06/08/2007 10:49 AM ET
Perseverance pays off for Baek
Korean native Cha Seung Baek joined the Mariners organization straight out of high school. He's now a fixture in the team's rotation, but it was anything but a smooth road for the right-hander.
Cha Seung Baek is 3-2 with a 4.91 ERA in nine starts this season. (Elaine Thompson/AP)
He made the adjustment to life in America while having to overcome ligament replacement surgery on his elbow, and while playing in the low Minors.
"At that point, I was in Single-A, I was in rehab and I didn't know if I was ever going to return to the mound," Baek told the Seattle Times. "For almost two years, I didn't pitch. I got homesick. But I had to put that aside because I had a goal. I had a dream."
Even after the surgery, Baek still had his up and downs, most notably shuttling back and forth between Seattle and Triple-A Tacoma the past three seasons.
"When I signed, I didn't plan on returning to Korea," Baek says. "My dream was to play here [in the United States] and grab a spot here. So I had to do it. I could not forget my dream and go back to Korea."
Major League Baseball was not an option for Koreans until Chan Ho Park broke through in 1994.
"He sparked the dream for me," Baek says. "I was 13 or 14 years old, and seeing Chan Ho Park, he became my idol. From that time, the whole country knew more about Major League Baseball because the TV stations broadcast all his games.
"We finally knew what the Major Leagues was; who the athletes were, who was good, who the teams were. Until then, we only knew about the Korean leagues, and maybe the Japanese leagues."
Mariners pitching coach Rafael Chaves says Baek has great command and throws all four pitches -- fastball, changeup, curveball and slider -- for strikes.
"He's absolutely more mature," Chaves says. "He's not afraid to do anything on the mound."
Braun settles in to nice spot in Milwaukee lineup: Upon being recalled from Triple-A, Milwaukee third baseman Ryan Braun has shown why the Brewers wanted him on the roster.
In his first two weeks, Braun has hit .312 with three home runs and eight RBIs in his first 13 games.
Braun didn't start well for the Brewers, hitting .222 with eight strikeouts and no walks in his first seven games. But in his last six, Braun is hitting .571 with two home runs and four RBIs while also walking three times.
"I feel like I'm finally starting to get comfortable," Braun, a right-handed hitter, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I'm finally starting to get back into a regular routine and I feel situated.
"Performance-wise I feel like I probably couldn't have swung the bat much worse than I have these first couple weeks. But I feel like I'm starting to get situated and starting to get some plate discipline back and swinging at good pitches, so hopefully it will start to come."
Braun is used to having to make adjustments as he's climbed the ladder of professional baseball.
"But every level I've gone up, there's been a transitional phase. There have been adjustments, and I feel like I'm pretty good making adjustments. So hopefully I'll be able to continue to make adjustments and have some more success."
While Braun is striking out, he is also hitting the ball hard, which is why the Brewers wanted him in the lineup. The rookie said it is helpful to also be hitting between J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder, two of the top home run hitters in the league this year.
"It helps having arguably two of the top hitters in the National League hitting before and after me in Prince and J.J.," Braun said. "But I've kind of always hit third for my entire career, so it's not like it's anything that's a drastic change or anything like that."
One reason why Braun started the season in the minors was his defense. But so far he has looked solid in the field, making only one error.
"He's doing a nice job," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "He's doing everything we want him to do. He's playing great defense at third base; he's kind of settling into that 3 spot."
Pettitte, Clemens ready for back-to-back starts: Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens appear to be on target to make their scheduled starts Friday and Saturday after each threw a bullpen session Wednesday with no discomfort.
Pettitte will start Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates and felt no back pain after throwing in Chicago. Pettitte has a 2.96 ERA this season in 14 games, 12 of those starts, and feels he is ready to go.
"I felt pretty good," Pettitte told Newsday. "I felt real good, actually, so I'm going to pitch Friday."
Clemens threw batting practice in Tampa and said everything went well after missing his first scheduled start of the season this past Monday against the White Sox due to disrupted scar tissue in his right groin.
"I have a short downhill training session [today] and then I should be locked in and ready to go," Clemens said. "The weakness that came from the scar tissue has so far dispersed.
"Today's bullpen session was a little more intense than a regular side session. Normally, I would throw about 60 percent, but today I threw closer to 80 percent."
One person looking forward to seeing Clemens back on the mound in New York is manager Joe Torre.
"The way you can win is to be able to control the game. The way to control the game is through pitching. To have Roger be a part of that mix is important."
Pedro targets fall return: After throwing his first bullpen session since undergoing rotator cuff surgery eight months ago, New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez was "very encouraged" by his outing and told Newsday he expects to be pitching for the club this fall.
"I don't think there should be any doubt on anybody's mind," he said.
There may be more concerns concerning Martinez because unlike Tommy John surgery, the procedure he had on his shoulder is not as common. Martinez uses the fact that there aren't many pitchers who have had successful returns from the surgery as motivation.
"Every time I get tired or frustrated, keeps saying, 'It's never been done, it's never been done,'" Martinez said, emphasizing those words. "Somebody has to do it, is my answer, and that somebody, I want it to be me. I want to get back and do good."
Martinez threw a total of 22 pitches from the mound, 12 more than what he was originally scheduled to throw. Martinez said he could have thrown more pitches.
"I could have thrown more, but we don't want to get me hurt," Martinez said. "We want to get me healthy. I have to get comfortable with the mound, comfortable with my legs and used to being out there again.
"Right now, I feel healthy. I'm not afraid to go out there and challenge anything they give me to do."
Beckett eyes first All-Star appearance: Josh Beckett has been a World Series MVP, but he's yet to make an All-Star team.
That could change this year, as the right-hander is 8-0 with a 2.95 ERA. Beckett ranks second in the league in wins, fourth in batting average against (.214) and fifth in ERA.
"It's something that creeps into your mind every year," Beckett told the Boston Herald about making the All-Star team. "You wonder, 'Are my numbers there? Is the manager going to pick me?' I think it would be a great feat, kind of like winning the World Series MVP. It's something nobody can take away from you."
Blister woes may have kept Beckett, then a member of the Florida Marlins, off the National League All-Star team in 2005, when he was 8-5 with a 3.16 ERA at the end of June. But Beckett was suffering blister problems at the time and wasn't named to the team. Mike Lowell, a teammate of Beckett with Florida and now in Boston, said the pitcher was also a victim of the team's bullpen back then.
"He had a lot of no-decisions in Florida because [of] a lack of established bullpens," Lowell said. "I think he has pitched good enough some times, but the blister thing has made him take too much time off.
"I think people see the stuff and they don't see the path. They don't go with a lot of starters, either, and the fact that every team has to be represented steals a couple of spots. He definitely has All-Star stuff."
Lyon stays cool: Relief pitchers are often thrust into stressful situations. Arizona reliever Brandon Lyon, rarely, if ever, shows any stress while out on the mound.
"The three years I've been here, I haven't seen one situation when he was nervous. I don't know if I've seen him break a sweat," catcher Chris Snyder told the East Valley Tribune. "He has brains and guts. You mix that with his stuff, and that's all he needs. He doesn't panic. It's like he has two outs and nobody on and an eight-run lead."
Lyon has a 2.45 ERA this season and currently ranks fifth in the National League in "holds," a statistic used to measure the success of setup relievers. Relievers accumulate a hold the same way a closer earns a save -- by holding a lead while in the game.
Lyon said he has had a relaxed temperament on the mound since high school in Salt Lake City.
"I've always been taught you can't control what's happened in the past. You can only control how you handle it," Lyon said. "I'm having fun out there. I'm playing a game. Obviously, I want to do well. I guess I'm not afraid to fail. Obviously, you don't want to. But I guess I use that and try to keep my composure and enjoy it."
Newest Cub has an 'Aw, Dad!' moment: Pitcher Sean Gallagher has always dreamed of making it to the Major Leagues.
On Wednesday, when the Chicago Cubs announced that his dream had come true, the word was already out thanks to a Cubs fan's Web site post. The person who made the post, it turns out, was quite possibly Gallagher's proud father.
"He might have, I don't know," Gallagher told the Chicago Tribune with a grin. "The first person I wanted to call was my dad. The next thing I know, I'm getting phone calls from people going, 'Hey, you going to the big leagues?'
"I'm like, 'How did you know? No one has announced it yet.' I sat there going, 'Daaaaaad!' Everybody found out before the Cubs even made out a press release. It was funny, though."
Chicago manager Lou Piniella said that he had a good talk with Gallagher when he arrived in Milwaukee to join the rest of the Cubs.
"I told him that in his Spring Training experience he threw the ball well," said Piniella. "He says, 'Skip, my curveball is working a lot better than in spring, so I really expect to do well.' That's really a nice way to approach it."
In 76 Minor League outings, Gallagher is 33-14. Piniella said that the team plans to use the young pitcher in middle to long relief.
"It's a great way to bring a young man into the big leagues," said Piniella. "Let him pitch with not too much pressure, get some experience, see if he can get Major League hitters out, gain confidence."
-- Red Line Editorial