05/30/2007 12:50 PM ET
Roundup: Home cooking for Sheff
Gary Sheffield makes history in his own backyard
By Red Line Editorial / Special to MLBPLAYERS.com
For some players, the comforts of home come on the road. Such is the case for Tampa native Gary Sheffield when the Tigers play at Tampa Bay.
Gary Sheffield increased his RBI total to 29 with five in Tuesday night's victory. (Mike Carlson/AP)
Tuesday night, the veteran outfielder reached a milestone, blasting two home runs and driving in five in the Tigers' 14-2 demolition of the Devil Rays. The homers moved him past Dave Winfield into sole possession of 29th place on the all-time home run list. With 467 round-trippers, he now sits eight behind Stan Musial and Willie Stargell on that list.
Sheffield predictably downplayed his night, which also included moving into 42nd place on the all-time RBI list, with 1,530.
"I'm not really a numbers guy," Sheffield told MLB.com. "I really don't know where I'm at or what I'm doing, I just go out and play to win championships. I've been in situations where you want to prove yourself as a young player and establish yourself as one of the elite players. I've been there and done that, and my thing now is [being] part of a team and building from that."
Detroit manager Jim Leyland is glad to have him.
"I've seen a lot of home runs, and I've seen a lot of his," said Leyland. "Against me, a lot of them, too.
"I'm just glad he's hitting them for the Tigers now."
Having such a night against Tampa Bay was extra special for Sheffield, who still lives in Tampa.
"It's almost like to get away from the game, so to speak," he said. "You get to sleep in your own bed and be around the people that you grew up with all your life, and get the phone calls from people you haven't heard from in a while. It's kind of a getaway for you.
"And," he added with a chuckle, "when you do something, it makes your family proud and you get more phone calls. When you're struggling, nobody calls you."
Franklin's value in the bullpen is what the Cardinals need" Even as the St. Louis Cardinals struggle to find quality starting pitching, don't look for manager Tony La Russa to move former starter Ryan Franklin into that role. As the primary eighth-inning setup man for St. Louis, Franklin has been far too valuable to be moved to the rotation.
"That's a big part of it," La Russa told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "You consider alternatives and you try to consider everything that's possible so his name comes up and quickly we go by it because you win games early in the game and late in the game. He's an important part of how we win the games late."
With seven holds on the year -- most on the Cardinals -- Franklin has taken to his new role despite his desire to work his way into the rotation.
"You come here wanting to start and it didn't work out," said Franklin, who has an 0.92 ERA in 19 2/3 innings. "You go to the bullpen and you start pitching well and you can't start. I think that's the problem being able to do a lot of different things. I am still learning, but I'm liking it."
Josh, you're going to want to postpone the card game: What seemed like another ordinary Saturday night got very interesting for pitcher Josh Sharpless. After working 2 1/3 innings of relief on Saturday for Triple-A Indianapolis, Sharpless planned to play some cards, get some sleep and then enjoy what he presumed would be a day off on Sunday.
At about 1 a.m. EDT, the Pirates called Sharpless, instructing him to join the team in Cincinnati.
"I figured I would be playing cards all night because I had just pitched 2 1/3 innings [Saturday] night," Sharpless told MLB.com. "It really caught me off guard. I'm very fortunate to be here."
After nearly making the Pirates this spring, Sharpless thinks he has since corrected some things that were causing him problems.
"In my last four to six outings, I've felt as good as I have since last year," he said. "Prior to that, I was always thinking, 'I've got to do this. I've got to do this.' I think that's where I struggled a little bit."
Manager Jim Tracy thinks Sharpless can have success in the Major Leagues.
"He has a terrific breaking ball," Tracy said. "The whole key will be if he can throw his fastball consistently enough for strikes. That would allow him to use his breaking ball in places where he could have some success."
Roberts appreciates the art of the steal: Count Brian Roberts among those who believe in the stolen base. A lost art in many circles, the stolen base can help jump-start a rally, cause fielders to be out of position or distract a pitcher. For Roberts -- who has 19 steals to lead the American League -- there is value in all of those things.
"If you don't steal second, who knows?" Roberts told the Washington Post. "Some people say stolen bases are overrated, and some people don't. I guess I'm one that says they're not."
Roberts also believes that there is a time and a place for a stolen base. This season, he has provided many reasons to swipe a bag.
"As a team, we weren't swinging the bat as well. So you try to make something happen," he said. "Like '05, I didn't steal at all because everybody was hot, everybody was swinging the bat good, and you don't want to run into any outs. I think we're a more aggressive team in general right now. We're trying to make things happen."
Manager Sam Perlozzo likes the way Roberts goes about his business.
"A lot of times he's standing [on first base] like he's not doing anything," said Perlozzo. "He draws attention away from himself, and then all of sudden takes off. He's got great instincts. I'd say half the time, it's not always speed. It's his ability to get great jumps."
Jennings returns with strong outing: Jason Jennings returned to the mound Tuesday night for the Houston Astros, his first start since April 8. Jennings, who had been sidelined with tendonitis in his right elbow, threw five shutout innings before he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He received a no-decision as Cincinnati rallied for a 2-1 victory.
"It's been frustrating," Jennings told the Houston Chronicle. "When we're playing good and winning it's a little easier, because you know that everybody is doing well and we're winning games.
"But when you're struggling and losing, you always feel like if you were out there you could help and do something different to change it. It is what it is. Hopefully I can come back and pitch well enough to win the games that I pitch."
Jennings, who the Astros acquired from the Colorado Rockies this past offseason, made two starts prior to his injury, going 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA. During both starts, Jennings said he felt discomfort in the elbow. He underwent an MRI and that is when the tendonitis was discovered.
"The way I understand it, it's just normal wear and tear, normal inflammation," he said. "I think something that may have caused it and not helped it [was that] in the offseason I started throwing around Thanksgiving. Talking to Dave [Labossiere], the trainer, I think that might be a little too early.
"I'm not letting my arm [recover]. I threw [a career-high] 212 innings last year and pretty much took a month off and started throwing again. So that was maybe a mistake on my part. It's something I've done every year but definitely something I must adjust this next offseason."
Jennings missed a total of eight starts after initially thinking he might miss only two or three. The long layoff got Jennings excited about his return to the mound.
"It's real exciting," Jennings said. "When I first went on the DL, I obviously didn't think it would be this long. It's just something that we -- meaning me, the training staff and the coaches -- didn't want to rush back and have to do this all over again at some point during the year.
"Hopefully I've built my arm back up to where I can finish off the rest of the year like the way I should with six, seven, eight innings every game. That's the reason I was brought over here."
Fenway gives Youkilis a change to show his speed: Inside-the-park home runs are supposed to be hit by speedy players. Someone forgot to tell that to Kevin Youkilis.
Youkilis, who is not known for his speed, rounded the bases for the rare home run Sunday, crossing home plate standing up. Youkilis hit the ball to the triangle in center field at Fenway Park and watched as the ball caromed off the side of the bullpen and past Cleveland center fielder Grady Sizemore.
Right fielder Trot Nixon eventually ran the ball down, but by the time the throw came into the infield, Youkilis was close to touching home plate.
"That's Fenway at its finest,"Youkilis told the Boston Herald. In this park, the ball hits off walls like no other. You have to be ready to move any time and get going. This park will shoot the ball out at any time."
Nixon, a former Boston outfielder, has seen balls bounce in unpredictable directions during his playing days for the Red Sox.
"I've watched Johnny [Damon] knock himself completely out out there," Nixon said. "That's a tough ball to play. Grady had a good beat on it. I think it's just natural for me to get over there."
While Youkilis was able to avoid sliding into home, he needed some time to catch his breath in the dugout.
"I was just a little winded," Youkilis said with a laugh. "I'll recover by tomorrow, we'll see. Hopefully, I'll get some sleep and shake it off ... that was tough."
Soriano makes a case for closer or starter role: The Braves made upgrading their bullpen their top priority this past offseason. One of their big moves was bringing in right-hander Rafael Soriano, who has been nearly unhittable since arriving in Atlanta. In his past 14 games, Soriano has allowed just one hit and notched 18 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.
"He believes in his fastball," fellow reliever Oscar Villarreal told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He's like, 'If you want to hit me, try to hit me.'"
Soriano has been a setup man for Bob Wickman, but he is 5-for-5 in save opportunities this season, too. He served as the closer when Wickman was on the disabled list earlier this month with an upper back strain. Next season, Soriano wants to become a closer or return to the starting rotation.
"One of those two things," Soriano said. "It'll be better for me and the team. Whatever the situation, whatever is best. But those are the two things I want to do."
-- Red Line Editorial