Samardzija relieves at charity event
Cubs righty fills in for Dempster thanks to Ike's rescheduling
Jeff Samardzija added a new dimension to his role as a reliever earlier this week when he stepped in for teammate Ryan Dempster to perform in a comedy act at a charity event in Northbrook, Ill.
The event was put on Monday night by Lou Malnati's restaurant chain and benefited the fight against cancer. When Dempster, who dabbles in comedy, had a start rescheduled to Tuesday due to Hurricane Ike, Samardzija took his place and joined in with the improv cast of Second City.
"I heard he was awesome," Dempster told the Chicago Tribune. "I knew he would be. He handles everything really well, has a good sense of humor and is used to being in the spotlight a little bit. [Emcee] Dave Kaplan said he did a great job. I felt terrible, because we had been planning this for a couple of months."
Samardzija says he's not sure how funny he was. "I don't know if they were jokes," he said with a smile. "I don't know if people laughed, but I was up there saying stuff."
Roberts leading doubles parade in Baltimore: Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff and Nick Markakis could become the first trio of teammates to each top 50 doubles in a season.
"To go and possibly do something that has never been done in the history of the game, that's very cool," Roberts told the Baltimore Sun. "It's been fun for all of us. We have a realistic shot at it. It would be cool if we did it."
As of Thursday night, Roberts has 49 doubles, Huff has 48 and Markakis has 47.
Lewis glad to be put on the spot: Jensen Lewis is in the perfect spot as the stopper in Cleveland, and he's already learned a thing or two about how to keep himself ready to pitch every day, if called upon.
"The key is controlling your body and not trying to do too much," Lewis told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "You've got to focus on staying on top of the ball."
And, he says, he loves the job.
"This is a pretty good gig," he said. "It's exciting. I like having a lot of responsibility."
Happ impressive in earning first victory: J.A. Happ picked up his first Major League win this week with six scoreless innings in the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Braves. After being sent to the Minors at the beginning of the year, Happ posted a 3.60 ERA and 151 strikeouts over 135 innings at Triple-A.
In a pennant race, his road to victory was enough to make manager Charlie Manuel very happy.
"I don't see how you can ask for any better than that," Manuel told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He did a heck of a job."
Freddy Garcia just like old times in return: In his first Major League outing in 15 months -- and since shoulder surgery last year -- Freddy Garcia worked five innings on Wednesday night in the Tigers' 17-4 win over Texas. He gave up just two hits and no earned runs.
"He was calm like nothing was going on," Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the Detroit News. "You could see that with his mound presence. He doesn't get excited, doesn't panic, stays confident. He knew what he was doing and actually had better velocity than I expected.
"He's a pitcher. But once again, we're not going to get carried away. As far as one night, though, I was very impressed. I was shocked, to be honest with you."
Smoltz gets extended play with TV gig: An injury may have cut short John Smoltz's 2008 season, but the veteran pitcher will still be performing in the postseason. TBS announced that Smoltz will be an announcer for the network for their Division Series coverage.
"I'm just going to approach it like an ongoing interview," Smoltz told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm not afraid to make mistakes. I'm not afraid to talk about the game [while] I hope to continue in it. I would try to be at a level where you're removed from the game, but you're trying to bring insight."
McPherson gets plaudits from ex-mate Erstad: Darin Erstad was an established Major Leaguer with the Angels when the club drafted Dallas McPherson. He quickly identified McPherson as a player with a future and offered him some guidance, and the two became friends. Erstad is thrilled that McPherson battled back from injury problems, had a big year at Triple-A Albuquerque and made it back to the Majors with the Marlins this year.
"My dad is real good about sending me e-mails about guys he knows I'm friends with or played with, so I kept track [that way]," Erstad told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "It looked like he was playing a video game in Albuquerque. I couldn't be any happier for him. That man has been through the ringer a few times. His perseverance has been awesome."
Ichiro makes early hitting plans for season: When Ichiro Suzuki smacked his 200th hit of the season for a record-tying eighth consecutive year on Wednesday, it capped a year of preparation.
"I was talking with our interpreter on what's Ichiro's general plan for the offseason, and he said last year Ichiro took about five or six days off and then reported down to the stadium and started working out," Seattle manager Jim Riggleman told the Seattle Times. "He was hitting, running in the outfield at the stadium. It was a year-round preparation to play.
"When you are talking about Ichiro you are talking about one of the greatest players in the game. To get 200 hits eight years in a row is unheard of."
Everett an unlikely hero with double: Adam Everett pulled off one of the more memorable at-bats in the Twins' season on Thursday night in an improbable 11-8 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. With the score tied at eight in the top of the ninth, Everett, a pinch-hitter, had squared to bunt. With runners on first and second bases, a sacrifice was in order.
Instead, Everett was part of a play called "butcher boy," which gives him the option to pull the bat back and swing if the defense makes a charge toward home plate.
"I'm like, they're gonna charge here, and if they charge, I'm just gonna swing and see what happens," Everett told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I'm like, 'You know what? Hero or goat, here we go.' "
Hero it was. His game-winning double was his first extra-base hit since Aug. 11.
Fuentes turns to strikeouts: Brian Fuentes continued his stellar second half of the season en route to his 28th save on Wednesday. Since July 3, Fuentes has allowed just two earned runs in 27 2/3 innings for a 0.65 ERA in that stretch. His 48 strikeouts in that span give him 15.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
"This is the best he's ever pitched for us since he's been here," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle told the Denver Post. "His fastball command has never been this good. He's covering both sides of the plate. He's throwing strikes. He's ahead in counts. The slider is very, very effective. You look at the way his strikeouts per innings has just spiked in the second half of the season. So it's strike one, and then he's just going and cutting them up."
Maybin handles leadoff spot with ease: Cameron Maybin is getting a jumpstart to his 2009 season with the Marlins. Batting leadoff, the rookie reached base five times in the Marlins' 8-1 win over the Astros on Thursday. He twice scored from first base on doubles.
"Maybin did a terrific job of getting on base and creating havoc at the top of the lineup. I don't think he's going to hit .800 the rest of his career, but it's a good start," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Miami Herald.
Mussina hears the roar: Mike Mussina made his final start at Yankee Stadium a memorable one on Thursday, and kept a 20-win season within reach after a 9-2 victory over the White Sox. Mussina, 38, was appreciative of the salute from the fans as he won his 286th game, tied with Hall of Famer Jim Palmer on the all-time wins list. He faced one batter in the seventh inning.
"I'm glad they let me go out there and face one guy," Mussina told Newsday. "That's the last time I'm going to get to pitch here. It's tough to describe when you're walking off and having the people appreciate what you do. I won the last game I pitched at Yankee Stadium. I just think everybody appreciated what I was able to do, and I just wanted to tell them I appreciated them standing up and cheering for me all year."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.