has been wearing the uniform of the Houston Astros for 20 seasons. This will be his last season to do so.
07/25/2007 10:26 AM ET
Biggio ready for next stage of life
The veteran second baseman announced Tuesday that he is retiring at the end of the season. His last game in a Major League uniform will be Sept. 30 against the Atlanta Braves in Houston, closing out a probable Hall of Fame career in which he will have more than 3,000 hits, 650 doubles, nearly 1,900 runs scored and almost 300 home runs.
"I love the game," Biggio told MLB.com. "I'm going to miss putting my feet in the spikes every day. I'm going to miss the dads coming up to you and thanking you for the way you played the game, the little kids coming up to you and asking for your autograph, seeing them smile and having a good time at the game. I'm going to miss all of that."
Biggio is a seven-time All-Star, making the team as both a catcher and second baseman, and won four Gold Gloves at second base. He also surpassed the 3,000-hit plateau earlier this season. While Biggio's wish of making the postseason will likely not come true this season, Biggio is satisfied with how everything else has gone this year.
"Retiring is not an easy thing to do," Biggio said. "But it's time. How many guys get the opportunity to do it the way they want to do it? You're pretty much writing your own story here, as far as walking away when you want to walk away. It's not taken away.
"It's just time. That hurts. But you hear bad stories sometimes that guys waited too long (to retire) and I don't want a bad taste in the fans' mouths that I played too long. Then they remember me on the down side, the bad side. It can't get any better than it has been this year.
"I'm going out on top. Other than a World Series, the (3,000th) hit thing was unbelievable. To me, I'm going out on top. It makes me feel great, being able to do it this way. And the fans can remember you on a positive note."
Biggio gave Houston fans another memory to store away Tuesday night. Facing the Los Angeles Dodgers, Biggio slugged a game-winning grand slam in the sixth inning, leading the Astros to a 7-4 victory. It was his second slam of the season and fourth of his career.
Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is an old-fashioned player.
Utley's hard work pays off: He spends time hitting off of a tee, watching video and studying the opposition. That commitment and attitude has placed him squarely among the top hitters in all of baseball, with a batting average of .334 through Tuesday night.
Utley has also already set a career high with 41 doubles, and has three triples, 17 home runs and 81 RBIs. As a result, his name has surfaced in MVP conversations.
"He studies and prepares for the game as much or more than any other hitter I've been around," manager Charlie Manuel told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He's off the charts with preparation. He has a tremendous memory. He's totally ready when the game starts. You'll never catch him not prepared. He knows all about the pitchers. He knows what they want to do."
Hitting coach Milt Thompson says that aside from his work ethic, Utley is just a great talent -- plain and simple.
"He's a great hitter," said Thompson. "You can analyze everything, but the bottom line is that the kid is just an unbelievable hitter. That's what it boils down to. He studies and stuff, but he's just a great talent. He just loves to hit, which is a good thing. When you love to hit and know how to hit, it makes it very simple."
Manuel has taken note of the way that Utley studies the game -- not only on video, but in the dugout as well.
"He'll say stuff during the game in the dugout, like when a pitcher comes in," said Manuel. "He'll say what he throws and what tendencies that he has. He's the one I notice. Those guys will be asking him."
Utley says there is a good reason he is so studious.
"You try to find tendencies," he said. "You try to figure out what approach he's going to take to you. Sometimes you're right. Sometimes you're wrong. There are plenty of times when you're wrong. But (video coordinator) Kevin (Camiscioli) does a good job getting [an opposing pitcher's] most recent starts. I watch those and see what his game plan is going to be. Like I said, sometimes it's a huge advantage. There are other times it can mess you up a little bit. But that's the chance you take.
"But I think video is a huge advantage, especially against the guys you've never faced before. It helps you get an idea of what it might look like. Every pitcher is a little different. Why would you not want to watch a guy or watch yourself?"
Thompson added that Utley is also careful to always give his all in every at-bat.
"The thing about Ut is that Ut never gives away at-bats," said Thompson. "He's always there. You rarely see him fooled. Even when a pitcher makes a tough pitch, he'll find a way to foul it off. That's what good hitters do."
The preparation, Utley concluded, is the key.
"Hitting is difficult, so if you have some kind of advantage, hopefully you'll be more successful," he said.
Delivery change has Morrow back on track: An adjustment to his delivery to minimize his hand movement may have Mariners rookie Brandon Morrow back on track. He pitched three scoreless innings in the first game of a doubleheader and did not allow a run Tuesday.
"I think the last few outings have been a lot better," Morrow told the Seattle Times. "My command was off before, but this time, I felt like I was throwing the ball where I wanted to. I felt good. I felt consistent."
In his last outing before Tuesday, Morrow struck out the side in the seventh inning on Sunday.
"He's done some fine work for us his past couple of times out," Mariners manager John McLaren said. "Those were some big innings he threw. It allowed us to keep our bullpen fresh, and that's always important when you're playing a doubleheader."
Backe's long road back gets closer to completion: After looking sharp during a simulated game Monday at Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros pitcher Brandon Backe appears to be on track to return to the team Sept. 1, just more than one year since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
"He threw very well," manager Phil Garner told MLB.com of Backe's 64-pitch performance. "He's where I expected him to be. I feel like he's been coming along very well. He felt strong and felt real good afterward.
"He's trying to ramp this up as much as he can like a real game. He's close to a point now where he needs to jump up and face real hitters."
Backe is scheduled to throw another simulated game Saturday and then begin a Minor League rehab stint. The plan is to get Backe six starts before activating him from the disabled list in September.
"He threw pretty good," Scott said. "His fastball had a lot of late movement on it, and his slider bit hard. He's got good stuff."
Cano on torrid pace: Robinson Cano is looking like the player who hit .342 with 15 home runs and 78 RBIs last season for the New York Yankees. The second baseman has been on fire the last week, raising his average from .271 to .294 entering Tuesday night's game against Kansas City.
Cano has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, going 20-for-40 during that span with two home runs and 11 RBIs. Named the American League co-Player of the Week, Cano was 11-for-18 with six RBIs during the team's series against Tampa Bay this past weekend.
"I'm doing the same things," told MLB.com. "I come out here and keep working hard every day. When you don't hit and don't do your job, you start thinking to figure out what's wrong. You don't have fun when you get no hits or do your job with men on base. It's different now."
Manager Joe Torre believes the turning point for Cano may have come on July 17, when he hit a game-winning single against Toronto.
"He got frustrated sometimes, and we talked to him a lot, about just not giving any at-bats away," Torre said. "He got very impatient for a period of time. I think the only thing that got him going was the result was starting to be different."
Torre believes Cano has a bright future ahead of him.
"This kid is pretty special," Torre said. "To play in this arena and to do as well as he has done, from where he started from and knowing the pressure that he's put himself under, and still managing to do what he's doing, I think he's got a lot of baseball ahead of him."
Tejada will return Friday vs. Yankees: Baltimore Orioles shortstop Migeul Tejada is set to come off of the disabled list after doctors cleared him to participate in full baseball activities earlier this week.
Tejada, barring any setbacks in his Minor League rehab assignment, is scheduled to join the Orioles on Friday against the Yankees in Baltimore.
"His goal, and it's been his goal, is to be ready and in uniform Friday night against the Yankees," interim manager Dave Trembley told the Baltimore Sun.
Tejada says he's feeling great and is excited to be on his way back.
"I've been feeling great the last two weeks, but it's more important for the doctors to say I'm fine," he said. "I don't have any pain. I'm feeling real excited to come back and play baseball."
Keppinger getting noticed in Cincy: Infielder Jeff Keppinger is making an impression in Cincinnati, and his strong hitting since being recalled on July 7 has resulted in an increase in playing time.
"He looks like he can hit a little bit," Reds manager Pete Mackanin told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He's probably our hottest hitter right now so I'm going to try and keep him in there and get as much offense as we can."
While in the International League, Keppinger led the league with a .368 batting average and was second in the league with an on-base percentage of .424. So far with the Reds, he's batting .314 with a home run and five RBIs.
"He's one of those guys that you can put in a lot of different places and count on him to give you a good at-bat," said Mackanin. "He does a lot of things well but nothing exceptionally well.
"That's the kind of guy that's nice for a manager to have that option -- in the event of a double switch, to fill in at those different places in the infield and even the outfield when you either need to give somebody a day off because they're tired or they're not hitting or he's swinging the bat extremely well."
-- Red Line Editorial