10/09/2004 8:13 PM ET
Notes: Players work through nerves
Music, football serve as welcome distractions
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Were the Dodgers on edge prior to Saturday night's Game 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals?
|Jose Lima prepared for Game 3 with a special mix of selected merengue tunes. (Mark J. Terrill)
As soon as batting practice began, starting pitcher Jose Lima had a minor meltdown when his specially selected mix of merengue music was shut down so stadium operations could deliver instructions to employees. After a few silent minutes, the music resumed.
The players then requested that the stadium video screen be switched from the Yankees-Twins playoff game to the USC-California football game. Players lost that one, and the baseball game remained.
Thirty minutes before first pitch, manager Jim Tracy held a closed-door team meeting in the clubhouse, not the norm for Tracy, but neither were the circumstances.
Colborn's comments: With tentative Game 4 starter Odalis Perez declining to appear, pitching coach Jim Colborn took his place in the pregame interview room session and said that Perez, along with his teammates, have not been themselves in this series.
"I don't know if I'd call it composure," said Colborn, "but in general, some players and pitchers, I think, are trying too hard, and that's the wrong way. They're not as confident or convicted with what they're supposed to do. If you're a little unsure or you think you have to do more because of the magnitude of the game, you're not being your best. Any athlete will tell you it doesn't work."
Colborn said he had addressed the possibility that Perez was tipping pitches, a theory raised after the Cardinals knocked him out of Game 1 in the third inning.
A scouts' story: Plenty will take and deserve credit for Yhency Brazoban's emergence as Guillermo Mota's replacement as the Dodgers' setup man.
Former general manager Dan Evans acquired him last December in the Kevin Brown deal that was primarily a salary dump to afford an attempt to sign Vladimir Guerrero. Evans had the counsel of assistant general manager Kim Ng and the intelligence data accumulated by pro scouting director Matt Slater, and current GM Paul DePodesta promoted Brazoban with one month of Triple-A seasoning to take a bullpen spot after Mota was traded away.
But nobody involved could say they knew he would be this good this fast -- and still pass a lie detector test. Not even the scouts, who put him on the Dodgers' radar could claim such knowledge. In fact, three different scouts filed independent reports on Brazoban based on a limited glimpse of game action. Here's what each thought he saw.
Bill Pleis: "I saw him in A-ball on June 6 and 7 for seven innings and he pitched extremely well. I remember he was not a prospect as a hitter. I was fortunate to have seen him because two days later he was called to Double-A. He only threw 25 innings total, but his fastball was 98 to 95 [mph], and he had a hard breaking ball. Maybe I got lucky. My only concern was that he was a little erratic for a closer. But I hadn't seen many arms like that. I thought he could be a setup or possibly a closer. I didn't know he'd come this quick. Fortunately, Matt listened. He did a good job to get the guy. When something like this happens, it makes you feel good that they listened. I appreciate that. The whole year, I don't think I turned in any reports like that. I'm really happy it turned out this way. It's a great feeling, like 27 years are all worthwhile."
Vance Lovelace: "Last year he moved up from Tampa to Trenton -- that's where I saw him, for two innings in early July. I was sitting with [Yankees executive] Gene Michael, and I really liked the way the ball came out of his hand. He had a clean delivery, not a lot of moving parts. Then Michael told me he was a position change and I was really impressed watching him warm up, spinning sliders with command. At the end of the day, he was kind of wild, but he was new to pitching so I kind of expected that. He was learning on the fly. But he had competitiveness and I thought he might come quick. I'm still surprised he came that quick, but there wasn't a lot to fix. I knew there wasn't a lot of wear and tear on that arm, and for a novice his quality pitches intrigued me. That was the only time I saw him. Even though the game results weren't there, I thought there was something there to work with. That's how a guy like this shows up."
Mark Weidemaier: "I saw him in the Dominican [League] in November. On my grading scale, he was a 56, a quality setup pitcher. I only got an abbreviated look; a couple innings sometimes is all you get. He was 96-97 [mph] with an 87 [mph] slider. He had two pitches above average, swing-and-miss pitches at different eye levels for the hitter. He was big, strong and athletic. The Yankees have had success converting players. Pleis is an excellent evaluator of pitchers. Maybe the Yankees felt they had so many prospects they could give one away. I don't know. When Danny called I said, 'You gotta take him.' He's got [Edwin] Jackson-like stuff right now. He's what scouting's all about. Sometimes all you get is one quick look. And timing, me being in the Dominican Republic right before the meetings. That deal looks pretty good now with the money we saved. It's a good scouting story."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.