Springer's ex-catchers frame Bonds episode

NL Notebook

May 21, 2006|By COMPILED FROM INTERVIEWS AND OTHER NEWSPAPERS' REPORTS.

When he threw five consecutive pitches at or near Barry Bonds on Tuesday, Houston Astros reliever Russ Springer thrust himself into the baseball spotlight.

The 14-year veteran said his fifth pitch, which hit Bonds in the shoulder and resulted in Springer's being ejected, just "got away."

The reaction after the plunking was mixed - from a standing ovation by the Houston crowd to an irate San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou to a nonplused Bonds, who casually took first base.

In the Orioles' clubhouse the next day, two of Springer's former teammates and battery mates also had different reactions.

"I said, `Oh, my God,' " said Orioles reserve catcher Raul Chavez, who spent the previous two seasons with Springer in Houston.

Chavez said Springer is tough to catch at times because he has so much movement on his cut fastball and breaking pitches.

"We worked together a lot," Chavez said. "I don't think he would hit him on purpose."

Orioles designated hitter Javy Lopez caught Springer during the 1998 and 1999 seasons in Atlanta, and like Chavez, said Springer is a good guy with a laid-back demeanor.

Although Lopez said he hadn't seen Bonds' at-bat, he smiled when he told that Springer was warned after the first pitch that landed behind the controversial Giants slugger but continued to go inside until the plunking four pitches later.

"The one thing I know about him is he doesn't fear anybody," Lopez said of the 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander. "He's pretty much a guy who will hit anybody. It doesn't matter how big the guy is. But it does surprise me in a way that he would do that kind of thing to Bonds. But he definitely had his reasons and probably had the whole stadium and city behind him."

Chavez said he was taken aback by the Astros' fans' thunderous roar of approval after Bonds was hit.

"For me, the Houston fans are great fans," Chavez said. "I don't know what happened there."

Park's resurgence

San Diego Padres pitcher Chan Ho Park is having one of the best starts of his career. In nine games, including seven as a starter, Park is 2-1 with a 3.27 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings.

That's an impressive early rebound for a guy considered one of the biggest busts in baseball history after he signed a five-year, $65 million deal with Texas in 2001 and never posted an ERA of less than 5.46 with the Rangers.

The agent who landed him the deal, Scott Boras, said recently that the Rangers changed Park's workout regimen, causing an injury to his hamstring, which later affected the pitcher's back. He's finally healthy again in San Diego, Boras said.

By the way, Park, who will be 33 in June, is eligible to enter the free-agent market again after this season.

Quick hits

Chicago Cubs right fielder Jacque Jones has been doubled off second base three times this season ... Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne should begin a rehabilitation assignment this week. ... Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis is reading sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman's book, The Mental ABCs of Pitching.

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