Jeff Niemann is quietly dominating hitters this season. The 6-foot-9 right-hander allowed only three hits in eight innings against the White Sox on Thursday night to push his record to 5-0 with a 2.37 ERA.

He has now thrown nine consecutive quality starts and in his last 34 starts, he is 16-3 with a 3.16 ERA.

"I felt it was at this point last year when we finally figured it out," Niemann told the St. Petersburg Times. "I was definitely skating on thin ice the first few weeks last year. I told myself all winter and coming into spring that I was just going to roll into this year what I did at the end of last year.

"I grew and changed so much as a pitcher, and you find out what works and won't work by experience."

Son's graduation important to Hunter: With the Angels' permission, Torii Hunter missed Tuesday's game to fly back to Arkansas to attend his son's high school graduation.

"I didn't tell him I was coming," Hunter told the Los Angeles Times. "He was shocked. When he saw me, he almost burst into tears. It was nice to see him walk across the stage [and get his diploma]."

Hunter planned to donate his salary from the missed game to charity.

"It was worth it," Hunter said. "I've been gone for a lot of the 18 years of his life. I never got the chance to hang out with him much. I missed a lot of his games. ... Whatever I made yesterday will go to a good cause."

It's a boy for Markakis: Nick Markakis' wife, Christina, gave birth to the family's second son, Tucker Edward, on Thursday. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 1 ounce.

"I wish them well, and congratulations to the Markakis family," Orioles manager Dave Trembley told MLB.com. "He'll join us tomorrow in Toronto."

No glasses, no problem for Cecil: John Buck was initially concerned when pitcher Brett Cecil forgot his glasses on a recently concluded road trip, but in two spec-less starts Cecil allowed just two earned runs over 13 2/3 innings.

"Maybe it's better for him to just rear back, squint and throw it at that blob in the distance," Buck told the Toronto Sun.

Butler gets rave reviews from Yost: Royals manager Ned Yost's appreciation for Billy Butler goes beyond his gaudy .348 batting average, five homers and 28 RBIs.

"I've been very impressed with Billy," manager Ned Yost told MLB.com. "But what impresses me more than anything is his consistency, day in and day out, with his approach and the way that he studies the game from the bench. I mean, he never takes his eye off the pitcher, he's always asking questions, he's always noticing things. He's got a great idea of what he's doing."

Stephen Drew taking better swings: Stephen Drew has not gone more than two games without a hit.

"I'm putting better swings on [the ball], you could say," Drew told the The Arizona Republic. "I'm just trying to get the pitch that you're looking for to drive and do damage with. That's what I'm trying to do."

Span's stolen bases on the rise: Denard Span already has 13 steals in 14 attempts this year, after stealing 23 bases in 2009. He credits first base coach Jerry White.

"Jerry White has been trying to get me to be more aggressive," Span told MLB.com. "That's one reason I've been more successful lately. And it's also just knowing who is on the mound, who is pitching and who is catching. It's about picking the right time to be aggressive."

Pence finding his groove at the plate: Hot-hitting Hunter Pence has moved into the third spot in the Astros' batting order.

Entering Thursday's game against Milwaukee, Pence was hitting .317 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in his last 15 games. He continued his torrid hitting on Thursday by going 3-for-5 with a run scored and two stolen bases.

"I feel like I'm putting together better at-bats, swinging at less balls," Pence told the Houston Chronicle. "Every day, I'm trying to get better, trying to learn from my mistakes and learn from my success."

Arroyo not afraid of a little superstition: When asked about pre-game superstitions earlier this week in a chat on MLB.com, Bronson Arroyo admitted that he indeed does have some. Sort of.

"I have hundreds, and I attribute a lot of my success to that," he said. "For me, it's more of a routine than a superstition."

Jose Reyes finding legs: Since returning from a thyroid problem, Jose Reyes is becoming more and more confident in his running ability.

"It's starting to come together now," Reyes told the New York Daily News. "Yeah, I feel good. Real good."

Reyes is looking in top form lately. Reyes has a five-game hitting streak and went 3-for-4 on Thursday night. During his streak, he is 12-for-23 (.521) with a double, triple, home run and three RBIs to go along with two steals.

Billy Wood big on history of Fenway: Billy Wood knows a bit about the history of the game, including Fenway Park, the home of this week's opponent, the Boston Red Sox.

"I like it just because of all the history, how long ago it was built [1912] and how many people have played here," the Kansas City rookie told MLB.com. "The new parks are nice, too, because it's like state-of-the-art, but I think most of the guys say this is their favorite park, their favorite place to play."

Chipper Jones takes over as walks leader in Atlanta: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Chipper Jones established the Braves' record for walks when he picked up two in Thursday night's win against the Marlins. Jones now has 1,378 walks, which puts him ahead of Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews on the club's all-time list.

Jones is 29th on Major League Baseball's all-time list, three behind Hall of Famer Tris Speaker.

Coke knows importance of confidence: Phil Coke knows confidence is one of the keys in baseball.

"It's a game based on failure," Coke told MLB.com. "You have to have some sort of confidence in yourself to do something, other than get shelled. But that's part of the game. It also becomes how quick you can bounce back from getting your teeth kicked down your throat. That, to me, is what baseball is all about."

-- Red Line Editorial