Stairs claims record for pinch homers
Veteran sets mark with his 21st on Saturday vs. Brewers
Matt Stairs set the Major League record for career pinch-hit home runs on Saturday when he hit his 21st against the Brewers, surpassing Cliff Johnson.
"I take a lot of pride in pinch-hitting, and I've struggled at it this year," Stairs told MLB.com. "I'm proud and honored to have the pinch-hit home run record. But I'm not going to sit here and smoke a stogie over it."
Stairs wasn't sure he was going to play this season. But when the Padres called, he pushed off retirement.
"The season has gone perfect -- it's a bonus breaking a record and being in first place," Stairs said.
Damon has plenty to like about Detroit: Johnny Damon knows there's still a chance he could switch teams before the Aug. 31 waiver deadline, but being back in Detroit for the 2011 season would be OK for the clutch-hitting outfielder.
"I like it here," Damon told The Detroit News. "I have a bunch of friends that live in Detroit. Spring Training [in Lakeland, Fla.] is 45 minutes from home. There are a lot of benefits for me, and hopefully, I get to stay with this club. I love it so far. It is as simple as that."
Gibson talked, Wainwright listened: After working as the Cardinals' closer during their 2006 world championship season, Adam Wainwright got some advice the following spring from Hall of Famer Bob Gibson that's helped him emerge as one of the game's top starters.
"You get a chance to have a conversation with one of the best ever, you listen," Wainwright told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It was kind of good to have that conversation when we did because there's a chance somebody could have a good postseason or year and think that's all they've got to do for the rest of their time.
"He noticed that you're going to have to do more to be great. He's exactly right. Good pitchers are really good because they're not satisfied. They continue to try to get better and better."
Duensing thriving with spot in rotation: Brian Duensing, who is 7-1 with a 1.92 ERA, is also sporting an impressive 4-0 record with a 2.18 ERA since joining the Twins rotation. Duensing thinks listening to catcher Joe Mauer has something to do with his success.
"I don't know. I just throw the pitch Joe puts down," Duensing told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We're just going over scouting reports and trying to throw to my strengths and not the hitters' weaknesses I think has been huge for us."
Kirkman's debut full of strikeouts: Michael Kirkman was a little anxious in his first Major League appearance on Saturday for the Rangers, but he struck out the side against the Orioles and retired all four hitters he faced.
Kirkman was originally told he was entering the game in the eighth inning, but when Scott Feldman left the game at the start of the seventh inning due to soreness in his right knee, Kirkman came in as his replacement and was allowed all the time he needed to get loose.
"I think that really did help. ... I might have thrown eight pitches off the mound [in the bullpen] and that was just trying to get loose," Kirkman told MLB.com. "[Bullpen coach Andy Hawkins] turns around and says, 'All right, bud, we've got an injury out there -- you can go warm up on the field, and you've got all the time you need.' That's when it hit; that's when the heart started pumping. I tried to collect myself when I got to the infield."
Eduardo Nunez riding high after first hit: With Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list, the Yankees called on Eduardo Nunez to take his place Saturday. The rookie collected his first Major League hit and RBI in the seventh inning when he stroked a go-ahead single against Seattle.
"I'm so excited. I'm so happy," Nunez, his voice expressing the same emotions, told MLB.com. "It's the most exciting moment of my life right now."
"I didn't want to try to do too much. I just wanted to get a pitch and drive the ball," Nunez said. "I felt like, 'Wow.' You'll remember it all your life."
Jaime Garcia chalks up 'greatest day': Jaime Garcia tossed his first career shutout on Sunday -- a 9-0 victory over the Giants. Needing just 89 pitches to finish the job, the rookie allowed just three hits and had faced the minimum through 8 2/3 innings. He faced just 28 batters, striking out six with no walks.
"I think this is the greatest day of my baseball career," Garcia told MLB.com.
Minor throwing strikes, turning heads: Braves rookie Mike Minor is drawing comparisons to Tom Glavine, based on his approach to getting hitters out.
"Minor's got a great idea how to pitch," manager Bobby Cox told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "And we knew that when we drafted him, I was told. And he does. We could see it in the spring, and obviously, during his Minor League stint this season he did the same thing -- move the ball in and out, change speeds. [Hitters] can't guess with him."
"The most important thing I like about him is, he throws strikes," teammate Martin Prado said. "We're talking about 75-80 percent of the pitches he throws for strikes. That to me is one of the biggest things that our starting pitchers can have. Just throw strikes, don't get behind in counts."
Santiago Casilla tries to copy Wilson's approach: Santiago Casilla's career got off to a rough start this spring when visa problems delayed his Spring Training debut, but the Venezuelan reliever has become a valuable member of the Giants' bullpen.
"He gives you a couple of things," manager Bruce Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He does have the ability to get a strikeout. He has electric stuff. He throws 97 with a good breaking ball. He does a good job with men on base. With him, the issue is pounding the strike zone."
Casilla credits his success to watching video of teammate Brian Wilson.
"When he goes out for the ninth inning, it's easy -- pow, pow, pow," Casilla said. "He throws 97, 98 and he throws strikes in the zone. I think, 'What's the difference with me?'"
Bourjos makes first homer a quick trot: Speedy Peter Bourjos hit his first home run on Saturday and showed the crowd a quick home run trot.
"I didn't think it was going out," Bourjos told the Los Angeles Times. "I hit it good, but I thought it would hit the top of the wall or something. I really didn't know it went out until I got to third base. I hit second, I was looking for the signal, and I didn't see anything."
Bourjos plans to give the home run ball to his father, Chris, whose first big league hit was a homer. The elder Bourjos had 24 plate appearances for the Giants in 1980.
Aramis Ramirez familiar with Piniella's plight: Aramis Ramirez, when asked about Cubs manager Lou Piniella's decision to make Sunday his last game, says he understands the decision.
"I can see where he's coming from," the Cubs' third baseman told MLB.com. "His mother is in bad shape right now. I went through something like that last year with my dad. That's tough -- you can't be in two places at one time. I think he made the right decision. Family is No. 1, this is second."
Choo makes defense a priority, too: Shin-Soo Choo takes pride in being an all-around baseball player.
"You try to help the team," Choo told MLB.com. "This is my goal. You can sometimes get two or three hits, then sometimes you can't hit it. You try to help with something, with baserunning or defense. I'm not thinking about assists. Sometimes the throws have been good, sometimes not. I try to get it in quick."
Justin Upton gets swing back on track: Justin Upton is getting hot. The Arizona right fielder went 3-for-5 on Friday and 2-for-3 with a walk on Saturday.
"You fall into those little ruts where it's hard to find," Upton told the The Arizona Republic. "The last two days, I've been in the cage with Chris [Young], and Chris knows my swing really well. I worked with [hitting coach] Jack [Howell] and got back on track."
Enright continues solid performances: Barry Enright has watched his ERA drop to 2.73 after 10 starts with the Diamondbacks.
"He's good," Troy Tulowitzki told the The Arizona Republic. "He's in control of his emotions out there. He's very polished, solid across the board with pitches. I don't think his stuff stand outs or anything, but he's a solid kid, a good pitcher, smart and very polished at a young age."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.