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Tim Naehring, who is player development director of the Reds, said that it's not for sure that Jose Rijo is done -- but it sure looks that way.

Rijo wants to come back, but had a serious setback two weeks ago when his elbow (the object of a recent surgery) hurt during a throwing session. Rijo's had a nice little comeback, but he's 38 and this looks like the end of the road. The article said that Rijo was "currently unable to throw a baseball," which sounds awfully definitive. Rijo had a much better career than people usually imagine, and believe it or not he is 8th among active players in ERA, which is really quite extraordinary. Rijo should get a listing on a Hall of Fame ballot in five years' time, which should all give us a light moment of comic relief and trigger a few fond memories.

More than anything, though, Rijo is the kind of player whose varied career cries out for a nickname, but he doesn't have one. Facing the end of the road, can we try to come up with one that fits, so that in retirement we can make him a little more memorable? The progenitor of the major league squirt gun, the master of the slider, the World Series MVP deserves better. Oh yes... if any of you bring up Idiot Chris Berman's nickname for Rijo, I'll have you snipped.

Did anyone else see the mention that Scott Service is working on a knuckleball and might be able to use it in game situations soon? Interesting. 90% of the time, this sort of thing doesn't work out, but if it's a good pitch and he can control it out of the bullpen, it's a great addition to his arsenal.

The Diamondbacks are going to be making a serious run soon. I talked about their pitching woes in a recent Notes, but now everyone is coming back, and the D-Backs are just three back of the Dodgers and five back of the Giants. Matt Mantei is throwing at top speed in AAA and will be back with the big club tomorrow. Curt Schilling is throwing on the side and will be back before the All-Star break. Randy Johnson is improving and looks to be back around the All-Star game (he starts a rehab assignment on July 3rd). Brett Prinz is about to come back as well, he's on a rehab assignment. Shea Hillenbrand will be back this week. To top it all off, they received a unique double boon, as Craig Counsell is coming back and Tony Womack went down with a nasty knee injury. Womack is a Least Valuable Player candidate (between his horrid offense - .241/.267/.343 - and worse defense) and Counsell is a steady as they come, one of the NL's better (if more unassuming) shortstops. With Womack out, Bob Brenly's lunacy is automatically controlled, and Counsell will start. There's still no sign of Junior Spivey, but where an infield of Alex Cintron, Tony Womack, Matt Kata, and Lyle Overbay isn't that great, an infield of Hillenbrand, Counsell, Cintron, and Overbay hits well and picks it pretty well to boot. Plus, as Robert Dudek pointed out to me on Wednesday, Jose Valverde has been pitching terrific for the D-Backs, a real find which counts as something good to come out of Mantei's injury (he has seven hits, five walks, and 16 strikeouts in 12 innings so far). The D-Backs are a slugging corner outfielder away from a pretty fearsome lineup, but David Dellucci's doing a good impression of one so far.

Incidentally, Dusty Baker had Mark Prior throw 126 pitches on Thursday in that 16-strikeout gem. Better hope that Prior loves the heavy workload; four of his last six starts went 119 pitches or more.

Another for the Hall of Silly Injuries : Aaron Fultz, enjoying a career season with Texas, had to go on the DL with muscle spasms in his neck (ouch). The reason : he ran into the outfield wall during BP.

Barry Bonds shows up at 8:30am for a day game following a night game. I thought that was interesting. Yes, I'm aware that that sounds like an entry from a Larry King sports column, and yes I'm a little ashamed.

MLB is going to let us, the fans, vote for the All-Star Game MVP. Well, OK, not quite. They're going to have a poll, but the fan votes are only going to count 20%, leaving the other 80% to the BBWAA and the broadcasters. Why bother? Please, please don't vote for this, folks... it only encourages them to give the fans a "voice" that isn't heard.

Incidentally, it's hard to tell whether he was kidding, but Steve Sparks told that he and Tim Wakefield are trying to arrange a golf outing this off-season for current and former professional knuckleball pitchers. Now that would be a fun day to be a fly on the wall at the 19th hole.

Have a nice quiet Sunday, everyone... I'll be watching the Canadian National Road Cycling Championships, which are conveniently going on a block from my apartment... with the World Championships (hopefully including Lance Armstrong?) coming here this October. No Notes Monday, I'm aiming to be back on Tuesday.
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Coach - Sunday, June 29 2003 @ 08:18 AM EDT (#98912) #
As one who doesn't much like the Giants or the Dodgers, picked the D-backs to be in the World Serious, then called them "snake-bit" and gave up on their chances, I'm getting excited again about the NL West race. Great point about the improvement at SS despite Brenly, and Valverde does appear to be the real deal.

The Service knuckler has been mentioned as very good, but inconsistent, by both Tosca and Patterson. There was talk about trying him as a starter if he can develop it further, which I presume means throw it for strikes.

Fear not, Craig. You're no Larry King, thank goodness.
_Dr B - Sunday, June 29 2003 @ 06:30 PM EDT (#98913) #
Hope Scott Service does get to throw his knuckleball in a game. It's one of the most fun to watch and weird pitches in baseball. I remember seeing Tim Wakefield on TV, and they replayed one of his pitches in slow motion. Somehow it is even more creepy that way because you are unconsciously so used to watching the ball spin that when it doesn't...

I believe most pitchers throw the knuckleball out at the tips of their fingers these days rather than with the knuckles. I assume that you can throw it with more control that way, though possibly not as hard.
_Donkit R.K. - Sunday, June 29 2003 @ 07:42 PM EDT (#98914) #
Any knuckleballs I've seen recently were thrown off of the tips of the fingers; with the fingernails almost digging into the ball.
_Mick - Monday, June 30 2003 @ 12:51 AM EDT (#98915) #
Hmm, clever combination of "moniker" and "nickname" to come up with "monicker," which is how my Uncle Santo on Staten Island pronounces the name of the character Courtney Cox Arquette plays on Friends.

I don't know about a nickname, but Bermanisms aside, here's a possible theme song:

His name is Rijo and he dances on the mound
Former Series M-V-P with a slider to astound
And when he pitches, it's a miracle he can throw
Oh Rijo, Rijo's back in Red to give it one more go
Do do do do do do do do do do do
Do do do do do do do do do do do

Everyone reading this who was born after 1978 is excused from commenting.
Craig B - Monday, June 30 2003 @ 11:26 PM EDT (#98916) #
Both "moniker" and "monicker" are acceptable spellings. (cf. Gage Canadian Dictionary)
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