- The Baltimore Orioles are currently one game behind the Yankees for first place in the East with an overall record of 23-15. At some point, the baseball world is going to have to admit that the Orioles success is real and not an illusion. Baltimore’s offense has led the charge by scoring 190 runs (most in baseball) with a seventh-best on-base percentage plus slugging percentage (OPS) of .748. The relief corps has worked magic again this season with a 2.73 earned-run average, good for third best in baseball.
- If there’s anything missing from Baltimore’s lineup, it’s a viable offensive threat at second base. Ryan Flaherty, who has received the most starts at second base, has an atrocious .426 OPS. The black hole at the position has led Orioles fans to look onward at the glimmer of hope that resides in the form of Brian Roberts. Fans will have to wait another six weeks as the second baseman underwent surgery to repair a muscle in his injured right hamstring, according to the Baltimore Sun. Roberts has been out since injuring his hamstring on a stolen base at second on April 4.
- Closer Joel Hanrahan was supposed to be a staple in the newly-formed bullpen for Boston. The right-hander is now out for the season after facing season-ending tendon surgery. The Boston Herald reported that the closer will face a recovery period of six-to-nine months, which should make him ready to go by the start of Spring Training in 2014.
- Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe called out slugger David Ortiz this past week by suggesting that performance-enhancing drugs may indeed by the cause for his hot start to the season. Ortiz is batting .333 with 13 extra-base hits, including four home runs in 75 at-bats. The Dominican Republic native has seen a resurgence dating back to 2011 when it looked through the previous three years that his career may be slowly declining. Ortiz was hitting .426 at the time of the accusation this past week with a 27-game hitting streak, while Shaughnessy was quoted in saying that “it is not natural for a guy to hit .426 out of the gate.” The sportswriter went on to say that older players “do not get better” and also mentioned the fact that Ortiz being from the Dominican Republic is suspect in his “potential” use of steroids.
Apparently in mentioning Ortiz’s hot start this season, Shaughnessy isn’t familiar with the term ‘sample size’. While Ortiz has history, having tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, its irresponsible for a sports reporter to make these types of allegations with pure speculation and no substantial proof. Let those kinds of arguments fall to the fans of rival teams with nothing better to argue about. Perhaps Shaughnessy just desired a bit of attention. If that’s the case, mission accomplished.
- The Yankees will soon be receiving the help of Curtis Granderson after the center fielder was scheduled to play in games for their Triple-A affiliate. Granderson has yet to play this season after fracturing his right forearm in Spring Training. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez was also cleared this past week to begin baseball activities, though there remains no timetable on the former-MVP’s return.
- For only the third time since the Cy Young Award was first established, two reigning Cy Young Award winners squared off in David Price and R.A. Dickey. One wouldn’t easily tell the previous year’s success by looking at either starters’ current numbers. Price got the better of Dickey with eight strong innings, though neither hurler took the win in the extra-inning victory that went to Tampa. Dickey’s two earned runs over six innings Thursday night lowered the new Toronto pitcher’s earned-run average to 5.06, while Price saw his decrease to 4.78 after yielding four runs (two earned). Both number one starters will attempt to put their sluggish start in the past as they participate in the race for a playoff spot.
- A horrific scene developed Tuesday night after Toronto starter J.A. Happ released a pitch to Desmond Jennings. The Rays outfielder lined the ball off Happ’s head, as the left-hander was carted off the field to the shocked eyes of every player on the field and fan in the stadium. Happ luckily suffered no serious injury and was released from the hospital the next day, though he was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
- Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero lasted all of two starts before getting demoted by the club to Triple-A. The left-hander lasted all of 1/3 of an inning against Tampa, as Romero allowed three runs off four hits and two walks.
- The White Sox received the help of outfielder Dayan Viciedo, who was taken off the 15-day disabled list in time for Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. Viciedo is recovering from a strained left oblique. The slugger will try to build upon a slow start (.229 batting average, two home runs prior to the injury) as part of a White Sox lineup that has the fewest runs scored (120) in the American League.
- Cleveland will be helped out by the return of centerfielder Michael Bourn, who came off the disabled list this past Friday. Bourn’s .375 on-base percentage before injuring his right index finger will be a welcomed addition to the leadoff spot. Though the Indians have been successful since winning 13 of their previous 17 games prior to Friday, Bourn can only be a plus.
- Speaking of the Indians getting helped out, Cleveland received help from an usual source Wednesday night. Down 4-3 to the Indians in the ninth inning, shortstop Adam Rosales of the Athletics lifted a pitch off closer Chris Perez that nearly everybody but the umpires thought was a game-tying home run. Instead, umpire Angel Hernandez ruled it a double. After using instant replay, a source that is supposed to eradicate blown home runs calls, Hernandez and his crew still declared it a double. Oakland went on to lose 4-3. One day later, Major League Baseball acknowledged what was already evident to all of baseball - the call was wrong.
- Angel Hernandez and crew weren’t the only umpires to come under scrutiny this past week. It all started when manager Bo Porter of the Houston Astros called on reliever Wesley Wright in the seventh inning of Thursday night’s game against the Angels. After Los Angeles brought in pinch-hitter Luis Jiminez, Porter subsequently made another pitching change in the form of Hector Ambriz before Wright had thrown a pitch. The rule book clearly states that upon replacing a pitcher, the new pitcher must pitch to the batter until “such batter is put out or reaches base, or until the offensive team is put out…” Angels manager Mike Scioscia came out to argue that point to no avail. The umpiring crew, clearly oblivious to the rule, allowed the pitching switch, leading to the Angels playing the game under protest. The protest became moot when the Angels won the game. Crew chief Fieldin Culbreth was subsequently suspended two games and fined an undisclosed amount by MLB for the missed call, while the other three umpires (Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke, and Adrian Johnson) were also fined.
- Fans in Los Angeles are growing restless after another slow start to the season, though general manager Jerry DiPoto isn’t ready to make any big moves to shake up the club. Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times chronicles the early struggles of the Angels here.
- Outfielder Jason Bay is getting used to a reduced role in his time with the Seattle Mariners. The former All-Star’s role was looked upon by writer Larry Millson of the Seattle Times here. Bay had some interesting comments, as the outfielder tries to add some pop to a team has sorely lacked clout in recent years.
- A.J. Pierzynski is currently on pace for 20 home runs in the Rangers lineup, though his power production will have to be placed on temporarily hold after he landed on the 15-day disabled list. The catcher is dealing with a strain in his right oblique muscle and could miss up to four weeks in a worst case scenario, according to the Star-Telegram.
- Brian McCann wasted no time in re-acclimating himself in the Braves lineup after belting a home run in his third start of the season. The veteran catcher was nearly seven months shy of his shoulder surgery in October upon returning to action this week.
- While the Astros and Marlins battle to avoid the worst record in Major League Baseball, one key difference between both teams is that Miami has been willing to give playing time to top prospects. Top guys like starting pitcher Jose Fernandez, outfielder Marcell Ozuna, and recently second baseman Derek Dietrich have taken the call for injured regulars on the Marlins roster. Manny Navaro of the Miami Herald writes about those players here.
- How bad is Miami’s attendance? It is so bad that the Marlins have been forced to close the upper bowl for some weeknight games, according to the Miami Herald. Barely one year into their new ballpark, Miami’s attendance ranks dead last in the National Leagues thus far in the season. Six of the Marlins nine games during the upcoming homestand beginning on May 14 will have the upper deck closed off for fans. Fewer than 500 fans own season tickets in the upper bowl, and those fans will be moved at no additional charge to the lower bowl for each of those games.
- Heed this advice - catch as many Matt Harvey starts as possible. Catch them while you can brag to people that you saw Harvey before he became a “big name”. The right-hander may already be there, as the North Carolina alum has a 1.28 earned-run average through seven starts with 58 strikeouts over 49.1 innings. The Mets hurler took a perfect game into the seventh inning on Tuesday night before allowing a single to outfielder Alex Rios of the White Sox. Harvey’s final line on the night was 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K, though the offense didn’t pick him up in a 1-0, 10-inning loss. Harvey had possibly the best line of the season before being surpassed by rookie Shelby Miller of the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.
- Whither Roy Halladay? Only days after complaining of shoulder pain, it was announced that the former-ace of the Phillies would undergo shoulder surgery to clean up a bone spur, as well as his rotator cuff and labrum. Halladay expressed optimism to the Daily News that he may return before the 2013 season ends, though the chances are currently unclear of that happening. Philadelphia holds a $20 million club option on Halladay for the 2014 season, one in which they will surely decline.
- Kyle Eichinger became the first reader to earn a spot on this weekly article after submitting the following news piece: With his home run on Monday, Domonic Brown became the first Philadelphia Phillies player ever to hit a ball into McCovey Cove (at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants). Special thanks to Kyle for the submission. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for your chance at appearing on one of these articles.
- Cincinnati recalled Ryan Hanigan from the 15-day disabled list on Friday, as the catcher will try to right the ship on what was a rough start to the season before straining his left oblique. Hanigan had only three hits in 38 at-bats (.079 batting average) prior to hitting the disabled list with a strained oblique and bruised left thumb. The Reds catcher matched his three-hit total in only three rehab starts for Triple-A Louisville.
- The Reds still await the return of Johnny Cueto, who made his first rehab start for Class-A Daytona on Thursday. The Cincinnati ace threw a total of 50 pitches, 37 for strikes, according to the Cincinnati Inquirer. Cueto will next pitch on Tuesday with an 80-pitch limit, though it is unclear if the Reds would be comfortable recalling the Dominican Republic native after his second rehab outing.
- Second baseman Rickie Weeks of the Brewers is off to a rough start this season after batting .183 with an OPS of .582 through the first six weeks. The slump forced manager Ron Roenicke to drop him from fifth to seventh in the lineup, according to Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel. Weeks posted a negative WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for the first time in his career as a regular in the majors last season and is off to an even worse start in 2013.
- Francisco Liriano fanned nine Mets batters over 5.1 innings in a successful debut for the Pirates on Saturday. The left-hander took the win after surrendering one run, as Pittsburgh went on to take three of four games from New York. The Pirates reside 2.5 games behind the division leading Cardinals.
- Want to know the definition of dominance? Check out Shelby Miller’s start for the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night against the Colorado Rockies. After issuing a leadoff, broken-bat bloop single to Eric Young Jr., Miller went on to pitch a perfect game. 27 batters later, the rookie’s final line was as follows: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K. Off to an incredible start in his rookie season, Miller has a 1.58 earned-run average with five victories in seven starts. Like Matt Harvey, Miller is a must-watch young fireballer.
- Get used to seeing Anthony Rizzo in a Cubs uniform. Chicago wasted no time in securing Rizzo’s spot as their first baseman through at least the 2019 season, as they agreed to a seven year, $41 million extension with the young left-handed power hitter. The deal includes two club options that could make the deal worth up to $68 up million and carry it through the 2021 season. Rizzo has smacked nine home runs thus far in the season with a .915 OPS.
- Arizona placed closer J.J. Putz on the 15-day disabled list with an elbow strain, though the Arizona Republic reported that the right-hander will not need surgery. Relievers Heath Bell and David Hernandez both closed out games in his absence this week. Putz had four blown saves in nine opportunities with a 4.26 earned-run average before going down with the injury.
- The LA Times had some interesting quotes from manager Don Mattingly about his current job status here. The Dodgers are off to a tepid start this season with a record of 15-21, and as always, fans and baseball pundits need someone to blame.
- Los Angeles fans received encouraging news when it was announced that Zack Greinke would pitch in a minor league game Friday. The early rehab start allows the top pitcher to possibly start a game in the Dodgers’ rotation as early as next week, according to the LA Times. Greinke has been out since fracturing his left collarbone after outfielder Carlos Quentin of the Padres charged the mound following a hit-by-pitch.
- Do yourself a favor and check out this YouTube video of Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp giving away several pieces of gear to a fan of his during a game. The fan is dealing with cancer, and Kemp made a remarkable gesture to brighten his day.
Pierce Jefferson can be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter (@MLBPJ).
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