Tag Archives: Steven Matz

NL East Division position comparison: bullpens

My evaluation of the National League East Division teams has moved on from the position players to a ranking of the pitching staffs of each ball club. I began earlier today with a look at the projected starting rotations. Now, the bullpens will undergo that same evaluation and ranking.

The performance and even the make up of Major League Baseball bullpens are extremely difficult to evaluate at this time of year. Many teams enter spring training with as many as half of their projected relief pitcher spots up for grabs. Injuries will also take their toll on the relievers, both in the spring and then during the season.

As I evaluate each club, I will list the handful of arms that I feel are most likely to be impactful for that team during the season. This will include the projected closer as well as any quality setup and match-up arms.

I will give mention during the team write-up to any pitchers who could begin the season in the bullpen, but who may ultimately end up impacting the rotation as starting pitchers due to injuries. In parentheses after their names you will find a designation for whether they are left- or right-handed.

Combine the starting pitching rankings from earlier today with these bullpen rankings, add them to the examinations of each of the other positions around the diamond which took place over the previous ten days, and you will get a good idea of where each team stands entering spring training.

Early next week, I will take a look at the managers, giving them that same evaluation and ranking treatment. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida on February 11, just 10 days from now, for the opening of Phillies spring training.

NL EAST – 2020 BULLPEN RANKINGS

  1. Atlanta Braves: Mark Melancon (R), Will Smith (L), Shane Greene (R), Sean Newcomb (L), Darren O’Day (R), Luke Jackson (R), Chris Martin (R), A.J. Minter (L), Touki Toussaint (R), Jacob Webb (R)

The two-time defending NL East Division champion Braves possess an embarrassment of pitching riches. That extends to their bullpen group. Smith is an especially solid addition as a southpaw, signing as  free agent back in November after two strong seasons in San Francisco, including an NL All-Star season a year ago. Right-hander Patrick Weigel could emerge from the minors this season to help out if needed. The Braves also have veteran Felix Hernandez and youngsters Kyle Wright Bryse Wilson competing for the fifth-starter job. Any or all of them could impact the bullpen if not being used in the rotation at the majors or at Triple-A. There is still more pitching depth nearly ready among their top prospect group. Atlanta appears to be well-insulated from any type of pitching injury issues.

2) New York Mets: Edwin Diaz (R), Dellin Betances (R), Seth Lugo (R), Jeurys Familia (R), Justin Wilson (L), Robert Gsellman (R), Paul Sewald (L)

It would be hard for me to believe that young closer Diaz, who turns 26 during spring training, won’t bounce back from a somewhat down season in 2019. Even during a year where his ERA ballooned to 5.59 and his WHIP to 1.379, Diaz had a 15.4 K/9 rate and a 99/22 K/BB ratio across 58 innings. If he cannot beat out Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello for a starting rotation nod, Steven Matz will contribute out of the pen as well. Betances, Lugo, and Familia all have closer stuff. Wilson is leaned on heavily as a southpaw arm. He could get help in that regard from prospect David Peterson during the season. The health of former Yankees stud Betances, who turns 29 during spring training, will go a long way towards the New York pen maintaining this ranking during the season.

3) Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris (R), Seranthony Dominguez (R), Jose Alvarez (L), Francisco Liriano (L), Adam Morgan (L), Bud Norris (R), Victor Arano (R), Ranger Suarez (L), Robert Stock (R)

The Phillies bullpen has the potential to finish anywhere from second to fourth on this list by the end of the 2020 season, which can also be said for the Mets and Nationals relief group. If I had more confidence in Dominguez being and remaining healthy for the full season, I might even have ranked them ahead of New York already. New skipper Joe Girardi has a ton of arms with which to work and to sort out during spring training. Those could ultimately include arms like Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin, and Enyel De Los Santos, all of whom will try to win the fifth starter job at the outset. The Phillies might have  the deepest selection of lefty relievers in the division. If only they had a strong starting southpaw for their rotation. If the team can stay in contention, they just might finally get some value out of David Robertson late in the season. They also bought a lottery ticket in former Nats closer Drew Storen this winter.

4) Washington Nationals: Sean Doolittle (L), Will Harris (R), Daniel Hudson (R), Roenis Elias (L), Wander Suero (R), Tanner Rainey (R), Hunter Strickland (R), Ryne Harper (R), Javy Guerra (R)

The bullpen was a problem, perhaps the only real problem, for Washington during much of the 2019 season. Recognizing that fact and not wishing to go down that road again they inked free agent righty Will Harris. The Nats also re-signed free agent Daniel Hudson, who was outstanding after coming over in an early-August trade from Toronto last year. Hudson is forever etched in Nationals history after recording the final out in their World Series victory. A trio of youngsters vying for the fifth starter job – Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth – could also impact the bullpen. If they use Doolittle as the closer, the rest of the pen lacks an impact southpaw, where Elias is likely to be asked to handle the load, at least initially. Prospect arm Seth Romero could ultimately be the answer in that role.

5) Miami Marlins: Brandon Kintzler (R), Drew Steckenrider (R), Jose Urena (R), Jarlin Garcia (L), Ryne Stanek (R), Tayron Guerrero (R), Yimi Garcia (R), Adam Conley (L), Jose Quijada (L)

The Fish signed the 35-year-old Kintzler last week to serve as the closer, allowing a talented group of young arms more time to develop in the setup and match-up roles earlier in games. This is indeed a talented, albeit largely inexperienced, bullpen crew. When top prospect Sixto Sanchez is ready it will bump someone, likely either Elieser Hernandez or Pablo Lopez, to the pen. If enough of these pitchers take a step forward, the Miami bullpen could quickly become a legitimate strength and begin to shoot up these rankings.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Mets are a mess under manager Mickey Callaway as they open series with Phillies

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Mets skipper Mickey Callaway is under serious fire in New York

The Philadelphia Phillies (39-38) and New York Mets (37-41) both entered the 2019 season with high hopes. Each team was considered by most evaluators to be a genuine contender for a division crown and a postseason berth. Neither has seen their season play out as they would have hoped to this point.

The Phillies situation is well known by now to the frustrated and nearly mutinous fan base. The Phillies were 33-22 and riding high in first place in the division on May 29. They have gone just 6-16 since that time, and just three and a half weeks later are on a seven-game losing streak and have fallen out of even an NL Wildcard spot.

For the Mets, injuries and inconsistencies, their usual two bugaboos, have ganged up to derail what was their own promising start to the 2019 season. On April 24, nearly a month into the season, they were in first place following a 9-0 white-washing of the Phillies. But they went 13-15 in May, and are now 9-12 in June to this point.
The Mets have now lost star pitcher Noah Syndergaard to the IL for at least a couple of weeks. With Jacob deGrom not scheduled to pitch in this series, the Phillies hitters should feel fortunate to be missing their two best starters. However, as inconsistent as they have been performing of late, anyone appears capable of shutting down the Phillies bats.
Following this series, the Phillies will head out on the road for nine games within the division, three each in Miami, Atlanta, and New York. To say they are desperate at this point would be an understatement. The Phillies really need to win this series with the Mets in order to head out on the road feeling better about themselves and their chances of turning things around.

Our division rivals from New York are in town for four games at Citizens Bank Park.

Here’s the Ballpark Buzz: https://atmlb.com/2ZMDoqe 

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NEW YORK METS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Pete Alonso: 24-year-old rookie first baseman is slashing .276/.366/.642 with 27 homers, 46 extra-base hits and 61 RBIs
Jeff McNeil: 27-year old Phillies killer is settling in as the starting LF and is slashing .342/.407/.494 with 25 extra-base hits
Michael Conforto: 26-year-old right fielder slashing .256/.374/.496 with 15 homers and 38 RBIs
Amed Rosario: 23-year-old shortstop has 26 extra-base hits and leads the club with nine steals
Wilson Ramos: 31-year-old catcher slashing .271/.347/.413 is second on the club with 40 RBIs, third with 34 runs scored
Dominic Smith: 24-year-old is slashing .320/.421/.515 in just 114 plate appearances backing up first base and left field
J.D. Davis: 26-year-old utility player hitting .272 with eight homers, 17 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs in just 202 plate apps

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Robinson Cano: The 36-year-old former superstar has not been anything like what the Mets hoped when they swung a big off-season trade with the Seattle Mariners, taking on Cano’s massive contract that still owes him $96 million more over the next four years.
An 8x American League All-Star who has two Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers in his trophy case mostly from his play with the Yankees in the prior decade, Cano won a World Series with the Bronx Bombers, helping defeat the Phillies back in the 2009 Fall Classic.
Cano is slashing just .228/.276/371 in 210 plate appearances. He has produced just four homers and 20 extra-base hits, scoring 18 runs and driving in 16, for the $24 million that the Mets are paying him this year. He seems to wake up against the Phillies, however. Cano has gone 7-15 (.467) in six games between the two NL East rivals this year.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

MONDAY – Steven Matz: 5-5, 4.28 ERA, 1.371 WHIP, 75 hits over 73.2 IP across 14 starts with a 74/26 K:BB
TUESDAY – Walker Lockett: 25-year-old RH making just his second start this season, fourth of his career. Was traded twice this past off-season, from San Diego to Cleveland, and then the Tribe to the Mets in January.
WEDNESDAY – Jason Vargas: 3-3, 3.75 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 54 hits over 60 IP across 13 appearances (12 starts) with a 47/26 K:BB

THE SKIPPER

To say that Mickey Callaway is under fire might be an understatement. Callaway is now in his second season at the helm with the Mets and has a cumulative 114-126 record to date.
In his playing days, Callaway was a right-handed pitcher who appeared in parts of five big-league seasons, making 20 starts and 20 relief appearances spread across three organizations between 199-2004.
Callaway recently had what can only be described as a full meltdown during an incident involving a New York reporter. Per Brian Fonseca of NJ.com, Callaway allegedly cursed out the reporter, Tim Healey of Newsday, and had him removed from the locker room following his postgame press conference on Sunday after Healey questioned his use of the bullpen:
“Callaway, wearing a black shirt, emerged from his office and walked past a reporter, who told him “see you tomorrow, Mickey.”
Callaway, still on edge from the loss, turned around and yell “Don’t be a smarta–, motherf—–.”
He later returned and engaged the reporter about the comment, which was not made maliciously, and Callaway raised his voice while he hurled expletives, telling a team public relations official to remove the reporter.
“Get the f—– out of here,” Callaway said. “We don’t need that s— here.”

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Monday will be a partly cloudy, warm and humid evening with temps mid-80’s and light winds and only a low chance or rain. Tuesday and Wednesday are more of the same, except a bit more sun and a little less humid. All-in-all it will be good typical summer-time baseball weather. Report from The Weather Channel forecast.

Jake Arrieta criticizes Bryce Harper and teammates, and the pitcher is right

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Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta went public with criticisms

Monday night’s opener of a three-game series at Citi Field in Flushing Meadows against the host New York Mets ended up being more than just a 5-1 loss on the scoreboard for the Phillies.

This meeting between division rivals battling for the early lead in the National League East Division also ended up resulting in some in-game and post-game controversy.
Leading off the top of the 4th inning of what was then a 2-0 game, Bryce Harper struck out looking on a 2-2 pitch after the pitch just prior appeared to be a high fastball from Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz. Harper felt the bat was taken out of his hands, and he was somewhat correct in that assessment.
Rhys Hoskins followed Harper to the plate and banged a solo home run, cutting the New York lead in half at 2-1 and injecting some life into the Phillies. Maikel Franco followed with a walk, and then with two outs, Cesar Hernandez stepped to the plate.
During the Hernandez at-bat, a 1-1 pitch from Matz again appeared to be high. But home plate umpire Mark Carlson called the pitch a strike, putting Hernandez into a 1-2 hole. Carlson immediately tore off his mask, turned towards the Phillies dugout, and gave the classic high-sign, tossing someone out of the game.
It turns out that “someone” was Harper, still upset at his own bad call and now venting his frustration when the same thing happened to Hernandez. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler sprinted from the dugout followed quickly by Harper, and an argument with Carlson ensued.
Despite the opinions of some fans today on social media and radio talk shows, the outburst by Harper did not serve to “fire up” or inspire the Phillies. They would go on to be outscored by 3-0 over the balance of the game. Hernandez would single, but then the final 16 batters for the Phillies would all go down in order. No runs. No hits. No walks. Nothing.
After the game, Phillies starting pitcher Jake Arrieta criticized Harper for getting tossed in such a crucial early-season contest and the rest of his team for not appearing to be mentally or emotionally ready for the game. As quoted by David Schoenfield at ESPN:
We need him in right field. I don’t care how bad (the ump) is, I need him in right field, I need him at the plate and he wasn’t there. So that hurts. He missed some pitches but for both sides. If that’s the case, that happens on a nightly basis usually.”

“The umpire is going to miss some calls. So what? Next pitch. We’ve got a game to play. I’m not happy with the way we showed up today. We need to come out tomorrow ready to go.“

Arrieta was absolutely correct. Harper is an emotional leader on this team, and he is also one of the club’s biggest physical offensive forces. When he is not in the lineup, the entire team suffers. His loss didn’t serve to inspire the team, it only removed one of their biggest real threats.
All of this needs to be remembered in context as well. The Phillies were playing a tough division rival on the road. They are already missing two starters in shortstop Jean Segura and center fielder Odubel Herrera. They are also missing key super-sub Scott Kingery. Already down three key offensive contributors in a divisional game, they could ill afford to lose another.
For his part, Harper agreed. Per Schoenfield the right fielder responded: “I have to stay in that game for the organization, the fans. I have to do better. These games matter. They matter now, they matter in September.
For Harper it was the 12th time in his career that he has been ejected, his first time as a Phillies player. Known for having a mercurial temper early in his career, he had been lauded over the last couple of seasons for a growing maturity. That was evidenced last season, when he was ejected just once during his final year in Washington.
The issue of Major League Baseball umpires needing a thicker skin is a real one as well. Baseball really needs to do something to alter the ability of a neutral arbiter to eject the actual important players who the fans pay to see from a game over what amounts to the egos of those umpires. But that is a separate issue.
The Phillies need this to be the one and only time that Harper is ejected for them in this current season. The team needs their superstar slugger on the field and at the plate, not back in the clubhouse. That is especially so right now, with the roster depleted and more big divisional games coming in what is sure to be an emotional environment.

J.T. Realmuto and Scott Kingery homer, drive in five runs as Phillies rout Mets

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J.T. Realmuto enjoyed a big night in blowout of Mets

The Philadelphia Phillies (10 – 6) needed to make an early-season statement in a bad way. They wasted no time doing just that, erupting for 10 runs in the 1st inning and trouncing the division-rival New York Mets (10 – 7) by a score of 14-3 on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

New York fans had rolled down I-95, encouraged by their club’s exta-innings victory in the opening game of this series. They hoped to chant “Let’s Go, Mets!” and frustrate Phillies fans once again. Instead they were left to sit on their hands before leaving early.
Jerad Eickhoff, who missed most of last season while battling injuries, came out of the bullpen to provide four shutout innings and steal the thunder provided by the big bats.
Let’s go over the highlights of that huge first inning for the Phillies. Andrew McCutchen started it off, reaching on an error by Mets shortstop Amed RosarioJean Segura then slashed a double to left field to put two runners in scoring position. Bryce Harper was then drilled on the hand to load the bases. Harper shook off the hand and stayed in the game, appearing fine as the night moved along.
J.T. Realmuto then ripped a two-run double to put the Phillies on top by 2-0. Scott Kingery, getting the start at third base, followed by blasting a three-run homer to left. Kingery’s first long ball of the year pushed the Phillies out to a 5-0 lead.
After Cesar Hernandez walked, Aaron Altherr rolled a ball to Rosario, who let it roll through his legs for his second error of the inning. With two runners on base, Maikel Franco sent a blast out to deep center field for his sixth home run of the season and the Phillies led by 8-0.
That was enough of starting pitcher Steven Matz for Mets manager Mickey Callaway, who sent to his bullpen for Drew Gagnon. The 28-year-old righty was just called up today from Triple-A Syracuse. Gagnon struck out Pivetta for the first out, but then McCutchen doubled. Segura then grounded out with McCutchen moving up to third.
Bryce Harper walked to put runners at the corners. Realmuto then sent one to left, where an error by Jeff McNeil sealed that this would not be the visitor’s night. That big miscue by the man who was the hero of last night’s contest for the Mets allowed two runs to score making it a 10-0 Phillies lead.
The Mets got on the board with single runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings against Nick Pivetta, both on solo home runs. The first came off the bat of former Phillies catcher Wilson Ramos, his first of the year. The second came from Michael Conforto, his fourth of the season and second in two nights.
Pivetta escaped some trouble in both the 1st and 4th innings and had to be thankful for the offensive support on a night when the Phillies right-hander once again did not look strong. That offensive support continued in the home 4th when Realmuto crushed his second home run of the season into the center field stands. It was the catcher’s third hit of the night and gave him five RBI.
The Mets loaded the bases again off Pivetta in the top of the 5th inning. Once again, Pivetta escaped major damage, allowing just a sacrifice fly to Ramos to cut the Phillies lead down to 11-3. That 5th inning was also the final frame for the Phillies starter, who had reached the 100-pitch mark.
When manager Gabe Kapler made the call to the bullpen for the top of the 6th inning it was to bring in Eickhoff. It would be the first appearance of the season for the 28-year-old, and it was possibly going to serve as an audition for a possible change to the starting rotation.
In the home 6th, the offense continued to produce. Harper lined a single to right field to start it off. Realmuto then chopped one to third that J.D. Davis tried to short-hop but couldn’t come up with, and his error put two men on base. They weren’t on base for long as Kingery doubled them both home to up the Phillies lead to 13-3. Kingery then scored himself when Hernandez also doubled.
When Kapler let Eickhoff bat for himself to lead off the home 7th it was pretty clear that he was auditioning for a larger role. It would prove a magnificent outing as the righty went four shutout innings, allowing three hits while walking no one and striking out six. He would end the game in dominant fashion, striking out the side in a 1-2-3 final frame.
The 14 runs scored was a season high for the Phillies, while their 13 hits was one shy of that season-high figure. With the win in front of a sellout crowd of 43,933 the Phillies moved past the Mets and back into first place in the National League East Division.

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SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

Neither starting pitcher was very good tonight. The difference was that Matz was an unmitigated disaster while Pivetta was simply not very good.
Matz did not record an out and was gone after just 31 pitches in the 1st inning. Before leaving he surrendered four hits including a pair of home runs while walking a batter. It all resulted in eight Phillies runs, six of them earned.
Pivetta allowed three earned on seven hits including two homers. He struck out two and walked three, throwing just 59 strikes among his 100 pitches.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: JERAD EICKHOFF

On a night when the offense put up 14 runs, it was a relief pitcher who stole the show for the Phillies. Eickhoff’s performance served to keep the Mets from making any kind of move in this game. He also provided hope that, after missing most of last season, he may be ready to step in and provide a needed quality arm to help settle down what has been a somewhat shaky Phillies starting rotation.
Realmuto had three hits including a homer, three runs scored, and five RBI. Kingery had three hits including a homer and also drove in five runs while scoring twice. If we gave out 2nd and 3rd stars, they would be the recipients. But we don’t do that, so forget that I said anything.

NEXT GAME

  • Wednesday April 17 at 1:05 pm vs. New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park
  • NBC Sports Philadelphia (also MLB Network outside of the Philly viewing area)
  • SportsRadio 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Spanish)

Phillies big bats looking to break out of slump against Mets

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Bryce Harper has cooled off after a hot 2019 start

It was inevitable that Bryce Harper was going to slump at some point in the 2019 season. And following a white-hot start to his first year with the Phillies in which the new right fielder banged three homers and six extra-base hits over his first seven games, that slump has arrived.

Over the last eight games, Harper is slashing just .156/.289/.281 with one home run, one double, five RBI, and three runs scored. He has also walked just six times after drawing eight free passes over those first seven games.
The 26-year-old superstar is in the first year of a massive 13-year contract signed just over a month ago. There will be many of these cold spells over the length of that deal. In fact, there will be other slumps this very season.
However, Harper is a huge piece, perhaps the biggest single piece, of the Phillies plans to become a legitimate contending team in the National League this season and for years to come. In the midst of a big early series against the rival New York Mets, they need him to emerge from this slump sooner rather than later.
Harper’s new good buddy, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, has also fallen into a bit of a slump at the same time. Over the last six games, Hoskins is slashing just .154/.290/.231 with no homers, one RBI, and three runs scored.
Those two hit in the 3-4 slots in the Phillies batting order. Following them up most games has been catcher J.T. Realmuto, who has fallen into a lull as well. Realmuto is slashing just .176/.222/.176 with three RBI over his last five games.
For the Phillies to overcome the Mets and their other two talented rivals, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, and capture the division crown there is no doubt that Harper, Hoskins and Realmuto are going to have to come through. The middle-of-the order producing in big moments during the head-to-head match-ups between those clubs would go a long way towards reaching their ultimate goal.
The Mets downed the Phillies in 11 innings by a 7-6 score in Monday’s night’s cold series opener. The weather wasn’t the only thing freezing as the Phillies #3-5 hitters, Harper, Hoskins and Realmuto, combined to go just 2-16 with two walks. They combined to strike out nine times, Harper grounded into a key double play, and Hoskins was thrown out trying to steal.
The trio of big hitters will have a tough task in trying to get back on track on Tuesday nightagainst Mets left-hander Steven Matz. Neither Harper nor Hoskins has hit Matz well over their careers. Harper is batting just .235 with two RBI across 17 at-bats. Hoskins is hitting just .100 off Matz with a homer and three RBI. Realmuto has the most success, with three hits over nine at-bats against the southpaw.

TUESDAY STARTING LINEUPS

  • Nick Pivetta: 1-1, 9.45 ERA, 2.175 WHIP, 24 hits allowed over 13.1 innings across three starts with a 14/5 K:BB ratio
  • Coming into this season Pivetta was a popular pick among national pundits as a breakout player. It hasn’t happened to date. Our Jason Ferrie did an excellent job in that linked piece breaking down his problems with the fastball.
  • Steven Matz: 1-0, 1.65 ERA, 1.041 WHIP, 12 hits allowed over 16.1 innings across three starts with a 19/5 K:BB ratio.
  • In this, his fourth start of the season, Matz will already have faced all four NL East division rivals. He shutout the Nats on two hits over five innings on April 6, then struck out eight Braves on April 11 in allowing four hits over six strong.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • In a big ceremony this afternoon at Independence Hall the Phillies and Major League Baseball announced that Citizens Bank Park will be the site of the 2026 MLB All-Star Game. Philadelphia will play host to all of the accompanying events as well that year, including Fan Fest and the Home Run Derby, as part of America’s 250th birthday celebration.
  • With his .323 average, shortstop Jean Segura is the lone Phillies lineup regular over the .300 mark. Team leaders are: Homers – Hoskins and Maikel Franco (5), RBI – Hoskins (16), XBH – Hoskins (9), Walks – Andrew McCutchen (16), Steals – Cesar Hernandez (2), Runs – McCutchen (14)
  • 23-year-old Amed Rosario has hit .571 off Pivetta so far in the shortstop’s young career. He is currently second on the Mets with 11 RBI.

TUESDAY PROGRAMMING INFORMATION

  • First pitch scheduled for 7:05 pm EDT at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia
  • TV coverage: NBC Sports Philadelphia
  • Radio: SportsRadio WIP 94.1 FM  , WTTM 1680 (Spanish)