Tim Brown

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Tim Brown is an award-winning writer with 20 years of experience covering Major League Baseball at the Los Angeles Times, Newark Star-Ledger, Cincinnati Enquirer and Los Angeles Daily News. He studied journalism at the University of Southern California and Cal State Northridge.

  • Rookies Yasmany Tomas, Kris Bryant looking lukewarm at hot corner

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Spring can be a mystery, with at least as many opinions as there are sun-hatted people to hatch them, and even then the truth is just as likely to be hiding inside a balled sanitary sock.

    Consider the recent labors of rookies Yasmany Tomas and Kris Bryant.

    Yasmany Tomas one hands a ball hit by Brewers' Jean Segura during a spring training game. (AP)Yasmany Tomas one hands a ball hit by Brewers' Jean Segura during a spring training game. (AP)One is having to adapt to a strange new culture in his new city, acclimate to the curious customs of the locals, parse an entirely different kind of language, even sacrifice his diet so that every meal isn't an adventure, just to find his way in a place that beyond all else will expect him to perform as an elite ballplayer, perhaps in a position he's just sort of trying out.

    The other is Yasmany Tomas.

    Two of the hottest names in the Cactus League, they're attempting to find their way at third base, which suddenly seems like a very difficult position to play, and might both end up in left field anyway.

    Tomas is a 24-year-old outfielder, one in the hail of Cubans new to the game here, and is sorting through the

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  • Albert Pujols feeling like … Albert Pujols again

    Albert Pujols connects against the Texas Rangers. (USAT)Albert Pujols connects against the Texas Rangers. (USAT)TEMPE, Ariz. – The bench coach's younger son, 6-year-old Trey, was airborne, heaved by Mike Trout and headed toward Albert Pujols, his arms paddling against gravity. Trey howled, this being one of the great games of toss-a-small-human ever. Trout grinned as the boy flew to the waiting Pujols, whose bald head shone in the Wednesday morning sun. When Trey arrived into his arms, Pujols was laughing harder than any of them, and composed himself just enough to re-launch Trey.

    "Who's your favorite player?" Pujols demanded.

    When Trey again lifted a shy finger toward Trout, as Trey has been raised to tell the truth, up he went again.

    "Yaaaaah!" Trey squealed, and Pujols squealed with him, and they all laughed again.

    For the better part of three years here, Pujols had suffered through injury, trudged back from injury, trimmed his usual pounding off-seasons because of injury, reflected over injury. As he approached his mid-30s, there'd been conversations about the hitter he was anymore, or could

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  • Barry Zito offers Kendall Graveman more than video-game perspective

    MESA, Ariz. – Hours before he'd try this again, before he'd pitch a few more innings for the Oakland A's, Barry Zito was in front of his locker, his chair rocked back a few inches, his cap on backwards, thin white wires leading to his ears. Overhead, taped side by side, one photo of his smiling wife and daughter, and another of his smiling daughter alone.

    Barry Zito works vs. the Cubs in the fourth inning. (AP)Barry Zito works vs. the Cubs in the fourth inning. (AP)The three lockers to his right had been cleared by late-camp cuts. To his left, a broad doorway that led to the field at Hohokam Stadium or, were he to walk the opposite direction, home.

    In a clubhouse that tends toward A.J. Griffin's guitar work, Billy Butler's full-throated observations and Josh Reddick's full-throated responses, Zito, going on 37, was the picture of serenity.

    "I used to pitch as him in video games," Kendall Graveman said, not loud enough for Zito to hear.

    Zito is the famous – some in San Francisco might say infamous – left-hander who'd won 165 games, a couple World Series championships and a Cy Young Award, who'd

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  • Kris Bryant making strong case for Cubs call-up, but is the brass even listening?

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    MESA, Ariz. – Kris Bryant, 23 years old, smiled and looked out over the tops of the heads around him. He’d hit two more home runs Saturday afternoon, one of them against Felix Hernandez, was batting .480, had played a capable third base and had all of Chicago Cubs fandom rallying behind him. The spring in which he’d been dared to play himself onto the team was going handsomely.

    “You really can’t beat baseball right now,” he said. “The sun is shining and hopefully we win this game. I’m still here and I’m still standing.”

    Twenty-five at-bats in, Bryant has eight home runs and 14 RBI. Against the Seattle Mariners, he laid off a nasty one-ball, two-strike fastball from Hernandez and hit the next pitch – a changeup – high onto the left-field berm at Sloan Park. Two innings later, he drew a full-count walk against Hernandez. In the fourth inning, he picked out a fairly lifeless breaking ball from veteran Kevin Correia and hit that on the berm, too.

    “I

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  • Jon Lester misses start with 'dead arm,' says it's no big deal

    Jon Lester missed his scheduled start Saturday against the Mariners. (AP)Jon Lester missed his scheduled start Saturday against the Mariners. (AP)MESA, Ariz. – It's March and he said he's not hurt, not in any pain, just weary, and yet Jon Lester, the Chicago Cubs' $155 million investment/hero, skipped a spring training start on Saturday, so, yeah, everybody under your beds.

    The sky falls so often on the North Side they carry iron umbrellas. (Not to be confused with the hardhats, which are for the endless Wrigley renovation.) Given the history, given the occasional promise that always – every single time – mutates into something that must be chained to a post in the basement, the news that Lester's schedule would be even slightly altered surely led to some squishy moments on the El.

    "Of course there's going to be a lot of [public] consternation," Cubs manager Joe Maddon allowed.

    The background is, Lester experiences degrees of what baseball folks call "dead arm" every spring. Typically, he said, it sets in early in camp, when he's just ramping into full effort or in the first couple weeks of the regular season, when he's ramping

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  • Why Clayton Kershaw getting hit in the face turns to moments of levity

    MESA, Ariz. – The bat cracked – something in the wood or in the pitch or, perhaps, in the mechanics of the 29-year-old utilityman who lurched at that Friday afternoon fastball from the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.

    Clayton Kershaw (22) is examined after being hit by a line drive in the third inning. (USA TODAY Sports)Clayton Kershaw (22) is examined after being hit by a line drive in the third inning. (USA TODAY Sports)They all shrugged and laughed about it after the loss to the Oakland A's, because it was never as bad as it looked or could have been, and besides if they really thought about this stuff who knows what sort of turmoil would follow. They can't play the game and avoid the game at the same time. So they rely on the small favors of skill and luck and, need be, wood grain.

    The bat cracked because Kershaw had a true fastball on Friday that did not leak or tail and Andy Parrino, in the brief time he had to decide if this was a strike he should hit or if this would pass too far inside, misjudged it some. The bat hit the ball but well short of the barrel. By the time the farthest areas of Hohokam Stadium would be soothed by a sound that was less threatening, there was the

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  • Giants trying to shake off the odd-year blues

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Famously and handsomely decorated every other Fall since 2010 – which is maybe not so much a dynasty as it is a live-and-die-nasty, maybe a bi-nasty – the San Francisco Giants now aren't very good in odd months either.

    March is an odd month. Not odd in the sense that it observes something called Employee Appreciation Day that no employee has ever heard of, not even at Hallmark (we're guessing), but odd in that it's the third month. The season starts in the fourth month. The Giants are 5-12, and while not a single person has once looked at spring training standings and thought, "Yeah, that's pretty much how the next six months will go," Bruce Bochy did the other day look at a 10-0 loss, the manner of the losses before it, and the way the club had performed for two weeks and observe, "We're not doing anything very well right now. …We're not even close to being ready."

    Which is mostly fine, because the season isn't even close to being started.

    Except these biennially

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  • Those hoping for more A-Rod humiliation will have to wait

    DUNEDIN, Fla. – The trip from Tampa isn’t much, 22 miles door to door. Takes maybe 35 minutes, if you hit the lights wrong. The drive is nice, though. A lot of it comes with a bay view. By the way folks were talking about it, though, you’d have thought Alex Rodriguez was going to run the whole way in catcher’s gear.

    He took the bus instead. The big one with business class seats and air conditioning. If that still sounded onerous to you.

    He did stretch along the left-field line as game time drew near. And if you were among those who hoped hardship was waiting on the other end of the causeway, he did have to stand through two anthems.

    Rodriguez would play his first road game on Saturday since you know what, you know when and, especially, you know why. The occasion carried an opportunity for unfriendly fans to shake him from his pinstriped womb, and no one, it seems, wants to miss a moment with potential for A-Rod disgrace. So, under high puffy clouds and a sun that felt a foot or two

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  • Phillies mired in one of baseball’s toughest situations

    CLEARWATER, Fla. – It looked Friday morning like there may have been some good news coming out of Philadelphia Phillies camp, a place where organizations, ATVs, flexor tendons and hope go to break down.

    The players’ union guys would be there – Tony Clark, Dave Winfield, et al. – which meant they’d bump into the Yahoo guy in four different camps over four consecutive days. They’d immediately contact the house lawyer to see about a restraining order. But that wasn’t the good news.

    The Phillies are happy about Chase Utley doing baseball things again. (AP)The Phillies are happy about Chase Utley doing baseball things again. (AP)Chase Utley was to play. More accurate, for the first time this spring and the first time since he stepped on a baseball a couple months ago, Chase Utley was to bat. In a game. With people around. And teammates. They would keep score. He was to hit third as the designated hitter.

    This would qualify as a happy day, and there are too few of those.

    Camp hadn’t started with the best of vibes. The Phillies are a last-place team stuck between build, rebuild and pride. Jimmy Rollins is gone. Cole Hamels would like to

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  • Astros find their footing with a pair of arms that has paid its dues

    KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Collin McHugh leaned against the back of a chair, his arms folded. His T-shirt was a size or two big, so the sleeves came off his shoulders in billows and the front bunched over his chest, like he was hiding in there somewhere. He’s lean. The shirt exaggerated the fact, as did a crisp intelligence that nudged up against bookish.

    Collin McHugh runs through a drill during a spring training workout. (AP)Collin McHugh runs through a drill during a spring training workout. (AP)He was talking about the game and his place in it, how it came to be when it looked like it never would. He’ll be 28 this summer, which meant he’d been running a little short on time, and that’s not even counting the time he’d considered quitting. Maybe he wouldn’t even recognize that guy anymore.

    “There’s something to be said,” McHugh said, “about due process.”

    The best part of the game is that it is unpredictable. And the best part of that is a man such as McHugh or, for that matter, teammate Dallas Keuchel, also 27, both of whom were beginning to test the notions of opportunity and patience (and the life expectancy of due process) when they

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