Scott Miller’s Starting 9: In Shelby Miller, Braves Find a New Potential Anchor

1. Breakout Star Shelby Miller Revving Up Atlanta’s Rebuilding

ATLANTA – The best trades are the ones that help both teams, and while Jason Heyward has been a key in pushing the St. Louis Cardinals to baseball’s best record, Shelby Miller’s breakout season is sending signals that the Atlanta Braves may rise in the South far sooner than expected.

Nobody is predicting a World Series for the Braves this October. But early returns are that Miller, 24, can be the rock around which the next winning Braves rotation is built. And soon.

“John Hart is a miracle worker,” says one Braves person of the club’s new president of baseball operations, referring to the way Hart expedited the Atlanta’s reconstruction around a new clubhouse culture, a restocked farm system and a fresh-faced rotation that currently is baseball’s youngest at an average age of just under 24 (see Item No. 2 for more details).

Yes, when prospect Williams Perez (who turned 24 on May 19) joined the rotation May 20, replacing Eric Stults, it lowered the average age of Atlanta’s rotation to one barely old enough to conduct a decent wedding. Also included: Julio Teheran (24), Alex Wood (24) and Mike Foltynewicz (23), who replaced Trevor Cahill.

Hart acquired Foltynewicz from Houston in the Evan Gattis trade, and he acquired several other young pitchers over the winter who will push for spots soon: Matt Wistler (Padres), Max Fried (Padres) and Manny Banuelos (Yankees) among them.

Wood, meanwhile, was a second-round pick in 2012. Teheran was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007 and Perez as a non-drafted free agent in 2009.

As for Miller, he has allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his first nine starts, the longest such streak to begin a Braves career in Atlanta franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He currently ranks third in the majors with a 1.50 ERA and third in WHIP at 0.90.

He is the only pitcher in the majors with two complete games, and no pitcher in baseball is holding opponents to a lower batting average than Miller’s .172.

A near no-hitter in Miami two Sundays ago was the highlight, to be sure, but there have been plenty of other impressive moments to go along with it.

“He won a lot of games the last two years in St. Louis,” veteran Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski says. “After playing with him last year in St. Louis, I got to see what he was all about, and what he’s capable of.   

“You really see someone who knows how to go about things. And this year, he’s taking it to the next level.”

Where Miller has especially improved in 2015 is in economy of his pitches. In the complete game, one-hitter against the Marlins, he needed only 94 pitches (and he entered the ninth with a stunningly low pitch count of 85). He breezed through his other complete game, May 5 against Philadelphia, on only 99 pitches.

“That’s Kershaw-like,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez says. “Cliff Lee in his heyday. Cole Hamels.”

Miller is no stranger to no-hitters: At Brownwood High School in Texas, he fired four, including three in a row (one was a perfect game) during his junior year in the Texas High School state playoffs. He won 25 games for the Cardinals during the past two seasons.

“You’ve got to give a lot of kudos to the Cardinals,” Gonzalez says. “He came up with Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and those guys when he was a baby.

“They raised him right.”

Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell echoes Gonzalez: “Obviously, it’s another organization that prides itself on pitching, and young pitching, and going to the playoffs is a goal and winning the World Series is a goal.

“There are a lot of expectations when you come up through an organization like that when you have Wainwright and Carpenter. That’s a good breed.”

The turnover in Atlanta since Hart replaced Frank Wren last fall has been thorough and impressive. Identifying a clubhouse culture that the Braves did not feel was conducive to winning, they brought in players like Pierzynski, Nick Markakis, Jonny Gomes and closer Steve Grilli, and the difference is noticeable. From the overall workmanlike attitude to first baseman Freddie Freeman’s reinvigorated demeanor, things are different in Atlanta.

“Markakis doesn’t say a word,” Gonzalez says. “He just looks at you like your parents did. Remember when you misbehaved as a kid and your mom just gave you a look across the room? That’s what he’s like.”

Though the goal is to have things back up to Atlanta’s high standards by the time they move into a new ballpark in 2017, the Braves are competitive now. What they wanted to do was avoid falling into one of those long, seven-year rebuilding programs and expedite things into a couple of years.

By the looks of it, they’ve got a real chance to be successful. Assistant General Manager John Coppolella, 36, is highly respected in the industry and viewed as Atlanta’s GM-in-waiting for when Hart steps back into his former world of television analysis and golf courses.

“It’s been awesome,” Coppolella says of working with Hart. “He’s very sharp. He’s got every name down. He can tell you every name in our organization, where that player came from, where he was drafted. He’s great at leading people.

“He’s upbeat, positive, he’s open to things. He’s been at the forefront of this.

“For a young guy like me to have a chance to learn from guys like John Schuerholz and John Hart, that’s as good as it gets.”

 

2. Making them Young

By replacing Eric Stults (35) and Trevor Cahill (27) with Williams Perez (24) and Mike Foltynewicz (23), the average age of Atlanta’s rotation now is a tick under 24, which makes it the youngest in baseball.

From our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau, here are the five youngest rotations in the game this season based on average age of the starting pitcher in all games played:

 

3. Radio Days With The Floundering Fish

So last Monday I was co-hosting a shift on MLB Network Radio on the day after the Marlins fired manager Mike Redmond, and club president David Samson was one of our guests.

I asked him how, exactly, the club’s stated goal of wanting a “new voice” was being accomplished when they simply moved an executive, Dan Jennings, downstairs into the manager’s office.

Isn’t a “new voice”—that often clichéd answer clubs offer when making a change—usually one from outside of the organization?

While giving his explanation that Jennings indeed was a different voice from Redmond, Samson’s rambling answer included a diatribe that I once wrote he was a “walking organizational virus” and so that must be true, but he’s getting things done regardless.

I didn’t remember writing that, but I’ve ripped Samson and owner Jeffrey Loria for eons. So, I figured, he’s probably correct. I probably did write it.

Then, at the end of the interview, before signing off, he asked whether he and I had ever met. Yes, I replied, a handful of times, and for sure at the winter meetings the year the Marlins signed free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.

Well, he said, a few years ago I wrote that he was a “walking organizational virus” and that the only reason he had his job was because he married the owner’s daughter, and that a friend had read that column and framed it for him.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” I told Samson as we both chuckled.

“You should feel awesome about it,” he replied, noting how he now has that portion of the column framed on his office wall and he looks at it often to remind him of, well, I’m still not sure what.

“Anything I can do to help,” I replied.

Well, clearly I’m not doing enough to help, and the Marlins’ new voice appears to simply be the increasing voices in their heads.

Four nights after the Redmond firing, several players were supposed to appear at the club’s annual Fish ‘n’ Chips charity function for the Marlins Foundation. Fans paid between $100 and $175 to attend the event last Thursday night and what they got was…no players.

Yes, the players boycotted, either based on the fact that they had lost their seventh consecutive game earlier in the day or, who knows, possibly in a statement involving the firing of another manager.

Then, Tuesday, the club re-assigned third-base coach Brett Butler to outfield coach and moved Lenny Harris to the third-base box while trying to get its signals straight.

No, things have not improved under new manager Dan Jennings, under whom the club lost six of its past eight games heading into Tuesday. They appear to be getting worse.

It’s what we’ve come to expect under Loria. Anything different, now that would be a change.

And, darned if Samson isn’t correct: I went back and looked it up, and here is that column (and it’s less than two years old!).

 

4. The Brewers and the Native Son

New Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell joins the growing trend of skippers who recently played and then got their jobs without any prior managing experience: The Cardinals’ Mike Matheny, the White Sox’s Robin Ventura, the Tigers’ Brad Ausmus, the Nationals’ Matt Williams, the Marlins’ Mike Redmond (well, don’t ask about that one)….

But this one is a little different.

“They had the winter and spring training to prepare,” Counsell, who replaced Ron Roenicke earlier this month, tells Bleacher Report. “When your first game is three hours after you address the team for the first time, that’s different.”

It is, and Counsell, following a 16-year career that ended in 2011, is going to be figuring things out for a bit before he really finds his groove (and he will find it). The most difficult part, he admits, is catching up.

“Not being in the dugout for a couple of years, I think it dulls your instincts a little,” he says. “Seeing the game the right way again, the quickness of the game, ordering your priorities, seeing things coming (a couple of innings before they happen).”

With each game, Counsell says, you “almost start to feel your instincts sharpening again.”

Counsell, who started the season as a special assistant to Brewers GM Doug Melvin, had no idea he would be managing at any time in the future, let alone so soon. But when the Brewers got off to such a poor start, Counsell, whose father worked in community relations for the Brewers, felt a responsibility.

“I grew up here,” he says. “Baseball in Milwaukee is important to me. I think it’s an opportunity in a spot that means a lot to me.”

 

5. The Brewers, the Padres, Craig Counsell and Pat Murphy

Counsell currently is working with one spot open on his coaching staff. As Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported last week, the Brewers asked permission to speak with Pat Murphy, Triple-A El Paso manager in San Diego’s system, but the Padres said no.

That led to some speculation that the Padres want to keep Murphy around as a ready-made replacement for Bud Black if San Diego doesn’t turn things around. Especially because clubs usually don’t stand in the way of an employee leaving if it is for an obvious promotion. Which this would be, given a major league job vs. a minor league job.

Given the way they’re going, and the fact that he is working in the last year of his contract, Black’s status right now is anything but certain. But sources say that Murphy likely would not become the Padres manager if they make a change, and that the big reason the Padres said no was because of the chaos it would create in the middle of the season—they’d have to find another Triple-A manager—and, most important, because they were blindsided when someone leaked the Murphy-Brewers news prematurely, making them look bad.

Where do things stand now? Murphy almost certainly will end up on Milwaukee’s staff, sources tell me. It is just a question of whether that will happen in October, after the minor league season is finished, or whether the Padres quietly work to put a replacement manager in place in El Paso and allow Murphy to leave in the next couple of weeks.

 

6. The Twin Cities Pitcher is Half-Full

Following four consecutive 90-plus loss seasons, the Twins finally (and reluctantly) fired manager Ron Gardenhire and replaced him with hometown hero (and Hall of Famer) Paul Molitor.

Two months later, Molitor isn’t exactly the AL Manager of the Year so far (how about Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash and Houston’s A.J. Hinch?!), but he’s in the conversation. The Twins, heading into Tuesday, were 26-18 and one of the game’s most pleasant surprises.

Furthermore, they were 16-6 in May, owning the most wins this month in the American League and the third-most in all of baseball (after San Francisco, 17-7, and Washington, 17-5).

Watching the Twins, I can’t help but think back to spring training, when I bumped into legendary old manager Tom Kelly one night in Fort Myers, Florida, and asked him how Molitor was doing.

Kelly grinned and shook his head.

“He’s going to be fine,” Kelly said. “He just needs to slow down. He wants everything right now.”

Kelly then said managing was like pouring a glass of water from a pitcher, using his hands to demonstrate the actual pouring.

You have to pour like this, Kelly said, demonstrating a nice, even slow pour from a pitcher into the imaginary glass.

Then, he said, grinning once again, “Molly wants it like this”, this time demonstrating pouring the water from the pitcher into the imaginary glass all at once.

Two months in, it looks like Molitor and his team have met somewhere in the middle on a nice pace: Maybe he has slowed down and realized he can’t rush things, but he sure is moving the Twins along at a pace more brisk than many figured.

 

7. Weekly Power Rankings

1. Mike Trout’s slide: Did you see this from Friday night in Boston? One of the best slides you’ll ever see.

2. Colonel Sanders and the Hamburglar: Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s bringing back icons from the past in their marketing campaigns, and Little League parents everywhere about to get sucked back in.

3. Marlins manager Dan Jennings on getting it right: “I’m sure the Colonel tried a lot of recipes before he came up with his secret one for the chicken, so we’re going to keep working it until we find ours.” On second thought, maybe more folks will be getting sucked back in than only Little League parents.

4. Memorial Day: What’s better than the unofficial start of summer?

5. White Sox retire Paul Konerko’s No. 14: (Standing ovation right here). One of the great class acts of our time and one of the South Side’s most important players ever, too bad he was so overshadowed by Derek Jeter last year.

 

8. Next Manager Fired?

It’s been a very difficult year for Cincinnati skipper Bryan Price, and right now it is hard not to see it getting more difficult. The Reds took a nine-game losing streak into Tuesday’s game, ace Johnny Cueto missed his last start (at least the MRI exam showed no tear in his elbow), catcher Devin Mesaraco is out with a hip injury and the Reds look sickly.

Given his rant of a few weeks ago in which he dropped 77 F-bombs in a 5:34 diatribe against reporters finding out information the club wanted to keep secret, and then given his ejection on Saturday before the game in Cleveland even started, Price looks like a manager at the end of his rope.

It’s too bad, because Price is a good man and he already has been selected by NL manager Bruce Bochy as an All-Star coach for this year’s game in Cincinnati. Question now is whether he will even last as the Reds’ manager until the July 14 game. The reasons why he shouldn’t are stacking up quickly.

 

9. At the Corner of Michigan and Trumbull

The site: The field where old Tiger Stadium once stood (and is still maintained by volunteers, God bless ‘em). The batter: Willie Horton.

If this doesn’t make you go all tingly, you don’t love baseball (or, you didn’t grow up in Michigan):

 

9a. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyric of the Day

If you didn’t hear this song on Memorial Day, well, you should have:

“I thank God for my life

“And for the stars and stripes

‘May freedom forever fly, let it ring

“Salute the ones who died

“The ones that give their lives

“So we don’t have to sacrifice

“All the things we love

“Like our chicken fried

“And cold beer on a Friday night

“A pair of jeans that fit just right

“And the radio up”

– Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fri

 

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

Pope Francis Says He’s Met Lionel Messi Twice but Has Never Seen Him Play

Pope Francis is a big football fan and has met Lionel Messi twice but despite that, he has never seen the Barcelona master play.

How can that be possible? 

Well, because he hasn’t watched television since 1990. 

He told Argentine newspaper, La Voz Del Pueblo, as per Malaysian Digest, that he gave up television as “a promise to the Virgin of Carmine.”

The report continues:

When asked if he was more a “Messi-style” pope or a “Mascherano-style” one (in reference to the renowned footballer, Lionel Messi, and his Barcelona team-mate Javier Mascherano), the pope said he did not know because he had never seen them play, although he said he had met Messi twice in Vatican.

The Pope is a big fan of Argentine club San Lorenzo and he gets all their results from a Swiss Guard because he has also never used the internet.

[Malaysian Digest]

Fifa corruption charges: six senior officials arrested – live updates

Latest updates as six senior Fifa officials face extradition from Switzerland to the US on federal corruption charges

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5/27 CBS2 Wednesday Morning Weather Headlines

By Giorgio Panetta,
CBS2 Chief Meteorologist/Weather Producer

Good morning everyone,

It’s another mild start to your day for just about all of us. The typical cold spots are only dropping into the 50s. Expect more clouds as the front closes in.

We’re already into some clouds cover my daybreak for those west. A little fog is possible near the coast this morning too.

A few showers could spark up at really any point today, but the best bet is after 2 p.m. The FutureCast is indicating a solid frontal passage between 7 and 10 p/m. Although the NWS is not placing us in a severe risk, you can never rule it out with a front passing.

(Credit: CBS2)

(Credit: CBS2)

It’s trending drier and hotter for Thursday but storms are NOT out of the question. Check back in soon for the latest.

–G

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Swiss police detain soccer officials ahead of FIFA congress (Yahoo Sports)

FILE - In this Monday June 8, 1998 file photo, Switzerland's Sepp Blatter next to a replica of the World Cup trophy, waves after being elected FIFA president, the world's soccer governing body, in Paris. FIFA has been routinely called

Six soccer officials were arrested and detained by Swiss police on Wednesday pending extradition at the request of U.S. authorities after a raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich. Sepp Blatter was not among them. The case involves bribes ”totaling more than $100 million” linked to commercial deals dating back to the 1990s for soccer tournaments in the United States and Latin America, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement.


act_romegialli Designs Underground Pavilion With Sunken Swimming Pool

When act_romegialli was commissioned to create a pool on the property of an existing 19th century home, the Italian firm pulled out all the stops. Instead of designing your typical in-ground swimming hole, they chose to build an entire underground pavilion to house the sunken body of water.

The residence, which is located in Northern Italy, was originally built in order to complement the natural topography of the land. Not only did act_romegialli provide the layout for the unique pool, but they also crafted an artificial lake to rest in-between the house and the new pavilion. The pavilion can then be accessed via an underground tunnel that connects directly to the home.

White ceramic tiles were chosen to accent the sunken swimming pool as well as to line the interior of the pavilion in order to achieve a sense of continuity amongst the property. This underground wonderland not only houses the pool, but it also features leisure and fitness facilities.

The post act_romegialli Designs Underground Pavilion With Sunken Swimming Pool appeared first on Highsnobiety.

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Salman Khan can travel to Dubai awards show despite homicide conviction

India’s most bankable star given five-year jail term for killing man and injuring others while driving, but will attend Arab Indo Bollywood Awards ahead of appeal in July

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Letting The Freedom Of Truth Uncover The Value Of Life

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