Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2003-04-12 18:13
by Alex Belth


The Yankees are off to their best start since 1988 (oh, what a year that was). After grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the 7th inning, Hideki Matsui smacked a 1-out single through the left side with the bases juiced in the bottom of the 9th to win the game for the Bombers.

"I put the team in a bad spot,'' said Matsui, who hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the seventh. "I was relieved to get that hit at the very end.''

..."I'm happy to come up in situations where there's a lot of pressure to make something happen,'' Matsui said through an interpreter. "Maybe if I didn't get that hit I wouldn't have come back alive. I might have been bombarded by the fans.''

..."We're certainly giving him a lot of opportunities to be dramatic,'' New York's Todd Zeile said. "The true sign of a professional is that after the first time with the bases loaded when he tried to do too much and hit into a double play, he didn't let the same mistake happen.''

I didn't get to see the game, but how impressive is D-Rays rookie Rocco Baldelli? Rocco went 3-4 this afternoon, and extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

Here is what Rob Neyer wrote about Baldelli in his "Quick Hits" column:

It's not hard to see what people see in Rocco Baldelli.

He can run. Baldelli gets out of the box as quickly as any right-handed hitter I've seen since Bo Jackson.

He can throw. In the 15th inning last night, Baldelli prevented what looked like a sure go-ahead run with a perfect throw to nail Trot Nixon at the plate.

And he looks like a ballplayer. He's big and he's strong and he's got "the good face" (as old scouts like to say).

But can he field? Monday, he turned a line-drive single into something worse.

And can he hit? Tuesday, he collected three base hits ... none of which left the infield.

As you might have heard, Baldelli played 23 games at the Triple-A level last summer and drew the grand total of zero walks, which suggests that he's still got a few things to learn. And that's OK, because he's still just a baby of only 21 years.

So no, Rocco Baldelli isn't Joe DiMaggio yet. But it should be fun watching him try to get there.

Peter Gammons added:

Red Sox coach Mike Cubbage got Devil Rays rookie Rocco Baldelli at 3.8 (seconds) from home plate to first base, the best mark in the league. There have been few right-handed batters over the years who could top that. In the last 30 years, Alex Johnson, Ron LeFlore and Bobby Valentine come to mind going down the line under 3.8. Scouts got Cincinnati's Wily Mo Pena at 3.9 in spring training.

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