Curtis Granderson has a chance to join a very exclusive club this season.
08/03/2007 12:29 PM ET
Granderson flashes impressive tools
He needs just three triples, four home runs and seven stolen bases the rest of the season to record 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. The only other players in history to accomplish that in a season were Willie Mays in 1957 and "Wildfire" Frank Schulte in 1911.
"It would be interesting," Granderson told MLB.com. "It's a surprise, because nothing feels out of the ordinary. I'm not just going [for a lot of stolen bases]. Triples and home runs will just happen. You can try to hit a home run, but you definitely can't try to hit a triple. If I end up being around that milestone towards the end of the season, it'll be a great accomplishment. The good thing is with those [statistics], that I can't really push, it eliminates me focusing on it."
Teammate Gary Sheffield told Granderson -- who is in just his second full season in the Major Leagues -- that he saw him as a potential run-scoring-machine.
"Sheffield mentioned to me in January, 'You should be a guy that scores 100 runs,'" said Granderson. "That's what I'm trying to get myself to. I can't force a run. But just trying to get on base will put me in a position to score runs."
Detroit first base coach Andy Van Slyke, a former center fielder himself, along with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon have done all they can to help Granderson reach that target.
"I think Curtis Granderson is the most conscientious young man that I've ever been around in baseball," said Van Slyke. "That's how I feel about him as a person. That translates into his personality as a baseball player in the sense that he always wants to do everything right, almost to a fault, because he doesn't want to make any mistakes. So, because he doesn't want to make any mistakes, sometimes he doesn't let himself fly enough [on the bases]. Not passive, but too cautious."
Van Slyke also has tried to make Granderson less fearful of making mistakes.
"This isn't like trying to steal diamonds," he said. "You have to worry about getting caught stealing diamonds, so you have to have the perfect crime. So I told him to have the mentality that it's a pickup game with your buddies in the backyard, and it's three minutes to six and you're supposed to be home for dinner at six o'clock.
"I also told him that I thought last year he should've had more triples -- that triples is a mentality that every time I hit the ball in the outfield, that my first thought is I'm going to be standing at third base -- if I'm not, then second base, and if not, then first base. I told him to think three, then two, then one, instead of one, two, then three."
It's been a long road back for Dillon: In 2003, back problems forced Joe Dillon to retire from baseball. He still had back surgery, but it was because he wanted to be able to have fun with his son, not necessarily return to the baseball field.
"More than anything, I got the back surgery just to be able to play with my son when he got older," Dillon told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I didn't think I was going to play again. I went back to school and I was coaching at my college. I went to Texas Tech and I was coaching there and finishing my degree."
But the back surgery fixed Dillon's back problems, and thanks to the urging of friends, he returned to baseball in 2004 at Double-A Carolina. Dillon excelled at Carolina and by 2005, he was with the Florida Marlins, appearing in 27 games and hitting .167 (6-for-36) with one home run.
He spent the 2006 season playing in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants before coming back to America this spring and eventually signing a Minor League contract with the Milwaukee Brewers on March 26. Playing for Triple-A Nashville, he hit .317 with 69 runs scored, 101 hits, 28 doubles, 20 home runs and 73 RBIs. He also had 50 walks while striking out only 34 times.
Those numbers were good enough for him to earn a promotion to the Brewers.
"To be disciplined and still have power," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "We don't have anybody on our club like that who can go up there and work it and take close pitches."
Dillon was ecstatic after learning of his promotion to the Majors. In his first at-bat with the Brewers on Wednesday, Dillon, 32, hit a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning.
"Obviously your goal is to be up here and play and stay," Dillon said. "Any time you get that call, it's always a good one. I was excited. It was good to get in the game. I was just trying to get on base and get the tying run to the plate."
Gagne will 'close the eighth' for Red Sox: Eric Gagne enjoyed his first day in the uniform of the Boston Red Sox after being traded to the team by the Texas Rangers Tuesday. Of course, it probably helped that Gagne went from a last-place team to a first-place team.
"I'm just here to help the team win a World Series, that's what it boils down to," Gagne, who waived his no-trade clause in order to facilitate the deal, told the Boston Herald.
There was some concern that Gagne would not accept the trade to Boston because it would mean leaving the closer's role he has enjoyed throughout his career. With Jonathan Papelbon entrenched as the closer in Boston, Gagne knew he would be used as a setup man.
In the end, winning was more important than earning some saves.
"I see myself as a closer, but to have a chance to get 15 more saves or win a World Series, that's a pretty easy choice," said Gagne. "It's going to be a new challenge, it's going to be different, it's something I'll have to get used to a little bit. I'm probably going to do my regular routine and just get ready to close the eighth inning, that's the only difference."
While winning was a big reason Gagne agreed to the trade, the chance to play in Boston itself was a selling point.
"I'm really looking forward to that. It's the best organization in baseball, the best sports city in America," Gagne said. "That's why I jumped at the opportunity to come here."
Lower in a stronger order is fine with Johnson: Despite flirting with a .300 average, Kelly Johnson finds himself batting eighth in Atlanta's lineup since the acquisition of slugger Mark Teixeira. Johnson, who started the year in the leadoff spot, has adjusted well to his new spot in the lineup.
"We were joking around with Chipper [Jones] and those guys: you guys hang out, we'll get all the runs, don't worry about it," Johnson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We'll have fun with it. ... I'm going to take pride in being part of one of the best lineups around. It doesn't matter where you are, first, second, seventh, eighth -- a lot of good hitters all the way through."
After a dip in late June, Johnson has rebounded to hit .358 with four home runs and 16 RBIs in his past 21 games.
"In the past, there have been times where I've gotten into a funk of trying to hit fastballs out of the pitcher's hand -- not believing that I can catch up to it," Johnson said. "Instead of being like, 'I can hit it, don't rush it, don't force it and don't jump out.'
"If I have a day where they're blowing it by me or I'm getting jammed trying to overcompensate, just write it off as a day where maybe the other guy was better or I was not feeling as good. The next day, just sticking to what I was doing."
Practice makes perfect for Polanco: Detroit Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco set a big-league record on Tuesday night when he fielded his 648th consecutive chance at second base without making an error.
On Wednesday, when he was once again perfect in the field, Polanco moved to within eight games of the most consecutive errorless games at second (143), a mark set by the Twins' Luis Castillo in 2006 and 2007.
So what is Polanco's secret to perfection in the field?
"More concentration," he told the Detroit Free Press. "And there is my routine before the game where I take grounders right to me, to my left and to my right. You try to make the plays in practice. You take 40 or 50 grounders every day."
Eyre has been key to Cubs' pen: One of the biggest reasons the Chicago Cubs have moved into a virtual tie for first place in the National League Central is the work of their bullpen, and one of the key cogs in that bullpen has been Scott Eyre.
With another scoreless inning on Thursday, Eyre has not been scored upon in eight games, a span of 7 2/3 innings. Such success has manager Lou Piniella looking to use Eyre even more.
"We have been working him into our scheme of things," Piniella told MLB.com. "You'll see more of him. We're going to use him. We'll use him initially in this middle relief and see if we can work him more in the latter part of the ballgame.
"I use [Will] Ohman more as a specialty lefty. But Eyre, we'll start innings with him. His role will be like we used him last night -- an inning, an inning-plus."
Butler's calm approach brings success: Kansas City Royals rookie Billy Butler has been named the American League Rookie of the Month for July, a month in which he batted .341 with nine multi-hit games. He also drove in 24 runs, best among all AL rookies.
"Guys like [Butler] basically take the same approach, whether there is a guy on or there is a guy in scoring position," manager Buddy Bell told MLB.com. "All the good RBI guys seem to approach their at-bats the same way as Billy. There is no difference."
Coming into the weekend, he is batting .305 for the year with four home runs and 30 RBIs.
"I get a pitch, I am not missing it right now," said Butler. "If I miss that one pitch, then I might not get another one."
Kansas City hitting coach Mike Barnett has liked what he's seen in Butler.
"He hits the ball where it's pitched, he drives it on the line and he doesn't try to loft it out of the park," said Barnett. "He gets a good quality BP every day. He's really focused, and basically, that's what he does in the game.
"He's got this innate understanding of hitting, which is rare, very rare."
-- Red Line Editorial