© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
09/14/06 2:57 AM ET
Notes: Schmidt could miss start
Stanton not sweating closer role; Grizzlies Stadium renamed
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants pitcher Jason Schmidt's scheduled start Friday in St. Louis against the Cardinals could be in jeopardy, as the right-hander feels tightness in his upper right back. Schmidt, who has had shoulder and elbow problems the last two seasons, said Wednesday night he aggravated the muscles during batting practice Tuesday but is hoping the injury isn't serious. "It's a possibility," he said of missing the opener of a three-game series at Busch Stadium. "I'll test it [Thursday]. Sometimes you come out and feel great all of a sudden. I'll get rest tonight [Wednesday night] and see how I feel. I'm not worried." Schmidt joked he might let relief pitcher Scott Munter bat for him in the future, as the rookie ripped a run-scoring double in his first Major League at-bat in the fifth inning of the Giants' 9-8 loss to Colorado on Wednesday night at AT&T Park. "It's muscles in the scapula near my spine," said Schmidt. "Just swinging -- that's typical. That's how I did my elbow, my groin, my everything -- just swinging the bat." The 33-year-old Schmidt, 11-8 with a 3.45 ERA overall this season, is 5-2 with a 4.26 ERA in his last 10 games, and the Giants hope the mild strain disappears quickly. "He has some soreness, but it might be OK Friday," said manager Felipe Alou. Schmidt says he has played catch without a problem and wanted the problem to be low-key. "It could be a thing where I could be fine," he said. "I feel it on the follow-through. It's just stuff, and I didn't want to make a big deal out of it." Sweet career for Sweeney: There was no career warranty or expiration date on Mark Sweeney when he played his first professional ballgame for Boise, Idaho, in 1991, after graduating from, of all places, the University of Maine. No guarantees. You live on your talent and production. Period. No gimmies. No freebies. Even though Sweeney was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award -- given to the nation's top collegiate player -- he knew his days or years in the game were numbered. Anywhere from one to who knows? Here it is, 15 summers later, and the 36-year-old Sweeney just appeared in his 1,000th Major League game Tuesday in a career spanning 12 years, a milestone to be cherished by this usually under-the-radar player. Sheer joy, even if for the baseball world it was a footnote, in agate type. "I was the guy happy to be in one [big-league] game, and I mean it," said Sweeney. "I still think of it that way, and I tell that to the young guys. You can't take this game for granted, and you have to continue to work hard." Sweeney reached another milestone Wednesday when he knocked a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning, tying Dave Hansen for fifth place all-time with 139 career pinch-hits. The Giants are his sixth team, but funny thing, one of his most memorable moments was putting on a St. Louis uniform for the first time in 1995, when admittedly his legs were numb from the excitement, his head spinning. "It was kind of a blur to that point, then I looked down at my uniform and saw the cardinal embroidered there," said Sweeney. "I thought that was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. I was nervous and had my family and friends there -- that was the greatest part of the game." Then he looked up into the stands and was shocked to see 50,000 people in the ballpark that day for a game against the Cubs. "I thought, 'Oh, my God,'" recalled Sweeney. "It was a moment I'll never forget." Sweeney hasn't had the greatest year with San Francisco if you look at his overall stats -- .255 average, five homers, 35 RBIs -- but that's deceptive. Playing first and the outfield, the upbeat, good-humored veteran hit .333 during a 31-contest stretch and batted .270 in May, .268 in June and .289 in July. That was way better than expected, and he gave the Giants' first-base situation a boost when supposed regular Lance Niekro was demoted to Triple-A. "I've had a lot of opportunities and I've worked my butt off to get those opportunities," said Sweeney, a great clubhouse player who always had good -- and usually funny -- things to say to teammates. "That's the message I have to share with the younger guys." Stanton ready: Giants closer Mike Stanton -- it's official now, with Armando Benitez on the 60-day disabled list -- doesn't sweat his new role. At 39, he's used to the pressure. "You have an idea when you're going to come in anyway," said the left-hander, a rare closing breed. Stanton is 6-6 with a 3.96 ERA overall this season with seven saves. More importantly, he is 1-0 with five saves in as many chances over his last 10 innings of shutout ball. Stanton, acquired from Washington on July 31, has stranded 79.7 percent of inherited runners overall, including 18 of 20 (90 percent) with the Giants. AFL Giants: Seven Giants organizational players will compete in the elite Arizona Fall League next month. They are pitchers Billy Sadler, Justin Hedrick, Patrick Misch and Matt Palmer; first baseman Travis Ishikawa; infielder Kevin Frandsen; and outfielder Fred Lewis. New ballpark name: Grizzlies Stadium at Triple-A Fresno is no more. It was announced Wednesday that the Grizzlies have partnered with Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino for the ballpark's naming rights for $16 million over 15 years. The stadium will be called Chukchansi Park. Coming up: Giants rookie right-hander Matt Cain (12-9, 3.94 ERA) will face the Rockies in the finale of the three-game series Thursday afternoon at AT&T Park. He's 11-4 with a 2.99 ERA over his last 20 outings and in his previous five starts boasts a 0.26 ERA. Cain opposes right-hander Aaron Cook (9-13, 4.14) at 12:35 p.m. PT.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.