A Marathon, Not a Sprint
by Brian Kluepfel
Well it seems only a week ago Miguel Cabrera was lingering at the Mendoza line and people were wondering if that big fat contract had gotten to his head. A week is a long time in April—I think Yogi Berra said that—and with a few good games old Miggy has raised his average to .277 as baseball’s coldest month comes to a close.
Now, if Miguel’s big contract isn’t affecting him, maybe the thought of a big contract is messing with The Panda’s head a bit. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco’s star and suddenly-svelte third baseman, who dropped about 40 pounds in the offseason and even played a few games back home in Venezuela, is mired in a month-long slump and ends April at .177, 100 points behind Cabrera, unless he gets in as a pinch-hitter against the Pods tonight.
Guanare native Martin Perez finally hit a bump in the road, getting knocked around by Oakland for eight runs on Tuesday after pitching 26 straight scoreless innings. Nine of those innings were against Oakland last week, and this time they got their revenge. Apparently he left a few too many—maybe a lot too many—pitches over the middle of the plate. Not against Major Leaguers, you don’t. But Perez is still 4-1 with an ERA under 3 as we hit International Workers’ Day, something Venezuela’s ex-president celebrated with some gusto.
If old-school baseball counts for anything, Alcides Escobar of Kansas City and Jose Altuve of the Astros are doing their part for “small ball.” Altuve has 9 stolen bags, 9 RBIs and 9 walks as a paradigm of what the little man used to be all about in baseball. He’s at .279. Houston utility man Marwyn Gonzalez is sticking in the bigs by playing multiple positions and hitting .261. Escobar’s at .286 with 5 stolen bases for Kansas City; his double-play partner Omar Infante is a respectable .275, and all-star receiver Salvador Perez has recently raised his average to .250; it had been much lower.
Francisco Rodriguez continues his marvelous resurrection with the front-running Brewers: 13 saves in 16 innings pitched, 23 strikeouts, 0 earned runs. It’s an unbelievable turnaround but the Caraqueno just turned 32 and who knows what’s left in that right arm of his?
King Felix Hernandez won his first three decisions for the Mariners and has returned to mortality, somewhat, but his ERA remains 2.40 and he leads the majors in K’s with 47, delighting his yellow-shirted legions in the Emerald City, no doubt. Hernandez will start against Altuve and the Astros on Friday.
Guacara man Jesus Montero, who showed such promise after coming to Seattle from the Yankees in the Michael Pineda trade of 2012, has fallen off the radar a bit and begun the season in Triple-A Tacoma, where he’s batting close to .300. Centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez, a Caracas native who as recently as 2010 won the Gold Glove, has chosen to heal his body and go on the restricted list for this season. He has gone through a battery of medical issues for the past few seasons including a diagnosis of ankylosing spondyliti, an inflammatory condition. Gutierrez’s condition is a reminder to any of us, baseball players or not, how precious our health is and how quickly it can dissipate.
Another former Gold Glover, Bobby Abreu of the Mets, didn’t get a chance to face the Phillies this week because of a rain-shortened series, but big Bob has looked dangerous at the plate in limited appearances for New York. He smoked a home run on Saturday against the Marlins, his first North American home run since 2012. Lefties over 40 like me are rooting for Bobby, big-time.
A quick shout-out to Eduardo Escobar of the Twins–he went 3-for-3 against Dodger ace Zach Grienke to raise his average to .321. In an effort at honest reporting, he also committed an error in the Twins loss (a rematch of the 1965 World Series, for those of you keeping score at home). Valencia native Josmil Pinto is getting some reps at catcher for the Twin Cities nine, sharing playcalling duties with Wailaku, HI native Kurt Suzuki.
Another Valencia boy, the Yankees’ Yangervis Solarte, continues to try to make the fans forget all about that other guy who used to play third at the big ballyard in the Bronx. He’s played in 22 games at the hot corner and his average is still .303 as we leave April behind. the tally: 23 hits in 22 games, including 9 doubles, 13 RBIs and his first Major League home run. Roger Cedeno’s nephew may be the second in the family to make his mark in la Gran Manzana.