06/15/2007 12:15 PM ET
Cora, Action Team rally for volunteerism
Alex Cora joined fellow Boston Action Team members to encourage youth volunteerism this summer.
"The Boston Action Team Captains have done a great job getting their peers to volunteer," says Alex Cora. (Katie Ryan/MLBPLAYERS.com)
Cora and the local high school students have been working together on the Boston Action Team throughout the school year to spark volunteerism.
On Thursday, they took their message to Fenway High School and talked about the need for meaningful summer volunteer activities for inner city kids.
"Summertime is a great time for high school students to support causes they believe in, and to help some of their neighbors in need," the Red Sox second baseman said. "The Boston Action Team Captains have done a great job getting their peers to volunteer, and all Major Leaguers are extremely proud of the job Action Team high school students all across the country are doing to help train and inspire the next generation of volunteers."
Administered by Volunteers of America and the Major League Baseball Players Trust, the Action Team program was created to encourage young people throughout the United States to volunteer in their communities.
Volunteers of America's programs in Massachusetts support and empower the area's most vulnerable groups, including at-risk youth, adults and adolescents in recovery from substance abuse, and elders in need of affordable housing and mental health services.
Action Teams, consisting of Major League players and area high school student "Team Captains," are working together in Boston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland (Maine), San Francisco and Seattle.
Volunteers of America and the Major League Baseball Players Trust plan to expand the program to Cincinnati, Houston, Indianapolis, Mobile and Washington D.C. during the 2007-08 school year.
Verlander's no-no brings comparisons: As soon as Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander finished his no-hitter against Milwaukee on Tuesday night, the comparisons began.
"The repertoire he has, with that kind of fastball, curveball and changeup, Nolan (Ryan) comes to mind," fellow starter Kenny Rogers told the Detroit Free Press.
Rogers wasn't the only one throwing around some big names.
"You can compare him to some of those power guys like Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens," said another Tigers starter, Chad Durbin. "But as far as stuff, you gotta almost put his stuff above some of them in some aspects."
Ivan Rodriguez, who caught Verlander's gem, is on board.
"He's got the stuff to be the best pitcher in the game," said Rodriguez. "You can talk to all the hitters, on all the teams, how they feel facing him. They'll tell you. He's tough."
Third baseman Brandon Inge knows how tough he is, and he doesn't even have to face him.
"If he can spot the ball even close to the way he did (Tuesday) ... he can win a Cy Young," said Inge.
As for Rodriguez's idea that he might just be the best in baseball, Verlander was humbled.
"That's kind of crazy. That's an unbelievable compliment," he said.
Rogers believes that Verlander is quite aware, actually, of how good he is.
"Yes he does," said Rogers. "He knows just the kind of stuff he has. He is confident. On his good days, he exudes it out there."
Silva has a big week, shared with a teammate: Minnesota pitcher Carlos Silva has had quite a week. On Tuesday at 5:07 a.m., his wife Maria gave birth to the couple's first son, Justin, as the nervous father paced the halls.
"They asked me one time, 'You need something?'" Silva told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "I said, 'Yeah, bring me another pair of shoes,' because I was walking all over."
Then on Wednesday, he tossed his second career complete game shutout as the Twins handled the Braves, 6-0.
"I think you saw a pretty impressive pitching performance by Carlos with a lot of enthusiasm," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, "and with a lot of thoughts on his wife and son."
As luck would have it, Silva and his wife were joined at the hospital by teammate Juan Rincon and his wife, Roselen. At 4:03 a.m. that same morning, Santiago Rafael Rincon came into the world.
"It was funny," said Rincon. "It was different. We ate together everywhere. We went down and ate fast food like three different times. We went to my room with his family. I went over to his room. It was pretty cool."
As for the young Silva, dad says he plans to get him started as soon as he can.
"[He's] going to be a ballplayer," Silva said of his new son. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to get the ball and put it in his left hand. Lefty, so he can be like (teammate) Johan (Santana)."
Chico turns the corner: After a rough first start in the Majors, Nationals pitcher Matt Chico has quietly turned in four straight solid starts. His latest effort was two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings versus the Orioles on Wednesday.
"I've really tried to focus on getting first-pitch strikes and not worrying about what's going to happen and just letting the defense take care of it," Chico told the Washington Post.
Chico has enjoyed success thanks to improved command of his changeup, which allows him to throw the pitch at any time.
"He's been pretty consistent," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "He's not lights-out every single time out there, but he has been able to compete and give us a chance to win pretty much in every one of his outings in the last month and a half."
Villanueva answers the call for Brewers: Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Carlos Villanueva has been used exclusively out of the bullpen this season. That changed Wednesday night when he had to make an emergency start for the injured Chris Capuano.
"To be honest with you, I thought he (manager Ned Yost) was joking," Villanueva told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about being told he was the starter. "I got my glove and walked out, and when I got to the dugout, everybody was staring at me. That's when I knew it was really happening."
Villanueva, who has started in the past, did a great job against the Detroit Tigers. In five innings of work, he allowed only one run, keeping the Brewers in the game as they pulled out a 3-2 victory. The right-hander allowed only five hits and two walks while striking out four to lower his ERA to 2.87.
"(Villanueva) stepped up big time," said Yost. "He has really been used a lot. I was hoping to maybe get three (innings) out of him. I kept checking with him and he said he was fine."
Wright's a perfect thief: Who says you need blazing speed to be a base stealer? New York Mets third baseman David Wright is a perfect 14-for-14 on stolen base attempts this season.
Wright might not be a prototypically base stealer, but he runs when the situation calls for it, mainly when the count calls for a certain type of pitch.
"It's a combination of a lot of things," Wright told Newsday. "I try to catch the pitcher off guard. Maybe see if I can notice something. See if the pitcher grips the ball a certain way in his glove. No matter how much he pays attention to me, if it's an off-speed pitch in the dirt, it's tough to anybody out."
Bell soaks up the knowledge: Tampa Bay's loss was San Diego's gain. When Padres general manager Kevin Towers acquired pitcher Heath Bell from the New York Mets last year, he apparently beat the Devil Rays to the punch.
"From what I understand, the Devil Rays wanted to get me and I probably could have become their closer," Bell told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Bell wouldn't have had a problem if the Rays had ended up with him since he lives in Port St. Lucie, which is about two hours from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Plus, he would have gotten a chance to be the closer.
"I eventually would like to be a closer," said Bell. "The Devil Rays didn't have a closer. I would have been pretty fine with that. I was a closer in the Minors. It was just so much fun doing it."
But Bell has no problem being in San Diego, where he has been outstanding. Used as a setup man, Bell has a 1.22 ERA and leads the bullpen in innings pitched with 39.
"I'm happy with how it worked out," said Bell, 29. "There's a chance to go to the All-Star Game. We're in first place. We have a chance of going to the playoffs, and if we get there, we could go deep into the playoffs. I'll take the chance to get a championship -- not to say Tampa isn't going to the playoffs."
Bell is taking advantage of being in the same bullpen as closer Trevor Hoffman and Scott Linebrink, who usually pitches in the eighth inning. And he is paying attention to how veteran starters Greg Maddux and David Wells prepare as well.
"I'm picking up knowledge from everybody," he said. "It's kind of cool to be one of the young pups. I like to learn something from every single person."
Wainwright focused on no-hitter: St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright nearly made it two in a row on Wednesday night, turning in a dominating one-hit performance against the Kansas City Royals just one night after Detroit's Justin Verlander no-hit the Milwaukee Brewers.
Over eight innings Wainwright allowed just one hit -- a sixth-inning single off of the bat of Esteban German -- and in doing so became the fist Cardinals pitcher this season to work eight innings in what became a 7-3 St. Louis victory.
What was at stake was certainly not lost on Wainwright. "When you're used to giving up two hits an inning, you notice something like that pretty soon," he told the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
"In the second inning, I gave up three hard-hit balls right at people. I said, 'What the hell. Today would be a pretty good day to do it.' I was playing around with my mind about it and I said, 'Yeah, let's throw a no-hitter today,' acting like it was no big deal.
"I just thought about it as much as possible."
Pitching coach Dave Duncan said after the game that Wainwright made a critical adjustment on Wednesday night.
"He didn't let his delivery get away at any point in the game," said Duncan. "That's been his problem. He's been pulling off a lot of balls."
It has been since September 17 and 18, 1968, when Gaylord Perry of San Francisco and the Cardinals' Ray Washburn tossed consecutive no-hitters in San Francisco. Wainwright came up a bit short of making history.
"Not quite Verlanderish today," he said, smiling. "I threw a little different stuff, but I'll take it. (Catcher) Gary Bennett did an amazing job. He was like an extension of my own brain. I never had to think twice."
A two-out error in the sixth inning immediately preceded the German hit, but Wainwright wasn't dwelling on it. "I'm a believer that (German) would have got a hit on the first pitch (of the seventh) anyway," he said.
"It wasn't in the cards. God didn't want me to throw a no-hitter today, and that's fine. He allowed me to throw eight (innings) and one (hit). And I'll take that every time."
Rowand reminds Sox of his value: Phillies outfielder Aaron Rowand, a former member of the Chicago White Sox, made the Sox remember why they were so fond of him on Wednesday night when he crushed a seventh-inning grand slam that led his team to an 8-4 victory.
"It feels good, but not because it happened against them," Rowand told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It was great to do that just because we won the ballgame and swept the series so we can get closer to the Mets and Braves.
"I don't have any ill will toward anybody in that organization. Kenny [Williams, Chicago's general manager] felt he could better the team by getting a guy like [Jim] Thome. I know how much he wants to win."
Watching Rowand come up big didn't surprise his former manager.
"We know what kind of player he is," said Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "He's a special guy."
Snell keeps proving more: Does anyone out there still doubt the talent and determination of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Ian Snell? Prior to 2006, there were plenty of those that didn't think he had what it took to make it in the Major Leagues. He responded by winning 14 games.
"It makes it a little bit harder, because now everybody knows you," Snell told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "So, you have to change everything up. This year, I changed everything from my pitching -- I'm throwing more offspeed (pitches) this year -- to my bunting to my hitting. And next year, I'm going to change it even more."
On Wednesday night, his successes continued to pile up as he tossed his first career complete game in the Pirates' 8-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.
"I was tired of hearing people say, 'You can't go more than seven innings,'" Snell said after the game. "Well, here you go."
Now 6-4 on the year, Snell allowed just one unearned run on seven hits, striking out seven while walking only two.
"He was absolutely terrific," said Pirates manager Jim Tracy. "He threw 105 pitches, 70 of them for strikes. He had command of three pitches. When he does that from the get-go, the task at hand (for the opponent) is difficult."
-- Red Line Editorial