COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss will return to the dugout next season after meeting with General Manager Jeff Bridich on Tuesday.
The Rockies are 208-278 under Weiss, and went 68-94 and finished last in the NL West this season. He has one year left on his contract.
Weiss’ players campaigned for his return in the waning days of the season, with third baseman Nolan Arenado saying, “we haven’t been able to win. That’s not a reflection on him. He’s doing a fine job.”
Bridich told The Associated Press that he and Walt “met for several hours today about the season and how we can get better with him back in 2016. It’s going well and we will continue to meet.”
Colorado traded All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto this season and the pitching staff had a league-worst 5.04 ERA. There were some positives, too, such as Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez combining to hit 82 homers and drive in 227 runs. Prized pitching prospect Jon Gray also showed some hints of his talent.
“I’m encouraged by some of pieces we have in place,” Weiss recently said. “I feel good about where we are headed. We have some ground to cover, but I feel good about it.”
The 1988 AL Rookie of the Year with Oakland, Weiss played shortstop for the Rockies from 1994-97 and was a special assistant to the GM for several seasons.
Weiss took over for Jim Tracy following the 2012 season and made the rare jump from high school coach to the big leagues.
“That’s all I ever do is thinking about winning,” Weiss said. “I was fortunate to win a lot as a player. I played some of the greatest teams of our era. That’s what I was used to.”
The Dodgers announced their rotation Tuesday, hours after a team workout and days after the Mets announced theirs. There were no surprises. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw will oppose Jacob deGrom in Game 1, Zack Greinke and Noah Syndergaard will pitch Saturday’s Game 2, and Brett Anderson will be pitted against Matt Harvey in Game 3. The first two games are at Dodger Stadium before the series shifts to New York’s Citi Field for Games 3 and, potentially, 4.
Kershaw (16-7, 2.13 ERA) threw a bullpen session Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, two days after his Sunday start, his customary day to throw between starts. Anderson, who last worked Thursday, threw a simulated game Tuesday and will be on 11 days’ rest when he faces the Mets.
One storyline entering Friday’s game will be Kershaw’s spotty resume in the postseason. The major-league ERA leader four straight seasons before Greinke unseated him in 2015, Kershaw nonetheless led the majors with 301 strikeouts. He has a 5.12 ERA in 11 postseason games and was the losing pitcher in each of the Dodgers’ past two season-ending losses, both in St. Louis.
“I look at this year in the present tense,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “There are probably only a few people in the world who could talk about Kershaw. If you don’t talk to Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson or somebody like that, there’s really nobody else who’s on his level. I don’t need to defend him. This year is this year. We’ll see what happens.”
The Mets have said they will use rookie left-hander Steven Matz in Game 4 if the series gets that far and Matz is healthy enough to pitch. According to ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin, Matz threw a successful bullpen Tuesday with no issues with the back spasms that had been bothering him.
The Dodgers have not committed to a Game 4 starter, with the debate between using Kershaw on three days’ rest and going with young lefty Alex Wood. Under a new front office led by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers are probably less likely to use Kershaw on short rest than the previous regime of Ned Colletti. Kershaw has done it twice in the postseason, with the Dodgers winning one of those starts (Game 3 of the NLDS versus the Atlanta Braves) and losing the other (Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS versus the St. Louis Cardinals). Kershaw worked 12 innings combined in those starts with a 2.25 ERA.
“I think it at least presents the option,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said Tuesday. “At the appropriate time, I’m sure we’ll have more conversations about that.”
PITTSBURGH — The last pitcher to win a playoff game for the Chicago Cubs is now a high school boys basketball coach in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.
Yes, Matt Clement, who won Game 4 of the 2003 National League Championship Series to put the Cubs up 3-1, is the last Cub to win a postseason game. There’s a trivia question to ask someone at the bar before Cubs ace Jake Arrieta starts Wednesday night’s wild-card game against the Pirates at PNC Park.
Clement now coaches hoops at his alma mater, Butler Senior High School, helps out with the baseball teams and also co-hosts a sports radio show (The Sports Soundoff) in Butler, Pennsylvania, where he grew up and where he raises his four kids, who range from 4 to 12.
Clement, 41, pitched for the Cubs in 2003 and 2004, back when the team seemed destined to achieve the impossible — only to fail again in a completely unique fashion.
While he likes the Pirates — and is in awe of their ace, Gerrit Cole, and respectful of the front office and coaching staff that turned around the Pirates — he doesn’t mind making some enemies in Buccos country on his radio show.
“It started last September,” he said in a phone conversation. “I caught a lot of crap from a lot of my friends when I said, ‘Listen, sooner than you all think, the Cubs are going to be the team in the division.’”
Clement, who last pitched in the majors in 2006 and officially retired in 2009, speaks with a noticeable Pittsburgh accent, “the slurred argot of the community,” as Frank Deford once wrote.
Clement said he will root for whichever team wins Wednesday’s one-game wild-card playoff. But sure, he would be glad to be taken out of the record book as the last Cub to win a playoff game.
He didn’t even realize he held that distinction until recently.
“I was shocked,” he said. “My son’s tutor texted me something about the Cubs-Pirates playing Wednesday, and, ‘I hope you can continue to be the last guy to win a playoff game for the Cubs.’ I didn’t catch what she said at first.”
So he turned to Google and realized the Cubs didn’t win a game in their past two playoff appearances. Then, on Monday, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette high school sportswriter tweeted it out, and I saw it.
“Your email came like 30 seconds after someone sent me the tweet,” Clement said.
Yes, Clement’s old team has lost nine straight postseason games since the right-hander’s Oct. 11, 2003, start against the Marlins at Pro Player Stadium.
Arrieta, who is even better than Clement’s old rotation mate, Mark Prior, is trying to end that drought. And Clement think Arrieta is just the guy to do it.
Last August, Clement took his kids to Wrigley Field. They got the run of the place thanks to his remaining connections like clubhouse manager Tom “Otis” Hellman, coach Eric Hinske, former hitting coach Bill Mueller and strength coach Tim Buss. His kids fell in love with the park and the team and went home with Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez jerseys. Clement found himself in awe of Arrieta.
“I’m hanging out in Bussy’s room, bs-ing with him,” Clement said. “I had caught a couple of Arrieta games. I didn’t realize where he’d come from, but I knew he [was] pitching really good and [was] starting to come on. So I’m talking to guys while he was working out and I’m thinking: ‘Holy crap, this guy is for real. He’s going at it in there.’”
They left the room as his kids were playing around, watching batting practice, and Clement lingered over to the bullpen, where Arrieta was throwing his side session.
Reporters had buttered up Clement by telling him he still looked like he could pitch. He still throws with his older sons, who always ask to see his breaking stuff. Clement said he knew he was done when he retired, but like a lot of ex-pitchers, his arm felt live in retirement as he threw with his kids, who play competitive travel baseball and basketball. Clement could still dream about an unlikely comeback — until he saw that Arrieta side session. Clement stood behind the netting as Arrieta’s upper-90s pitches darted across the plate.
“I was thinking my arm does feel good, but then watching him throw, man, I knew I can’t come close to that,” he said. “I’m not in his atmosphere. I never was in that atmosphere when I was playing.”
Clement said he was in a similar state of awe pitching with Kerry Wood and Prior in their abbreviated primes. Along with Carlos Zambrano, those four were a formidable playoff rotation. But it wasn’t meant to last. The disappointment of 2003 and the failures of 2004, when the Cubs won more games in the regular season and collapsed down the stretch, are a stark reminder of how quickly a playoff window can close.
What does Clement remember about that playoff start? Well, for one thing, he was uncomfortable.
“The night before I pitched, Kerry Wood hit two or three people and it was mayhem,” he said. “I was notorious for leading the league in hit batsmen and walks, not on purpose. I just had a lot of movement and I hit a lot of people. So I’m sitting at home thinking: ‘This is going to turn into a complete melee. I’m going to run one in on someone, not on purpose, and tomorrow is going to be interesting.’”
Sure enough, Haren tried to bunt, and Clement hit him with a back-up slider. Haren retaliated with a ball in Clement’s right calf, setting off fireworks between the teams and their managers. Clement wasn’t angry; he knew it was coming. But his calf knotted up and he tried to pitch through it, injuring his groin for the rest of the season in the process. He pitched in the playoff game with a wrapped groin.
“My mechanics were totally different because of that,” he said. “I had to grind away that game. I never pitched with a wrapped anything before.”
Clement lasted 7 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks. He only had three strikeouts. The hero of that game was current Pirate Aramis Ramirez, who hit two homers, including a first-inning grand slam, and drove in six runs.
Clement, like every Cub on that team, thought they were headed to the World Series with Zambrano, Prior and Wood on tap to pitch. But you know what happened next.
“Realistically, the Marlins just got hot, Josh Beckett got extremely hot,” Clement said.
Clement wasn’t nearly as fortunate in his next playoff, but he still helped his team. Pitching for Theo Epstein’s Boston Red Sox, he started Game 1 of the 2005 ALDS against the White Sox and got rocked for three homers in a 14-2 loss.
Clement said he’ll watch Wednesday’s game from home with his kids. Mattix, who turns 13 next week, had his first birthday party in a Miami area hotel the day before Clement’s start in 2003. Madden is 10, and Mavrik is 7. His daughter, Mallie, is 4. His boys have plenty of Pirates gear, he said, but they have a soft spot for the Cubs. They can name each lineup.
“The kids are rooting for the Cubs after their trip to Wrigley,” he said. “We’re not going to the game. It’s going to be too crazy down there [at PNC Park]. My kids would want to wear Rizzo jerseys. I’ve been to enough Steelers games, watching fans get the crap kicked out of them for wearing another team’s colors.”
Clement isn’t fixated on what the Cubs didn’t do in the three games after his start, but he remains “bummed” that he wasn’t on a Cubs team that won the World Series. He said nothing in his career could hold a candle to the feeling of a standing ovation as he walked off the field at Wrigley during a pennant race. When he saw it happen to Arrieta late in the season, he could remember what it was like to have that kind of civic joy wash over him.
“It would be cool to be in that position, to be on that team for the city of Chicago,” he said. “I love Chicago. I loved being a Cub.”
PITTSBURGH — A red sheet of paper was on every chair in the Pirates’ clubhouse Tuesday. It laid out the itinerary for the National League Divisional Series trip to St. Louis.
Buses leave from PNC Park at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, no team bus from the hotel in St. Louis to the park, that kind of thing. But the Pirates aren’t there yet. Once again, they have to earn the right to play in the divisional series. Nothing comes easy in Pittsburgh.
For the Pirates, that sheet of paper is a bright reminder of what they’re playing for in Wednesday’s wild-card game. It’s the third straight season the Pirates have had to play this do-or-die game. It’s a slight that would seem like incredible fortune just four years ago, given the team’s previous 20-year playoff drought. The franchise had losing seasons every year from 1993 through 2012.
Now it’s a thriving franchise with attendance just under 2.5 million in one of the sport’s smallest markets.
“Going from a fan to a part of the minor-league system to a part of the big-league system,” said Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, a Pittsburgh native. “Not having success and then having success, it makes you appreciate, No. 1, how difficult this game is individually and as a team and how you can’t take anything for granted in this game.”
But this team is their best team since 1992, when they also won 98 games. That win total was the second-most in the majors this season. Unfortunately the Cardinals won 100. The upstart Cubs (97-65), making their first postseason since 2008, nearly stole the homefield for this game by ending the season on an eight-game win streak.
“It comes down to the last game, it seems like, every year,” said Wednesday’s starter Gerrit Cole, who actually made his major league debut in 2013. “We never find a way to take the simpler road to the postseason. But it’s done, and now we can move on.”
The Pirates are 1-1 in these games. In 2013, the PNC Park crowd helped unnerve Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto and the Pirates took St. Louis to five games in the NLDS. Last season, Giants ace Madison Bumgarner pitched a shutout while Edinson Volquez struggled. Last year, Cole pitched at the end of the season to try to win the NL Central.
“It’s fun to be a part of this group, this core group,” Walker said. “The ups and downs we’ve had over the last three years have helped us grow as individuals, but more as a team. This is the time of year when it’s fun because you get the opportunity to reap the rewards of all the work you’ve put in all year.”
Unfortunately for the Pirates, they’re facing the pitching version of the Grim Reaper, Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, one of the three favorites for the NL Cy Young award.
“They have the best pitcher in the world going right now,” Pirates third baseman Aramis Ramirez said.
That’s no exaggeration. From August until the end of the season, he’s only given up four earned runs in 88 1/3 innings. He’s a main part of the reason the Cubs were 50-25 in the second half.
Just as important, Arrieta has a 0.75 ERA in five starts against the Pirates this season, allowing three extra-base hits, all doubles. In three starts this year at PNC Park, Arrieta is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA. His only miscue was an errant throw that gave Pittsburgh a run what turned out to be a 12-inning, 3-2 win for the Cubs on Sept. 17.
“Well, the guy’s got a four-pitch arsenal that’s as good as any in the league,” Walker said. “So, you try to assess how he’s going to be his first time through the order. Is he using his fastball more? Is he trying to get ahead with breaking balls? Is he around the zone? Is he up in the zone? Does it seem like the atmosphere is getting to him a little bit? But we know what his strong points are and as hitters we have to do a good job of pinpointing those and when he makes a mistake, you have to not miss it.”
Arrieta relies heavily on his sinking fastball and his slider-cutter hybrid. But he changes patterns every game. There’s a reason no one can hit him right now.
“That’s one thing that makes him good, he doesn’t have a ton of patterns,” Walker said. “But you do know his best pitch is that slider-cutter, so knowing that you kind of work off of that. There’s some things I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”
Cole (19-8, 2.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) has killed the Cubs as well. In four starts against them, he has a 2.13 ERA (six earned runs, eight total, in 25 1/3 innings). He’s struck out 32, given up just one extra-base hit, and walked four. He beat the Cubs 3-2 on Sept. 25 at Wrigley Field, when he gave up one run on four hits and two walks in seven innings. He struck out eight. Cole threw 84 four-seam fastballs that game. They averaged 97.6 mph. He also got an RBI single off Jon Lester.
Cole said he likes the challenge.
“You know, I feel like when you’re in these situations you want to face the best,” Cole said. “You want to get the best measure and best temperature of the other team because you really want to earn these wins. You work so hard to put yourself in position to have these opportunities, and it doesn’t feel any better than going up against the best.
“On the flip side, I think you can sit here and say he’s probably going to go pretty deep and he’s probably going to go pretty low. So you’re probably going to have to go pretty deep and you’re probably going to have to go pretty low too. So you know what you’re going to get.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle didn’t release his lineup Tuesday, nor did Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Hurdle is a veteran of these situations, so he knows that for all the planning and advance scouting, you can’t predict what will happen Wednesday when the lights go on.
“What it comes down to is the beauty of the game and what can take place once men get on the mound and teams take the field,” Hurdle said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has left Ellsbury, whom the Yankees signed for seven years and $153 million prior to the 2014 season, out of the lineup Tuesday against Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel in the American League wild card game.
The rest of the Yankees’ lineup is pretty much normal. Brian McCann is batting fifth and behind the plate after the Yankees toyed with the idea of putting the right-handed swinging John Ryan Murphy at catcher.
Gardner will lead off for the Yankees, followed by Young, right fielder Carlos Beltran, designated hitter Alex Rodriguez, McCann, third baseman Chase Headley, first baseman Greg Bird, second baseman Rob Refsnyder and shortstop Didi Gregorius.
Joe Girardi will address the media prior to the game and will be asked about his decision. Ellsbury played in Baltimore on Sunday.
Ellsbury batted .220 in the second half this season and is 2-for-7 against Keuchel in his career, while Gardner is 0-for-4. Young has a .972 OPS against Keuchel. He is 6-for-20 in his carer off the lefty.
BALTIMORE — Brooks Robinson spent decades surrounded by the trophies and souvenirs he gathered during his Hall of Fame career with the Baltimore Orioles.
The shelves in his study are now bare, the result of Robinson’s carefully considered decision to auction off more than 200 cherished items to raise money for charity.
The inventory includes his World Series rings from 1966 and 1970, each of Robinson’s 16 Gold Gloves and the jewel of the collection, his 1964 MVP Trophy.
Chris Ivy, director of sports collectibles for Heritage Auctions, figures the MVP Award will receive a bid of at least $100,000. He anticipates each of the World Series rings to bring bids of approximately $80,000.
Heritage has projected the entire lot to bring in around $850,000, a total Ivy said is conservative.
“I expect it to go north of $1 million,” he said.
The items include game-worn home and away uniforms, the Hickok Belt that Robinson received as the top athlete of 1970, bats he used in several All-Star games and the Hall of Fame induction pin he received in 1983.
“The Hall of Fame ring is all I have left,” Robinson said.
His decision to auction off his memorabilia has nothing to do with filling his pockets.
“I’m fine,” Robinson said. “I don’t need the money.”
Robinson, 78, says “every cent” will go to the Constance and Brooks Robinson Foundation for distribution to worthy causes.
“My children, they have everything they ever wanted from my collection,” Robinson said. “We’ve been very blessed, my whole family, all the years we’ve been in Baltimore. So it’s time to give back.”
It was not an abrupt decision.
“My wife and I have been discussing this for seven or eight years, talking about what are we going to do with the memorabilia that I have,” he said. “We just decided that this was the way to go.”
Robinson retired in 1977 and had plenty of time to savor the mementos of a 23-year career.
“I enjoyed looking at them,” he said. “After it was all gone I think I had a little seller’s remorse, but it is what it is. I’m looking forward to the auction.”
Ivy, who helped the Stan Musial family sell his collection in 2013, understands completely how Robinson must feel.
“That’s natural. These are items that are collected through a lifetime of accomplishment,” Ivy said. “But he’s selling for all the right reasons.”
Robinson has also offered a Norman Rockwell original painting for private sale in conjunction with the auction, with the proceeds also going to charity. The art work shows Robinson signing an autograph for a young fan leaning over the fence.
“That painting alone could dwarf the sale of the collectables,” Ivy said.
Ivy said Christie’s, a famous auction house, sold a Rockwell painting called “The Rookie” for $22 million.
The online auction for the Brooks Robinson Collection starts Tuesday and runs through Nov. 6. The website for Heritage Auctions is HA.com.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals will start hard-throwing youngster Yordano Ventura in Game 1 of the AL Division Series, regardless of whether Kansas City plays the Yankees or Astros on Thursday night.
Royals manager Ned Yost announced his starter before Tuesday’s workout at Kauffman Stadium. Johnny Cueto will pitch the second game and Edinson Volquez will start Game 3, with the rest of the rotation to be announced only if Games 4 and 5 are necessary.
“For us, the last two weeks, three weeks, all three of those guys have been throwing the ball good,” Yost said. “Ventura has been excellent in his last six, seven starts. And we wanted to keep everybody on five days’ rest. We thought that would work out best for us.”
The 24-year-old Ventura weathered a rollercoaster year that saw him briefly banished to Triple-A Omaha. But the star of Game 6 of last year’s World Series rebounded down the stretch, flashing his 100 mph fastball while going 4-1 with a 3.14 ERA in seven starts in September.
He allowed one run and four hits over seven innings — striking out 11 — on Saturday in Minnesota.
That string of success earned Ventura the Game 1 nod over the 29-year-old Cueto, whom many expected to anchor the Royals’ playoff rotation when he was acquired from Cincinnati in July.
But while Cueto has pitched better his last four outings, he went through a long slump in late August and early September. Throw in the fact he is just 0-2 with a 5.19 ERA in three playoff starts with the Reds, and the decision to start Ventura in the opener became clear.
Volquez, who will start Game 3 on the road, has lost both of his previous postseason starts.
“Really, your ace is whoever is pitching that particular night. Everybody on your playoff roster is there to help you win games,” said Royals general manager Dayton Moore when asked about Cueto starting Game 2. “We’re going to need everyone in our rotation.”
Yost was still considering the rest of his playoff roster Tuesday, though he did say it would not depend on whether New York or Houston wins the AL wild-card game. The bigger issue for Yost was finding the right balance between speed and power off the bench.
“We like the speed aspect. You like to have the extra bat, too,” he said. “But sometimes you have to choose between one or the other. We’ll make a final decision on that probably tomorrow.”
Marlins president David Samson announced Tuesday that the franchise has started its search for a new manager. Jennings has not decided whether he will return to the team, according to president of baseball operations Michael Hill.
Jennings made the unusual move from GM to manager when the Marlins fired Mike Redmond in May after a 16-22 start.
The change failed to spark a turnaround, and the injury-riddled Marlins finished 71-91, their sixth consecutive losing season.
Jennings has been with the Marlins since 2002 and is under contract through 2018.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Alderson said he had no information as to the reason for Harvey’s absence, which was not excused by the team.
Harvey is scheduled to pitch Game 3 of the division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, when the series shifts to Queens.
“Until we find out a little more about his absence, I prefer not to comment,” Alderson said.
Agent Scott Boras did not immediately reply to an inquiry about Harvey’s absence.