The Twins have signed six more Minor League Free Agents who could wind up being a part of the 2011 Red Wings. Here’s a look at the players:
Steve Holm- Holm is a 31-year-old catcher who will be in his 1st season outside the San Francisco Giants organization after they drafted him in the 17 th round in 2001. He spent last year with the Giants Triple-A affiliate in Fresno where he was the main catcher after a guy named Buster Posey got promoted to the big leagues. Holm hit .246/.343/.382 with 4 HR and 37 RBI in 82 games. He has also spent parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons in the Majors with the Giants. A couple of Red Wings connections for Holm…he played at McClatchy High School in Sacramento, CA with former Wings lefty Ricky Barrett. He also played collegiately at Oral Roberts University, whose products include Wings manager Tom Nieto and former Wings hitting coach Bill Springman.
Matt Brown- Brown is a 28-year-old who played 1B, 3B and LF for the Rangers Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City in 2010. He hit .249/.311/.442 with 10 HR and 32 RBIs in 79 games. An injury early in the season affected his year and he barely played in May and June. Last year was his only season in the Texas system. He came up with the Angels spending bits of 2007 and 2008 in the big leagues. He enjoyed a huge 2008 season in Triple A with the Angels affiliate in Salt Lake City hitting .320 with 21 HR. He also played with former Wing Brian Duensing on the United States Olympic Team that earned the bronze medal that year in Beijing. Fun fact: Brown is from beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Ray Chang– Chang primarily played 3B last year for the Red Sox Double-A affiliate in Portland, Maine although he also spent a little time at the other three infield spots. The 27-year-old hit .298/.384/.436 with 9 HR and 55 RBIs for the SeaDogs. He previously spent time in the Padres and Pirates systems and also played for the Chinese National Team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Chang’s parents—who are from China originally—own a restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri. The Padres signed him as a non-drafted free agent out of Rockhurst College in Kansas City after Chang attended Rockhurst High School—the same high school that produced longtime big league pitcher David Cone and current Lehigh Valley slugger John Mayberry, Jr.
Andy Baldwin— The 28-year-old former Batavia Muckdog was born in Minnesota but grew up in Oregon and pitched on some terrific teams at Oregon State. The Phillies drafted him in the 5th round in 2004 and his first pro experience was right down the Thruway at Batavia. Near the end of 2006, he found himself traded to the Mariners as part of a deal that brought former Red Wing Jamie Moyer to Philadelphia. The right-hander has spent all of the last three years with Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma averaging 138 innings pitched per season while working as both a starter and a reliever. Most recently, he was 9-7 with a 4.90 ERA for the 2010 PCL champs in Tacoma. Interestingly, he posted a 2.86 ERA in home games while fashioning a 7.24 mark away from Tacoma. He currently is pitching very well in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Chuck James— The 29-year-old southpaw came up with Atlanta as one of many Georgia natives the Braves always seem to have. He won 11 games for the Braves in both 2006 and 2007 before encountering some arm problems that eventually caused him to miss the entire 2009 season. He came back last year in the Washington Nationals system and actually made his first appearance of the season against the Red Wings in Syracuse. On April 23, James twirled five shutout innings against the Wings allowing only one hit. He went 2-1 with a 3.92 ERA in five starts for the Chiefs before spending the rest of the year with the Nats’ Double-A team in Harrisburg. Pitching primarily in relief for the Senators, James was dominant going 8-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 21 appearances (two starts). Opponents only hit .181 against him in the Eastern League.
Rene Rivera– The 27-year-old Rivera will be in the Red Wings catching mix in 2011. He was a 2nd round pick of Seattle in 2001 out of Puerto Rico eventually making it to the big leagues with the Mariners for parts of 2004, 2005 & 2006. The Wings saw quite a bit of Rivera in 2009 when he played for Buffalo. In 2010, he began the season in the Independent League ranks with Camden, NJ before the Yankees signed him. He split the rest of the season between Double-A Trenton (.319-5-17) and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (.250-2-11). One of his two HR for Scranton got a bit of attention. On May 29, Rivera homered off Syracuse’s Stephen Strasburg…the first HR the super-prospect had allowed as a pro.
Sad news on the passing of a great American: Bob Feller.
Rochester ‘s Mr. Baseball, Joe Altobelli, knew Feller very well. In fact, Alto’s first year as a Major League player was as a Cleveland Indians teammate with Feller in the HOFer’s next-to-last season (1955). Among Joe’s memories of “Rapid Robert”: Feller helped explain to Joe how options worked since Joe had been optioned back and forth between Cleveland and Triple A Indianapolis several times that year.
Joe made the Indians out of spring training that year—a year after Cleveland won 111 games in the regular season before losing to Johnny Antonelli’s New York Giants in the World Series. One of Joe’s best memories of his time with Feller occurred that season when Feller and Joe’s buddy Herb Score defeated Boston in both ends of a doubleheader while holding the Sox to only five total hits.
A quick check of www.baseball-reference.com tells us even more. The date was May 1, 1955. In game one Feller threw his 44 th—and final—Major League shutout in a 2-0 Tribe win. The Indians completed the DH sweep with a 2-1 win in the nightcap with Score fanning 16 men while allowing just four hits.
Here’s the fun part…Feller twirled a one-hitter (the 12 th and last in his career) in the opener. The only hit he allowed was a one-out single from Red Sox catcher Sammy White in the 7 th inning. One inning later, Cleveland manager Al Lopez inserted Joe for defense to replace the glove-challenged first baseman Vic Wertz.
I was talking to Joe on the phone about the game while looking at the box score on baseball-reference. Suddenly it hit me…the final out of the game—the final out of Bob Feller’s last career shutout—came when Boston’s Grady Hatton lined out to Joe at first base.
When I told Joe about this, he simply replied “Well, I could always catch line drives!”
Here is a great tribute to one of the best pitchers ever: http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2010/12/rip-bob-feller.html ….and re-visit a RedWingsBaseball.com interview with Bob, at TwinsFest in January 2009, on this page in our News section. Interesting to hear Bob talk about flying to Arizona the next day…to pitch in an Indians fantasy camp.
Had a great time Wednesday night watching the MLB Network and their replay of the classic Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. It was believed that complete footage of the game no longer existed until someone found a full copy of the game in Bing Crosby’s basement last year. Seriously. Among the things that jumped out at me about the broadcast…
-Seeing Red Wings Hall of Famer Bill Virdon in his prime playing CF for Pittsburgh six years after starring in the Rochester outfield
-Watching those old-time deliveries. There tended to be a lot more moving parts in the pitchers’ windups back then
-Dick Groat…the 1960 NL MVP for Pittsburgh. I’ve had a chance in the last few years to visit with Mr. Groat a couple of times in his role now as a color analyst for the University of Pittsburgh basketball team. He is an incredible man and it was fun to see him back in his younger days. (Dick Groat is also the answer to a great trivia question. He is the only man ever to lead the nation in points per game and assists while he was starring as a basketball player at Duke.)
-Nobody wore batting gloves so players weren’t constantly backing out to adjust their gloves
-In that same vein, pitchers didn’t dilly dally between pitches. No wonder a 10-9 game lasted only 2 hours, 36 minutes.
-How many hitters batted with a closed stance. You rarely see hitters today with that style in which your front foot is closer to home plate than the back foot. (Most hitters today seem to go with an even stance or an open stance.)
-Only one voice at a time on the TV broadcast. Back in those days, the local broadcasters handled the national TV feed. Consequently, Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince (“The Possum”) called the first half of the game, while Yankees voice Mel Allen broadcast the last half. There was no interaction between the two during the game.
-Also, as far as the broadcast goes…Mel Allen botched the call of Yogi Berra’s home run off Roy Face in the 6 th inning thinking it was foul when, in fact, it was fair. If an announcer made that sort of gaffe in a World Series today, he would be roundly ridiculed.
-No goggles needed in the postgame celebration. They showed a portion of the postgame interviews Bob Prince conducted in the Pirates clubhouse right after Bill Mazeroski ended the game with his famous home run. Unless it wasn’t visible, there was no spraying of champagne or beer in the clubhouse. In fact, some of the Pirates players were already in street clothes by the time Prince got to them and appeared ready to get their offseason started.
The MLB Network broadcast included commentary from some of the men who played in the game as part of a panel moderated by Bob Costas. I’m sure they will be replaying the broadcast again, and it is certainly worth checking out for any big baseball fan.
In news out of the just-completed Baseball Winter Meetings: The Twins have traded shortstop J.J. Hardy and 2010 Red Wing Brendan Harris to the Orioles for Minor League reliever Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. Hoey had spent some time in the Majors with the Orioles before suffering a shoulder injury. He could possibly be a Red Wing in 2011. Jacobson was rated as Baltimore’s 16th best prospect going into 2010 and spent all of last year at the Class A level; he is currently playing with Perth in the Australian Baseball League, which has included Luke Hughes, Allan de San Miguel and Liam Hendriks on the roster…
Former Wings pitcher (1982) and Orioles starter Storm Davis is the new pitching coach for Class A Hickory (Rangers)…ex-Red Wings shortstop Jason Bartlett is now a San Diego Padre after the Tampa Bay Rays dealt him for pitchers Cesar Ramos and Adam Russell. Bartlett—the son-in-law of former Wings pitcher Tony Chevez—is a northern California native who probably won’t mind being back in his home state…former Wings outfielder Trent Oeltjen has re-signed with the Dodgers on a Minor League contract…the Mets have signed former Wings starter Boof Bonser to a Minor League deal. That means Wings fans could see Boof in a Buffalo uniform in 2011…the Phillies have signed one-time Wings LHP Dennys Reyes to a one-year MLB contract.
More: Former Mariners and Yankees pitcher Jeff Nelson, who made an autograph appearance at Frontier Field this summer, spotted at The Disney Swan Hotel’s Il Mulino New York restaurant. Jeff had Wings pitching coach Bobby Cuellar as his coach in Seattle; and when Jeff was a high school pitching phenom growing up in Baltimore, Orioles/Wings catcher and current coach Floyd Rayford caught Jeff during some winter workouts…Quinton McCracken, a key component in the Red Wings’ drive to the playoffs in 2006, begins his front office career with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ player development office…. Congratulations and best wishes to Wings trainer Tony Leo and his new wife Jennifer, getting married today in New Orleans.
Former Wing Ron Shelton – an All-Star in Hollywood for “Bull Durham” and other films – is working on a new TBS comedy about minor league baseball. Click here to read the USA Today story about the show.
Don’t forgot our Frontier Field Team Store is open Saturday from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Dec. 11 and 18. The Team Store will also be open on Christmas Eve, Friday Dec. 24 from 9 a.m until 1 p.m.; and be sure to visit us at Eastview Mall next Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18-19. Click here for all the details on our Holiday Pack and Team Store hours.