07/02/2007 12:47 PM ET
Prince is becoming Brewers' royalty
Prince Fielder's reputation is growing, both around the Majors and inside the Milwaukee Brewers' clubhouse.
Prince Fielder has been one of the hottest hitters in the NL during the first half. (Morry Gash/AP)
The hulking first baseman will start for the National League All-Star team, earning the most votes by fans among first basemen. The fact Fielder is known by fans outside of Milwaukee is a testament to how much he has grown into the role of team leader.
As a rookie, Fielder understood his role was to stay quiet and learn from the veterans.
"He respected his role," catcher Damian Miller, an 11-year Major League veteran, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel . "He knew he was a first-year player. This year, he's a lot more outgoing."
Fielder, now 23, is now one of the most feared hitters in the National League, leading the NL in home runs and slugging percentage. Away from the field, Fielder is making a lot more noise as well, as he has become a vocal leader in the clubhouse.
"He has an outgoing personality," Miller said. "His laugh is infectious. Once you hear him laugh, you can't help but laugh, too. Everybody in here is in love with him. He's not too big for his britches. As much as he was around the Major Leagues as a kid, he doesn't believe he's bigger than the game.
"Obviously, with what he does on the field, he earns his respect. There aren't many like him. If there's something that needs to be said, he'll say it. When he gets 10 years under his belt, it's going to be interesting to see."
Fielder has taken rookie Ryan Braun under his wing. Since being recalled from Triple-A, Fielder, thanks to the urging from some of the veteran players, has shown Braun what it takes to be a Major League player.
"He's showing me the ropes," Braun said. "Since the first day, he has been there for me, pointing out things. Things that I wouldn't have necessarily thought of.
"He has a lot more experience than I have. He has been very helpful and insightful. He gets on me, like everybody else does. I'm a rookie and that's part of it. He has been awesome."
Willingham's got six straight: Josh Willingham recorded a five-hit game on Sunday, including the game-winning hit in the 10th inning, to lift the Marlins to a 6-5 win over the Braves.
"We just needed a win. It didn't matter how," Willingham told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "In the first half, we have found too many ways to lose games like this one. It felt good to finally win one. Survive is a good word for what we did today."
Willingham had a hit in his last at-bat on Saturday, giving him six straight hits.
"With runners at first and second and nobody out, we had to score," Willingham said of his at-bat in the 10th inning. "I was standing in the outfield thinking that I was the third hitter coming up. I hoped to have a chance to help us win. Thank God, I was able to come through."
Napoli earns the win and respect from his teammates: Angels catcher Mike Napoli hit what turned out to be the game-winning home run in the eighth inning and then made a great block of home plate in the ninth to preserve the Angels' 4-3 win over the Orioles on Sunday.
"I think about that play, about someone pummeling me and holding on to the ball to win the game, all the time," Napoli told the Los Angeles Times. "It's like a walk-off home run for me. ... When you catch a winner, get an RBI and hit a homer, it's a perfect day for me."
However, Napoli was injured in the collision with Melvin Mora and he left the clubhouse with his left foot and shin in a protective boot. Preliminary X-rays did not show any broken bones.
"You respect that as a teammate, as a friend and as a man," pitcher John Lackey, who gave up three runs on four hits in 7 1/3 innings to gain the victory, said of Napoli's grit. "He wants to win, and that's why he's on this team."
Manager Mike Scioscia, a former catcher, was also appreciative of Napoli's play at the plate.
"It feels a lot better when you do it and win a game," Scioscia said. "Sometimes, the other team is celebrating as you're limping off the field. Mike is going to stick himself in there, no matter the situation. He's a tough kid."
Lee earns third All-Star berth: Houston Astros left fielder Carlos Lee, who leads the National League in RBIs, was voted to the NL All-Star squad. The game will be played July 10 in San Francisco. This the third time Lee has been named to an All-Star team.
"I'm happy about it," said Lee, who is hitting .293 with 68 RBIs and was voted onto the team as a reserve by the players, told the Houston Chronicle. "It looks like everything you do out there for half of the season is paying off. It's a great honor to go there. This is my third time, and every time I go there I enjoy it.
"It's something that everybody wanted to do at least once in a career. To be able to go for the third time, (I'm) just excited."
If the starting team was determined by the vote of the players, Lee would be a starter for the National League, as he finished third in the NL player's ballot, trailing Matt Holliday, who had 725 votes, and Ken Griffey Jr., who had 577 votes. Lee had 372 votes.
"Carlos has been tremendous," teammate Lance Berkman said. "He's been everything that he was advertised to do. [It] was a well deserved All-Star selection for him."
Percival's even better when the lights come on: St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Troy Percival, who had been out of baseball for nearly two years prior to joining the Cardinals last week, picked up a victory on Friday night in St. Louis' 4-2 victory over the Reds -- the 31st victory of his career.
The outing for Percival was emotional for both him and his teammates.
"It's kind of a dream come true, to come back and get a win after a three-batter inning," Russ Springer, a former teammate of Percival's with the Angels and again in St. Louis, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
"That's movie material," added manager Tony La Russa.
After noting a drop in velocity from his earlier playing days while he prepared to join St. Louis at Triple-A Memphis, Percival climbed as high as 94 mph on Friday.
"I'm more surprised at the velocity. I didn't see that coming," said Percival. "I was 88, 90, 91 tops. All of a sudden I get under the lights and I started getting up there a little bit."
Picking up a win in his first outing back in the Major Leagues was just icing on the cake as far as Percival was concerned.
"A good outcome for me was to get out there, compete, and when the time comes be able to walk off the field on my own, not because my arm felt like I couldn't play anymore," he said.
Percival picked up his second win of he weekend on Sunday when he worked an inning of relief in the Cardinals' 11-7 victory over the Reds.
Stone surprised by return to bigs: When Ricky Stone walked away from baseball back in 2005, he never thought he'd find his way back. It was, at the time, something he was sure about.
"I thought that was it," Stone told the Cincinnati Post. "I thought it was the end of my career. I was going to live with it if it was, because it was a decision I made in 2005."
But last Friday, shortly after learning he'd been recalled by the Reds, Stone went to have lunch with his father, Ricky Stone Sr.
"I wanted to surprise him a little bit," said the younger Ricky Stone. "Instead of telling him about it, I drove up. I showed up at his work. His lunch is at noon, and we sat down and ate some chicken together. He was very surprised. He said, 'What are you doing up here?' He was excited."
While at Triple-A Louisville, Stone had a record of 4-4 and an ERA of 1.70. In his 2007 debut with the Reds on Friday against St. Louis, Stone threw a scoreless inning.
"He's done a great job at changing speeds, and throwing quality strikes," said Reds manager Jerry Narron. "They've been talking here the last month about calling him up. When somebody comes out of the bullpen, you want them to throw strikes. You don't want them walking the first guy they face."
Stone is the first to admit that he never thought he'd make it to the Majors again this year.
"Honestly, no," he said. "I don't know if (Wayne Krivsky) did it as a favor, but he gave me every opportunity to pitch and perform down there. Now I'm here. It's kind of crazy."
Garza returns a different pitcher: Matt Garza has rejoined the Minnesota Twins after a solid spring that saw him nearly make the team and a stint at Triple-A Rochester where he worked a lot on mixing up pitches in order to make him a better Major League pitcher.
"I want to be the best pitcher I can be," Garza told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "And if that means taking a couple steps back to go 10 forward ... obviously they know what's best for me."
After working extra hard on his changeup in Triple-A, Garza hopes to be able to change that approach now that he's back with the Twins.
"I want to pitch to the flow of the game instead of pitching to a plan," said Garza, the Twins' first-round draft pick in 2005. "Some teams won't be able to hit a fastball; certain teams will knock it around. I learned it the hard way.
"Being sent down there was the best thing for me. It helped me to trust my pitches. I'll throw a changeup in a 3-2 count."
Indians' Lee cruising again: Cleveland Indians pitcher Cliff Lee was on his game Sunday in the Indians 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, striking out nine in eight innings thanks in large part to a wicked curveball.
"Whatever the reason," Lee told MLB.com, "I knew it was going to be a good pitch for me."
In his last four starts, Lee is 3-0 with an ERA of 2.77. For the first time this year, Lee admits that things are coming together nicely for him.
"I'm starting to get where I'm used to going out there every five days and feeling like I'm part of the team," he said. "Before I wasn't doing what was expected out of me. I feel like I'm in that groove and things are starting to work."
The win was the fifth of the season for Lee against four losses.
-- Red Line Editorial