As the July 12 All-Star Break approaches, we take a look at Venezuelans who’ve been noteworthy, for better or worse, this season:
Good: Jose Altuve, Houston. After a slightly slow start the mighty mite of Maracay is posting MVP-like numbers, starting with a .355 average. He keeps getting better, and is only 26.
Bad: Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers. Three seasons ago he won 14 and led the American League with a 2.57 ERA. Now his ERA’s over six and he’s been demoted to the bullpen. What happened?
Good: Victor Martinez, Detroit: He only plays DH anymore, really, but who cares? V-Mart is an amazing hitter, with 16 home runs and a .323 average, nearly 80 points above last year’s disappointing and atypical .245.
Bad: Pablo Sandoval, Boston: The Panda’s big contract with Boston has been a bust. He showed up in poor condition to spring training this season and injured his shoulder; now he’s out for the season and most folks in BeanTown could care less. Here’s hoping he can turn it around; he’ll turn 30 on August 11.
Good: Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco, Cleveland: The big righty from Barquisimeto finished on an unhittable run last season, and although he’s been blasted in the face with a line drive and missed a month with a hammy injury, he still might be the best pitcher on the first-place Indians (whose pitching is remarkable). CC returned from his injury with a complete-game shutout of the Tigers, followed by a 14-strikeout win over Toronto.
Bad: Omar Infante, (ex) Kansas City: O has hit only .239 over three seasons for the Royals, so even though the champs still owe him about $15 milion, they cut him loose last week.
Good: Asdrubal Cabrera, New York Mets, hit two home runs on Friday night at a game I was lucky enough to attend, in the New Shea @ Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Asdrubal’s experienced a bit of a career renaissance with the Mets and provided a steady hand at shortstop, batting .262 with 10 home runs. Could be a key player if the Mets make a second-half pennant run.
Disappointing: Felix Hernandez, Seattle: Only because he’s injured, King Felix of Valencia hobbles into the break at 4-4. The big workhorse broke down at the end of last season and all those innings may be taking a toll, at last.
Surprising: Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit. K-Rod is back among the best closers in the American League with 22 saves thus far. He nailed down a 10-pitch save against Tampa on Saturday and in his last six appearances lowered his ERA from 3.83 to 3.03. And for those who remember Frankie’s family blow-out with the Mets, here’s the other side of his personality, giving his 400th-save shoes to the loving grandmother who raised him.
Surprisingly Good: The Venezuelan Phillies. The energetic Phils lineup has featured up to five criollos in the lineup this year, including Freddy Galvis, Odubel Herrera, Andres Blanco, and Cesar Hernandez. Reliever Jeanmar Gomez, the big righty from Caracas (like K-Rod) has 22 saves in 24 opportunities and a 2.82 ERA. Herrera or Gomez will likely represent in the ASG.