitch thrown by a Fisher Cat all season. RHP Chad Jenkins (disabled list) will throw one more bullpen session and likely return to the starting rotation. Said his arm felt great after yesterday's 'pen. What was the issue? "Probably just me freaking out. I was a little extra sore after one start and got a little nervous. I guess I just needed some rest," Jenkins said ... Switch-hitter Mike McDade homered from both sides of the plate in Wednesday's doubleheader. That was an ugly day for the Fisher Cats, swept by Portland. The Fisher Cats could have won the first game but somehow John Tolisano didn't score from first base (with two outs) on a high fly ball to CF that surprisingly dropped. McDade walzed into second base for a double. Tolisano only made it to third. Sal Fasano on the play: "He was running hard. It wasn't really high enough to get from first to home. By the time it dropped and bounced right into the center fielder's hands, John was just getting to third. It was a tough one because it was only a 150-foot throw by that time. We made more mistakes early in the game."

Brian Bocock was thrown at home plate after Fasano got too aggressive in the third-base coaching box. "With Bocock, I probably should have held him. And (Brad) Glenn not scoring on a ball hit off the wall by (Brian) Jeroloman. A lot of things could have gone better. Bad first game," Fasano said after the 7-6 loss to Portland ... Fasano has done a poor job managing and motivating this team. I've never seen so many Fisher Cats not run hard to first base on routine grounders and pop fly balls. 

Ricky's rant

Hey, everyone gets frustrated with the haters, and impulse tweets tend to happen, but I'm begging Ricky Romero to ignore the Twitter shut-ins who are ripping him. In case you missed it, some late-night venting by Ricky Ro:

Nothing is or will bring me down. Haters keep on hating just fuel me with more energy...To everyone else thank u for the support. Goodnight
1hAnd FAMILY have my back and that's all that matters to me. Some people wanted to see 
me fail. Well I hope ur enjoying it... All of You!!!
Be easy. All u haters and doubters talk all ur shit & keep it coming. Some keyboard warriors behind some tweets. But it's all good my TEAM
This game isn't easy and right now and I'm not at my best. I will continue to work my ass off and keep improving. No one said it was gonna

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fisher Jays re-up through 2014

The Blue Jays and Fisher Cats, in their ninth year together, remain honeymoon-esque. The two parties officially re-upped today, extending their player development contract through 2014. Not too surprising. On the last homestand in Manchester, Charlie Wilson, Toronto's director of minor league operations, said the Jays would "love" to re-up with New Hampshire. "Awesome affiliate. Great city. Great facility. More importantly, there are great people here with the Fisher Cats." Story on Wednesday's announcement here in the NH Union Leader. The city of Ottawa had high hopes of luring Toronto's AA affiliate as early as 2013, but that was a bit unrealistic. I could see the Jays moving their AA affiliate to Ottawa by 2015. In New Hampshire, fans have shown great support for Toronto's farm team, but the Red Sox are more of a natural fit here. The Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs are under contract through 2014. Just saying.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rainout? Max Sullivan and KG will entertain you -- in the most bizarre way possible

So I'm sitting in the press box having a conversation with Max Sullivan, a kid/blogger/relentless inquisitor of how to cover the Fisher Cats, and things get out of control. Turns out Max can shred a guitar. Turns out he played at Murphy's Taproom in Manchester the other night -- in front of some Fisher Cats relievers! A girl requested he play "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus to which Fernando Hernandez replied, "Party in Cuba!" Now, let me back up for a minute. As Max is telling me this story, he is soaking wet. Why? He locked his keys in the PT Cruiser and stood outside while waiting for the tow truck. Max kills me. He writes stories for (we think) but nobody has any proof because there is a monthly fee to read his stuff. He once referred to the bullpens as "those things" and had no idea what they were actually called. But these are all reasons we like him.

3rd No-Hitter in Fisher Cats History

MANCHESTER -- Brett Cecil led the way, pitching 5-2/3 innings, and Danny Farquhar and Ron Uviedo combined on a no-hitter as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats muzzled the Portland Sea Dogs, 6-0, in the series opener Monday night. Boxscore here. There was a buzz in the ballpark as Red Sox No. 1 pitching prospect Anthony Ranaudo (five earned runs) took the mound, but Cecil stole the show by taking a no-no into the sixth inning. At that point, we knew there was little chance of "Squints" (86 pitches) pitching much longer. He made only two previous starts since returning from a groin injury. Cecil struck out eight and walked three. Brian Bocock made a great play in the at 2B in the eighth inning. My game story here ... Portland manager Kevin Boles penned an all-righty lineup against NH. Cecil was hitting 87-90-mph and struck out Kolbrin Vitek three times. "His stuff was crisp. He worked both sides of the plate and changed speeds," Blue Jays minor-league pitching coordinator Dane Johnson said ... Brian Jeroloman, who was behind the dish for Kyle Drabek's no-hitter on July 4, 2010, has now caught both no-nos at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Video of the final out made by Bryce Brentz, who grounded to Ryan Goins at shortstop:

Postgame interviews with all three pitchers:

The full 9th inning, courtesy of Bus Leagues Baseball:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A.J. Jimenez heading for Tommy John surgery

Blue Jays catching prospect A.J. Jimenez hasn't played for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats since May 13 -- and probably won't play again until next year. Jimenez, bothered by a sore elbow, was told on Friday he will need Tommy John ligament replacement surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Jimenez had pictures taken at a local hospital and later left the ballpark with his elbow wrapped. He told Fisher Cats fan Brad Bacon that surgery was already scheduled. Fisher Cats manager Sal Fasano said Jimenez will receive a second opinion but is "most likely" headed for TJS. Fasano said the elbow ligament is "hanging by a thread."

The 22-year-old Jimenez had been throwing lasers to second base this season, nailing 55 percent of would-be base stealers and picking off three runners. To replace Jimenez, the Blue Jays called up Sean Ochinko from Advanced-A Dunedin. @TheBigOShow14 made his Eastern League debut against Trenton and went 0-3 with two pop outs and and an f-9 ... A.J. Instagrammed: 
Kevin Littlefield/Staff

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The world would be a better place if we all shaved an image of Matt Bonner onto our heads and embraced his values and work ethic. That is all. Thank you.

Only the greatest thing you'll see all day (week, month?): "A young San Antonio Spurs fan faces an in-school suspension on Thursday if he doesn't somehow find a way to alter the image of Matt Bonner shaved into the back of his head." The writing by Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie is splendid, dripping with Red Rocket-esque sarcasm. Please, people. We need to get this kid on our radio show with Matt Bonner. Pass it along.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back in Blue Video Podcast XIX

My boys at Black in Blue keep grinding out episodes. This time, they talk about John Farrell's lineup changes, minor-league signee Vladimir Guererro and check in with Blue Jay Hunter. They also give away a BIB tee. The show-ending handshake is a little awkward. Mix it up, eh? Proud to say I was the first guest on this show.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Love, Ax

SO GOOD. Here is the note John Axford left for the media, snapped by @JordanSchelling, after his streak came to an end, and he had to dash off to the hospital. If only Fisher Cats manager Sal Fasano would take a similar approach instead of shutting his office door when the team loses.

Chris Carpenter talking about his neck/shoulder/nerve issues

Chris Carpenter has spent the past few weeks strengthening his shoulder and preparing for a throwing program. He said his neck and shoulder feel great, but the true test will come when he picks up a baseball.  In 2004, Carpenter was sidelined with a similar nerve-related injury late in the season and didn’t pitch against the Red Sox in the World Series. 

“Just a lot of rehab right now. We’re taking our time,” he said. “There was a neck issue that affected the nerves in my arm. With my past history, we’re slowing everything down and getting everything working properly ... To be honest with you, with everything that’s gone on in my career, I’m playing with fire all the time. I’m OK with it. You deal with injuries in this business. You never want an injury to end your career, but you deal with it all the time in this business. Fortunately, we have great trainers and doctors that get you back on the field.”

Asked if he’ll be ready to pitch in the 2012 postseason, he said, “I think I’ll be back before that, to be honest with you. I just can’t answer that question until I start throwing again.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just telling it like it is ...

TIME TO FLIP a food spread. Time to send somebody packing. The Fisher Cats are playing uninspired, sloppy baseball right now. Tonight they opened a four-game series against Binghamton and lost, 9-2, dropping their fourth in a row. New Hampshire (13-19) struck out 15 times and committed three errors. (Mark Sobolewski, throw; John Tolisano, catch; A.J. Jimenez, throw). We expected a drop-off in production from last year's championship team, but nothing quite like this. Grumpy Sal Fasano shut his office door after the game. I talk with the Fisher Cats manager after most every game I cover. It was time to get some reaction on this losing streak, but after Fasano saw me in the hallway, he immediately shut his door. Jonathan Diaz and Brad Glenn did speak about the current state of the Fisher Cats.

"You want to win. When you're in a skid like this, it's tough," Diaz said. "All we can do is keep grinding and focusing and giving it all we've got."

AFTER HOURS: No, that is not the Millennium Falcon parked in left field. It's the new LED board at the Fisher Cats ballpark.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Adam Lind Bonus DVD

Oh, nothing, just some postgame sound bites from Adam Lind in 2009 that crack me up. I also posted this because one of the questioners is Carl Beane, a long-time reporter and voice of the Boston Red Sox, who died today from an apparent heart attack and car crash. Carl was the manager in our annual Media Game. RIP, Skip.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Today's Fisher Cats fix

Can Ryan Goins muster another three hits at Portland tonight? The first-year Fisher Cat enters the series opener with three consecutive 3-hit games. Goins (.327) has 17 hits in his last 10 games. During the same stretch, Mark Sobolewski has five homers and 13 RBIs while batting .350. Here are recent podcasts (that's code for rambling, talk-show-like interviews) with Sobo and Justin Jackson ... RHP Randy Boone was called up from Dunedin and is scheduled to start tonight at Portland ... I voted for Trevor May for Eastern League Pitcher of the Month after the Reading Phillies righty went 5-0 with a teeny tiny ERA in April -- and then lost his first outing of May ... On this beautiful Monday, I'll leave you with this brilliance from the Harvard baseball team:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Clemens making a name for himself

IN 2006, more than 9,000 fans came out for a minor-league game in Lexington, Ky., to watch Roger Clemens on a comeback for his 23rd season in the majors. A 19-year-old Koby Clemens played third base that night, delivering a message to the starting pitcher in the third inning. It was one of Roger's favorite father-son moments in baseball. "It's a packed house, and he comes jogging over to the mound. I'm thinking he's going to give me a quick scouting report on the hitter, Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, said in a phone interview last week. "He says, 'Pops, if you punch out this hitter, the whole place gets a free gallon of windshield wiper fluid.'"

Koby got the laugh. The Rocket got the strikeout. "That's Koby. He'll lighten the moment," said Roger, now in the thick of a perjury retrial in Washington, D.C. 

Koby signed with the Blue Jays during the off-season after spending seven years in with the Astros, rising to Triple-A. Last week, the 25-year-old smacked an opposite-field home run, his second homer at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium this spring. No longer a prospect, Clemens must pounce on every opportunity he gets at Double-A. He would need to tear up Eastern League pitching in order to jump ahead of Fisher Cats starting first baseman Mike McDade or third baseman Mark Sobolewski. "He's worked way too hard to not continue chasing his dreams," the elder Clemens, a 354-game winner, said. "I think he's a solid first baseman and has shown to be versatile enough to play other positions. He reminds me of (A's infielder) Brandon Inge, a guy I played against a lot."

Kevin Littlefield/Staff
 Koby had his most productive year in 2009 at Advanced-A Lancaster, batting .345 with 22 homers and 121 RBIs for the Astros affiliate. That year started out similar to this season. "I was playing in a backup role, and I went into the year angry and ticked off because I wasn't playing much," he said. "All you can do is prepare yourself for the next time you get a chance. I got my chance and things took off. You never know what's going to happen tomorrow."

The 5-foot-11 Clemens, built with thick muscle from his calves to his shoulders, doesn't shy away from conversation about his father. He said the court-room drama and daily stories don't weigh on his mind as much as they did in 2008, when his father appeared before a Congressional committee and swore under oath he did not use performance-enhancing drugs. "It's a lot easier this year. Since 2008, when everything started coming out, it's made me a little bit tougher about how to handle things. Same with the family. It's thickened our skin. You find out who your true friends are," Koby said. "The best thing I can say right now is we'll have our day in court, and we're going to battle it out until the end ... Obviously, we are going through it all over again and hopefully the truth will prevail."

Debbie and Roger Clemens spend most of their time following the K-kids. The youngest boys, Kacy and Kody, play sports at Memorial High near Houston, Texas. Kory, the second oldest, graduated from culinary arts school in Austin and plans to make a career in the restaurant business. Koby may not reach the majors this season, but he's having the time of his life. It's clear the Fisher Cats are a tight group with excellent team chemistry. Koby Clemens is a big part of that, whether taking a leadership during workouts or cracking up teammates in the clubhouse. "We have a great group of guys. I've been on teams in the past when there was some bitterness or it wasn't as enjoyable hanging out. This is one of the teams where everyone enjoys hanging out and staying late, talking about the game. That's what makes baseball so enjoyable," he said.

And if he wasn't playing baseball? "Wow, I don't know what I'd be doing because baseball is all I've ever known. Obviously, I love it. My dad never pushed me to play baseball. He only said no matter what I decide to do in life, you have to put everything into it," Koby said. 

Money will never be a problem. Somewhere in a family trust, there is a bank account with millions of dollars earmarked for the Clemens kids. Roger earned more than $121 million in salary alone during his career. "I've been very blessed with everything my dad has done and what he's passing along to me and my brothers, but that's something I want to save for my family and my kids and their kids," Koby said. "I'm not planning on using that for my own benefit. I'm going to save that and let it grow and pass it along to my kids and grandkids for their education. I want to go out and make money of my own. I don't want to live off my dad. Everything he has done for me has been great, but I have to be me. We can't live under the same roof until I'm 40."

Koby jokes about forming his own reality TV show with his family. They could start filming on the next homestand at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium when Debbie and Roger arrive at the park. The Rocket said he hopes to throw batting practice during the Fisher Cats-Binghamton series from May 10-13. "They're dying to get out here and bring back the old memories of northern baseball and playing for the Red Sox," Koby said. "When they roll in here, you won't miss them. We'll all be having a good time."

(First published in the New Hampshire Union Leader.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Jessica Simpson has not delivered her baby yet. In baseball-related news, Trevor May and Deck McGuire each pitched great in Monday night's series opener between the first-place Reading Phillies and defending champion Fisher Cats. Postgame interviews:

Monday, April 30, 2012

The curious case of Brian Jeroloman

Here is the meat of my baseball column in the New Hampshire Sunday News:

Catcher Brian Jeroloman, a three-time All-Star with the Fisher Cats, paid his dues for six seasons in the minors before fulfilling a lifelong dream – sort of. In August, Jeroloman was called up by the Blue Jays but never played. He warmed up pitchers and earned big-league meal money for five weeks, not once entering a game as defensive replacement or pinch hitter.

Fans began to wonder. On Twitter, they made predictions on when he might finally make his major-league debut, creating a mock “Jero” pool. Was it a discipline issue? No. Was he hurt? How could he get hurt if he never played in a game? Jeroloman, an outgoing New Yorker who could talk a dog off a meat wagon, only offers a “no comment” when asked about the circumstances involved with riding the pine.

Jeroloman spent 37 days on the active roster with Toronto yet his 2012 baseball card shows no sign of reaching The Show. A former prospect, Jeroloman now serves as a backup catcher behind 22-year-old standout A.J. Jimenez. So what is the story behind the phantom big leaguer? (Isn’t the suspense killing you?) Yes, it was injury. Jeroloman suffered from a hand or wrist injury but everything was kept hush-hush, according to some Blue Jays teammates.

“He had the hand issue,” said lefty Brett Cecil, who first played with Jeroloman at Double-A New Hampshire in 2008. “It was tough to watch him not play, I’ve been with him for a long time, and I want to see him succeed … The type of guy Brian is, he handled probably better than anybody ever would. He is very professional about everything he does.”

J.P. Arencibia told me Jero was hurt and couldn't play. Fisher Cats reliever Danny Farquhar, who spent last September with the Blue Jays, said he knows the full story behind the curious case of Jeroloman but can’t say. “It’s supposed to be a secret,” he said.

Jeroloman, 26, has started only four games for the Fisher Cats this season. The former Florida Gator hasn’t hit for average, batting .071, but his defensive skills (specifically receiving, throwing and footwork) have been sharper than ever. He threw out three would-be base stealers in a home game against New Britain. Jeroloman may have been sent down to Double-A to start this season, but it could a blessing disguise while working under manager Sal Fasano, a long-time backup catcher in the majors.

“I have been with the Blue Jays for seven years, and it feels like I’ve learned more from Sal Fasano in one month than I have learned in seven years,” said Jeroloman, who caught Kyle Drabek’s no-hitter on July 4, 2010 at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Asked about serving in a backup role, Jeroloman said, “A.J. Jimenez has a very bright future as a catcher and if there is any way I can help him, I’m glad to do so.”

Fasano has been there before.

“I see a guy who is a great worker and is just taking another step trying to get back to the big leagues. (Jeroloman) understands his role. A lot of times in development, you think playing every day is what you need. Well, there are other times when you have to learn how to play once a week,” Fasano said.

One has to admire Jeroloman’s attitude and work ethic. Last fall, he was an active big leaguer (sort of). Today he’s a backup Double-A catcher with only 14 at-bats this season. "This game can knock you down. It’s all about how quickly you get back up,” he said.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pic Potpourri

Lord Farquhar
Jonathan Diaz
2012 Opening Day
The Gamers and Matt Daly
Koby Clemens

Friday, April 27, 2012

Homestand primer

UNLEASHED. The previously slumping Fisher Cats ended their road trip with a 16-3 rout of Binghamton and return home tonight to open a seven-game homestand. Here's a look at pitching matchups and a preview of the weekend against Trenton. Andy Pettitte isn't scheduled to pitch again for the Thunder until they play at Portland.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mark Sobolewski pregame interview

Things have been quiet in the land of Fisher Kitties lately. A day off, rainout, then six scoreless innings by Chad Jenkins as New Hampshire opened the series at Binghamton with a 4-0 win on Tuesday. Entering tonight the Fisher Cats own an Eastern League-worst .238 team batting average. Mark Sobolewski had a three knocks at Bingo tonight, which prompted me to post this video from the first homestand in which Sobo recaps his skin cancer scare.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Deck dealing

Deck McGuire put everything together against the Binghamton Mets on Thusday, pitching 6.2 innings scoreless innings and allowing one hit, striking out three with three walks. He kept the ball down, moved in and out, and was "12-for-19" on throwing his slider, according to Fisher Cats pitching coach Tom Signore. Deck's postgame thoughts and the importance of "staying on top" of the ball and downward plane -- and all that:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A conversation with Brett Cecil -- and "Jero"

Brett Cecil says he'd "rather pitch anywhere" than Las Vegas and talks about his struggles of last season, mechanical issues, returning to Toronto -- and why he lost all that weight. Cecil, who starts Thursday at New Britain, topped out at 87-mph in his most recent start for the Fisher Cats. (That's an improvement of a few mph.) Catcher Brian Jeroloman also provides some insight during today's interview with "Squints."

"Flames then frost" here in New Hampshire

RHP Chad Jenkins has a shot at joining the Blue Jays next week when a need for a fifth starter arises. Here at Double-A New Hampshire, the only candidates are Jenkins, Drew Hutchison and Brett Cecil. In this video, Jenkins talks about his most recent start against New Britain. Jenkins pitches tonight against the Binghamton Mets ... RHPs Clint Everts and Yohan Pino were sent to New Hampshire from Triple-A Las Vegas, and RHP Fernando Hernandez was placed on the disabled list ... Nobody sums up the weather here like Justin Jackson: "Flames then frost the next day," tweeted @JaxChillinOne ... Fisher Cats now have four No. 1 draft picks on the active roster: Jackson, Everts, Jenkins and Cecil. Jackson's .400 average ranks fourth in the Eastern League. However, this is a weak at-bat from a homer-hungry JJax.

Fisher Cats starting pitcher Chad Jenkins delivers a fastball at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Kevin Littlefield/Staff