I’ve written before about the outrageous potential of Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez. Well, he didn’t turn 18 until April, and he’s already in Double-A. He made his high-minors debut last week against Frisco and in six innings fanned eight, walked two and surrendered only a single run.
How Hernandez fares the rest of the season in the Texas League will be more one of the more engaging subplots to be found in 2004. With a high-90s fastball, a hammer curve that’s easily the best breaking pitch in the system and a staggering record of performance, Hernandez is a deeply special talent. Here’s hoping he doesn’t succumb to the panoply of hazards that await young pitchers.
It’s hard for me to deal with pitchers like Josh Beckett. They are the most frustrating type of talent. It’s not the pitch counts, the mechanics, or anything in the normal realm of sports medicine that could keep his gift on the mound. I only hope he ends up closer to fellow Texans Nolan Ryan and Kerry Wood than to someone like David Clyde. Beckett has what is being called a skin tear. Rather than the normal pocket of skin that fills with fluid, the skin just came right off. Beckett reported that this is the worst problem he’s had and the first time he’s bled from blister-related problems. Expect this DL stint to be long, along the lines of Jeremy Affeldt last season.
Speaking of Kerry Wood, his rehab start in Triple-A Iowa went extremely well. He combined with Sergio Mitre, who got an odd four-inning save, for an Iowa win. Wood went five innings, striking out four, and giving up two singles. Wood now heads back to Wrigley and seems ready to start on Sunday. Ryan Dempster will make his second rehab start in Iowa tomorrow.
On Thursday night, the Yankees and Red Sox played an epochal extra-inning game, possibly the most compelling contest of the season to date. This was the game in which Derek Jeter flew like a deranged Superman into the third row of seats in short left field. A consequence of If Jeter Had Wings was that Jeter had to leave the game and the Yankees were out of infielders. Alex Rodriguez slid over to shortstop and Gary Sheffield, who had last played third base in 1993, was called upon to take A-Rod’s place at the hot corner.
Sheffield’s first chance came on a Kevin Millar grounder. The outfielder looped the throw over first base for an error; it was clear that he had forgotten both the range and the mechanics of playing the position. The Red Sox, already up by a run, had Dave McCarty and Cesar Crespo due to bat. An obvious strategic question presented itself: could the Red Sox run up the score by bunting the ball at Sheffield?