Sunday Notes: Ambidextrous Cowgill, Lawrie’s Knuckler, Aussie Oriole, more

Collin Cowgill might be the most ambidextrous person in MLB. Currently playing for Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers, Cowgill explained his handedness as follows:

“I throw left-handed, hit right-handed, dribble a basketball right-handed, shoot a basketball left-handed. If I was going to dunk, I would dunk right-handed. I shoot darts left-handed. I golf right-handed. I bowl left-handed. I write and eat right-handed. I shoot pool left-handed. I kick right-footed. If I was going to punch you, I’d punch you right-handed.

The 30-year-old outfielder has done all of this naturally, for as long as he can remember. The first time he was handed a ball, he threw it left-handed. The first time he stepped in a batter’s box, it was right-handed. He tried switch-hitting at one point, but realized he was better from the right side and stuck with that.

Hand dominance at the dish is another area in which he’s different.

“I’ve had a million hitting coaches tell me I’m left-hand dominant,” said Cowgill. “But I’m not. I’m much more top-hand dominant than I am bottom-hand dominant. I don’t know why. My swing is just my swing. It’s been the same for a long time, just like everything else.”


The Toronto Blue Jays put a pair of infielders on the mound in their 2-1 loss to Cleveland on Canada Day. Ryan Goins escaped a bases-loaded jam in the 18th inning. Darwin Barney gave up a game-deciding home run in the 19th inning.

Barney threw predominantly fastballs, at an average speed of 85.6 mph. Goins got an inning-ending double play on a pitch he described as “more of an eeephus.”

Had the Blue Jays not sent him to Oakland in the Josh Donaldson deal — no, they wouldn’t want a do-over on that one — Brett Lawrie would have been a good pitching option. He would have featured a knuckleball.

“I’ve thrown one ever since I was young,” explained Lawrie, who is now with the White Sox. “I pitched until I was about 15 or 16 years old and a knuckleball was one of the pitches in my arsenal. I threw a bunch of them in games.”

As do many position players, Lawrie likes to “mess around and have fun” with the pitch when he’s playing catch. He throws it hard. “It’s not a floater,” he told me. “I could probably throw it right around 80.”

Would he like to take his knuckleball to a big-league mound someday?

“I think it would be cool,“ said Lawrie. “I’ve never (volunteered) to pitch, but if it ever came upon itself, I’d like to do it. I’d mix my pitches, but there would be some knuckleballs in there.”


Alex Wells is half of an out-of-the-ordinary story. The 19-year-old native of New South Wales, Australia is a left-handed pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles organization. His identical twin brother, Lachlan Wells, is a left-handed pitcher in the Minnesota Twins organization. Each is bespectacled and gave up cricket for baseball, ultimately on another continent.

“There’s not really much to know about me as a baseball player,” responded Alex Wells when I asked him about his game. “I just get in there and get my job done, and then get out. That’s basically it.”

There’s more to it, of course. Wells isn’t overpowering — he tops out at 91 — but he does show a good feel for pitching. In three starts for the short-season Aberdeen IronBirds, he’s allowed three runs in 18 innings. He’s fanned 13 and walked just one.

The Wells brothers were nine years old when they became enamored by baseball. They saw a game on TV and “Started playing straightaway.” Alex considers baseball “a little tougher to play” than cricket, and the reason might surprise you.

“The crowd is right on top of you,” he told me. “With cricket, they’re out there; it’s about sixty meters to the fans. Here, you have to try to shut out the crowd if they’re hassling you. Sometimes I feed off it — I enjoy a bit of the crowd giving it to me — but most of the time I try to shut it off and focus on the glove.”

Culture shock is inevitable when you move halfway across the world as a teenager. Wells isn’t daunted by his new environs, but he misses Down Under.

“It’s a big change to be here and not in Australia,” said Wells. “I’m enjoying it, but Australia is a nice country. You can’t beat home.”


The subject of pitchers participating in the Home Run Derby came up when Buck Showalter met with the media during a recent game. The Orioles manager didn’t sound overly enthused about any of his own guys doing it, but injury risk wasn’t necessarily a primary concern.

“You can get hurt in the parking lot,” said Showalter. “I almost went down for the count getting out of the shower today. I mean, sometimes we get so… It’s about making the game fun again, right?’


The Modesto Nuts had perhaps the most-bizarre defensive game of the year, for any team, at any level, on Friday night. Colorado’s high-A team committed eight errors and a passed ball. They also picked a runner off first base and had two outfield assists, one of them at first base. Modesto lost to Bakersfield (Mariners) 16-7.


The Pawtucket Red Sox played the Rochester Red Wings this past week, and Boston’s Triple-A manager was impressed. According to Kevin Boles, Minnesota’s top farm club “is loaded with talent.” Uber-prospect Byron Buxton is no longer there — he’s been with the big-league clubs since Memorial Day— but Boles saw a lot that he liked.

“They have guys who have a chance to be stars,” said Boles. “The lineup we saw the last couple of days is probably the best International League lineup we’ve seen in three years. They had Miguel Sano on major-league rehab. Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Kennys Vargas, Adam Walker. I mean, there’s one right after the other.”


Boles told a good story about Mike Miller’s first big-league call-up, which the 26-year-old infielder learned about on the bus ride to Rochester. It was nearing midnight, and Miller had just been complaining about how he was running out of gigabytes on his cell phone. Little did he know he’d be catching an early-morning flight out of Rochester to join the Red Sox in Tampa.

“He’s sitting across the way, one seat back,” said Boles. “It’s getting late and we know he’s going, but I can’t say it on the bus because then the bus will erupt. We’re trying to keep it quiet, because there are still corresponding moves that have to made at the major-league level. I decided to be a smart-ass and send him an email to run up his gigs.

“The first email was: ‘Keep quiet. No reaction. Nothing.’ He’s sitting there and kind of looks at me. The next one I sent was his flight itinerary. He’s scrolling down and then looks at me and mouths ‘Are you serious?’ I nodded.

“The look he had when he was scrolling his itinerary was awesome. His eyes were wide open and I could see teeth. Then he kind of just put his head back. I thought he was going to start crying. It looked like was getting emotional.

“I was laughing to myself about he was complaining about running out of data, and tomorrow he was going to be able to buy six phones with a ton of data.”


I had a poor cell phone connection when I interviewed Tigers pitching prospect Beau Burrows a few weeks ago. The 19-year-old right-hander — Detroit’s first-round pick last year — was at his home ballpark in West Michigan as I struggled to catch as many of his words as possible.

While part of our conversation was too fuzzy to transcribe, I did catch his observations on pro ball versus high school ball.

“There’s definitely a lot more baseball,” Burrows told me. “Once you’re drafted, it’s baseball, baseball, baseball. That hasn’t been a surprise. I had some buddies in pro baseball, and coaches who have gone through it, so I knew it would be a grind, an everyday thing.”

Also captured was his answer to my question about pitch counts and whether he was overextended as a Texas prep.

“I always want to go out there and throw the whole game, but that’s not how things work nowadays,” said Burrows. “I’m OK with how I’m being used here… In high school, I threw about 100 pitches a game, once a week. Our coaches monitored us really well.”

Burrows has worked 58 innings over 12 appearances this season for the low-A Whitecaps. His ERA stands at 2.79.


The Cleveland Indians lead the American League Central with a record of 49-31. They rank dead last among the 30 teams in attendance, having attracted just 16,656 fans per home game this season.

The crowds were even smaller when I visited Progressive Field for three games in early May. The Cavaliers were in the playoffs at the time — it’s understandable that LeBron and Co. were the focus of attention — but even so, the weather was great and division rivals Detroit and Kansas City were the opposition.

Attendance was announced at 8,766 for one of the games, and that was generous. It looked like there were perhaps half that many occupying seats. Afterward, I asked Tigers manager Brad Ausmus if playing in front of such a sparse crowd saps a team’s energy level.

“Fans, without a doubt, contribute to the energy of a baseball game,” answered Ausmus. “(But) a lot of times the energy in the dugout is directly related to what’s happening on the field.”

A measured response to a difficult question. Criticizing attendance, be it home or way, is dangerous territory (right, Chris Perez?). The truth can hurt, and truth be told, attendance at Progressive Field has been abysmal. Given the quality of both the team and the venue, it shouldn’t be.



Over at the Sporting News, Ryan Fagan compared the Save America’s Pastime Act to Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Earlier in the week, ESPN’s Keith Law wrote about the Mets’ decision to sign Jose Reyes, suggesting that to them, “winning one more game is more important than taking a stand on domestic violence.”

Also at ESPN, Robert Sanchez talked to Marcus Stroman about his struggles.

At CBS Sports, Jonah Keri took a look at the Baltimore blueprint.

Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register wrote about Andrew Heaney undergoing Tommy John surgery after stem-cell treatment failed to revive his UCL.

Danny Schmidt of the Marin Independent Journal wrote about how Justine Siegel will manage the San Rafael Pacifics against the Sonoma Stompers later this week.


Madison Bumgarner has thrown 1,814 pitches this year, the most in either league. Max Scherzer, who ranks third with 1,782, has thrown the most strikes, 1,217. Brandon Finnegan, who ranks 24th with 1,632 pitches, has thrown the most balls, 662.

On Thursday, former Red Sox and Cubs right-hander Michael Bowden threw the 13th no-hitter in the Korea Baseball Organization history. Pitching for the Doosan Bears, Bowden beat the NC Dinos 4-0, in Seoul.

In 1922, in his fifth big-league appearance, Charlie Robertson threw a perfect game against the Tigers. The White Sox righty finished his career with a record of 49-80.

In 1906, Boston Americans right-hander Joe Harris went 2-21 with a 3.52 ERA. He finished his career with a record of 3-30 and a 3.35 ERA.

Charlie Hough threw two complete-game one-hitters with the Texas Rangers and lost both of them. On June 16, 1986 he lost 2-1 to the Angels. On August15, 1989, he lost 2-0 to the Mariners.

In 1968, nine runners attempted to steal with Luis Tiant on the mound. All nine were thrown out. “El Tiante” went 21-9 for the Indians that year with an AL-best 1.60 ERA.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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7 years ago

The Sunday Notes are always one of my favorite columns here at Fangraphs, but this one especially sticks out to me — great timing with the Wells piece, as I am currently on vacation in Sydney, NSW. Interestingly, I was talking with a woman here the other day who said she was trying to get her two young sons to switch from cricket to baseball. Especially with Kieran Powell’s somewhat hyped (albeit possibly failed) switch, I wonder if more youths in Australia will steer toward baseball in the coming years.