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Braves Rookie Breaks In With A Bang
ALSO: YANKEES BATTLE LOSING STREAK, COVID AFTERMATH
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Just as Fernando Tatís, Jr. was getting ready to return from the broken wrist that kept him sidelined all season, he got slapped with an 80-day, unpaid suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s ban on performance-enhancing substances. What a blow to San Diego’s chances in the wake of its deals for Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Josh Hader . . .
Houston outfielder Michael Brantley finally submitted to season-ending surgery for his ailing shoulder . . .
Nelson Figueroa, 48-year-old pitching coach of the Atlantic League’s Staten Island FerryHawks, volunteered himself and did well earlier this week. He pitched for several teams, including the Mets, from 2000-2011 . . .
No surprise that the disappointing Detroit Tigers dumped GM Al Aliva, who twice traded his son, after seven seasons . . .
Even the Manfred Man “ghost” runner didn’t quicken a 13-inning scoreless game pitting the Yankees against the host Seattle Mariners Tuesday, with the home team winning, 1-0 . . .
The low-budget Cleveland Guardians actually tied Minnesota for the top rung in the AL Central earlier this week . . .
Any team in the majors would benefit by signing free-agent infielder Andrelton Simmons, still a Gold Glover at short or second.
Did Braves Catch Lightning In a Bottle Again?
By Dan Schlossberg
The Atlanta Braves have a history of getting instant dividends from potential stars with little or no minor-league experience.
Think Andruw Jones in 1996, Rafael Furcal in 2000, and Michael Harris II in 2022 as three prime examples.
Now the Braves seem to have mined another gem in Vaughn Grissom, a 21-year-old right-handed batter who has followed the Harris path in moving directly from Double-A Mississippi to the major leagues.
Like Harris, a 21-year-old outfielder who had been his teammate with the M-Braves, Grissom is a blue-chip prospect needed to fill in for an injured veteran.
When Orlando Arcia suffered a severe hamstring strain at Fenway Park Tuesday night, the logical candidate for promotion was Braden Shewmake. But he injured his left leg in an Aug. 6 collision with Gwinnett outfielder Travis DeMerritte.
That’s when Alex Anthopoulos, Atlanta’s president of baseball operations, decided for the second time this year that he’d rush a Double-A prospect — in this case, infielder Vaughn Grissom.
Playing second base, where All-Star Ozzie Albies started the season but soon suffered a fractured foot, Grissom hit a home run and stole a base in his first game. He thus became the youngest man in baseball history and the only man in Braves history to do that.
The Grissom homer sailed over Fenway Park’s Green Monster onto Lansdowne Street to help cement an Atlanta sweep of a two-game series against the struggling Boston Red Sox. The kid infielder, batting ninth, also added a single, helping him win Player of the Game honors from the Braves broadcast crew.
Grissom slotted in nearly seamlessly at second despite playing just seven games at the position this season. Primarily a shortstop, Grissom will be getting reps at second with infielder Orlando Arcia (left hamstring) and Ozzie Albies (fractured left foot) sidelined. Grissom’s one blip came on a hopper from Bobby Dalbec, which the second baseman bobbled but quickly recovered to get the forceout at second.
“He was like a kid out on the playground pretty much, just having a ball,” said manager Brian Snitker after the game.
Mainly a shortstop, Grissom will be getting reps at second with infielder Arcia (left hamstring) and Albies (fractured left foot) out of action. When Albies returns, probably by Labor Day, the versatile Grissom could shift to left field, which needs a solid righty bat in the absence of Adam Duvall (out for the year after wrist surgery).
Born two months and two days before Harris II, Grissom is one of the youngest players in baseball today. He’s also a contact hitter — much needed in a lineup of free swingers.
With Grissom, Harris II, and Ronald Acuna, Jr. batting in succession, the Braves team that faces the first-place Mets for a four-game series that starts Monday in Atlanta will be a different one than the version that lost four out of five in New York last weekend. Also added to the roster is erstwhile star closer Kirby Yates, recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Grissom figures to be an Atlanta mainstay for years, perhaps taking the place of Dansby Swanson if the veteran shortstop pursues free agency this fall.
As for Harris, he’s stamped himself as the front-runner for National League Rookie of the Year honors. Having Grissom hitting behind him can only help that bid.
Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and many other outlets. Email him at email@example.com.
Yankees Still Coping With Fallout From Covid
By Dan Schlossberg
Paul O’Neill broadcasts Yankee games from his Cincinnati living room, 650 miles from Yankee Stadium.
It’s hardly an ideal situation but one that couldn’t be helped, according to The New York Post, because the former All-Star outfielder apparently isn’t vaccinated against Covid-19.
With Michael Kay in the broadcast booth and O’Neill in his living room, Yankee fans aren’t getting the best quality broadcast. Even the head of YES says so.
“It certainly is not ideal,” said John Filippelli, “but we have managed to figure it out and work through it. Do I think it is ideal if it keeps going? No, I don’t, but I do think we have managed to make it work and think our fans have accepted it.”
Maybe not; there’s a lot of grumbling from the Yankee fan base, upset not only at the team’s recent losing ways but also other aspects of the 2022 season.
For example, the Yankees held Old Timers Day but didn’t include the usual Old Timers game. Another special event will be the retirement of O’Neill’s number on August 21 — a date that matches the number.
O’Neill himself is expected to come to Yankee Stadium for the event but there’s some question about such former teammates as Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and even free-agent executive Derek Jeter, most recently with the Miami Marlins.
Vaccination status is again an issue, as it was for Old Timers Day and for Yankee trips to Canada, which maintains strict requirements regarding Covid shots — or the lack of them.
Major League Baseball has its own set of Covid protocols, requiring the team to make changes and concessions from previous practices.
O’Neill will be allowed onto the field but unvaccinated teammates might have to watch from the sidelines.
It’s a sad aspect of today’s game that this plague continues two-and-a-half years after it began — and after it reduced spring training and the regular season to ridiculous but necessary lengths.
It would also be helpful to everyone in baseball if the few holdouts against vaccination would sacrifice for the greater good and take the shots. Covid should not remain a political football; there are enough of those already.
Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has covered baseball for more than 50 years. The author of 40 books, he also writes for forbes.com, Latino Sports, Sports Collectors Digest, and USA TODAY Sports Weekly. Want a speaker? E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“All the boys wanted me to do it. The boys want, the boys get. I did it for them.”
— Hefty Mets DH Daniel Vogelbach after choosing Milkshake as his walkup song for Women’s Day at CitiField.
Atlanta ace Max Fried will miss a start against the Marlins after landing on the seven-day concussion list but will be ready for the Mets series at Truist Park next week . . .
Seattle is a good bet to end the longest playoff drought in professional sports this fall, ending a streak that started after the 2001 campaign . . .
With Chicago and Cleveland twiddling their thumbs at the trade deadline, Minnesota did well to add pitchers Tyler Mahle, Jorge Lopez, and Michael Fulmer . . .
At last look, the Braves led the National League with 20 blown saves, including five by Collin McHugh and four by Kenley Jansen.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.