06/18/2007 12:50 PM ET
Corpas is adjusting to big leagues
Reliever Manny Corpas is usually in command on the mound, but off the field, the 24-year-old from Panama is still adjusting to playing in the United States.
Manny Corpas is 2-2 with a 2.62 ERA in 35 games for the Rockies this season. (Will Powers/AP)
He's learning to speak English and getting used to life in America while pitching for the Rockies.
"Yes, I think it's important for me to learn," Corpas told the Denver Post, using assistant clubhouse director Joe Diaz to translate. "With the little bit of English I know, it's enough for me to mix in a little bit. I feel comfortable here, but I want to learn more."
When the season started, 246 players on Opening Day rosters were born outside the United States. The players hailed from 15 different countries and territories. The Rockies have players from eight different countries and do their best to make the foreign players feel at home.
"We are very sensitive to doing everything we can to get foreign players comfortable in our culture so that they can function without worrying about it," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said.
Corpas was signed by the Rockies at the age of 16. He has made stops in Casper, Wyo., Pasco, Wash., and Asheville, N.C., before landing a spot in the Colorado bullpen. In order to make players like Corpas feel more comfortable in the United States, the Rockies opened a training complex in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, soon after O'Dowd came aboard in 1999.
"We do a lot more than teach baseball, because we know it's going to be a culture shock for these players when they get to the States," said Rolando Fernandez, the Rockies' director of Latin American operations.
The players are given English lessons and taught how to open a bank account, get a driver's license and order food in restaurants. Corpas said the training complex has helped him as he gets used to life here.
A milestone for Chipper: Braves third baseman Chipper Jones has been on fire since being activated from the disabled list. He's gone 9-for-19 and on Sunday he recorded the 2,000th hit of his Major League career.
It's a pretty cool milestone," Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "You think about 2,000 hits, it's a lot of hits. Being able to get 2,000 hits was certainly a goal. I want to work on the next 1,000. I don't know if I'll play long enough. We'll see."
Jones is the all-time leader in hits in Atlanta franchise history, with 100 more than Dale Murphy. Yet he is in second place in Braves' franchise history, trailing the 3,600 hits tallied by Hank Aaron while playing for the Braves in both Atlanta and Milwaukee.
"Yeah, that's not gonna happen," Jones said of passing Aaron. "I'm definitely not gonna play that long."
Since June 24th of last season, Jones is batting .353 with a .433 on-base percentage and a .706 slugging mark.
Weaver comes away with gifts for Mom and Dad: Despite not having his best stuff, Jered Weaver recorded his sixth victory of the season on Saturday, going 5 1/3 innings in the Angels' 3-0 win over the Dodgers.
Weaver also got his first Major League hit and got a chance to break up a double play. He jammed his shoulder on the slide but learned a valuable lesson.
"I was trying to break up a double play -- it was fun," Weaver told the Los Angeles Times. "But I know now to pull off or to not go in too hard to second."
Weaver gave the ball from his hit to his mother while the bat used went to his father.
"Gotta spread it out," Weaver said.
Wilkerson working overtime: Since Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira went on the disabled list with a strained left quadriceps on June 9, outfielder Brad Wilkerson has been working overtime as he has filled in at first base.
Most afternoons before games, Wilkerson has been working out at first base with manager Ron Washington in order to get used to the position.
"Every day he's getting better," Washington told the Dallas Morning News. "He's a student. So I decided I'd crash course him on everything I know about the position."
Wilkerson has worked on his footwork and where he needs to be in relation to the base. He has also worked on scooping balls out of the dirt and tossing the ball to a pitcher covering the bag.
"It's been so long since I've played there that he's really helping me," said Wilkerson, who last played first base in 2005. "He's a great infield instructor, and I've noticed a big difference in my footwork especially."
Wilkerson has looked good in the field. He made a nice play during Friday's game on a sharply hit grounder to preserve a one-run lead. On Saturday, he turned a 3-6-3 double play.
"Any time you can add more than one position to what you can do at the Major League level, you become more valuable," Washington said.
Hart settled in top spot for now: When Milwaukee manager Ned Yost inserted Corey Hart at the top of the lineup, the move was designed to be on a temporary basis until the return of second baseman Rickie Weeks from the disabled list. However, Hart may still remain in the leadoff spot in the order.
With Hart hitting so well, Yost may not want to disrupt a player who is doing so well as Weeks is activated from the disabled list Monday.
"It's hard to move a guy that's doing really well," Yost told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "The order's been really productive lately. There's going to be a lot of reasons for Corey staying in the No. 1 spot."
Since moving into the leadoff role, Hart is hitting .352 (19-for-54) with five home runs, 12 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 13 games. On Sunday against Minnesota, he was 3-for-6 with two home runs and a stolen base.
"He's done a very good job," Yost said. "When I put Corey in that role, I didn't put him there with a bunch of expectations. I expected him to play his game and he did that.
"He's going to flourish no matter where you put him. Just because we put him in the No. 1 spot didn't make him start playing great. Corey is going to play great no matter where you put him."
Weeks has missed three weeks of action while recovering from tendinitis in his right wrist, which he had surgery on in August to repair a torn tendon sheath. So Yost may continue to use Hart at the top of the order and bat Weeks lower down until he gets back into a groove.
"Of course, you (ideally) want Rickie to go on a (Minor League) rehab so he's ultra-sharp when he comes back," Yost said. "But we don't really want to do that so he's going to have to sharpen up his offensive skills with us.
"I don't know if you want to do that in the No. 1 hole. I've pretty much got a little bit of an idea what I'm going to do."
Gomes contributes in right: Tampa Bay's Jonny Gomes has taken advantage of the extra playing time he is receiving in right field.
Gomes hit a pair of two-run homers Sunday to lift the Devil Rays past the Colorado Rockies. For the game, Gomes was 3-for-3 with a double, four RBIs and three runs scored to go along with the two home runs.
Since being inserted into the starting lineup Thursday, Gomes is hitting .571 (8-for-14) with three home runs, 6 RBIs, two doubles and five runs scored to raise his average to .270.
"I think Delmon (Young) looks fine in center field, so I just want to keep giving Jon his opportunity right there," manager John Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times. "I love his hustle. ... He's made three great plays since he's been back. He's swinging the bat great.
"Jon wants to play and Jon plays it right. If he's going to keep doing that, we'll keep running him out there."
Byrd sees something special in Smoltz: In the offseason, Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd and Atlanta's John Smoltz are friendly neighbors in the same Georgia subdivision. Over the weekend, Byrd and Smoltz found themselves squaring off as the Indians took on the Braves, with Smoltz and Atlanta coming away 6-2 victors.
A sore-shouldered Smoltz outdueled Byrd by working six innings with seven strikeouts.
"You guys don't know anything," Byrd told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "You guys said John Smoltz had a sore shoulder. He's out there throwing 95 mph and sliders from hell. I would love for my shoulder to feel bad like that."
After teaching Byrd the split-finger fastball over the winter, Smoltz was on his game on Saturday.
"I didn't think he was going to be as good as he was today," said Byrd. "He's a great athlete. If you go bowling, he'll run by and pick up his personal ball and shoes and roll a 250. If you play pingpong, you'd swear you're up against a world-class player. If you shoot baskets, he hits 3s from all over the court."
And on the mound, it's more of the same for the veteran Braves hurler.
"He's got great stuff," Byrd said. "He's out there throwing sidearm sliders 89 to 90 mph. I know the reason he's doing that is because his shoulder is bothering him. He's just on a different level than most guys with his competitiveness and stuff."
Van Benschoten happy with effort in return: After waiting nearly three years to pitch in the Major Leagues, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher John Van Benschoten worked 5 1/3 innings against the White Sox on Saturday, giving up just two runs on three hits while striking out four.
Van Benschoten said after the game that it was well worth the wait he had to endure after having surgery on both of his shoulders.
"Of course," Van Benschoten told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's always worth the wait if you're pitching here. It really means a lot to me.
"I felt good, and I think we're going to build on that. I'm pretty anxious to go out for my next start. It's going to be fun. Three years ... it was definitely worth the wait."
After being the eighth overall draft pick in 2001, Van Benschoten is more confident now in his ability than he was back in 2004, the last time he pitched in the Majors.
"Comparing myself to '04, when I was called up in August, I think I was better prepared pitching-wise now," said Van Benschoten. "Health-wise, that was the question. That was the only thing I was worried about. But as this year has progressed, I've felt better and better."
Bench coach Jim Lett, managing the team while manager Jim Tracy was out of town attending his son's graduation, liked what he saw.
"He did an outstanding job," said Lett. "It's been a while since he's been here, and he just wanted to show, 'Hey, I belong here.' He did that today."
Carmona back to old tricks: After suffering his first loss in nearly two months in his last outing, Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Fausto Carmona was back to his old tricks on Sunday, giving up just two runs on five hits in seven innings in the Indians' 5-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.
"Fausto was in command throughout the day," manager Eric Wedge told MLB.com. "Another great performance."
With five strikeouts on the day and a fastball reaching the mid-90s, Carmona has now struck out at least five hitters in four straight outings. "I wasn't trying to throw hard," said Carmona. "It was coming out of my hand harder, but I wasn't trying to throw any harder. I wasn't trying to strike anyone out."
When asked about the possibility of making the American League All-Star roster, the 23-year-old Carmona was coy.
"I'm not even thinking about it," he said. "Someone else picks the pitchers. I just have to continue pitching well."
Carmona is now 8-2 on the year with an ERA of just 3.12.
-- Red Line Editorial