Runzler hopes to be a smooth operator


Runzler hopes to be a smooth operator

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. How snakebitten were theGiants by injuries last season? Even when they were three innings away from along winters nap, they couldnt stay healthy. Dan Runzler providedone final instance for trainers to rush onto the field. In the seventh inningof the 162nd game, he strained a lat muscle in his side while throwing apitch.But a symbolic moment in a season gone awry turned into a blessing for Runzler.After completing his rehab work and getting married, he spent most of Januaryworking at AT&T Park with pitching coach Dave Righetti to smooth outthe many kinks in his delivery. Runzler had what scouts calla segemented delivery. Righetti chuckled when hearing that word. Toocharitable, he said. OK, then. Herkyjerky?

Go with that, Righetti said. With him, it is anissue and it has been. He got to the big leagues throwing more sidearm with aslurvy breaking ball. But it got away from him. He had trouble going through lineups,seeing hitters second time around, and blah blah blah. So weve tried to smoothhim out. Hes leading with his front arm, which is a bigkey. Even a casual observer could watch Runzler throw inthe bullpen this spring and notice the difference. I get soexcited, Runzler said. My emotions take over and its like I cannot wait todeliver the pitch. I end up overanxious to throw and I go too fast. Now Imworking on getting my front shoulder out there more. It works. The ball comesout really well and the command is a lot better when youre smooth. I feel thisis something I can repeat. Righetti was glad to hear thosecomments. Hell shake his head and say he understands andall that when we tell him things, but the game speeds him up, Righetti said.No question, Ive been there. Left-handed short men who throws hard they allcome out trying to overdo it. And he hasnt been able to settle in either,right? So its part of the deal when you try to break your waythrough. But hes on a good path. People forget, thatinjury is not just a little thing. Hes in great shape and coming out of (eachsession) good. The Giants have been excited about Runzersince 2009, when he got promoted four times while zooming up the organizationalladder. He began the season in Low-A Augusta with pitching coach (and formerbig league lefty) Steve Kline, and ended it with a 1.04 ERA in 11 big leaguegames. His upper-90s fastball and slider dominated hitters. ButRunzler, 26, hasnt been a dependable strike thrower in subsequent seasons. TheGiants spent almost 10 million to bring back left-handers Jeremy Affeldt andJavier Lopez in part because they didnt have faith Runzler would be physicallyor mentally ready to step into a highly leveraged bullpenrole. With Guillermo Mota and Clay Hensley in camp, Runzlerstands just an outside shot of making the opening-day roster. So hes goingabout his business this spring with the goal to improve his craft, not to win ajob. Its tough to stick in this pen, said Runzler, whoshould be allowed to face hitters within a day or two. Weve got six out ofseven guys who are all sewn up. Its the third year Im trying to make theteam, but I cant try to do it with every single outing. Instead,he is practicing the way he plans to pitch. Every repcounts, he said. Fix it in one pitch instead of three pitches. Thats what youhave to do in a game, so you might as well do it that way on the side. Imreally concentrating on that mental part of the game. Runzlerhas something to build upon. Although he ended last season with a 6.26 ERA in31 games, he strung together his best outings in September. In his last 11appearances, he didnt allow an earned run and walked two while striking outfive over 5 13 innings. His workload increased after Affeldt stabbed his handwhile trying to separate frozen hamburger patties.Did wemention the Giants were snakebitten last season?Boch likesto throw the hot hand, Runzler said of manager Bruce Bochy. Hell ride you aslong as youre doing well. When Runzler got to Scottsdale, he shook his headwhen he saw where clubhouse manager Mike Murphy set up his locker. Hes rightnext to Affeldt, who immediately put down strips of athletic tape on the carpetas lines of demarcation. He says my stuff always gets inhis way, Runzler said, trying not to roll his eyes. Hopefullythat stuff doesnt include a set of steak knives.

How Cubs beat Kershaw to move on to World Series

How Cubs beat Kershaw to move on to World Series

Two quick runs off the best pitcher on the planet on Saturday night afforded the Cubs exactly what they needed to snap a 71-year-old drought.

Already confident after consecutive offensive outbursts in the previous two games, a two-run first inning against Clayton Kershaw had Cubs hitters in a positive frame of mind.

They rode the surprising rally and a dominant performance by Kyle Hendricks to a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. The win earned the Cubs their first NL pennant since 1945 and on Tuesday night they’ll seek their first World Series title since 1908 when they face the Cleveland Indians in Game 1.

“It’s huge for the confidence, the positive momentum from LA, to carry over back home,” left fielder Ben Zobrist said. “Those were the biggest moments in the game early on to help everybody keep pushing and that we got this thing -- that we’re in charge of the game early. That’s a huge momentum builder.”

The Cubs did a little bit of everything in the first inning against Kershaw, who dominated them for seven scoreless frames in a 1-0 Dodgers victory in Game 2 on Sunday night. Some hitters took a more aggressive approach against the three-time NL Cy Young winner while others remained patient. The one constant throughout the 30-pitch frame was that Cubs hitters took advantage whenever Kershaw made a mistake.


MLB becomes whole new ballgame since Cubs last World Series trip


MLB becomes whole new ballgame since Cubs last World Series trip

One way to realize just how long it's been since the Chicago Cubs last reached the World Series is to look at how much the game has changed since then, on and off the field.

The Cubs are making their first appearance since 1945 and chasing their first title since 1908.

Some of the ways the game has changed since the Cubs lost Game 7 to the Detroit Tigers some 71 years ago:

INTEGRATION: Jackie Robinson became the first black player to reach the major leagues in 1947, two years after the Cubs' last World Series appearance. Baseball has turned into a virtual melting pot in the seven decades since. The Cubs' roster includes players from Cuba (reliever Aroldis Chapman and outfielder Jorge Soler), along with Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, as well as the United States.

EXPANSION: There were 16 teams in the majors in 1945, including two in St. Louis, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago, and three in New York. The total is up to 30 now.

GO WEST: There were no major league franchises west of St. Louis in 1945. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the New York Giants headed to San Francisco in 1958. In 1969, the Seattle Pilots showed up - they went 64-98 in their first year, then became the Milwaukee Brewers.

DIVISIONAL PLAY: There were no divisions in 1945, just eight teams in both the American League and National League. They split into East and West divisions in 1969. Then a Central was created in 1994, with the Cubs shifting from the NL East to the NL Central.

PLAYOFFS PLUS: Extra teams and divisions resulted in expanded playoffs. The League Championship Series began in 1969, the Division Series started in 1995 and a one-game wild-card playoff came in 2012. A longer postseason pushed the World Series deep into October and beyond. If the Cubs and Cleveland go the distance this year, Game 7 would be on Nov. 2.

FREE AGENCY: When Phil Cavarretta and Peanuts Lowrey helped lead the Cubs to the 1945 Series, they were bound to the team until they were traded or released. Curt Flood tested baseball's reserve clause in the early 1970s and took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, helping pave the way for players to move around as free agents. Jon Lester, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist are among the players the Cubs acquired this way.

DESIGNATED HITTER: The designated hitter joined the American League lineup in 1973. The DH debate is still hot, with the leagues playing by different rules. When this year's World Series opens at the AL park, both teams will use the DH; when the Cubs host, the pitchers will hit.

LIGHTS AT WRIGLEY: The Cubs were the last team in the majors to play only day games. That changed when lights were installed at Wrigley Field in 1988. The games there have always been played outdoors on green grass, never under a dome or on artificial turf, trends that became popular starting with the Astrodome in the mid-1960s.