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The Rockies have released catcher Chad Moeller, reports Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post (as tweeted by his Post colleague Troy Renck). According to the club’s official Twitter feed, the move was made so Moeller “can seek more playing time with another team.”

Moeller, 36, signed a minor league deal with Colorado in January. The 11-year veteran has also played for the Twins, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Reds, Dodgers, and Orioles in his career, plus two stints with the Yankees, including nine games with the Bombers last season.

Moeller has never provided much pop (a .640 career OPS) but it wouldn’t be a surprise seeing him sign with another team that is in need of an experienced catcher. Two clubs in the last week alone have had vacancies open up behind the plate — the Astros (in the wake of Jason Castro’s season-ending injury) and the Padres (now that Gregg Zaun has retired).

The Rockies are considering available free agents as they look to add rotation depth, left-handed relief and infield help, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Rockies would like to add a veteran starter and David Bush and Rodrigo Lopez are among the team’s targets.

The team would also like to sign a left-handed reliever to a minor league deal. Matt Reynolds (21 career appearances) and Franklin Morales (88 career appearances) are the team’s current options, so they’re eyeing veteran help. Former Rockie Joe Beimel does not appear to be an option, according to the Denver Post.

Alfredo Amezaga, Cristian Guzman and Aaron Miles are among the backup infielders the club is considering. The Rockies appear to prefer Amezaga to Miles, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post. The Rockies still have interest in a higher profile infielder: Michael Young. Young will earn $16MM in each of the next three seasons and the Rangers say they expect him to stay in Texas.

Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine told Mike Ferrin and Morgan Ensberg on MLB Network Radio that “we’re looking at [Young] as our primary DH but also a guy who’s going to play all over the infield.” The team expects Young to get plenty of playing time, even though they just acquired former division rival Mike Napoli.

The Rockies also signed veteran catcher Chad Moeller to a minor league deal, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America.

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SCOTTSDALE – It’s a cool November evening in this desert city. Bo Takahashi, a 21-year-old pitcher from Presidente Prudente, Brazil, warms up in the bullpen before taking the mound for the Salt River Rafters. He is preparing to play in what is, at that moment, the only Major League-affiliated baseball game in the world.

Takahashi, a third-generation Brazilian with roots in Japan, signed a minor league free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013. He fires each pitch to Tres Barrera, a Texas-born catcher in the Washington Nationals organization, who fires back encouragement in Spanish.

Meanwhile, pitching coach Dave Burba, of Dayton, Ohio, and the Colorado Rockies organization, offers small tips to Takahashi in English to ensure his starting pitcher is ready to go.

It’s not your typical baseball scene. The baseball season is usually over in October. Arizona is supposed to be warm. And don’t Brazilians speak Portuguese?

But this is baseball, and in particular the Arizona Fall League. The sport has become increasingly bilingual in the last half century, with more than a quarter of major league players coming from Latin American countries.

And perhaps no person is more emblematic of the uniqueness of this setting and this sport than Takahashi. Through players like him, baseball clubhouses have become more diverse, transforming into multilingual hubs of community and culture and connecting players from different countries, dialects and upbringings.

“Bo has been a godsend for me for a lot of this (language) stuff,” said Shelley Duncan, Takahashi’s manager for parts of the last three seasons and the hitting coach for Salt River in the fall. “He’s been my dude when it comes to a lot of the communication with guys.”

Connection counts

The Arizona Fall League, in many ways, is an anomaly. But the unique environment is considered to be the “graduate school” of baseball, and a vital place for up-and-coming prospects to play.

Each of the 30 teams sends seven of their top prospects to Arizona for the six-week season. The Fall League’s six teams are made up of a combination of players and coaches from five MLB organizations, allowing players who would otherwise only be competing against one another a chance to play with different players and receive instruction from different coaches.

The league’s purpose is to give valued minor league prospects an opportunity to log some extra at-bats or innings on the mound. The additional playing time can help a player make up for any missed time in the regular minor league season, or help a player develop a little longer, with the intent of being ready to take a major step up the minor league system faster as the next season comes around.

But given all that, including the high level of competition, it’s still an offseason league – and one in which there is not as much emphasis placed on winning as there would be in the regular season. The timing allows the league to feel more relaxed as players progress through the six weeks.

“The toughest thing is getting the reports to each organization,” Burba said with a laugh. “But other than that, it’s been a great group of kids, great staff to work with. It’s a pretty laid-back atmosphere, and guys have shown up and done a great job of being prepared to play every day.”

That same quickness does make one element much more difficult, though: getting to know your teammates. For any player, there’s not only (on average) a group of seven players and a coach or two from four different organizations to get to know, there’s no guarantee you know all of the players or the coaches from your own organization coming to the Fall League.

That’s what happened for Mitch Horacek, a left-handed pitcher in the Colorado Rockies organization.

“I just met (fellow Rockies minor-leaguer and Fall League roommate) Justin (Lawrence) at the Fall League,” Horacek said. “We share a pretty small apartment, so it’s pretty close quarters, but it’s been fun.”

The living arrangement for the Rockies pitchers also highlights the heightened impact of the language gap, intensified by the short timeline of the Fall League. While that gap can be closed over the course of a five-month season, it’s a lot tougher to do in less than two months.

But in that space, players who are bilingual can step in and make a noteworthy impact on a ballclub. Others have noticed Barrera stepping into that role around the Rafters.

“He’s just so good with the pitchers in communicating because he knows both languages,” said Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Dominic Miroglio. “I’m jealous of him, man, because it doesn’t matter where the pitcher’s from on the mound, he can communicate with him. It’s really showed me how beneficial that can be, being able to speak Spanish.”

Not ‘just an Asian guy’

Bo Takahashi can vividly recall when he started to learn a language other than his native Portuguese.

In the summer of 2013, the Brazilian-born Takahashi played in the Nations Baseball Summer International Championship, a 10-day baseball tournament in towns throughout northern Illinois. The 36 teams converged from all around the United States as well as Aruba, Japan, Lithuania, Puerto Rico and Brazil.

“That was my first experience with a new language, new culture (and) new people,” Takahashi said.

It also was a strong showing for the then-16-year-old on the mound, leading directly to his signing with the Diamondbacks in December 2013. As he’s progressed through the Diamondbacks’ minor league system, he’s learned English and Spanish, the two languages most commonly spoken by baseball players.

Takahashi learned Spanish rather quickly once he started playing professional baseball, saying that the similarities between Portuguese and Spanish made it easier to pick up. In fact, by his third spring training, his Spanish was strong enough to fool fellow Diamondbacks minor leaguer Tyler Mark.

“I thought he was just an Asian guy hanging out with all the Latins,” Mark said. “And then he just came out speaking Spanish and I was like, ‘OK, what’s that about?’ ”

Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Mark, too, is bilingual. With a Panamanian mother who works as a Spanish interpreter for a municipal courthouse and an African-American father, Mark takes a good amount of pride in surprising people with his Spanish fluency. Takahashi was among those initially taken by surprise.

“The first time seeing this guy, I was like, ‘Oh, he’s just American,’ ” Takahashi said of Mark. Then, with a smile, added, “And he started (to) speak Spanish. Like, ‘Wait what? Tyler Mark? Kind of weird.’ ”

What was really off to Takahashi wasn’t just the fact that Mark was speaking Spanish at all. It was that Mark was speaking a grammatically correct version of the language. That Spanish was foreign to Takahashi, who had learned the language through teammates.

One of the hardest parts of learning Spanish through the clubhouse is that baseball players come from a wide range of countries with their own slightly different dialects.

“For me, it’s the accent,” Takahashi said. “For example, the Dominicans speak too fast, and sometimes you can understand nothing. Venezuelans are more slow and you can understand more, and it’s more similar to the Puerto Rican and Mexican (Spanish).”

Around the sport, players can agree on a “Baseball Spanish.” This version of the language adds slang words or phrases from the different countries, as well as some baseball-specific English terms, to the usual Spanish. The result can be difficult for those not in that environment to understand.

“For me, the toughest part is the slang, but I feel like the slang is the coolest thing about it,” Mark said. “I’ll go home and talk to my mom in Spanish, and she’ll joke around that, ‘You’re speaking a slang Spanish.’ But she doesn’t care as long as I’m speaking Spanish.”

The slang is just one way that the ballplayers from the different countries are distinct, but there’s also a big variation in culture, too. The difference is comparable to how baseball players from the South speak and act differently than ballplayers from the West Coast, the Northeast, the Midwest or anywhere else.

“In a professional baseball clubhouse, everything’s different,” Duncan said. “The people who come into baseball that are shocked by it, they don’t really know how to embrace that diversity.”

The key, then, is connecting all of the players from different backgrounds together in the clubhouse. Duncan believes it’s in that space that a bilingual player can have a major impact.

“Clubhouse leaders really take on some of that role in make sure that things don’t become segregated in the locker room,” Duncan said. “People don’t really just have cliques and stay in those cliques. Good clubhouse leaders, they make sure that everyone does come together and shares moments, and that you do things as one.”

It’s also a point of pride for those players that can connect their teammates, giving them an off-the-field way that they can make a positive contribution to the team.

“I feel like during the season, I’m baseball player-slash-interpreter,” Mark said. “I’m just helping the team be able to communicate. I feel like it’s a game of communication, so if you feel comfortable communicating, it makes the job a lot easier.”

Takahashi agreed on the role, adding, “I love doing that. I love helping my teammates. If my Latin teammates have some trouble, I’m always trying to help them. … I think communication is everything.”

Growing Latino population increases assimilation

For Minnesota Twins right-handed reliever Hector Lujan – a 35th-round draft pick – just being asked to represent his organization in the Arizona Fall League is both an achievement and an honor.

“I’m really happy they offered me this opportunity,” Lujan said. “Obviously, I want to do what I can to get up to the big leagues. I’ve been playing for many years, but I’m just happy to be here.”

The 24-year-old Lujan’s pride extends beyond just representing the Twins. Though he was born and raised near Riverside, California, Lujan’s first language was Spanish and he didn’t truly feel comfortable speaking English until he was in high school.

But there was a point in time where Latino players like Lujan were, with but a few exceptions, completely barred from professional baseball affiliated with the Major Leagues. The color barrier that kept African-American baseball players out of the Majors until 1947 wasn’t as hard-lined against fairer-skinned Latinos, but dark-skinned Latinos were affected similarly to African-American players.

According to Samuel Regalado’s 1994 academic paper, “Image is everything: Latin baseball players and the United States press,” only 49 players from south of the U.S. border played in Major League Baseball or its predecessors up until Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

The next year, Minnie Miñoso, a Cuban outfielder who Regalado described as a “black Latin,” joined the Cleveland Indians and opened the floodgates for darker-skinned Latinos. According to the Society of American Baseball Research, the percentage of Latino ballplayers has steadily grown since Miñoso’s debut, with Latinos making up at least 10 percent of all MLB players since 1967 and 20 percent since 1996.

The growth has expanded to the point where 225 out of 877 players on Opening Day rosters this year came from Latin American countries.This includes 84 players from the Dominican Republic, 74 from Venezuela, 19 from Puerto Rico, 17 from Cuba, 11 from Mexico, as well as players from Colombia, Curaçao, Nicaragua, Panama and Aruba.

While the demographics of players in the Majors are well tracked, in the Minors these numbers aren’t as closely tracked and are more difficult to track down. According to Baseball America, 3,263 players were on Opening Day rosters in full-season Minor League Baseball, of which 852 came from Latin American countries.

That’s 26 percent of all professional players, but that doesn’t include the Short-Season affiliated leagues or the Rookie leagues based out of team complexes in Arizona, Florida and the Dominican Republic. Latin American players are more heavily represented in these leagues because teams can sign those players as young as 16.

Players who sign at that young age typically move into academy-like facilities run by MLB organizations in the Dominican Republic. Here, baseball players spend months doing baseball activities in the mornings before doing workouts and attending various classes in the afternoons.

In recent years, MLB organizations have recognized the importance of preparing the young Latinos for assimilation into life in the United States. The content of these courses vary across organizations, but there is one topic that every team makes sure they cover.

“(Teams) want the players to learn English, because everybody speaks English here,” said Jesse Sanchez, a national reporter for “That’s not saying Spanish is a negative or anything against that. It’s just a practicality.”

In his 17 years specializing in covering the international baseball landscape, Sanchez has met many of the top 15-year-old prospects as they work out before they sign with their contracts with MLB teams at 16. The rapid pace at which many players pick up English always impresses Sanchez, but he believes there’s a common stereotype when a Spanish-speaking player’s English isn’t perfect.

“They might question their education level, or they’ll speak English really loud or really slow to them,” Sanchez said. “Players are sharp. They’re smart. Just because they don’t know English doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent.”

The importance of being able to communicate leads Sanchez to believe that Spanish is going to be taught more to English-speaking American players, coaches and staffers going forward.

“I’m not surprised to run into a guy who you would never think would speak Spanish speak perfect Spanish, because part of his job requirement is to communicate with his players,” Sanchez said. “For the players, their job requirement is to communicate with our coaches.

“So it’s not all about, ‘One culture is better than the other,’ it’s just, ‘We need to work together to win.’ And it’s all about winning.”

A successful Fall League for some

Even with the loose atmosphere of the Fall League, it’s still high-level competition. And as the six-week season went through the end of October, the Rafters got hot.

In the middle two-and-a-half weeks, the Rafters win 10 of 13 games to take a commanding lead in their division and eventually make the championship game. The team’s winning streak led to some pointed conversations for Rafters’ manager Tommy Watkins, a longtime player and coach in the Twins organization who was hired as the big league team’s first base coach at the end of the Fall League season.

“A week or two before (the championship game), I had guys talking about getting to this game and trying to win,” Watkins said. “Some guys hadn’t won a championship, so I think they really wanted it bad.”

Although the four teams who don’t make the Saturday championship game get to leave for the rest of their offseason a little earlier, there are incentives for the players to make it beyond winning the league title. The championship game is a national broadcast live on MLB Network, providing the players with one more chance to become a household name before they make it to the big leagues.

For Tyler Mark, just the idea of winning this league was enough to make a strong push for the title.

“When I was told I was going to Fall League, it’s like, ‘OK you get to play against the best competition,’” Mark said. “But to get a chance to win a ring, with other future big leaguers, possibly? That just makes this (experience) a lot more special.”

And so, on Nov. 17, a bright and balmy Saturday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium, Salt River scored a single run in both the second and fourth innings while getting some strong pitching performances, including a stellar start from Miami Marlins right-hander Jordan Yamamoto, to carry a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

With the title within reach, the Peoria Javelinas rallied with a walk, a double and a single to tie the game and send it into extras. An inning later, the Atlanta Braves’ Braxton Davidson crushed a walk-off home run to clinch the championship for Peoria. Yet even in a loss, the Rafters felt grateful for making it this far.

“It’s been really fun to get together with guys from different organizations and see how they go about their business,” Watkins said. “It was a great game, and I wish it could’ve ended a bit different, but that’s how it goes.”

But while the Rafters’ goal wasn’t achieved on that Saturday, that day was also one last opportunity to show off their skills to scouts from around the league. With MLB’s service time rules, many players in the Fall League must be added to the team’s 40-man roster, or else be subject to the Rule 5 Draft, with the deadline typically coming just days after the championship game.

In 2018 alone, seven players on the Rafters were added to their club’s 40-man rosters in the days after the Fall League ended. While not yet in the Major Leagues, these players have been deemed valuable enough by their organizations to be placed on the doorstep of the bigs.

One of those seven is Takahashi – a Brazilian of Japanese heritage who hadn’t even heard English or Spanish until the summer of 2013, when he was 15. Now, less than seven years later, he’s fluent in both languages and on the cusp of becoming the sixth player from Brazil to make the major leagues.

And Takahashi has no doubt that a key in his journey – and the journeys of so many foreign players within baseball – was learning how to communicate.

“The first time I was here, I was scared to talk to everybody,” Takahashi said. “But the Latin guys came (and) talked to me, so they built that bridge and broke that wall.”

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Stating “I have nobody to blame but myself,” Mark Grace said Monday he understands why the Arizona Diamondbacks fired him from the broadcast booth last season.

The former Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs first baseman faces a March 19 trial on aggravated DUI following an August arrest in Scottsdale.

“I did this,” he said. “The Diamondbacks didn’t do anything. I think it’s important to own this. I own this.”

Grace’s remarks came at the team’s spring training site, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, where the Diamondbacks held their eighth annual fantasy camp.

Grace has participated in the seven previous camps but didn’t think he would have the opportunity this year after the team announced on Oct. 4 that he wouldn’t return to the booth.

Several weeks ago, however, the team reached out to Grace about participating and “I was happy to grab that olive branch,” he said.

“Mark has always been an important part of our family so we would naturally be here to support him,” Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall said. “While he still has some legal issues to overcome, we look forward to his future involvement in the organization.”

Grace pleaded not guilty in October following his August arrest in Scottsdale on suspicion of driving under the influence. It was his second DUI arrest in 15 months.

He was initially pulled over for driving a car with expired registration tags. He also was found to be driving on a suspended license and without a court-ordered ignition interlock device.

It is possible he won’t go to trial if a plea is offered and a settlement is reached.

The support he has received since his arrest has been “humbling,” Grace said.

“There’s been so many warm wishes, text, phone calls from these guys, the campers I’ve spent eight years with,” he said. “And from former teammates, fans. My goodness, it’s been awesome.”

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The Arizona Diamondbacks announced after Tuesday’s loss to the Baltimore Orioles that infielder Ildemaro Vargas is being optioned to Triple-A Reno.

A corresponding move will be made on Wednesday.

Vargas, 27, has been a consistent rotation fixture in the D-backs’ lineup, with injuries to Wilmer Flores, Jake Lamb and Steven Souza Jr. requiring players to move around the field. Vargas has started 27 games at second base and another six at third base.

David Peralta’s potential return could leave Vargas’ services no longer needed as a depth piece. Peralta has been on the 10-day IL since July 5, and his eventual return will shift Jarrod Dyson back to center and Ketel Marte to the infield at second. That leaves Nick Ahmed at short, Eduardo Escobar at third and Christian Walker at first.
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Flores returned from the injured list on Thursday after a right foot fracture had him on the IL since May 21, and so did Lamb earlier in the month, leaving the backup spots in the middle of the infield and third filled as well.

In 69 games and 178 plate appearances, Vargas is hitting .262 with five home runs and 20 RBI.

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In some ways, Arizona infielder/outfielder Tim Locastro is an anachronism. In others, his skill set is ideal for his times.

In the launch-angle, exit-velocity world of modern major league baseball, Locastro’s standout tool in his plus speed, and he plays a speed/defense game. If that means making a diving catch that raises a cloud of dust on the warning track in San Francisco, that is fine. If that means stealing a base, all the better.

At the same time, Locastro can be considered a favorite of the modern front office because of his ability to get on base. He reaches at a higher rate than his peers, dramatically higher than many. If that means being struck by a pitch to get an inning started, it is all part of a beautiful plan. The 44 Pro Guard equipment company has supplied Locastro with 10 protective guards for his left elbow and triceps area, and they have more.

Locastro, 25, has been hit by 10 pitches in 83 plate appearances this season, by far the best ratio in the major leagues and the reason he was ranked 10th in the National League in on-base percentage (.398) among players with at least that many plate appearances. That figure would have ranked the top 10 in the NL in every season this decade among qualifiers, and even for a semi-regular, it is an added component that is hard to overlook.

Locastro’s salary, which is just above the major league minimum of $550,000, hardly reflects his value in a game that prioritizes on-base percentage and understands there is still a place for creators like Locastro.

“I know the game has definitely gotten really analytical,” Locastro said. “I try not to play into those numbers. I’m just trying to play my game. If it benefits me, analytically, that’s fine. If it’s not, that fine. Just help the team win.”

The small sample size this season small, but it continues a trend. Locastro has been hit by 174 pitches in seven seasons, mostly in the minor leagues, since signing with Toronto — the closest major league franchise to his home in upstate Auburn, N.Y. — as a 13th round draft pick in 2013.

Since 2014, Locastro’s full season HBP totals are 32, 32, 25, 31 and 28. He is on a similar pace this season with 17 while going back and forth between Arizona and Triple-A Reno, having been promoted to the majors three times because of injuries. He has missed only one game since his most recent recall May 24, helping Arizona get through injuries to David Peralta and Adam Jones.

For Locastro, getting hit is simply part of the job description as a table-setter with speed. A right-handed hitter, Locastro stands upright in the batter’s box and sets up with his back foot near the plate. He does not dive into an inside pitch, the most common way batters are struck, but he does not rush to get out of the way.

“I don’t get up there trying to get hit by a pitch,” Locastro said. “But if the opportunity presents itself and the ball is coming in, I’m going to let it hit me. I just don’t move. Sometimes it doesn’t hit me and often it does. And when it does, I can use it to my advantage.

“It’s the team aspect of it, get on base and try to score. I realized that if I get hit by a pitch I’m on base automatically, and then just, ‘Let’s start running.’ Steal a base here, steal a base there. You always have to play good defense and try to find a way on base to help the team win. After that, then all the other numbers fall into place. Helping the team win will solve everything.”

Locastro has not been caught stealing in any of 10 of his major league attempts with Arizona and the Dodgers, and he has 182 stolen bases at an 82 percent success rate in 640 career games, 592 in the minors.

“My favorite teammate of all time, absolutely,” said Dodgers outfielder and MVP candidate Cody Bellinger, who spent parts of four seasons in the minor and majors with Locastro. “I love the guy to death.

“He’s a grinder. He wants to get on base. He wants to help the team win. He’s not getting out of the way. He’s always been like that. He’s got bruises all over his body. All over his left side. I remember him getting hit in the hammy (hamstring) and something growing in it, and he played through it.”

Tissue in Locastro’s left hamstring calcified after he was hit by a pitch in 2015 at Class A Rancho Cucamonga, and he played another six weeks before being forced onto the disabled list, the only time being hit has kept him out.

“Little League, high school, college, that’s how everybody was,” Locastro said. “If you were hurt, you played through it. Teammates would say you are faking it, blah, blah. They would say that messing around, but you didn’t want them to be serious about it.”
(AP Photo/Tami Chappell)

Locastro did not wear an arm guard at Ithaca College, where he was an NCAA Division III All-American in 2013 and was hit 29 times in 48 games. He adopted the guard while playing at short-season Class A Vancouver in 2014, three time zones from the family home.

“My parents would only be able to listen on the radio and I’d be getting hit by pitches and they’d get all nervous because they weren’t able to see where I got hit,” he said. “Eventually my mom said, ‘Would you please wear one?’”

He figures he has been hit just about everywhere on his left side.

“From the arm guard down to the knee, that is the hot zone,” he said. “Getting hit in the calf, that hurts a lot. Getting hit in the butt hurts.”

But wherever he is hit, Locastro knows one thing. Next stop, first base.

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Former Major League Baseball pitcher Matt Mantei was arrested and jailed in Michigan on Tuesday.

Per TMZ Sports, Mantei was booked into Berrien County Jail after being charged with assault and battery.

Details of the situation that led to Mantei’s arrest were not immediately available.

Originally drafted in the 25th round by the Seattle Mariners in 1991, Mantei made it to the big leagues four years later with the Florida Marlins.

He pitched in 10 MLB seasons from 1995-2005 with the Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox. The right-hander finished 24th in National League MVP voting during the 1999 season, when he had a career-high 99 strikeouts in 65.1 innings, with a 2.76 ERA and 32 saves, for the Marlins and Diamondbacks.

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Mike Morgan began calling college football game for ESPN in 2009 and has since added men’s college basketball and college baseball games, including on SEC Network.

In addition, he can also be heard calling college football games on national for SportsUSA Radio, as well as play-by-play on radio and television for the Atlanta Braves. Morgan has called Spring Training games for the Braves, serves as the television voice of the Gwinnett Braves (AAA) since 2010 and filled in on play-by-play for the Atlanta Braves on radio.

Based in Atlanta, he can also be seen co-hosting Sportsline and March Madness coverage on CBS Atlanta. Morgan spent four years hosting sports-talk on ESPN 790 the Zone from 2011-14. Morgan was the play-by-play television voice for the Carolina Panthers’ NFL preseason games from 2009-13.

His SEC journey continued as the youngest voice in the SEC, for the University of South Carolina baseball and basketball teams for 10 years, as well as the television voice for football from 2000-09. He also hosted a top-rated radio show, called NCAA Basketball Tournaments, three College World Series and NBA exhibition games on radio during his time in Columbia, S.C.

Morgan holds the unique distinction of graduating from one SEC school, being the radio/TV voice for another, and covering several others as a talk-show host. He has been nominated for numerous regional Sports Emmys including his work on the 2012 SEC Baseball Tournament for Comcast. He has also called college football and basketball games for Fox Sports and the Big Ten Network.

Morgan has won five NSSA Sportscaster of the Year awards for his call of South Carolina Gamecock games. A native of Boca Raton, Fla., Morgan graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in broadcasting and telecommunications.

When he’s not calling college games, Morgan can often be found speaking at universities and mentoring broadcasting students. He has been involved with the Calhoun Traumatic Brain Injury Foundation, hosting several of the hospital’s events over the years to raise money for victims of brain injuries.

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The Arizona Diamondbacks announced Friday that Domingo Leyba was recalled from Triple-A Reno.

The active roster, which has a limit of 40 players during the month of September and only 25 for the rest of the year, now stands at 33. Because of the expanded limit, there is no corresponding move with Leyba’s call up to the big leagues.

Leyba, who will turn 24 years old on Sept. 11, has played 10 games for the D-backs this year. In that time, he’s gone 3-for-9 (.333) with a double, an RBI and a walk. He debuted on June 22 against the Giants and collected a hit in his first major league at-bat, which was against three-time All-Star Mark Melancon.

He has spent most of the year in Reno, playing 112 games there and hitting .300 with 37 doubles, three triples, 19 homers and 77 RBIs. He ranks fourth in the Pacific Coast League in doubles, 12th in hits and tied for 14th in extra-base hits.
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Leyba joins Kevin Cron as infielders whom the D-backs have recalled for September’s expanded rosters.

The move came ahead of the Diamondbacks’ Friday game against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Bob Brenly Jersey

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Editor’s note: “As Told To Amy G,” presented by Toyota, will feature exclusive conversations with Giants staff, players and alums, as well as interesting figures around Major League Baseball, throughout the 2019 season. Today, Bob Brenly remembers his days as a Giants catcher, his lengthy bond with Mike Krukow and that infamous four-error day.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t know Bob Brenly as a Giant. My first real recollection of him was as the 2001 World Series-winning manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks — Gonzo (Luis Gonzales) hit the game-winning single off Mariano Rivera, Jay Bell scored, and Brenly threw his arms up in victory.

It wasn’t until 2008, my first year covering the team, that Mike Krukow schooled me on Bob Brenly the Giant. Brenly was Kruk’s personal battery mate for seven seasons, and the two formed an amazing bond. Being that I now have 12 seasons in with Kruk, getting to know Bob over the years has been pretty easy.

I opened our interview with a question about Mike, and it brought an instant smile to Brenly’s face. But no one would have guessed Mike eventually would want Bob to be his personal battery mate — not after witnessing their first time working with each other.

I can speak to this personally: Mike Krukow is one of the best people on the planet, but if he’s going to be your friend, if he’s going to trust you — really trust you — you’re gonna have to prove to him you’re worth it.

Krukow is a hard get, but once he’s in with someone, it’s for life.

“He had a habit of if he was throwing to a catcher for the first time, he was going to make it as difficult as possible. He shook off every sign, and not only did he shake off the sign, he would step off the rubber with this look of disgust and roll his eyes just to embarrass the living daylight out of a young, stupid catcher.

“When he did it to me in San Diego, I wasn’t aware this was one of his things. I’m hanging signs, and he’s shaking his head and shaking his head, and — bam! — a base hit. Bam! — a base hit, another base hit, another base hit, and he’s still shaking me off. So, finally I called timeout as the pitcher was coming to the plate, and I went to the mound and took a while because I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. This is a veteran major league pitcher, and I’m a dumb catcher. So, finally I got to the mound and said, ‘Well, let’s see if you can get the blankety-blank pitcher out,’ and I slammed the ball down in his glove, and I walked back behind home plate, and I think that was the moment where he went, ‘OK, I can work with this guy. He’s on the same wavelength that I am.’

“After that, I sort of developed into his personal catcher, and it got to the place where I would put a sign down, and he wouldn’t shake off anymore. He would just start his delivery, and I would know he was going to throw something else. It was like thinking with one brain, and I loved that part of the game. Working with Mike Krukow, it was one of the great joys of my career.”

That friendship blossomed well beyond the diamond. Their families became intertwined through a love of culture, music and a lot of laughter. And when it comes to the intensity that surrounds this game, Krukow and Brenly always have known when it’s time to lighten up things.

“Oh yeah, great friends. We both love classic rock and sometimes oddball music. Jennifer and my wife, Joan, became very good friends as well, and we tried to make sure the team stayed loose when they needed to stay loose, and maybe cracked the whip a little bit if they needed that, too. We hosted parties, we rented a cruise ship out on the Bay one time and dressed up like the guy from ‘The Love Boat,’ Captain Stubing, and had the entire ballclub. … But yeah, we tried to be as inclusive as we could, to make sure everybody felt like they were a part of it.”

One of Mike Krukow’s favorite things about Bob is something you might not know about him: He has a vast knowledge and passion for music. Kruk and his entire family (five kids) all are musically talented, and he has great respect for anyone who has an ear and wants to strum to a beat or two. Brenly fit the bill.

“I’ve always loved music, and I loved going to concerts and music festivals, but it really started when I retired as a player and went into broadcasting. I had a lot of free time, and you can get into a lot of trouble in this game with free time, and I always wanted to learn to play a guitar. And we happened to be in Philadelphia, and I went to a thrift shop. I think it was $75, and I ended up with a cheap acoustic guitar, and I just kind of started teaching myself. I bought books that taught me chords and things like that.

“It’s been like 30 years, and I’m not much better than I was when I started, but I enjoy the living daylights out of it. I take a guitar on every road trip now. I have a little portable amp I can listen to with headphones, and with modern technology, I have apps that you can play along with your music on the iPad, so I find it very relaxing and a very productive hobby.”

When Brenly decided to hang up his cleats, he received an offer to go into broadcasting with the Cubs. He snagged the opportunity to remain in the game in a different capacity, but he never cut ties with the orange and black, and eventually came back West in yet another role — coach, with a chance to work with his greatest mentor, Roger Craig.

“After my second year doing radio, Al Rosen called toward the end of the season and asked if I would be interested in being a coach. And right away, I said, ‘No, I don’t have any interest in riding the buses again. I don’t want to go to Cedar Rapids. I’ve already done the minor leagues.’ And he says, ‘Oh no, no. In the big leagues.’ And, well, that was a different story.

“We had some conversations, and I thought getting an opportunity to coach under Roger — who I probably have more respect for than any man I’ve ever been around in the game of baseball — I thought, ‘This is a good way to see if this is something I really want to do.’ I think in the back of my mind I always thought coaching and managing might be something to do, but here was an open door — a chance to actually get in there and see if it was something I enjoyed.

“So, I left the booth in Chicago, came back to the Giants, one year with Roger — of course, everything that happened in ’93 [the Giants’ 103-59 season], and Dusty [Baker] took over, and I’m very grateful he kept me on his staff. There was a possibility of some changes, but Dusty insisted that I stay on his staff, and I’ll forever be grateful for that.”

So, all I had to do was throw out the date — Sept. 14, 1986 — and …

“Nobody will ever let me forget that day, but it’s one of the best comeback stories of all time.”

I said: “You’re just trying to help out and play third base that day, right? You weren’t even a third baseman.”

“I was already in the dugout with my catcher’s gear on, ready to start the game, and Bob Lillis, I believe it was, came up to me and said, ‘You’re going to have to play third base today. Chris Brown injured himself in batting practice.’ So, I took the gear off, I borrowed a glove from Brad Wellman, one of our utility infielders, and I went down to play third base that day, which wasn’t that unusual. I had played quite a bit at third. I was a third baseman in the minor leagues for the better part of three or four full seasons, so it wasn’t a big deal — it happened all the time.

“But that particular day, Mike LaCoss was on the mound pitching against the Braves, and it just seemed like every ball that was put in play was coming my direction, and I just kept kicking one after another. Made one error on one play, made two errors on one ball when I booted it, and then picked it up and threw it away. Then I made another error, and I think there was even a line drive hit just over my head that hit my glove and went into left field, and the entire ballpark was waiting and watching the board to see, ‘Hit or an error? Hit or an error?’ Well, fortunately, they called it a hit, so I had the four errors in one inning to allow four runs to score, and as Kruk and Kuip and all my teammates back then would tell you, usually in those situations, I destroyed the dugout. I threw bats, I broke helmets, I kicked the restroom door, but for some unknown reason that day, I had this incredible sense of calm came over to me.

“I just sat down in the dugout, and guys were trying to run to the other side [of the dugout] to get out of the line of fire. But it just all of a sudden slowed down. My next at-bat, the ball looked like a beach ball. I felt like I had minutes to make up my mind to swing or not, and I hit a home run and put us on the board. Came up later with the bases loaded and got a hit to drive in a couple more, and then with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning, I hit the home run to win it against Paul Assenmacher. To this day, it almost felt like somebody else was doing it and I was just watching and was just going along with whatever was happening on the field.

“My teammates met me at home plate, and Roger had this big grin on his face and later said in the postgame interview, ‘He should win Comeback Player of the Year for that one game.’ It was just one of those days that’s hard to describe, and there’s no way you can predict anything like that happening. It just seemed like I was always around when weird things happened.

“I get snail-mail letters, and emails from time to time, from ministers all over the country that use it as motivation, and use it in their sermons on Sunday mornings. So, I guess that game’s going to live on forever.”

Seems appropriate that we wrap up the interview back where we started, with Brenly’s relationship with the Giants and two of his best Giants friends, Kruk and Kuip.

Our Toyota Fan Question comes from @natsmom77 on Twitter:

“Well, there was no doubt it was Kruk that was in more trouble. He was sneaky. Duane would go over to somebody else and say, ‘Hey …’ and you know, he was always in the corner wiping his hands saying, ‘I had nothing to do with it,’ when you know darn well that it was Kuip that started the whole thing, that Kruk would end up taking the heat for a lot of them.

“I don’t know if I could remember a specific [offense], you know? We had so much fun with that stuff, and so much of it was just ridiculous, but it was all about camaraderie and being able not only to dish it out to your teammates but also take it from your teammates, and there were too many with Krukow to single out one. But Kuip was the sneaky one — he was.

“I’ll tell you one quick Kuiper story. We had a pitching coach by the name of Herm Starrette, and Herm was a very agreeable gentleman. And Kuip one day, I was sitting on a bench next to him, and he says, ‘Watch this.’ And he went down to Herm, and he says, ‘Herm’ — we were, I believe, playing the Phillies’ Greg Gross, one of their good left-handed pinch-hitters — ‘Herm, that Greg Gross, boy I liked that guy. He always comes up with big base hits late in the game,’ and Herm just [said], ‘By golly, Kuip, I like him a lot, too.’

“And then Kuip came back to me and says, ‘Now you go down there and tell him you hate Greg Gross.’ So, then I would walk down and very casually [say], ‘You know, Herm, I can’t stand that Greg Gross. He’s always up there taking his time between pitches, and he acts like he owns the field.’ … [Herm says] ‘I know, Bobby. I never have liked him.’

“So, we used to have a lot of fun with Herm, kind of playing ping pong with him, but then you know, once again, Kuip was always behind all of it, stirring it up.”

Follow Amy G on Twitter @AmyGGiants, on Instagram @amyg, on Facebook, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Giants coverage all season.

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On Wednesday, his 39th birthday, former Marlins right-hander Brad Ziegler announced his retirement from baseball.

The note posted to Ziegler’s Twitter account reflects on the adversity he faced early on. A 20th-round draft pick of the Phillies in 2003, he was released after just six innings of game action. The journey to his eventual major league debut in 2008 involved a stint in the independent leagues, surviving a skull fracture and completely reinventing his delivery to compensate for a lack of fastball velocity.

Ziegler led the league in relief appearances this past season, so he could surely secure a contract for 2019 if interested. This paragraph explains why he has decided to hang up his cleats:

The daily grind has taken its toll on my body. There were really tough times in the past two seasons when I wondered if I could physically continue doing what it would take to stay on the field, and even if I could continue to perform at the level I always had. However, I took great pride in taking the ball as often as I could—82 games pitched this year! And I can thank the Dbacks for giving me another chance to pitch in exciting, meaningful games down the stretch and to prove to myself that I wasn’t going to be pushed out of the game because I couldn’t compete anymore—I’m walking away knowing I still can. Every time I stepped on the field, I gave it absolutely everything I had. Now it’s time for me to turn the page and embrace what’s next.

At times, Ziegler was unpopular among Marlins fans. Previous ownership gave him a two-year, $16 million deal and (irresponsibly) advertised him as a key component to the “super bullpen” that would make Miami a postseason contender. He endured significant slumps early in the 2017 and 2018 seasons while battling through injury. At least they got Tommy Eveld out of it!

However, don’t let your perception of Ziegler get distorted by his most vulnerable moments: he belongs on the Mount Rushmore of MLB ground ball specialists.

Not only did he go out on top…

…Few other relievers have ever matched his combination of durability and run prevention.

In the goodbye letter, Ziegler takes pride in topping 100 career saves (a milestone he reached with the Marlins), but that severely downplays his production. Of the 13 other relievers with 700-plus innings and an earned run average at least 40 percent better than league average (140 ERA+), all except Mark Eichhorn were put in position to finish games on a regular basis. This guy was elite, regardless of which inning(s) he was assigned to work.

Ziegler maintained an unusual disparity between his earned run average (2.75) and Fielder Independent Pitching (3.50). Especially out of the bullpen, we’re accustomed to seeing pitchers rely on strikeouts to escape jams, but he was below average in that regard (16.3 K% from 2008-2018 compared to MLB-wide 19.8 K%).

Instead, Ziegler found consistent success by inducing weak contact, moving his pitches in such a way that they couldn’t be squared up or elevated. During each of his major league seasons, according to Quality of Pitch calculations, he ranked in the 100th percentile in terms of late break. Opponents simply couldn’t get their bats underneath it.

Since 2008, here are the most valuable fastballs among qualified MLB relievers:

Kenley Jansen, 136.8 runs above average
Aroldis Chapman, 89.0
Craig Kimbrel, 87.6
Brad Ziegler, 82.0

Baseball, to me, is so entertaining in part because of its diversity of cultures, skills, styles and strategies. We’ve gradually lost some of that as MLB front offices try to optimize their rosters to be as efficient as possible. For more than a decade, Ziegler was a refreshing change of pace.