Carl Crawford ready for playoff return
Rays outfielder makes quick recovery from hand surgery
Carl Crawford could be back in the Rays lineup when they begin postseason play on Thursday.
Activated from the disabled list on Friday, the speedy outfielder didn't get any at-bats during the final weekend of the regular season, but he took about 10 minutes of batting practice on Saturday and reported no discomfort in his surgically-repaired right hand.
"He looked good, there was no hesitation, I didn't see any flinching; I didn't see him favor it one time," manager Joe Maddon told the Tampa Tribune. "It looked absolutely normal.
"This is one of those things we did not expect. Everything I had been told up to this point indicated he would not be ready, so this would be a pleasant surprise."
Lincecum "cool" with strikeout feat: Tim Lincecum fanned 13 batters on Sunday and became the first Giants pitcher to lead the league in strikeouts since Cy Seymour turned the trick in 1898. Lincecum finished the season at 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA and 265 strikeouts in 227 innings pitched.
"That's cool," Lincecum told the San Francisco Chronicle. "That's all I can really say. It was a lot of hard work, trying to work on my pitches and throw them for strikes. All I can say is cool."
Ausmus goes out in style with blast: Brad Ausmus ended his tenure with the Houston Astros with style on Sunday, hitting a two-run home run in the third inning and then leaving the game to a standing ovation when he was lifted in the top of the sixth inning.
Before the game, the Astros honored Ausmus during a brief ceremony and his two daughters, Sophie and Abigail, threw out the ceremonial first pitches.
"It's amazing how that worked out," teammate Lance Berkman told the Houston Chronicle of Ausmus' home run. "So much of baseball is fraught with disappointment, but every once in a while there's a moment when you say, 'That's justified and that's how it should be.' For him to hit that home run today was just a great way to go out. I mean, that's all you can say about it."
Said Ausmus: "Today, to me, ranks up there as one of the days that I'll remember the rest of my life. But more than anything, I'm going to remember the people, the relationships and the friends."
Hamilton working on new batting stance: Despite having an outstanding season, Josh Hamilton said he is working on a new batting stance for next season. Hamilton said he is working on his stride. He wants to lift his right foot straight up and down instead of sliding it, or tapping it left, before swinging.
"I've been working on it the last four or five games," Hamilton told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I'm trying to keep it simple, so when you get into slump, you don't have to think about a bunch of different things."
Richmond's first win is short and sweet: Scott Richmond will always remember his first Major League victory. The rookie paced the Blue Jays to a 3-0 rain-shortened victory over Baltimore on Friday. Because the game was official, Richmond was credited with a complete-game, shutout win.
"It's a great way to go out," Richmond told the Toronto Sun. "I've been battling the whole year and I'm excited about where I've got to this year. Just to go out on a high note and show them that 'Hey, I can compete on this level and help the team win.' I felt like I did that and it feels pretty good."
Venable, Rodriguez make favorable impressions: Will Venable took over in center field this month and left a strong impression on Padres manager Bud Black, as did infielder Luis Rodriguez, who hit .313 while filling in at shortstop.
"There was a perception in Spring Training that [Venable] was not quite ready for Triple-A," Black told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "He got better as the season went on. He can run, and we think there is some power in his bat.
"[Rodriguez's] stock is high. Not knowing what will happen this winter, Luis will be part of the group playing second in the spring."
Ellsbury warming up late again: With the playoffs upon us, Jacoby Ellsbury is heating up. In the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday against the Yankees, he went 1-for-4 with an RBI to run his hitting streak to 18 games. He sat out the second game. On Friday, he went 4-for-5 with a home run.
"I let my athleticism play on the field, and with that comes confidence," Ellsbury told the Boston Herald. "I hit at [this time] last year, and the pitching is the same as it was last year."
In his last 23 games entering Sunday, Ellsbury had gone 37-for-99 to raise his average 21 points from .259 to .280.
Gardner gets productive in second stint: Brett Gardner has played himself into contention to be the Yankees' starter in center field in 2009. After hitting .159 (9-for-59) in his first stint with the club from June 30 to July 25, Gardner found his stroke since his recall from the Minors in August. Since then, he is 18-for-59 (.305).
"Hopefully I showed them that I can go out there and play good defense and be out there every day," Gardner told Newsday.
After swiping 37 bases in the Minors this year, he added 11 steals with the Yankees while only getting caught once.
Huff named team MVP after standout season: In a season during which Aubrey Huff batted .304 with 48 doubles, 96 runs scored, 108 RBIs and 32 home runs, it came as a surprise to almost nobody that he was named MVP of the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend. Given everything, Huff says this may have been the best season of his career.
"It was right up there," Huff told MLB.com. "If you look at the '03 numbers and the numbers this year, they are across the board pretty much identical. I would say '03 and this year are the kind of seasons, in career years, I could put up. ... This is the type of season, when I am at my best, I can do."
Dempster's 'bulldog' approach pays off: With the Chicago Cubs set to open the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ryan Dempster will get the ball first, and at least one of his teammates isn't surprised at all.
"He's a bulldog," reliever Michael Wuertz told MLB.com. "I worked out with him for three, four weeks before Spring Training, and he got after it every day. We'd drive to the field every day and go work out, and he had that mission in his mind that this was going to be a year not only for him personally but for us as a team. He's had that mindset all year. I think that's helped him all year."
Schumaker reaches milestones: With a final batting average of .302, Skip Schumaker managed to reach a couple of different milestones -- a .300 average and being a regular player in the Major Leagues.
"First and foremost, I wanted to make the team and be here the whole year, because that had never happened to me before," Schumaker told the Belleville News-Democrat. "I didn't think, going into Spring Training, that I'd get 500 at-bats. To be able to do something with it like hit .300 is very meaningful to me. I'm not going to say it's not."
Sizemore can't be denied remarkable season: Grady Sizemore finished the season with a .268 average, 101 runs scored, 39 doubles, five triples, 33 home runs and 99 RBIs. He also stole 38 bases.
"What's been remarkable about Grady's year is that when people scouted us, he was the one guy they focused on," manager Eric Wedge told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I'm sure they were saying, 'Don't let this guy beat you,' and he still had an outstanding year. We almost take Grady and what he does for granted because he does it every year. But you can't."
Moyer gets the job done again: With a second consecutive NL East title on the line, the Phillies turned to 45-year-old Jamie Moyer again in what would become a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
"It's such a good feeling, pitching in this type of game two years in a row," Moyer told the Philadelphia Daily News. "When I walked past those fans, they were just showing their appreciation and their excitement."
Chipper Jones crowned batting champ at 36: Chipper Jones became the oldest switch-hitter to win the batting title as he finished the 2008 season with a .364 mark. He also became the first Braves player to win the batting crown since current Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton won it in 1991.
"It's sweet vindication, after a bunch of people said I was done," the 36-year-old Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The last couple of years have been awesome, from a numbers standpoint."
He smiled and said, "To have had as good a year this year at my advanced age is awfully satisfying."
Garciaparra handed managerial tasks for a day: Dodgers manager Joe Torre has a tradition of allowing a veteran player to manage the final game of the season. In 2008, that task fell to Nomar Garciaparra, who guided the team in a 3-1 loss to the Giants. Garciaparra took the job seriously.
"I made three lineups last night," he told the Los Angeles Times. "You think I'm kidding?"
Garciaparra also prepared to talk to the press after the game. "If I had shown you the three lineups, right below them were all the clichés," he said.
Saunders sets career mark with nine strikeouts: Joe Saunders gave the Angels a 100-win season as he pitched six shutout innings on Sunday in a 7-0 win over the Rangers. Saunders, who missed his last start due to kidney stones, struck out a career-high nine batters and upped his record to 17-7 for the season.
"Obviously it's a confidence booster," Saunders told the Los Angeles Times. "I don't want to go into the playoffs giving up some runs. I think this is a great outing for me and a great outing for the team."
Buck plans for more success in the spring: Travis Buck led off Sunday's game with a home run for the A's. He had three hits in the contest, and finished with 11 hits in his final 23 at-bats of the season.
"It means a whole lot," Buck told the San Francisco Chronicle of his strong finish. "I know I'm a great player and I know they know I'm a great player. ... I'm going to work extremely hard this winter and get in the best shape I can and come in and win a job."
Feldman aims to build offseason strength: Scott Feldman ended the year on a high note as he earned the win against the Angels in his final start of the season. Feldman threw six solid innings to earn the victory on Saturday night and finish the year 6-8 with a 5.29 ERA.
Feldman, who threw 150 1/3 innings this season, allowed two runs on five hits in the finale. Now he'll get ready for a busy offseason.
"I'm going to go into the offseason, work hard and get stronger," he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "When it's time to start throwing again, I'll have had a nice break for my arm and be stronger than I was this season."
Samardzija's routine extends into October: As the Chicago Cubs head into the playoffs, Jeff Samardzija will be on the postseason roster. Not bad for a guy that spent time in both Double-A and Triple-A this season. Now, as he gets used to the Major Leagues, he says that he finally has a routine.
"It has just been picking up things here and there," Samardzija told the Chicago Tribune. "Now I kind of have everything going how I want it to. I have a little bit of a schedule down and a little bit of a routine that I didn't have before. On top of that, you have a little better idea of how to get prepared for a game and warm up when they call me. You can get in the flow."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.