Derby Champ Does Des Moines
Epifanio [Sandy] Guerrero has a new nickname. It’s Derby, courtesy of the apprentice ballplayers he‘s been working with this season.
That, a ring and a late dinner are his rewards for being what I guess you’d have to call the winning pitcher in MLB’s slugging orgy in St. Louis on Monday night.
Guerrero was Home Run Derby champ Prince Fielder’s hand-picked soft-server. His regular gig is hitting coach for the Nashville Sounds, Triple A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. Last night I talked with him while the Sounds prepared to face the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines.
Derby fielded the good natured ribbings of the Sounds players in between swatting them fungoes and tossing a round of BP. He hits left and throws right, patrolling the field with baseballs bulging in his back pockets like giant warts. They suggest big pains in his ass.
When he hits infield the ball goes exactly where he wants it to off his bat. Each position winds up with a hard grounder to one side or another, a slow chopper they’re forced to charge and a truly major league popup; the guy is Rod Carew with a fungo bat in his hands. It’s a treat to watch after another little league season of layman volunteers who can’t so much as loft a fly ball in the general direction of a pod of shaggers.
Guerrero said that Fielder had been disappointed with his showing at the 2007 derby when Guerrero’s brother Mike [currently managing the Brewers’ High A team at Brevard County - they’re the sons of famed Dominican scout Epy Guerrero] pitched to him. Sandy was the 1st choice then too, but wasn’t available because of his duties at the time with the Brewers’ Double A team in Huntsville, the place where the two met as Fielder climbed the ladder of the farm system.
“We talked this year in spring training that if Prince was in the derby and I was free, he would ask me to pitch for him again.” Guerrero said. “He called last week and asked if I could come to St. Louis with him.”
Guerrero did more than serve up a steady diet of juicy fruit on Monday night. He and Fielder formulated a game plan in the NL clubhouse before they took the field.
“I told him it was a muggy night and to save his energy.” Guerrero explained. “No matter where the pitches are, take a few after every swing. Otherwise you’ll get tired in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Some of the other guys were yelling at him, ‘hey, what was wrong with that pitch,’ but he stuck to the plan and saved his energy. He wasn’t even tired at the end. He could have gone another round.”
Guerrero also told Fielder that he wouldn’t be pitching him low and in, normally the chubby slugger’s preferred sweet spot.
“I wanted to throw more out over the plate so he could extend his arms. When he hit the 500 footer I motioned to him to look up at the crowd and listen. The St. Louis fans were cheering him even though the Brewers and Cardinals are fighting each other. They’re good fans.” [I believe the red-clad crowd booed lustily when Cub token Ted Lilly was announced in the pre-games on Tuesday, but I granted Guerrero’s point.]
So how did the newly crowned sultan of swat show his appreciation for the customized pitching performance?
“Everybody wants to know if he gave me money or something. No, it was just an honor that he asked me and I was happy to do it for him because he’s one of the best hitters in the game.” Guerrero claimed.
“I did get a nice ring though and I’ve been wearing it. It’s in the clubhouse. And we went out to dinner with Prince and his wife that night. The next morning I had breakfast with him and I said, ‘man, can you believe we just won the Home Run Derby?’” Guerrero recalled.
It’s clear that he truly thinks Fielder is a [sorry] prince of a guy, noting that it’s hard not to cross the line drawn between coaches and players when the ones who are not only talented but eager to learn come along. Guerrero puts the misleadingly surnamed Fielder solidly in that category. Now that the two toil for different teams in the same organization it’s easier for them to just be friends.
Last night, while Derby sat in a dugout in Des Moines watching the Iowa Cubs beat Nashville 11-4, the great slugger named Fielder blasted a three-run shot off of a pitcher named Homer in Cincinnati.
Guess King Prince did still have another round in him.
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.