Josh Hamilton pulled off a rare feat on Tuesday night against the Orioles.
The Tuesday Takeaway
Step aside, Matt Kemp—there’s a new name atop the home run leaderboard. That would be Josh Hamilton, who hit not one, not two, not three, but four long balls at Camden Yards in the Rangers’ 10-3 win over the Orioles.
Hamilton, whose absurd 1.298 OPS still trails Kemp’s by seven points, went 5-for-5, adding a double to those homers to finish just one total base shy of Shawn Green’s single-game record of 19. He is the first player to hit four homers in a game since Carlos Delgado did it on September 25, 2003, the first Rangers player ever to accomplish the feat, and the second player to join the club against the Orioles. The other was the Indians’ Rocky Colavito on June 10, 1959.
Have the Angels dug themselves too deep of a hole in the AL West?
The Wednesday Takeaway
When the Angels added Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson this offseason, general manager Jerry DiPoto and owner Arte Moreno were hoping to change the landscape of the AL West, to instantly turn a team that finished 10 games behind the Rangers in the division last year into a contender.
After a 3-2 loss to the Rays yesterday—coupled with a 7-3 Rangers win over the Yankees—the Angels are already 8 ½ games back, and their 6-12 record is the third-worst mark in the American League. Mike Scioscia’s team has lost its last three games, seven of its last 10, and 10 of its last 14. Right fielder Torii Hunter, who has yet to hit a homer in 65 at-bats, called on everyone in the clubhouse, teammates and coaches alike, to “dig deep.”
The AL West added a couple of the premier international players over the offseason, and both are already contributing to their new teams.
Two high-profile international free agents came to the American League West this year. The two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers won negotiating rights (with a $51.7 million bid) to Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish in December 2011 and signed him to a six-year, $56 million deal the following month. Meanwhile, the small-market Oakland A's surprised everyone in February by landing Cuban center fielder/Internet sensationYoenis Cespedes at four years, $36 million.
Darvish was the better-known quantity, having generated buzz well in advance of his U.S. debut, and was expected to contribute right away. Cespedes came with more questions attached, and it wasn't certain that he would break camp with the big club. But he did, and he made an immediate impact, launching a home run in his big-league debut (amusingly enough, played in Japan).
Yu Darvish makes his first big-league start, while Ian Kinsler signs an extension.
The Monday Takeaway
When Yu Darvish walked back to the Rangers’ dugout after the top of the first inning of his major-league debut, things were looking bleak for both the pitcher and his team. Darvish had allowed seven Mariners to reach base and four of them to cross the plate while throwing 42 pitches and putting Texas in an early hole.
The righty settled down after that, coughing up just one more run in the second inning, and needing only 68 pitches to complete the final 4 2/3 innings of his 5 2/3-inning debut. The four walks, hit batter, and wild pitch on Darvish’s line are a bit worrisome, but some of his early wildness can be chalked up to rookie jitters. And once the Rangers’ offense kicked into gear against Mariners starter Hector Noesi, Darvish grew more comfortable, riding 11 runs of support to his first stateside victory.
What are some of the nagging questions up and down the West Coast?
Continuing the saga I started last week, I've identified one nagging question about each team coming out of spring training, one loose thread that I can't resist tugging upon. Last Friday began with some East Coast bias, on Monday we got Centralized, and today we run out of real estate on the Western shore.
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Soreness and tendinitis plague several ballplayers just before the regular season begins.
Michael Pineda, New York Yankees (Right Shoulder Tendinitis)
Pineda complained about shoulder soreness only a few days ago, and a subsequent MRI revealed right shoulder tendinitis. Pineda’s has thrown with slightly less velocity this spring, but he did not complain of any soreness until after his start last Friday. He averaged roughly 94 mph last year and sat consistently in the low 90s this spring, but had been playing it off as nothing. The good news is that there is no major structural damage, so Pineda should be able to resume throwing in about two weeks.
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers (Left Groin Tightness)
Hamilton’s latest injury is tightness in his left groin. He underwent sports hernia surgery in November on his left side, so any soreness or tightness this far away from the surgical date is expected, but it’s also a little concerning. It’s common to have soreness when returning to full activities following surgery, and normal soreness keeps players out for a few days. Right now, this is a day-to-day issue.
Jason's starting to wind down his time in Arizona, but not before he gives another peek into an unedited scouting notebook for some Texas Rangers prospects.
“Baseball is my stereo, and my father let me crank the noise and my mother told me to turn it down.” –-Oliver Wendell Holmes
I enjoyed writing the first installment of this ad hoc series, so I decided to bring it back this week. If you’ve been reading my spring training diary, one of the things you probably learned is that I’m very casual with my thoughts, especially as they relate to my ongoing attempts to woo the face of my diary into an emotional (and perhaps) physical relationship. I’m still working on that. The other thing you have no doubt extracted is that I’ve been living in Surprise, Arizona for the past 30 days, spending a large chunk of my time at the Texas Rangers team complex, watching the stop-motion developmental process of minor leaguers in real time live action. My scouting views haven’t been limited to just the Rangers, as I’ve seen prospects from the Reds, Indians, Mariners, A’s, Giants, Padres, Royals, Rockies, Dodgers, and White Sox, and I’m clearly lying about watching prospects in the White Sox system because that’s like watching unicorns play Laser Tag, and my notes are thick and luscious with scouting commentary on the aforementioned teams, excluding the White Sox, of course. Alas, my editors wouldn’t enjoy bi-weekly 10,000 word submissions and the bones in my fingers would relocate to more comfortable surroundings, so I’ve had to spread the notes around using different vehicles, this being one of those vehicles.
The Texas Rangers might be considered an offensive juggernaut now, but that hasn't always been the case.
With the Texas Rangers coming off their second straight World Series appearance and the Angels making a monumental splash this past offseason in signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the AL West has become a two-team race, a land of the haves and have-nots. Arlington and Anaheim are the new Boston and New York.
Hyperbole aside, it is worth remembering that things weren't always this way. When the Rangers first moved to Arlington from Washington D.C. in 1972, they were coming off a 63-96 showing and didn't have much going for them. The Oakland A's, who had won 101 games the previous season, were the division's powerhouse. And although Dick Williams' A's got swept by Baltimore in the 1971 ALCS, that club laid the foundation for the 1972-1974 version that would win three consecutive World Series.
The punches keep on coming for the Mets, while other players deal with various sprains, bruises, and soreness.
David Wright, New York Mets (Partial Rectus Abdominis Tear)
Things just got worse for the Mets. After further tests, Wright was diagnosed with a partially torn rectus abdominis muscle toward the left side of his abdomen, which is in the same areas as the obliques. The treatment won’t be much different from oblique treatment; Wright will initially focus on rest and modalities like ice and gentle motion. Wright will then move to strengthening exercises and, eventually, baseball-related activities.
Wright’s soreness lingered longer than expected, so he had an ultrasound-guided injection to help calm the inflammation. The third baseman feels like he should be back in time for Opening Day, but that might be overly optimistic when you consider his comps are Ryan Zimmerman (who needed surgery) and Kevin Slowey (who didn’t). Both missed a little over two months’ time because of their partial tears, but the range of a “partial tear” is quite large. It looks like Wright will be back before the two-month mark, but we need to keep the extended timeline in mind. Both hitting and fielding can aggravate the injury, so we will have to wait and see how he responds to those activities.
Returns to the rotation for Neftali Feliz, Daniel Bard, and Chris Sale this spring might signal a renewed appreciation for the significance of the starting pitcher.
It’s that time of year again: spring, the season of growth and change when life returns to the world, in baseball as in nature. For baseball fans and writers alike, it is a season dominated by prospects blooming into Opening Day starters, free agent closers descending on the bullpen like choking ivy, and Rich Harden blossoming onto the Disabled List (poor Rich has been done for the season since early February after aggravating the same shoulder capsule for the fifth straight year).
It is also the time of year when that young reliever with filthy stuff your team brought up for late-inning leverage gets his annual look as a starter. Sticking a young starter from the minors into the major-league pen for half a year to get him some seasoning and then plugging him into the rotation the next spring is a time-honored tradition; the Baltimore Orioles under Earl Weaver and company used this process to develop most of the guys who would start for them during that team’s heyday in the late Sixties and Seventies, including Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who remains a vocal advocate of the process to this day, but they were hardly alone in doing so. However, since Dennis Eckersley’s fateful union with manager Tony La Russa in Oakland in 1988, the pendulum swing towards the closer over the past two decades and change led to some of those promising young minor-league starters never leaving the bullpen, lingering there to give their skippers late-inning certainty while collecting the big paychecks that come with that peace of mind.