Rosenthal returns with behind-the-scenes takes from the MLB All-Star Game.
By Ken RosenthalFoxSports
Bonus notes from Tuesday night’s MLB All-Star broadcast on FOX — the stuff that didn’t make it on air!
New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano left the game after getting hit by a pitch in his first at-bat, so we never got to discuss his pending free agency.
The Yankees remain overwhelming favorites to keep Cano, but it’s looking increasingly likely that he will hit the open market; he does not have a contract extension and at this point does not appear close to signing one.
Free agency begins in a little more than three months. At this point, Cano might as well test the market, if only to leverage the Yankees. And who knows? Another club might tempt him with a monster offer.
Indeed, a number of teams with potential openings at second base could jump into the sweepstakes for Cano, who will turn 31 on Oct. 22.
The LA Dodgers are an obvious alternative. The Chicago Cubs could make Cano the centerpiece of their rebuilding program. The Philadelphia Phillies could be a factor in the unlikely event that they move on from Chase Utley. The New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals and Seattle Mariners are other teams that could pursue Cano.
Again: I don’t expect Cano to leave the Yankees; I’m not convinced he will even get to the market. But maybe Cano views the team as a fading empire. And maybe his new agent, noted Yankees fan Jay-Z, will seek to make his mark by defying expectations and taking Cano to another big market — say, Los Angeles or Chicago.
I’ll believe it when I see it. But if Cano becomes a free agent, the Yankees lose control. And with so much TV money in the game, another club — or two or three — might be emboldened in its pursuit of Cano.
THE CANO CONNECTION
Yankee fans on Twitter grew alarmed upon learning that the AL’s head athletic trainer was Ron Porterfield of the Tampa Bay Rays — and downright terrified upon learning that Cano was treated by Mets’ doctors.
The Mets’ checkered medical history in recent years is well-chronicled, and my “mentions” quickly were flooded with fans joking that Cano might require an amputation for his right quadriceps contusion.
Kidding aside, Porterfield actually has a history with the Cano family — he previously worked with Cano’s father, Jose Cano, when he was an athletic trainer and Jose was a pitcher in the Houston Astros organization.
Porterfield said he treated Jose twice — when Jose was on a rehabilitation assignment at Single-A Kissimmee, Fla., in 1989, and when he was at Double A in Columbus, Ga., in 1990.
Jose actually came into the AL clubhouse after his son was injured Tuesday night to check on him. He and Porterfield informed Robinson of their connection, and reminisced a bit about old times.
THE GREAT RIVERA: FOREVER HUMBLE
Maybe my favorite line of the night came from Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, whom I spoke with in the dugout just before the game.
I asked Ortiz about Mariano Rivera’s pregame speech to the AL players, and he said that Mo was typical Mo, full of grace and humility.
“He sounded like a guy who had just gotten called up,” Ortiz said, shaking his head.
Rivera spoke after Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter and manager Jim Leyland. Asked afterward about his speech, he said with a smile, “It was great — we won!”
“What I said is that it was an honor and a privilege to play with all of them,” Rivera said. “This is my 13th year as an All-Star. Many of them were in their first one. I told them to make sure to enjoy it because it goes fast.”
What did Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan think of Rivera’s speech?
“He could have said blah-blah-blah, and it would have been awesome,” Nathan said.
THE MIGGY SHOW
I’m not sure any AL player enjoyed himself more than Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who had a double, scored a run and played well in the field.
“A good day,” he said, smiling broadly as he left the game.
Cabrera was full of energy, bantering and joking with teammates throughout. At one point, he spotted the Rangers’ Yu Darvish, who was scratched because he is on the disabled list with an upper back strain.
“You’re not going to pitch?” Cabrera shouted at Darvish in mock horror. “What?”
Cabrera, the reigning Triple Crown winner and a strong candidate to win his second straight MVP award, has become something of an obsession among his rivals.
Three AL pitchers had a lengthy conversation on the bus from the team hotel to Citi Field on Monday, discussing how to pitch Cabrera.
The Minnesota Twins’ Glen Perkins lamented, “I don’t how to get him out. There is no way to pitch him.”
The Chicago White Sox’s Chris Sale said he was still astonished that Cabrera hit a backdoor slider off him for an opposite-field homer last Thursday.
The Tigers’ Justin Verlander was the third participant in the conversation. Perkins was struck that even Verlander seemed in awe of Cabrera — and he sees him every day.
CAN DAVIS DO IT?
Orioles manager Buck Showalter says two factors weigh in Chris Davis’ favor as he pursues a 60-homer season:
Davis’ “range” with the bat — meaning, his ability to go deep even on pitches outside the strike zone — and his refusal to give in to left-handers.
Davis, who has 37 home runs, is batting .256 with an .857 OPS against lefties, averaging a homer every 13 at-bats. He is batting .345 with a 1.239 OPS against righties, averaging a homer every 8.07 at-bats.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto offered a different perspective on Davis, saying the thing that impresses him most is Davis’ ability to hit homers even on pitches that he doesn’t hit squarely.
“He misses and he hits home runs,” Votto said. “He’s got some kind of ‘miss’ power.”
NOT SUCH A VILLAIN AFTER ALL
Bryce Harper’s father, Ron, got plenty of ESPN air time Monday night as his son’s pitcher in the Home Run Derby.
Ron told me that the thing that excited Bryce most about this All-Star Game was his election by the fans — especially after he missed a month with left knee bursitis.
Bryce, remember, was perceived as something of an arrogant sort at the start of his career, a villain in waiting.
“He changed a lot of people’s minds — more than anything, by the way he played,” Ron said.
TWINS TEAMMATES . . . AND FORMER RIVALS
The Twins’ Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins both grew up in St. Paul, Minn., and on one memorable occasion faced each other in an all-star game early in their high school careers.
Perkins was good even then — he had a curveball, and was tough on lefties. But this kid on the other team, a left-handed hitter, hit an opposite-field homer off him that sailed over a wall, then train tracks, then picnic tables.
Only years later, when Perkins was at the University of Minnesota, did he learn from a teammate — Mauer’s former high-school teammate, Tony Leseman — that the hitter was Mauer.
A television reporter from Connecticut impressed Hunter at Monday’s media availability by recalling when Hunter was called “The Mayor of New Britain” during his time with the Twins’ Double-A affiliate.
Seven All-Stars actually passed through New Britain, a testament to the strength of the Twins’ organization over the years. Mauer and Perkins played there, along with former Twins David Ortiz, Michael Cuddyer, Grant Balfour and Jesse Crain.
Why was Hunter nicknamed “The Mayor?”
“Because I was there the longest,” Hunter said, laughing — almost two seasons.
AROUND THE HORN
• The Orioles’ Showalter told right-hander Chris Tillman last Friday that he would make the All-Star team but with one catch — Verlander needed to throw a single pitch on Sunday, after which the Tigers’ pitcher would make himself ineligible.
The Tigers’ game started at 1:05 p.m. ET, and the Orioles’ first pitch was at 1:35. Showalter swore Tillman to secrecy, and on Sunday morning the manager and his pitching coach, Rick Adair, actually were scrambling around, checking the weather forecast in Detroit to make sure the Tigers would play.
Shortly after 1, Verlander threw his first pitch and Showalter popped into the Orioles’ clubhouse to shake Tillman’s hand. The players then congratulated Tillman as well.
• Yes, Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Mark Melancon actually rented a minivan and drove from Pittsburgh to New York, thinking it would be easier than flying at the last minute.
Melancon’s parents picked up the minivan after arriving in Pittsburgh from Colorado, and his father drove the entire family, including Melancon’s wife, Mary Catherine and 22-month-old daughter Brooklyn Marie, to New York.
Melancon joked that he felt like a soccer dad in the van and that his wife felt like a soccer mom, but he actually cherished the drive.
“It was a really cool experience to spend six quality hours with nobody except my family,” he said.
• Royals closer Greg Holland, who was not added to the AL roster until Sunday, initially expressed concern that he would not have the proper attire, telling Royals beat reporters, “I’ve got a lot of golf shirts. I don’t know if that will pass, but we’ll see what happens.”
Well, as it turned out, Holland’s wife, Lacey, packed him some appropriate clothing and flew from Kansas City to meet him in New York Tuesday night.
The only downside?
Lacey had to leave her beloved puppy, Murray, with a friend.
• And finally, I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of special things in my career, but interviewing Rivera during the ninth inning Tuesday night was something I will never forget.
You could see the emotion on his face, hear it in his words. And no, it wasn’t unusual that Rivera thanked me when the interview was over — at least not for him.
During his postgame news conference, Rivera thanked reporters in his first answer, and several times offered thanks for specific questions.