Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 3, 1988 · Page 203
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Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota · Page 203

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 3, 1988
Page 203
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A bush leaguer's glossary of terms Balk: See the section on pitching. Or watch Les Straker pitch. Ball: A pitch that fails to enter the strike zone and is not swung at by the batter. A hitter who receives four balls during an at-bat is awarded first base. Some free swingers or impatient hitters hate to walk. The past two seasons, the Twins' Kirby Puckett batted team highs of .328 and .332 and had a total of 66 walks or 1 8 fewer walks than Kent Hrbek had in 1987 alone. . Bunt: A batted ball not swung at, but intentionally met with the bat and pushed slowly within the infield. Bush leagues: Elizabethton, Paintsville, Visalia, Lynchburg, Shreveport and all the other wonderful minor-league towns that many of the Twins hope never to see again. Doubleheaden Baseball's biggest bargain, this is when a team plays two games in a day for the price of one admission. Don't look too hard on the Twins' home schedule to find one. You won't. Teams usually schedule rained-out games as part of doubleheaders, and you don't get a lot of rain-outs in domed stadiums. Double play: Called the "pitcher's best friend," this is a play by the defense in which two offensive players are out during a single play. Of course, a fielder can be a part of a double play only if the pitcher is allowing batters to reach base. Thus Seattle's Harold Reynolds has led American League second basemen in double plays the past two seasons (111 each year) because, in part, the Mariner pitchers have often been awful. Enron A misplay by a fielder. Or when the guy behind you drops his beer on your shoulder. Foul ball: When a ball is not hit in fair territory the playing field demarcated by the foul lines. Fowl ball: When New York Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield, formerly of St. Paul and the University of Minnesota, throws a ball in Toronto that accidentally hits and kills a seagull. Infield fly: No, this is not some kind of insect that makes its nest near second base. An infield fly occurs when a batter hits a fair, pop-fly ball that can be caught by an Infielder with ordinary effort; there are fewer than two out; and there are runners at first and second base or first, second and third base. The batter is automatically out even if nobody catches the ball. Sacrifice: When a batter bunts for the sake of advancing a runner with the expectation that he will be put out himself, or hits a fly ball after which a runner tags up and scores. Puckett tied a major-league record in 1986 of having the most at-bats in a season (680) without a sacrifice fly. Strike: This is a pitch that is either swung at and missed, is hit foul or is not swung at, but is in the strike zone. During the 1972 and 1981 major-league seasons, the word strike took on a labor-related meaning. Strike zone: Anything within this imaginary zone is a strike, anything outside is a ball. For reasons that don't make sense, the strike zone in the National League is lower than the one in the American League. To figure out a slugging percentage, divide the number of bases stemming from a player's base hits by the player's number of at-bats. In other words extra-base hits (doubles, triples and home runs) are keys. Hrbek's slugging percentage was boosted by his 34 homers and 20 doubles. He also had a triple. Honest! Meaningless statistic No. 1 Friday's Metrodome opener against Toronto takes on added significance this year because the date is April 8. Over the years the Twins have played 10 games on April 8, winning nine of them. STRATEGIES When to drop a bunt A sacrifice bunt seems like a basic enough play, yet every manager has a different theory about when to use it. With rabbits like Vince Coleman and Ozzie Smith and a lack of power hitters, St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog uses the bunt often out of necessity. And New York Yankees manager Billy Martin loves using the squeeze play having a batter bunt while a runner from third base races home. With a speedster like Rickey Henderson on third base, why not? Twins manager Tom Kelly says he prefers using bunt plays "late in the game with a tie score and nobody out." By moving a runner from first to second base via a sacrifice bunt, you're moving the runner to "scoring position, and this gives you two chances to get that run home. Frequently it can win you a ball game." Molitor, a terrific bunter and base runner, says you're more likely to see a sacrifice bunt earlier in a National League game than in the American League. "I agree with Tom Kelly," Molitor reasons. "With the designated hitter in our league, we don't have to worry about taking out a pitcher or asking the pitcher to bunt. In the American League, we have to play for the big innings. But when it's late in the game, strategies change. When you have speed on the bases, you can do different things." Speed? The Twins? No wonder Kelly likes to wait as long as possible before using the bunt. The DH: Designated hitter or dreaded helper? The designated hitter came to the American League in 1973, and, 15 years later, people are still complaining about it, particularly NBC announcer Tony Kubek. (The National League does not use the DH in the regular season.) Traditionalists loathe the DH, saying it takes away much of the game's strategy. Others, who hate watching pitchers bat or seeing managers remove an otherwise successful pitcher simply because it's his turn to bat, love the DH. The designated hitter is used in the American League during the regular season and in American League ballparks during the World Series. If you watch a team's pregame workout, you can always spot the designated hitters. They're the walking wounded who can barely move, the guys with the gray hair and expanding waistlines, the guys who run for cover when a fly ball is headed their way, the guys who no longer can find jobs in the National League. But who can argue with a rule that extends the careers of former National League greats like Henry Aaron, Orlando Cepeda and Greg Luzinski or American League stars like Tony Oliva, Reggie Jackson and Don Baylor? The DH is a player designated to bat for the starting pitcher, and for all other subsequent pitchers without otherwise affecting the pitcher's status. The DH rule came about four years too late for former Twin Dave Boswell. In a 1969 American League Championship Series game, Boswell lost to Baltimore, 1-0, in 10 innings. He struck out in each of his four at-bats. Stopwatch steals Molitor not only knows how to get on base, but what to do once he's there. His 276 career steals have something to do with his earning the nickname "the Igni-tor." But for players like Molitor, speed is not enough to guarantee a stolen base. "I don't have tremendous speed," he says. "I seem to have good instincts. When I'm on base, I'm always aware of the count on the batter because if the pitcher has to make a good pitch, that decreases the chances of a pitchout. And we use mathematics in stealing. Our scouts learn exactly how long it takes for a pitcher to lift up his foot before making his pitch, for a pitch to reach the plate, for the catcher to get the ball out of his glove, for the catcher's throw to reach second or third base." Hit and run When you see big, lumbering guys like Hrbek or Tim Laudner slide into second base long after the ball arrives there, do you ever wonder why they were attempting to steal in the first place? Well, maybe they weren't. Maybe it wasn't their fault that they were thrown out at second. Blame the hit-and-run play. Or, in other cases, praise the hit-and-run. The hit-and-run is exactly what you think it is: The batter swings at the pitch, and the runner tries to advance to the next base without having any idea as to where the ball will be hit or if it will be hit. "You use this strategy when you have a hitter up at the plate who is not fast and is likely to hit into a double play with a man on first," Kelly says. Ideally the batter hits the ball behind the runner, toward right field, enabling the runner to reach third base. If the infielders make a play on the ground ball, chances are it will be too late to throw out the runner going to second, thus avoiding a double play. But heaven help the poor runner if the batter swings and misses (or misses the signal and fails to swing), allowing the catcher to throw the runner out easily at second. Watch your behind For a fan or manager, nothing is more frustrating than watching a runner who is left stranded at third base particularly when the run-Baseball continued on page 10 9

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