Maddux milestone: 3,000th strikeout

NL notebook

Baseball Week

July 31, 2005

Chicago Cubs right-hander and likely Hall of Famer Greg Maddux has been characterized as many things during his brilliant big league career.

No one's ever labeled him a strikeout pitcher, though.

Yet Tuesday he fanned the San Francisco Giants' Omar Vizquel to record his 3,000th career strikeout, becoming the 13th member of the elite club. He's also the ninth pitcher to reach both 300 wins and 3,000 strikeouts.

That's what happens when you consistently locate your pitches and keep taking the ball game after game year after year.

Maddux, 39, has been a starter exclusively since 1988, his third year in the big leagues. In the past 17 seasons, he has thrown at least 200 innings 16 times, with the only exception in 2002, when he recorded 199 1/3 innings for the Atlanta Braves.

In that time, only once has he had more than 200 strikeouts - 204 in 1998 - and only twice has he had fewer than 130 strikeouts.

He's the poster boy for proving one doesn't have to throw hard to get hitters to swing and miss.

"I don't try to strike guys out; I never have," Maddux said. "I've always tried to just make a pitch."

He credits his former minor league pitching coach and current Cubs bench coach Dick Pole with stressing the philosophy.

"He was right. I've always tried with two strikes to just make a pitch and get the guy out," Maddux said. "You get a lot of strikeouts by accident just by doing that."

Freel's easy steals

Cincinnati infielder Ryan Freel set a Reds record Wednesday with five steals in one game, including swiping second and third in the ninth that set up a 7-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But Freel wasn't exactly running freely against Johnny Bench. The steals came with Jason Phillips behind the plate. It was the second time in five games that a team has stolen five bases against Phillips, who has thrown out just 12 of his first 82 would-be base-stealers (14.6 percent).

"A lot of time has been spent trying to improve. That's what makes it hurt," Phillips said.

Summer read

The Florida Marlins' Dontrelle Willis is such an interesting personality, even his agents are worth your time. ESPN.com baseball writer Jerry Crasnick's new book, License to Deal, chronicles maverick sports agents Matt Sosnick and Paul Cobbe as they negotiate around the big boys of the agent world.

Lots of great stuff here, including a glimpse into the duo's most famous client, Willis, as well as a snapshot of super-agent Scott Boras. If you liked the inside baseball angle provided by Moneyball, this is another breezy book to pick up.

Quick hits

Former Oriole and current Marlin Jeff Conine is opening a restaurant, Conine's Clubhouse Grill, in Broward County, Fla., in mid-August. Niner's diner will feature an 18-ounce rib-eye steak, the size in honor of his uniform No. 18. ... The New York Mets' Aaron Heilman, a 26-year-old right-handed middle reliever/spot starter, has become a hot trade commodity.

League notebooks are compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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