Carlos Beltran looking out for his legacy.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
PHILADELPHIA -- Carlos Beltran waited for his turn in batting practice Sunday evening, and talked about his future. Beltran turns 36 on Wednesday, and as he acknowledged, you do start to think about legacy as you get older.
Beltran has 2,081 career hits, 1,255 RBIs and 338 homers, and he has reached that time when he is beginning to climb past all-time greats on the all-time lists. With four more home runs, for example, he will match Ron Santo, and with 10 more, he'll match Yogi Berra.
What became clear from the talk with Beltran is that he doesn't know exactly where he stands all-time among switch-hitters, among players from his homeland of Puerto Rico -- but his legacy will be part of his decision when it comes time to decide where to play next. Down the road, Beltran will be open to the idea of going to the American League and serving as a designated hitter, something that Chipper Jones could have done but chose not to do.
Beltran served as a DH in the World Baseball Classic and wasn't completely comfortable in the role. Players who are accustomed to being in the field talk about how difficult it is to make the adjustment to waiting in the dugout or clubhouse in the 30 to 45 minutes between plate appearances.
"If that happens," Beltran said, "I know exactly who I will call first -- Edgar Martinez."
Beltran is a friend to Martinez, the longtime DH of the Mariners, and to Eddie Murray, who served as a DH at the end of his long career.
Beltran is in the last year of a two-year, $26 million deal he signed with the Cardinals. He hasn't put a lot of thought into whether he'll stay in St. Louis, but the Cardinals have a surplus of outfielders and first base types -- with Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Matt Adams and rising star prospect Oscar Taveras, so it probably wouldn't be a surprise if St. Louis spent its dollars on some other part of the team.
Like Lance Berkman, Beltran could be attractive to potential AL suitors in the offseason because of his power and on-base percentage, no matter how much he can play in the outfield. Maybe the Yankees would be a fit. Or the Orioles, Rays, or any number of teams. Beltran had a .920 OPS in 2011, and .845 last season.
Beltran mentioned that he would like to get to 400 homers, a number that would be meaningful to him. He would like to rank among the best of the switch-hitters, a list that probably starts with Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose and Eddie Murray and includes Jones and Berkman. He is aware that the all-time leader in RBIs for a player from Puerto Rico is Carlos Delgado, at 1,512; Beltran is 287 away from that number.
There will be time later to think about all that. But as Beltran said, these are the types of things that come into focus for longtime All-Stars at the end of their careers.
• The Cardinals lost Sunday night, when Ben Revere and Erik Kratz came up with some big hits. Mitchell Boggs just could not get the ball down in his brutal stretch of work Sunday night, adding more puzzle pieces to the Cardinals' closer quandary. Sometimes, going with a single closer is not always a good thing, writes Bernie Miklasz.
• Carlos Ruiz is expected to return to the Phillies' lineup next Sunday against the Mets, and Delmon Young played in his first rehab game over the weekend; if all goes well, Young could join the Phillies in a couple of weeks.
Around the league
• With Freddie Freeman set to rejoin the Atlanta lineup, Chris Johnson is moving to third base -- as a full-time player, writes Carroll Rogers. Jason Heyward is working on his patience.
• Wrote here Saturday about the improved offensive skills of Didi Gregorius, and the Diamondbacks benefited from those Sunday. The Diamondbacks are being careful with how they're using him.
• John Buck continues to be the Mets' MVP, as John DeMarzo writes.
From Elias: John Buck opened the scoring with a second-inning solo homer that would be all the Mets needed in their 2-0 victory against the Nationals. Buck has seven home runs and 22 RBIs in the 15 games that he's started behind the plate for the Mets. Since the major leagues began tracking RBIs in 1920, no other player has accumulated as many as seven homers and 22 RBIs for a season in his first 15 games started as a catcher.
• The Angels frolicked at the end of a much-needed sweep.
• The Brewers have simply stopped losing. Which is to say, they played the Cubs, whose manager is losing patience. Dale Sveum talked about the consequences for those who don't play better. From Carrie Muskat's story:
The errors are both physical and mental, and are a surprise after how well the Cubs played in spring training, Sveum said.
"Some of these errors, they look physical but they're maybe a lack of awareness at the time or the situation at hand or they're trying to be too quick, or sometimes we don't have enough aggressiveness on balls or whatever it is," said Sveum, whose voice was hoarse after his argument with an umpire Friday that resulted in him being ejected. "Sometimes defense is a rhythm and we're obviously not in any kind of defensive rhythm. Just like offense can be contagious, defense can, too.
"From top to bottom, we did outstanding in spring training, so to start out like this is obviously disappointing," Sveum said. "The bad thing is we're not picking each other up after these things happen.
"We're not overcoming our mistakes," Sveum said. "Good teams overcome those mistakes. A guy gets a ground ball double play and nobody thinks about what just happened."
• The Pirates had a really nice weekend against the Braves, taking three out of four, as Bill Brink writes.
From ESPN Stats & Info: Justin Upton earned top honors in Web Gems on Sunday. Teammate Andrelton Simmons was second. The Braves entered Sunday with 12 defensive runs saved this season, second most in the majors. The only team better was the team that beat them Sunday, the Pirates, with 14. Simmons had 24 career DRS in 553 innings entering the day, second most among shortstops since the start of the 2012 season.
• Watched some of Jake Arrieta's start against the Dodgers Sunday, which was a microcosm of his big league career. In the first innings, he was completely and utterly dominant, throwing a fastball in the mid-90s past the L.A. hitters, mixing in a slider/slurve thing which was almost unhittable as a finishing pitch. Then, almost without warning, Arrieta lost the strike zone, breathing life into the struggling Dodgers, and an early lead was squandered. This must be frustrating for Arrieta, and for the Orioles' staff, because the tools are all there for something really good.
Dan Connolly addresses the question: What should the Orioles do with Arrieta?
Dings and dents
1. Albert Pujols's foot problem could limit him to the DH role for awhile.
2. Dylan Bundy will throw today.
3. Chad Billingsley has an elbow issue. So much for the overabundance of starting pitching for the Dodgers, which is the way it seems to go for teams with a surplus. Even when the Dodgers win, they seem to lose.
4. It looks like Brett Anderson will be able to make his next scheduled start for the Athletics, after an aggressive side session.
5. Kyle Blanks hit the outfield wall hard, writes Corey Brock.
6. Ryan Hanigan landed on the disabled list.
7. Octavio Dotel's elbow is a problem right now.
8. John Danks is anxious for a rehab assignment.
Didi Gregorius could surprise for Arizona.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Didi Gregorius' early history of offensive production will never be confused with that of, say, Jurickson Profar, because he hasn't hit more than seven homers for any team, and his on-base percentage has been modest. This is part of the reason why the Diamondbacks' swap with the Reds in December for Gregorius drew some industry-wide shrugs. He has been seen as a very good defender, and also as someone who might be challenged offensively in his career.
But part of the reason why sports are fascinating is that you never really know what will happen next, and there are signs that Gregorius is going to be better than expected at the plate. Sure, he had a nice debut for the Diamondbacks on Thursday, clubbing a home run on the first pitch he saw, and added two more hits in Colorado Friday night. But even before that, Gregorius had seemed to become more of a threat at the plate, with his good showing in the Arizona Fall League, spring training and Triple-A this year.
"I think he's going to hit," a rival evaluator, who saw Gregorius in person earlier in the spring, said Friday. "His swing looks to me like he's in and out of the zone real quick, but he's got lots of strength and lots of bat speed."
In other words: The left-handed hitting Gregorius has some tools to work and improve with, and his defensive skills demonstrate he learns and adapts. "I was really impressed with how he set himself defensively," the evaluator said. "He made his throws according to the speed of the runner, even though he's got a great arm, he does this thing where he seems to stutter-step when he [attacks] a ground ball. He almost goes through the baseball. He's an impact defender."
Arizona general manager Kevin Towers recalled Friday that when he saw Gregorius play last fall, the young infielder swung the bat effectively. "There were some holes in the swing, but there definitely was bat speed and there was pitch recognition," he said. "We never really had a question about whether he was going to hit."
Towers felt good, too, about what he had heard when he checked Gregorius' background. Mike Bell, the Arizona farm director, had talked with David Bell, his brother, who had managed in the Reds' farm system and knew Gregorius -- and he talked about the shortstop's tremendous mental makeup. And the defense.
"He can really, really play short," said Towers. "A 70 arm (on the scouts' scale of 20 to 80), and he can make body-control plays. He's got really soft hands, and he got a lot of range . . . A tremendous kid, and he's got no fear."
Gregorius was called up to the big leagues after Willie Bloomquist and then Aaron Hill went down with injuries. The Diamondbacks had hoped to get Gregorius a few more weeks in the minors, but now he is here, perhaps prepared to pitch in more at the plate than expected.
By the way: Towers said center fielder Adam Eaton could be back in the first or second week of May -- Eaton, coming back from an elbow injury, just started throwing -- and that Jason Kubel will be back soon.
• Arizona lost Game 1 of its series in Colorado.
• What should have been a great day for the Rockies was marred by an injury to Jhoulys Chacin. Drew Pomeranz could be called up in his place, writes Patrick Saunders.
• On Friday's podcast, Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore talked about the decision to trade top prospect Wil Myers, and Justin Havens of ESPN Research runs through the peripherals for the early-season starts of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels and David Price.
• The Rangers lost All-Star Matt Harrison through the break. They will have to rely on rookies while they wait for help to arrive, writes Todd Wills. The Rangers have Colby Lewis and others on the mend, and general managers say this is a terrible time of year to try to make a trade because teams covet their depth and only offer overpriced pitchers who aren't really that good.
Case histories suggest that Harrison may not be back until mid-August, writes Gerry Fraley.
• By the middle of Friday's Matt Harvey-Stephen Strasburg matchup, Mets fans chanted, "Harvey's better." On Friday, he was, finishing hitters off repeatedly with power in the upper half of the strike zone, as Justin Verlander does. Dwight Gooden watched from the first row, as Zach Schonbrun writes.
From Elias: Harvey is the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to win each of his first four starts of a season while allowing no more than 10 combined hits in those four games.
Dating to last season, Harvey has had five straight games in which he's pitched at least seven innings, allowed one run or fewer and four hits or fewer. The only other pitcher to do that in the past 25 seasons was Randy Johnson for the 1997 Mariners.
First four starts
Stats Strasburg '12 Harvey '13
ERA 1.08 0.93
K per 9 9.0 9.9
W-L 4-0 4-0
If Harvey's stat line looks familiar, that's because it should. It resembles that of Strasburg's first four starts of 2012.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how Harvey won:
A) He retired 14 of 17 left-handed hitters (two hits, one walk). Lefties are 6-for-60 with five walks against Harvey this season. Bryce Harper was 0-for-3 against Harvey, and 0-for-6 against him for his career.
B) Off-speed pitches netted 12 outs and yielded only two baserunners. Harvey got half of those outs with his slider, which he threw 26 times -- the most of any start in his career.
C) Harvey said before the game that he was psyched to face Strasburg, and it showed. He averaged a career-high 96.3 mph on his fastball.
Strasburg lost the duel of aces, but maybe the most troublesome inning of the night for the Nationals came when the Mets teed off on Drew Storen. Washington needs Storen to be good, and so far, he has not been, allowing 10 hits (four for extra bases) in 6 1/3 innings, after a challenging spring.
• Roy Halladay was really good for the second straight start, shutting down the Cardinals.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how Halladay beat the Cardinals:
A) The rain-shortened game was Halladay's 67th career complete game, most among active pitchers (next-most: CC Sabathia, 35).
B) All about the sinker: Halladay threw 47 percent sinkers, his most in a start since the beginning of 2009 (Cardinals hitters went 1-for-11 against it).
C) Halladay threw 40 percent sinkers to lefties, his third-most in a start since the start of 2009 (Cardinals lefties went 1-for-9 against it).
D) He threw 59 percent sinkers when he was behind in the count, his most in a start since the beginning of 2009 (Cardinals hitters were 1-for-7 when they were ahead in the count).
• The most-asked question in baseball in the first few weeks might be: Is Mike Scioscia going to get fired?
Only Angels owner Arte Moreno can answer that. But the consensus in baseball seems to be that firing Scioscia would be one of the most pointless dismissals in recent memory, because the perception among rival evaluators is that it wouldn't change anything. The Angels need pitching -- they're starving for pitching -- and their farm system is regarded as one of the sparsest in the game. "It's a mess," one high-ranked executive with another team said. "I mean, it's terrible."
That's not Scioscia's department, and that doesn't really fall on GM Jerry Dipoto, either, because Dipoto only joined the Angels 18 months ago and hasn't had much of a chance to rebuild the team's player development. And ultimately, the decision to spend almost $400 million (and surrender draft picks) on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton when both players were already into their 30s belonged to Moreno, not his GM or his manager.
Last night, everything went right for the Angels.
• Joey Votto failed to reach base for the first time this season and struck out on three uncomfortable swings in the ninth inning. Right now, it just looks as if his timing is off.
Aroldis Chapman did something he won't do many times this year in the loss.
• When the Giants are at home, they always seem to find a way to win the close games, and they did it again on Friday, on a walk-off.
• One scout has been very impressed with the early-season speed of Carl Crawford. "I've gotten the fastest times I've seen from him since his first years with Tampa Bay," the scout said.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Cubs claimed Julio Borbon partly because of the cost -- almost zero risk, and perhaps some reward -- and because his OBP numbers from the minors intrigue them.
2. The Twins don't plan on sending Aaron Hicks down any time soon.
Dings and dents
1. Brett Anderson sprained his ankle, as Susan Slusser writes. If Anderson is down for any length of time, Oakland has Dan Straily prepped and ready to go in the minors.
2. Matt Garza threw a simulated game.
3. The Padres are keeping an eye on Tyson Ross, writes Corey Brock.
4. J.D. Martinez doesn't think his knee sprain is serious.
5. Ryan Howard is dealing with a sore groin.
6. Ryan Zimmerman rested a sore hamstring.
History stacked against Derek Jeter.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Derek Jeter was in the eighth grade when he wrote an essay in Chris Oosterbaan's class about his dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees. When he was in the 11th grade, the personal coat of arms he created for his English literature course included an image of himself in a Yankees uniform.
The odds of a kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., becoming a shortstop in professional baseball are astronomical, of course -- and the odds of a high school baseball prospect being drafted specifically by the Yankees in 1992 were diminished by a factor of about 28.
But Jeter has never concerned himself with odds, which is part of the reason why the teenage dreamer not only realized his vision of becoming the Yankees' shortstop, but will go down as one of the greatest ever to play his position. He is not wired to be preoccupied with the seeming boundaries of history.
That is why his conversation Thursday with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was typical for him. He and Cashman talked about the setback Jeter had suffered, the crack near the spot where he fractured his ankle last fall, and about the lengthened recovery time, and Jeter closed by saying, in so many words: OK, I'll see you after the All-Star break. Jeter has never allowed any doubt to enter his tone in discussing his recovery, or what he'll be capable of when he returns. You cannot accumulate 3,304 career hits if your habit is to fret over what might go wrong.
The lessons drawn from historical precedent suggest players of his age -- Jeter will be 39 by the time he would return after the All-Star break -- almost never come back after a year of diminished playing time.
I posed this question to Kevin Hines of Elias: How many times has a player at Jeter's age missed more than half of his team's games, then come back to be a regular (defined by accumulating 400 plate appearances).
There are only seven players who have done this in the past 100 years -- and only one was a middle infielder, Luke Appling.
Season Player Team Age Plate App.
2007 Barry Bonds SF 42 477
2006 Barry Bonds SF 41 493
1999 Chili Davis NY 39 554
1999 Tony Phillips Oak 39 484
1997 Brett Butler LA 39 401
1991 Carlton Fisk Chi 43 501
1990 Carlton Fisk Chi 42 521
1989 Carlton Fisk Chi 41 419
1957 Hank Sauer NY 39 428
1949 Luke Appling Chi 42 619
1948 Luke Appling Chi 41 594
1947 Luke Appling Chi 40 573
1946 Luke Appling Chi 39 659
Most games missed by season, Derek Jeter, MLB career
2013 -- 96 (assuming Jeter returns after All-Star break)
2003 -- 43
2011 -- 31
2000 -- 13
1998 -- 13
Jeter is 324 hits away from reaching Stan Musial's 3,630 career mark, fourth-place all-time. He will need to beat the odds again for this to happen; he will have to beat the odds to be an effective player ever again.
This may signal the end for Jeter, writes Bob Klapisch. The Yankees lost to Arizona Thursday night, as Jorge Arangure writes. Eduardo Nunez is ready for more action at shortstop, writes Brian Lewis.
• R.A. Dickey was excellent, but now the Blue Jays have some injury concern.
• Tony Cingrani won his major league debut for the Reds.
• Brandon Crawford keeps getting better as a hitter -- he was moved to the No. 5 spot in the Giants' lineup Thursday -- and we had him on the podcast Thursday; also, agent Jamie Murphy talked about getting into the business, negotiations and client-stealing.
• I watched a lot of Matt Cain's outing against the Brewers and once again, his stuff just looked flat -- his breaking pitches looked flat, his fastball looked benign, and indeed, as Fangraphs.com shows, his velocity now is the lowest of his career.
Matt Cain breaking balls
Stat 2009-12 2013
Opp BA .205 .361
Zone Pct 48.3 57.0
Miss Pct 24.6 13.6
Opp OPS .552 1.018
From ESPN Stats & Info: Cain's struggles have been with his breaking ball this season. Opponents are hitting .361 in at-bats ending with Cain's breaking ball (league average is .204).
More from ESPN Stats & Info: Cain is struggling to put hitters away with his breaking pitches. This season, he has thrown 44 breaking balls with two strikes and allowed eight hits. Last season, he threw 423 breaking balls with two strikes and allowed 21 hits. He also has struggled when falling behind hitters. In at-bats when Cain throws a first-pitch ball, opposing hitters are 13-for-26 (.500 BA), including six extra-base hits.
The San Francisco starters are giving up loads of runs, writes Henry Schulman.
• Evan Gattis and Justin Upton are ridiculous right now, which is what Carroll Rogers writes, in so many words. Upton hit his ninth home run in his 15th game; it took Upton 98 games to hit nine home runs last season.
From Elias: He is the first Braves player with nine homers in his team's first 15 games.
At Coors Field this season
The Rockies are the only undefeated team at home this season.
Stat Rockies Opponents
Wins 6 0
Runs PG 8.0 3.5
BA .351 .248
HR 9 2
Slug pct .576 .352
• You can't stop the Rockies, you can only hope to contain them: They've got six straight wins at home, and they're now 11-4.
From Elias: Carlos Gonzalez is the third player in Rockies history with a streak of four straight multihit, multirun games, joining Ellis Burks (1996) and Larry Walker (2001) in that exclusive club. In the past two seasons, the only other major league player with a four-game streak of that kind is Mike Trout (June 8-11, 2012).
• The Pirates should have some different rotation options developing in the weeks ahead. Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton are in the early stages of their game rehabilitation and building their pitch counts, but they should be ready in early to mid-May. Jeff Karstens has been feeling good, but is in the early stages of a throwing program.
On Thursday, Jeff Locke was hit hard.
• The teams that have used the most defensive shifts this season, through Wednesday's games:
1. Astros -- 52
2. Cubs -- 44
3. Rays -- 38
3. Orioles -- 38
5. Pirates -- 33
6. Reds -- 33
7. Indians -- 30
8. Royals -- 26
8. Red Sox -- 26
10. Yankees -- 23
The teams that have used the fewest defensive shifts this season, through Wednesday's games:
29. Rockies -- 0
29. Twins -- 0
28. Cardinals -- 1
25. Dodgers -- 2
25. Phillies -- 2
25. Tigers -- 2
24. White Sox -- 3
23. Diamondbacks -- 4
22. Nationals -- 5
21. Padres -- 5
Dings and dents
1. David Ortiz will be back in the Red Sox lineup tonight.
2. Jason Kipnis could be back in the lineup today, writes Dennis Manoloff.
3. Dayan Viciedo strained an oblique.
4. Michael Cuddyer is dealing with a hamstring thing.
5. The Marlins placed another shortstop on the disabled list.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Mike Fiers was sent to the minors.
2. Joe Savery is being called up to replace John Lannan.
3. The Mariners called up Hector Noesi.
The man behind the A's potent offense.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Oakland Athletics tried to hire Chili Davis as hitting coach a few years ago, targeting him because of his track record as a hitter and because his approach mirrored what the organization valued, in prioritizing patience and power. But a deal didn't work out.
Then Bob Melvin took over as manager, and as he and general manager Billy Beane discussed possible hitting coaches before the 2012 season, he had a name in mind: Chili Davis.
The second time around, Oakland hired Davis away from the Red Sox, and over the past 10 1/2 months, Davis has helped hitters who make up the majors' best offense. Watching the Athletics hit can be like watching a slow-pitch softball team, with a bunch of guys taking big swings and looking to do major damage. Oakland took care of business against the talent-challenged Houston Astros this week, limiting the Houston starting pitchers to just 5 1/3 innings in three games, and after the Athletics finished off a sweep of Houston with a 7-5 win Wednesday, Oakland led the majors in runs scored and total bases.
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Think about this: Since June 1 of last season, the Athletics have out-homered their opponents 171-114. Jed Lowrie and John Jaso have been excellent additions to an offense that was already really good, and Chili Davis has been an important part of the coaching staff.
"He was a very accomplished player himself, and he's one of those guys who didn't forget the mindset and how hard [the game] is," Lowrie said over the phone Wednesday, after he pushed his average to .373. "He's not walking around telling everybody how hard the game is, but he understands that you can do everything right and hit a line drive and you still might not have anything to show for it.
"He understands if you can continue to make good swings, things are going to work out, and that's an important mentality to have."
Oakland has won all of its games against Houston, so far. Bartolo Colon added some perspective after a rookie got his first hit in the big leagues.
Around the league
The snow on the field at Coors Field was deep Tuesday and head groundskeeper Mark Razum scrambled with his crew to remove the stuff, and mentioned to Kevin Kahn, the Rockies' director of ballpark operations, that what was needed more than anything was bodies. Not long after that, there were about 150 club employees on the field, including owner **** Monfort, some of them using shovels and machines borrowed from the Broncos to clear the snow.
It was a great day for the organization, said Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president for baseball operations, with so many people helping to clear the field before Colorado swept a doubleheader from the Mets. Everybody had pitched in, and now the Rockies are 10-4, the second-best record in the National League.
It's early, and the sample size is small, but it's better than the alternative, which is what the Rockies experienced last year, with an avalanche of injuries to Troy Tulowitzki and others. "I think we were kind of forgotten about," Geivett said.
He believes that Colorado's early play in 2013 has been facilitated in a good way by the mess of 2012, because young players who may have otherwise had limited or no opportunities in the big leagues got a chance to play. With Tulowitzki out, Josh Rutledge accumulated 73 games and almost 300 plate appearances last year. Jordan Pacheco got almost 500 plate appearances, Chris Nelson played in 111 games, catcher Wilin Rosario had a summer of learning how to do his job in the big leagues and Dexter Fowler grew as a hitter. Adam Ottavino pitched in 53 games.
"We were not deep enough or experienced enough to handle what was thrown at us," Geivett said. "But there were a lot of players who got some experience."
Now Tulowitzki is back, and Michael Cuddyer and others who were hurt last year. "We look at last year as a bad year," Geivett said. "But in terms of growth, it was a good year."
Here's more on what the Colorado employees did.
Carlos Gonzalez has been on a tear for the Rockies, writes Patrick Saunders.
• Chase Headley was back in the Padres' lineup Wednesday and helped them finish off the Dodgers. From the story of old friend Bill Center:
"There are a handful of guys who impact their clubs more than others," Black said before the game. "Chase is our guy. That type of player rubs off on teammates. He makes right decisions. Chase has accepted that torch."
"It's a good day any time you get your best player back," said Padres catcher Nick Hundley.
Matt Calkins thinks San Diego should offer a deal to Headley, and that he should accept.
• The Tigers and Mariners combined for 40 strikeouts before Brayan Pena applied the game winner in the 14th inning. The call to send the runner was the right one, said Jim Leyland.
From Elias: Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer locked up in a pitchers' duel for the ages on Wednesday night. Hernandez allowed only one unearned run and had 12 strikeouts and Max Scherzer matched him with a one-run/12-strikeout performance of his own. It marked only the fifth time since 1900 that opposing starting pitchers each had 12 or more strikeouts while allowing one run or fewer in the same game. The previous such matchups featured Cincinnati's Jim Maloney against Pittsburgh's Bob Veale (Sept. 30, 1964), the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax against Philadelphia's Jim Bunning (July 27, 1966), Oakland's Vida Blue against California's Rudy May (July 9, 1971) and Seattle's Randy Johnson against California's Mark Langston (Sept. 16, 1992).
• Miguel Cabrera turns 30 today, and his stats are like those of Hank Aaron at the same age, writes John Lowe.
• Terry Francona says he's not giving up on Ubaldo Jimenez. From Paul Hoynes' story:
"It's only been a few starts," said manager Terry Francona on Wednesday afternoon. "If we lost our patience with everybody after a few starts, we wouldn't have a team. I get the mail. [They say] send him down.
"Our job is to make guys better. Not get rid of them every time they struggle. We wouldn't have a team, coaches or manager [if we did it that way]. We need to help him get better."
The Indians can't send Jimenez to the minors because he's out of options. They could designate him for assignment or try to trade him. Other than that, he's not going anywhere.
Francona doesn't want to hear about last year and how it pertains to Jimenez. Not many people do, but he led the American League in defeats (17), wild pitches (16) and finished second in walks (95).
"You can't pitch for last year," said Francona. "It doesn't work. It just makes it harder.
We've reached the point where you could understand why the Indians might want to try something different. Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Info sent this along: Since July 8 of last season, Jimenez is 1-12 with a 7.27 ERA, and a .300/.386/.510 opponents' line, with an 11.5 percent walk rate. Not surprisingly, that ERA is the highest in the majors among pitchers with 50 innings pitched in that timeframe.
• Ryan Zimmerman made all of his throws in a Ross Detwiler victory.
It's a really good sign, I think, that Zimmerman came into the dugout after his error Tuesday asking teammates for observations on what they see in his motion. When Chuck Knoblauch went through his throwing yips -- which basically ended his career -- he was in so much denial and was so intense that the other Yankees didn't know how to approach him, or help him, until the problem had embedded itself into his psyche. Other players have worked through this enough to be functional (Jarrod Saltalamacchia is an example), but typically, coaches and players say that the issue never really goes away; it's either managed or becomes unmanageable.
The Nationals say the throwing thing is not a concern for them, writes Amanda Comak. From her story:
The recent string of errors has stirred up the debate over the third baseman's throwing mechanics, which have been reworked multiple times the past few years to compensate for different issues. After the October surgery, though, Zimmerman's plan was to return to a natural motion. The trainers don't think he'll be all the way there until June and the Nationals, seemingly to a man, are unconcerned by the recent errors.
"I don't think it's a mental problem right now," manager Davey Johnson said. "With the severity of that injury and the surgery in the offseason, and now throwing from a different angle, his arm is a lot stronger. It's just going to take him a little while to get comfortable and in a slot over there.
"It's always magnified if somebody makes a bad pitch after you make an error and they hit a home run. We're not picking each other up. Good teams do that. It puts more focus on a guy making an error, especially when he's coming back from some surgery. I don't have any concern."
They owe him $114 million, total, for this season and the next six.
• A.J. Burnett was The Man for the Pirates.
• Travis Hafner was The Man for the Yankees. He's hitting .342, Kevin Youkilis is hitting .327, Brennan Boesch is batting .316 and Vernon Wells is batting .295; the Yankees are surviving with The New Guys, as they should be called.
Meanwhile, Mark Teixeira continues to make progress.
• Zack Greinke seems to be downplaying the Carlos Quentin stuff.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Terry Collins wants Zack Wheeler, writes Andy Martino, but the GM is balking.
2. Tony Cingrani makes his debut today.
3. The Brewers re-signed K-Rod.
4. It's too early to think about an exit strategy for Alfonso Soriano, writes Paul Sullivan.
5. The Dodgers will turn to Ted Lilly next week.
Dings and dents
1. A Nationals prospect had Tommy John surgery.
2. Two Phillies will see the doctor today.
3. James McDonald insists he is healthy.
4. Dylan Bundy hasn't started throwing yet.
5. Jose Bautista is still dealing with a bad back. Bob Elliott thinks it may have been the preparation to play third base that hurt Bautista.
6. Ryan Ludwick is making progress.
7. Stephen Pryor figures to be on the disabled list for a long time.
8. Ryan Madson is feeling great.
Five alarming defensive trends.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It's always dangerous to draw too many conclusions based on the first few weeks of the baseball season. However, with the added wild-card spot and parity across the sport pulling more teams into the mix for the postseason, contenders can't wait too long in addressing their apparent weaknesses for fear of costing themselves a few wins that could prove to be the difference over the course of the full season.
These five defensive situations were causes for concern at the start the season, and the first few weeks have done nothing to dissuade that concern.
1. The Los Angeles Angels' team defense
For a team that finished third in its division and failed to reach 90 wins in 2012, the Angels had a surprising number of team strengths, highlighted by their defense. Only the Blue Jays and Braves had more defensive runs saved (DRS) than the Angels' 55 a year ago, and their outfield was the catalyst: Mike Trout was an elite defender as a rookie and combined with Peter Bourjos to save 30 runs in center field alone. In addition, Torii Hunter, Mark Trumbo and Vernon Wells were solid contributors in the corner outfield spots.
The Angels are under a lot of pressure to succeed in 2013, and they are off to a 6-10 start, primarily because of poor defense. So far, the Angels' defense has cost them 16 runs, the worst mark in baseball, and their outfield has inverted from their biggest strength to their biggest weakness. The poor starts for Trout and Bourjos -- they have combined to cost the Angels three runs so far this season -- will likely turn around. However, Josh Hamilton is another matter.
Hamilton's early struggles at the plate have drawn the headlines, but he, too, has been a wreck defensively -- his minus-3 runs saved is among the worst marks in baseball. It was always a bit of a stretch for Hamilton to man center field, but Hamilton saved the Rangers 13 runs in nearly 2,000 innings in left field over the past three seasons. He is struggling to adjust to right field in Los Angeles, where, entering this season, he had played only four innings since 2009.
The Angels' infield has not fared much better. Erick Aybar has been their infield anchor for half a decade, but an injured heel has put him on the disabled list and forced Brendan Harris into the lineup, where he has already cost the Angels three runs in four games. In addition, Chris Iannetta has failed to throw out even one of the nine attempted base stealers he's faced so far, and he'll be without Jered Weaver, the Angels starter with the fastest pickoff move, for more than a month.
2. The Oakland Athletics' middle infield defense
Like the Angels, the Athletics have seen a defense that was the team's strength last season -- they saved 16 runs collectively in 2012 -- become a weakness so far this season. Unlike the Angels, the A's have a more isolated problem in the middle infield.
Jed Lowrie is at or near the top of the shortstop leaderboards for batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, but he's been less effective defensively. In fact, his minus-5 runs saved is tied for the worst mark in baseball. Double-play partner Scott Sizemore wasn't far behind him at minus-3 runs saved, but another left knee injury may have ended his season. It's another terrible break for Sizemore, but it may allow the Athletics to solve two defensive problems with one move.
Lowrie has not had a positive DRS season since 2008 at shortstop, his primary position. However, he has also played every other infield position in the majors and has a combined three runs saved at third base and second base in close to 500 innings since 2010. Without a clear solution at second base now that Sizemore is out, the A's may be able to convert Lowrie from a substandard defender at short to a solid one at second. The real question is whether shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima can make the successful transition from Japan. He did win three Japanese Gold Gloves, so there is some reason for optimism. The A's may not have the same urgency to make a move given their 12-4 start, but the Rangers appear to have leaped both them and the Angels defensively this season -- thanks in large part to the additions by subtraction of both Hamilton and Michael Young -- and are many people's favorite to win that division.
3. The Cincinnati Reds' center field defense
The Reds' decision to trade for Shin-Soo Choo made a lot of sense offensively. Choo has a career .383 on-base percentage and adequate speed -- he's stolen 20 bases in three of the past four seasons. For a lineup that lacked a leadoff hitter, Choo was the perfect fit. Defensively, that was less the case.
The Reds traded Drew Stubbs to acquire him, who, for all of his limitations, could play an adequate center field. When they decided to bring back Ryan Ludwick on a two-year deal, it was clear that the Reds would try to play one of their three corner outfielders in center. Choo has been that player so far this season, and the experiment is not going well so far. Even in right field, Choo had below-average range, as he cost the Indians 19 runs with his range over the past three seasons.
Choo was able to make up for a lot of those problems with his excellent arm, with which he threw out 30 baserunners unassisted since 2009. In center field, that arm will be less of a factor, and range is more important. Obviously, Choo is not the ideal choice, but Chris Heisey and Jay Bruce have shown limited range in the corner outfield spots, as well. Unless speedy prospect Billy Hamilton picks up the position quickly in the minors, the Reds may be stuck with this glaring issue all season.
4. The Toronto Blue Jays' middle infield defense
Over the offseason, the Blue Jays sacrificed a handful of pieces that made them the best defensive team in the American League in 2012 with 70 runs saved. Still, it was hard to criticize them for exchanging players such as Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar -- who combined for 19 runs saved last season -- for elite offensive players such as Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, even with the defensive downgrade.
The tradeoff would probably have worked fine if early injuries to Reyes and Brett Lawrie, himself an elite defender in 2012, had not exposed their lack of quality defensive depth. Without Reyes, Maicer Izturis has been forced to slide over to shortstop, where he cost the Angels an incredible nine runs in only 26 games a year ago. That move systematically weakens the Jays' defense, as either Emilio Bonifacio -- who already has minus-2 runs saved in seven games at second base -- or Lawrie will be forced to play second. The panic may set in quickly for the Jays this season because of their lofty preseason expectations.
5. The New York Yankees' left side of the infield defense
We have called attention to the poor defensive play of Derek Jeter many times before -- although it bears repeating that he has cost the Yankees 142 runs at shortstop over the past 10 seasons, more than 50 runs more than the closest player to him in that time frame. Unfortunately for the Yankees, they do not seem to have tremendous alternatives as he continues to recover from his ankle injury.
Eduardo Nunez has cost the Yankees 12 runs at shortstop in just more than 600 career innings, which is a pace of poor play that rivals that of Jeter. The Yankees seem to realize that fact by their attempted mix and match at the position so far this season. However, Jayson Nix, who they have used in six games this season at short, has cost them two runs there himself.
The Yankees built the left side of their infield to hit rather than field. That may work out fine if both Jeter and Kevin Youkilis can be productive offensively. Youkilis is certainly off to a hot start, and the Yankees have had some recent success in coaxing some excellent hitting seasons out of veterans such as Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez. However, Youkilis has limited mobility at third base, and Jeter struggled before his ankle injury. He may be worse when he returns, which may not be before the All-Star break, in any case. Any offensive struggles will magnify the poor defense of their left side, and the Yankees simply do not have the depth to make an adjustment.