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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Baseball Notes for April 7, 2013

Not surprisingly, the first week of the 2013 major league season got off to a roaring start, teasing fans with the promise of the exciting action to come. Players and teams are already making their marks, indicating that they are forces to be reckoned with. Conversely, there are others also off to alarming starts. What it all means for fans is an overload of story lines and exciting game action that will run its course over the next six months. Some of the most interesting stories from last week include:

***Texas Rangers’ pitcher Yu Darvish lost a bid for a perfect game in the second contest of the season, when he allowed a clean single up the middle to his 27th and final batter of the night, Marwin Gonzalez of the Houston Astros. The Japanese right-hander had been in complete control, striking out 14 though 8.2 innings until giving up the hit that knocked him from the game.

Gonzalez was destined to be Darvish’s last batter of the game anyways, as Texas manager Ron Washington claimed he had already decided to remove him from the game regardless of the outcome of that at-bat.

Although Washington publically proclaimed his intention to remove Darvish because of his rising pitch count, it’s doubtful he would have actually followed through on it if Gonzalez had only walked. No-hitters and perfect games are rare occurrences, and Darvish finished with only 111 total pitches, so it’s not like he was in a danger zone.

***Left-handed slugger Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles got off to a blistering start by hitting four home runs and driving in 16 runs in his first four games. By doing so, he joined Willie Mays, Mark McGwire and Nelson Cruz as the only players to homer in the first four games of a season.

Davis is picking up exactly where he left off last season. In his final seven regular season games of 2012 and his first four games of 2013, he combined for 11 home runs and 29 RBI. By comparison, the Miami Marlins scored a total of just 20 runs as a team during that same 11-game stretch.

***Unsurprisingly, star outfielder Josh Hamilton received a less than welcoming reception upon playing his first game in Arlington, Texas as a member of the Los Angeles Angels.

Hamilton spent the previous five seasons with the Rangers, making the All-Star team each year and winning an MVP award in 2010. Fans were disappointed to not only lose him, but to see him sign with the divisional rival Angels.

The heckling of the fans got so bad that Hamilton’s wife had to reach out to ballpark security. It’s a shame to see fans so disgracefully. While losing a popular player can be a tough blow, there is never any excuse for behaving in a threatening and inappropriate manner. Those who do only confirm to their target that choosing another team was the right decision.

***Some players are just snake bitten when it comes to injuries. Pitching against the Toronto Blue Jays in his first game since 2011, Boston Red Sox right-hander John Lackey was making an impressive return from Tommy John surgery when he had to be removed after completing his 76th pitch of the day and walked off the mound clutching his throwing arm in obvious pain.

Lackey had pitched well leading up to his removal, allowing five hits and two runs in 4.1 innings, while striking out eight and walking just one. After the game, the team announced the right-hander had suffered a biceps strain but would be headed back to Boston for tests. After the initial scare, Lackey seemed relieved that it was likely not something too serious, but was awaiting further word.

If Lackey is out for an extended period of time, it will be a shame. After being much-maligned during the first few years in Boston, he returned from his surgery in fantastic shape and ready to hold a spot in the back of the Red Sox’s rotation. Alfredo Aceves will likely replace Lackey in the immediate future. Hopefully Lackey will return before long, but if not, a prospect like Allen Webster may be brought up from the minors to take the starting role and push Aceves back to the bullpen.

***Atlanta Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman is hopping mad over being recently placed on the 15-day disabled list for a strained oblique muscle. The young slugger, who hit a scorching .417 with seven RBI during his first five games, believes his upcoming imposed inactivity was unnecessary and wishes the team had consulted him first. He had some choice words when asked about his thoughts on how the matter was handled, exclaiming, “They didn’t give me a choice.”

It’s rare for such matters to publically come to light, and making an up-and-coming star like Freeman unhappy is never a good sign. It appears that the Braves were being cautious and trying to avoid losing one of their best players for an extended period of time down the road, but this situation bears watching.


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