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Ravens vs. Dolphins scouting report for Week 2: Who has the edge?

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Ravens Vs. Dolphins Scouting Report For Week 2: Who Has The Edge?
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The Ravens never could figure out the Dolphins’ blitz-heavy defense last year as they suffered a 22-10 upset in Miami. Lamar Jackson will try to make Miami pay for its dares this time around while a revamped Ravens secondary faces the dynamic receiving duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Here’s who has the edge in each phase of the game:

Ravens passing game vs. Dolphins pass defense

Lamar Jackson needed almost two quarters to get rolling in the Ravens’ 24-9 opening victory over the New York Jets, but once he did, he resembled the quarterback who punished defenses by throwing over the top in the early weeks of last season. Jackson completed just 17 of 30 passes and threw an interception in garbage time, but he led all quarterbacks in air yards per attempt in Week 1, and his aggression paid off with a pair of touchdown passes to Devin Duvernay and a 55-yard score to Rashod Bateman.

The Ravens had hoped one of their incumbent receivers would step forward as a running mate for Bateman, and Duvernay did just that, catching all four passes thrown his way. All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews had a quiet game by his standards (5 catches on 7 targets, 52 yards) but remains Jackson’s top target. Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely struggled in his debut, catching zero passes on four targets and setting the Ravens back with a holding penalty. Jackson’s line did a solid job protecting him against the Jets but suffered another setback when left tackle Ja’Wuan James tore his Achilles tendon in the second quarter. Patrick Mekari, a dependable pass blocker, will fill in while they await the return of 2019 All-Pro Ronnie Stanley (ankle). The Ravens will face a sterner test than they did against the Jets.

The Dolphins tormented them with blitzes, real and feigned, in an upset last season. Jackson took four sacks and threw an interception in that loss as the Ravens failed to score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. Miami changed coaches but retained defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, so the Ravens can expect more of the same. The Dolphins ranked second in the league in blitz percentage last season, and they trust cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Nik Needham to press on the outside. Jackson will have to beat them with big plays to achieve a different result this time around. The Dolphins, led by Christian Wilkins and Emmanuel Ogbah upfront, will bring pressure from every angle to try to rattle him.

EDGE: Dolphins

Dolphins passing game vs. Ravens pass defense

There aren’t many players more divisive than Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who played efficiently (23 of 33, 270 yards, 1 touchdown) in the Dolphins’ 20-7 opening win over the New England Patriots. New coach Mike McDaniel seems determined to play to Tagovailoa’s strengths, asking him to connect with wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on timing routes that can turn into bigger plays. He was 10th in air yards per attempt in Week 1 after ranking 29th last season.

Hill, the former Kansas City Chiefs star who caught eight passes on 12 targets in his Miami debut after the Dolphins traded for him in the offseason, remains one of the most dynamic playmakers in football. Waddle caught 104 passes on 140 targets as a rookie in 2021, and though he averaged just 9.8 yards per catch, he punished the Patriots with a 42-yard touchdown in Week 1. Tagovailoa also likes to target Chase Edmonds out of the backfield. Miami could be without starting right tackle Austin Jackson (ankle), and left tackle Terron Armstead (toe) also missed practice Wednesday.

The Dolphins will try to keep their momentum going against a Ravens pass defense that appeared rejuvenated against the Jets. The front seven dominated, with Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh combining for 11 pressures off the edges and Justin Madubuike and Michael Pierce creating relentless push from the interior. Safety Marcus Williams celebrated his Ravens debut with a team-high 12 tackles and an interception, while Chuck Clark, freed up to play closer to the line of scrimmage, made nine tackles and forced a fumble.

The team’s secondary depth took a hit when veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller tore his ACL late in the game, but the Ravens could fill that hole and then some if former All-Pro Marcus Peters (knee) returns against Miami. Second-year cornerback Brandon Stephens will also be asked to do more. Regardless of who plays, the Ravens’ defensive backs and linebacker Patrick Queen, who played every down against the Jets, will have their hands full with Hill and Waddle.

EDGE: Ravens

Ravens running game vs. Dolphins run defense

The Jets went all out to stop the Ravens on the ground, and the bad news for offensive coordinator Greg Roman was that they succeeded. The Ravens, using recently signed Kenyan Drake as their primary ball carrier, ran for 63 yards on 21 attempts, their second-worst rushing performance of the Jackson era. Drake did not have much room to work with as missed assignments and subpar run-blocking performances from most of the team’s offensive linemen (rookie center Tyler Linderbaum shined in this area) added up to a bleak picture. Jackson, still the team’s top running threat in a pinch, carried just six times for 17 yards, with his biggest gain coming on a scramble rather than a designed run. J.K. Dobbins, the team’s No. 1 running back when healthy, has said he hopes to play against Miami.

The Dolphins’ aggressive play stifled the Ravens’ run game last year, and they held the Patriots to 78 yards on 22 attempts in Week 1. Former Raven Zach Sieler has grown into the top interior run defender for a productive front seven. With Boyer’s defense crowding the line of scrimmage, this will not be an easy week for the Ravens to get their ground attack on track.

EDGE: Even

Dolphins running game vs. Ravens run defense

The Dolphins are a pass-first team. Edmonds carried just 12 times for 25 yards against the Patriots, and Tagovailoa is not much of a scrambling threat.

Despite strong performances from Pierce, Madubuike and Broderick Washington, the Ravens gave up more double-digit runs than they would have liked against the Jets. Running backs Breece Hall and Michael Carter combined for 83 yards on just 16 carries. Veterans Josh Bynes and Calais Campbell, both key to the Ravens’ No. 1 run defense in 2021, played below their standards.

EDGE: Ravens

Ravens special teams vs. Dolphins special teams

The Ravens finished first in Football Outsiders’ special-teams DVOA in 2021, and they thoroughly outplayed the No. 2 team from last year, the Jets, in Week 1. All-Pro Justin Tucker made his only field-goal attempt, and rookie Jordan Stout punted well in his debut, putting three of his six kicks inside the New York 20-yard line.

The Dolphins finished 29th in special-teams DVOA last season, struggling in most areas. Kicker Jason Sanders made both of his field-goal attempts against the Patriots after hitting on just 23 of 31 in 2021. Former Raven Raheem Mostert was a dangerous kickoff returner early in his career, so perhaps he can give the Dolphins a jolt.

EDGE: Ravens

Ravens intangibles vs. Dolphins intangibles

The Dolphins won eight of their last nine games in 2021 and beat the Patriots decisively in their opener, so they will come to Baltimore a confident team, especially given their defensive performance against the Ravens last November. It’s too early to know much about McDaniel as a coach, but he’s a respected offensive mind.

The Ravens probably felt some relief when they handled the Jets in Week 1 after losing their last six games in 2021, but they know the Dolphins will test them more aggressively in areas where they faltered down the stretch last year. Jackson will not want to live through another rough game against a blitz-happy opponent. The Ravens still aren’t fully healthy as they wait for Peters, Dobbins, Stanley and other reinforcements to bolster their cause.

EDGE: Dolphins

Prediction

This is the Ravens’ first real test of 2022, against a team that gave them fits in November. The Dolphins will attack from every angle at the line of scrimmage and dare Jackson to beat them over the top. Meanwhile, they’ll count on Hill and Waddle to run wild against a revamped Baltimore secondary. This would be an easier call if the Ravens had all their key players, but Jackson will hit on enough downfield throws to pull them through at home. Ravens 24, Dolphins 20

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Dolphins‘ Tua Tagovailoa expected to play against Bengals, along with Terron Armstead, Jaylen Waddle

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Dolphins‘ Tua Tagovailoa Expected To Play Against Bengals, Along With Terron Armstead, Jaylen Waddle
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It was leaning in this direction as the short week progressed for the Miami Dolphins. Now, it is reportedly indeed happening.

Tagovailoa, officially listed as questionable for Miami entering Thursday for the night game in Cincinnati, is ready to go and expected to play against the Bengals, along with wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and left tackle Terron Armstead, according to NFL Network.

Tagovailoa was recovering from back and ankle injuries in the three days between Sunday’s 21-19 win over the Buffalo Bills and Thursday as Dolphins players rested on Monday and held walkthroughs on Tuesday in Miami and Wednesday in Cincinnati.

A head injury was originally thought to be the issue for Tagovailoa after he was knocked back on a late hit by Bills linebacker Matt Milano in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. Banging the back of his head on the turf in a whiplash effect, Tagovailoa stumbled after getting up.

He was escorted to the locker room after getting checked on the field, and Tagovailoa returned for the second half after clearing concussion protocol. Finishing 13 of 18 for 186 yards and a touchdown in the win, both Tagovailoa and coach Mike McDaniel said it was not a head injury, as the team announced during the game, but actually a back injury that originated on an earlier quarterback sneak and was exacerbated by Milano’s push that landed Tagovailoa on his back. The ankle aspect of Tagovailoa’s injury concern was learned on Monday, but Tagovailoa said Tuesday the back remained the greater issue.

He said what he was feeling in his back was affecting every twist and turn he needs to make to function as a quarterback, whether it’s handoffs, pitches or forward passes.

Nonetheless, Tagovailoa responded, “that’s the plan,” when asked on Tuesday if he expects to play. McDaniel expressed similar optimism from conversations he had with the quarterback.

Tagovailoa’s availability means he will get to face Bengals signal-caller Joe Burrow. The two third-year quarterbacks face off for the first time in the NFL and first since their epic college showdown between Alabama and LSU in 2019. Burrow was out injured when the Bengals and Dolphins met in their rookie seasons.

Armstead is set to start again while nursing a toe injury in the opener against the New England Patriots. Waddle popped up on the injury report on the short week, dealing with a groin injury.

Paramount among Miami’s four other players entering the prime-time game with questionable designations is cornerback Xavien Howard‘s status due to groin and glute ailments. The Dolphins also have wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. (ribs/toe), safety Brandon Jones (chest) and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (knee) as questionable on Thursday.

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NFL Week 4 Thursday Bettors Guide: Too many Tua Tagovailoa questions

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Nfl Week 4 Thursday Bettors Guide: Too Many Tua Tagovailoa Questions
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DOLPHINS at BENGALS

8:15 p.m., Bengals by 3 1/2, 47

HANK’S HONEYS: The Dolphins figure to be a bit too full of themselves after defeating the shorthanded Bills in that incredible game last week. They probably could use a few more days to get over it, and, more importantly to give Tua Tagovailoa more time to nurse his back injury. If Tua can’t go or is limited, there isn’t a lot of balance in what has been an exclusively big-play offense. Miami’s backs are averaging only 3.3 yards per carry.

The Bengals finally got off the schneid against the Jets, giving Joe Burrow the time he needed to play a clean game. Miami has only six sacks on the season and will not be able to exploit Cincy’s pass protection as the Steelers and Cowboys did. With the Fins allowing opposing QBs to complete 68% of their passes, Burrow has enough weapons around him to keep the chains moving and wear down a Dolphin defense that was on the field for over 40 minutes four days earlier. It would be wise to hold off on betting the total until Tagovailoa’s status is ascertained. If he’s out, lean toward the under.

IF I WERE A BETTING MAN: Bengals and the under.

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Yankees’ Aaron Judge Gives His Mom A Baseball Record: ‘She’s Been With Me Through It All’

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Yankees' Aaron Judge Gives His Mom A Baseball Record: 'She'S Been With Me Through It All'
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Aaron Judge finally tied Roger Maris’ home run on Wednesday night and managed to return the ball to his mother, Patty.

Patty was with Roger Maris Jr. throughout the home run chase waiting for her son to finally hit the home run that tied the game. Judge did it in the middle of a 3-3 game and put the New York Yankees above the Toronto Blue Jays. New York would win the game 8-3.

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New York Yankees No. 99 Aaron Judge stands with his mother, Patty, after beating the Toronto Blue Jays and tying Roger Maris AL’s home run record at Rogers Center on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022 in Toronto.
(Photos by Thomas Skrlj/MLB via Getty Images)

According to MLB.com, Yankees reliever Zack Britton has negotiated a trade for baseball. He was picked up first by Blue Jays pitching coach Matt Buschmann and given to reliever Jordan Romano.

“She’s been with me through it all,” Judge said. “From the days of Little League, getting ready for school, taking me to my first practices and games, being there for my first professional game, my debut and now having the chance to be here for this – c It’s something special, and we’re not done yet.”

ROGER MARIS JR. MLB BLASTS, SAYS AARON JUDGE POTENTIAL 62ND HOME RUN SHOULD BE SINGLE-SEASON RECORD

Maris Jr. and Patty Judge hugged after the home run and met the outfielder after the game was over.

New York Yankees No. 99 Aaron Judge Hugs His Mother, Patty, After Defeating The Toronto Blue Jays And Tying Roger Maris Al's Home Run Record At Rogers Center On Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022 In Toronto.

New York Yankees No. 99 Aaron Judge hugs his mother, Patty, after defeating the Toronto Blue Jays and tying Roger Maris AL’s home run record at Rogers Center on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022 in Toronto.
(Photos by Thomas Skrlj/MLB via Getty Images)

“To sit at 60 for a while there with ‘The Babe’ was nice. To have the chance to sit at 61 now with another Yankee right fielder who hit 61 homers, [won] MVP, world champions, that’s pretty cool,” he said.

Judge is the sixth player to hit at least 60 home runs in a season and is now aiming for the American League Triple Crown. He leads the American League in RBI (130) and batting average (.313).

The judge could pass Maris in future games and could even potentially surpass Sammy Sosa’s 63 home run mark set in 1999 and his 64 home run mark in 2001.

Aaron Judge, No. 99 Of The New York Yankees, Kisses His Mother.

Aaron Judge, No. 99 of the New York Yankees, kisses his mother.
(Photos by Thomas Skrlj/MLB via Getty Images)

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New York opens a series with the Baltimore Orioles on Friday.

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People trapped, 2.5M without power as Ian drenches Florida

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People Trapped, 2.5M Without Power As Ian Drenches Florida
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Hurricane Ian left a path of destruction in southwest Florida, trapping people in flooded homes, cutting off the only bridge to a barrier island, damaging the roof of a hospital intensive care unit and knocking out power to 2.5 million people as it dumped rain across the peninsula on Thursday.

One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States threatened catastrophic flooding around the state. Ian’s tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 415 miles, drenching much of Florida and the southeastern Atlantic coast.

Emergency crews sawed through toppled trees to reach people in flooded homes, but with no electricity and virtually no cell service, it was impossible for many people to call for help from the hardest hit coastal areas where the surge came in.

“Portable towers are on the way for cell service. Chances are your loved ones do not have ability to contact you,” said the sheriff’s office in Collier County, which includes Naples. “We can tell you as daylight reveals the aftermath, it’s going to be a hard day.”

In Lee County, which includes Fort Myers, just south of where Hurricane Ian made landfall, the sheriff’s Office posted a phone number family and friends can call for welfare checks, and said “If the line is busy, keep trying.”

The National Hurricane Center said Ian became a tropical storm over land early Thursday and was expected to regain near-hurricane strength after emerging over Atlantic waters near the Kennedy Space Center later in the day, with South Carolina in its sights for a second U.S. landfall.

A stretch of the Gulf Coast remained inundated by ocean water, pushed ashore by the massive storm. “Severe and life-threatening storm surge inundation of 8 to 10 feet above ground level along with destructive waves is ongoing along the southwest Florida coastline from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor,” the Miami-based hurricane center said.

A chunk of the Sanibel Causeway fell into the sea, cutting off access to the barrier island where 6,300 people normally live. How many heeded mandatory evacuation orders was impossible to know in the storm’s immediate aftermath.

In Port Charlotte, the storm surge flooded a hospital’s emergency room even as fierce winds ripped away part of the roof from its intensive care unit, according to a doctor who works there.

Water gushed down onto the ICU, forcing them to evacuate their sickest patients — some on ventilators — to other floors, said Dr. Birgit Bodine of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. Staff members used towels and plastic bins to try to mop up the sodden mess.

The medium-sized hospital spans four floors, but patients crowded into two because of the damage, and more were expected with people injured from the storm needing help.

“As long as our patients do OK and nobody ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that’s what matters,” Bodine said.

Law enforcement officials in nearby Fort Myers received calls from people trapped in flooded homes or from worried relatives. Pleas were also posted on social media sites, some with video showing debris-covered water sloshing toward the eaves of their homes.

Brittany Hailer, a journalist in Pittsburgh, contacted rescuers about her mother in North Fort Myers, whose home was swamped by 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water.

“We don’t know when the water’s going to go down. We don’t know how they’re going to leave, their cars are totaled,” Hailer said. “Her only way out is on a boat.”

Hurricane Ian turned streets into rivers and blew down trees as it slammed into southwest Florida on Wednesday with 150 mph (241 kph) winds, pushing a wall of storm surge. Ian’s strength at landfall was Category 4, tying it for the fifth-strongest hurricane, when measured by wind speed, ever to strike the U.S.

Ian’s center came ashore more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Tampa and St. Petersburg, sparing the densely populated Tampa Bay area from its first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

Ian dropped to a tropical storm early Thursday over land, but was expected to intensify again once its center moves over the Atlantic Ocean and menace the South Carolina coast Friday at near-hurricane strength before moving inland.

At 5 a.m. Thursday, the storm was about 40 miles (70 km) southeast of Orlando and 35 miles (55 kilometers) southwest of Cape Canaveral, carrying maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) and moving toward the cape at 8 mph (13 kmh), the center said.

Hurricane warnings were lowered to tropical storm warnings across the Florida peninsula, with widespread, catastrophic flooding remaining likely, the hurricane center said. Storm surges as high as 6 feet (2 meters) were still forecast for both coasts.

“It doesn’t matter what the intensity of the storm is. We’re still expecting quite a bit of rainfall,” Robbie Berg, senior hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain forecast for parts of Northeast Florida, coastal Georgia and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. As much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) could fall in southern Virginia as the storm moves inland over the Carolinas, and the center said landslides were possible in the southern Appalachian mountains.

No deaths were reported in the United States from Ian by late Wednesday. But a boat carrying Cuban migrants sank Wednesday in stormy weather east of Key West.

The U.S. Coast Guard initiated a search and rescue mission for 23 people and managed to find three survivors about two miles (three kilometers) south of the Florida Keys, officials said. Four other Cubans swam to Stock Island, just east of Key West, the U.S. Border Patrol said. Air crews continued to search for possibly 20 remaining migrants.

The storm previously tore into Cuba, killing two people and bringing down the country’s electrical grid.

The hurricane’s eye made landfall near Cayo Costa, a barrier island just west of heavily populated Fort Myers. As it approached, water drained from Tampa Bay.

More than 2.5 million Florida homes and businesses were left without electricity, according to the PowerOutage.us site. Most of the homes and businesses in 12 counties were without power.

Sheriff Bull Prummell of Charlotte County, just north of Fort Myers, announced a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. “for life-saving purposes,” saying violators may face second-degree misdemeanor charges.

“I am enacting this curfew as a means of protecting the people and property of Charlotte County,” Prummell said.

Life-threatening storm surges and hurricane conditions were possible on Thursday and Friday along the coasts of northeast Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, where Ian was expected to move inland, dumping more rain well in from the coast, the hurricane center said.

The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia all preemptively declared states of emergency.

___

Associated Press contributors include Christina Mesquita in Havana, Cuba; Cody Jackson and Adriana Gomez Licon in Tampa, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Florida; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; Seth Borenstein and Aamer Madhani in Washington; Bobby Caina Calvan in New York; Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, and Alina Hartounian in Phoenix, Arizona.

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ForexLive European FX news wrap: Dollar finds footing, bonds on edge

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Us Federal Budget Deficit For August 220 Billion Against 213.5 Billion Expected
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Securities:

Markets:

  • USD leads, CAD lags the day
  • European equities down; S&P 500 futures down 0.7%
  • US 10-year rates up 12 basis points to 3.825%
  • Gold down 0.6% to $1,650.23
  • WTI Crude up 0.3% to $82.38
  • Bitcoin down 0.5% to $19,467

After a broad relief in the markets yesterday, we are seeing a return to old habits, with bonds selling off a bit as the dollar rises and equities fall. British Prime Minister Liz Truss came out to defend the government’s policy plans and pushed back on any suggestion of a budget reversal.

Despite some nervous ticking upwards in bond yields, 30-year gilt yields moved little around 3.93% on the day. However, there is a noticeable sell-off in Treasuries across the curve with 2-year yields up 11 basis points to 4.20% and 10-year yields up 12 basis points to 3, 82%.

That kept pressure on stocks, with US futures pushing lower after a strong rebound yesterday. S&P 500 futures are down 0.7% while European indices are also coming under downward pressure, with German inflation expected to top 10% in September.

The dollar remains in a decent position, recouping yesterday’s losses as GBP/USD was pushed down 1% to 1.0765 initially before paring that loss and holding levels around 1.0840 -70 at the moment.

USD/JPY continues to hold momentum just below 145.00 as buyers slowly target the level again despite intervention fears. Meanwhile, EUR/USD was initially dragged to a low of 0.9635 before holding at its 100 hourly moving average and now bouncing back to almost unchanged levels at 0.9730.

Commodity currencies continue to remain under pressure with USD/CAD up 0.4% at 1.3660, albeit far from previous highs of 1.3755. Next, AUD/USD is down 0.3% to 0.6500, but has at least cleared its previous low also at 0.6435 as the USD pulls back a bit.

A report of potential PBOC intervention is also something to consider, taking away some of the dollar tailwind with month-end trading also in focus.

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After overcoming physical and mental hurdles, Chicago Cubs prospect Ben Brown sets his sights on greatness: ‘I’m not looking to just skate by’

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After Overcoming Physical And Mental Hurdles, Chicago Cubs Prospect Ben Brown Sets His Sights On Greatness: ‘I’m Not Looking To Just Skate By’
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Ben Brown knows it might sound crazy.

The 6-foot-6 right-hander is earnest, though, in his belief that Tommy John surgery was the best thing for his career— beyond the physical necessity to repair his ulnar collateral ligament in 2019. The procedure transformed him. Brown took it as an opportunity to make everything he did competitive, from his diet to his workout routine, all before he could starting throwing a baseball again.

His mantra through the rehab grind, from his dad, Jody: Nothing extraordinary comes out of ordinary effort.

Brown was determined to not let the lengthy recovery derail him.

“I put everything I could have into that rehab,” he told the Tribune. “And it took a while, but I think eventually I started to reap the benefits of that.”

Brown’s maturation and breakout season in the Philadelphia Phillies organization put him on the Chicago Cubs’ radar ahead of the trade deadline. The Cubs acquired him Aug. 2 for veteran reliever David Robertson, adding another promising young pitcher to their minor-league system. After joining the Cubs, Brown, who turned 23 on Sept. 9, finished with a 4.06 ERA, 32.1 K%, 9.5 BB% and 31 innings in seven starts at Double-A Tennessee, his first time pitching at that level.

Brown, ranked the Cubs’ No. 7 prospect by MLB.com and No. 11 from Baseball America, started his career by being drafted in a round that no longer exists.

“I prepared myself to make the most out of every opportunity I was given,” Brown said. “I was very lucky to be given a lot of opportunities from the Phillies and once I started showing them that I had pretty good stuff I kind of ran with it. I was no longer a 33rd rounder. I became a guy who can pitch a little bit.”

Between losing most of 2019 to Tommy John surgery and the pandemic canceling the 2020 minor-league year, Brown entered this season looking to gain valuable experience. Between the Phillies and Cubs, he threw 104 innings in 2022, more than his first five pro seasons combined (99 ⅔). Brown jokes that coming into this season, he estimated he had more innings in the instructional league than at affiliates, calling himself an “instructional-league veteran.”

For the first time in his career, Brown has learned what it takes to get through a full six-month minor-league season. He incorporated important between-start bullpen work and worked to grind without his best stuff, something Brown wasn’t challenged by in shorter instructional-league or spring starts. He credits Brad Bergesen, his former High-A pitching coach with the Phillies, who endured injuries in his career and made it to the big leagues, for his “huge” role in monitoring his workload. That level of management carried over to the Cubs.

“It’s almost like I’ve got to remind myself every once in a while, this isn’t a three-week season anymore,” Brown said. “Like, this is a long haul. … It’s been a very collaborative group effort keeping me on the field.”

However, to get to this point ― including allowing one earned run over four innings Wednesday night in the decisive final game for the Smokies’ Southern League championship series — Brown needed to address the mental side of the game. It hit him after grinding through the pain, sadness and struggles of not being on the field because of Tommy John surgery and then losing another season to the pandemic.

“Oh, my gosh, I don’t know how to pitch.”

Brown recalled plenty of times in spring training and early this season when was a self-described “bonehead.”

“Like, I wouldn’t know what I’m doing, and I wouldn’t have the right approach,” Brown said. “And it was pretty embarrassing, honestly, to think I had some pretty good stuff, but I really didn’t know what I was doing mentally on the mound.”

In mid-May, an hour-and-a-half conversation with Phillies minor-league mental performance coach Brea Hapken and a 45-minute bullpen session with Bergesen got him on track. His season took off from there. Brown recorded a 2.93 ERA over his next 11 starts, allowing one run or less in eight of the outings until he was traded to the Cubs.

Heading into the season, Brown hadn’t considered whether he would be used as a trade chip by the Phillies. But as the August deadline approached, the right-hander understood the situation and realized he soon might be pitching for another organization.

“As I started to emerge in the Phillies system and knowing that a lot of our top prospects are first-rounders who are pretty unmovable, it looked like I was the odd man out sometimes,” Brown said. “Not in a bad way. I mean, I’m kind of getting later in my minor-league career. And so I was thinking about it and obviously hear things online and stuff like that. But when it happened, it definitely felt like I wasn’t expecting it.”

Since the trade, the Cubs have avoided implementing many changes, preferring to get eyes on Brown, build a relationship and figure out what works best for him. They let Brown focus on competing and working with Double-A pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea, who took him under his wing and made this an easy transition.

Beyond his overall numbers, Brown has thrived in tough spots. He has limited opposing hitters to a .190/.291/.261 slash line with runners on base compared with .241/.294/.405 splits with the bases empty. During the regular season, he allowed only one multirun homer in 179 plate appearances. Brown felt he struggled in that area early in the season, seemingly loading the bases in every start, “so I guess I just got pretty comfortable with it,” he joked.

“The mindset when a runner gets on second base or third base is it’s crunchtime and it doesn’t matter if it’s the first inning or the sixth inning — that guy’s not scoring,” Brown said. “I’m going to do whatever I can do to get some strikeouts here, and that’s really helped me out this year.”

Brown, who utilizes a fastball, curveball and slider, has been working on a changeup, though he limits its usage to between-start bullpen sessions.

“I have a lot of trust behind those three and it took me a very long time to have that kind of trust,” Brown said. “The slider itself was like something I really battled with in-season as far as pitch usage-wise. I was mostly fastball-curveball, and it took me months to really figure out the slider when I was with the Phillies. I don’t even think it’s where it needs to be right now.”

Casey Jacobson, Cubs coordinator of pitching development, is encouraged by the data and video on Brown’s changeup. He expects the organization will take a closer look at the pitch in the fall, but Jacobson believes the changeup is in a better place than previous seasons. Jacobson also expects the Cubs to tinker with Brown’s slider to try to add more glove-side movement.

“The one thing we’ll obviously want to be mindful of is he does have the ability to throw the slider for strikes at a pretty high rate and he does have pretty solid performance numbers with that,” Jacobson told the Tribune. “So it’s that risk-reward. We don’t want to take a step backward, but if we can make it slightly better and maybe give it a little bit better chance to be a true put-away to a right-handed hitter, we would explore that for sure.”

Brown plans to spend as much time as he can in the offseason in Arizona where he can use the Cubs’ resources at their complex in Mesa. He knows he must improve against left-handed hitters and wants to solidify a third pitch. To dominant in the big leagues, Brown understands that means taking the next step in his development.

He has already welcomed the first step of taking the Cubs’ suggestions.

“I do believe my stuff right now plays at the next level, but also I’m not looking to just skate by,” Brown said. “I want to make sure I have the best opportunity to do as well as I’m capable of doing.”

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