Results tagged ‘ David Ortiz ’

Richards injures knee, carried out on stretcher …

Garrett RichardsGarrett Richards’ left knee buckled while sprinting to cover first base in Wednesday’s second inning at Fenway Park and had to be carted off the field in a stretcher. The Angels initially called it a left patellar injury, awaiting further evaluations before announcing anything more definitive.

Nonetheless, the ailment looks serious.

And now the first-place Angels — sporting a one-game lead on the A’s for the best record in the Majors when play began — are facing the scenario of potentially being without their best starting pitcher for the rest of the season, with little help available in their Minor League system.

With one out, runners on first and second and the Red Sox leading, 2-0, in the bottom of the second, Brock Holt hit a grounder to the right side that Albert Pujols fielded and fired to shortstop Erick Aybar at second. Richards came over for the potential inning-ending double play, but collapsed just before reaching the bag and was on the ground for about eight minutes.

All of the Angels starters surrounded Richards, with Pujols momentarily holding Richards’ hand and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz came out to show his support as they lifted the 26-year-old right-hander onto the stretcher, a moment that drew a standing ovation from Red Sox fans in attendance.

Richards entered Wednesday’s start 13-4 with a 2.53 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 167 innings, numbers that made him a candidate for the AL’s Cy Young Award. The Angels have already lost 23-year-old starter Tyler Skaggs to Tommy John surgery, and are thin on starting pitching in their farm system. Potential call-ups from Triple-A include lefty Wade LeBlanc (4.00 ERA in 21 starts), lefty Randy Wolf (5.26 ERA in 25 2/3 innings) and righty Chris Volstad (5.45 ERA in six starts). Another option could be lefty Michael Roth, who is 10-6 with a 2.82 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Arkansas.

Below are some of the tweets that have been sent out in support of Richards …

Alden

Mike Trout’s jersey cracks Top 20 …

The latest list of most popular jerseys was unveiled on Thursday morning, and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz ranks first. That’s no surprise, given that numbers are based on sales in the offseason, after the 2013 World Series was concluded. Naturally, teammate and fellow champion Dustin Pedroia ranks second.

Mike Trout, meanwhile, ranks 14th. When the previous list came out in late September, based on sales following the 2013 All-Star Game, Trout was 10th. Both seem a little low for the game’s best all-around player and potential “face of baseball.” But overall team popularity plays a huge part in these numbers, which is a big reason why the Red Sox (3), Yankees (2), Dodgers (2), Cardinals (2) and Rangers (2) have more than one current representative.

Here’s the full list …

1. Ortiz
2. Pedroia
3. Derek Jeter (NYY)
4. Yadier Molina (StL)
5. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
6. Andrew McCutchen (PIT)
7. Buster Posey (SFG)
8. David Wright (NYM)
9. Robinson Cano (NYY/SEA)
10. Manny Machado (BAL)
11. Yasiel Puig (LAD)
12. Bryce Harper (WAS)
13. Miguel Cabrera (DET)
14. Trout
15. Matt Harvey (NYM)
16. Prince Fielder (DET/TEX)
17. Adam Wainwright (StL)
18. Koji Uehara (BOS)
19. Yu Darvish (TEX)
20. Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS/NYY)

Alden

Josh Hamilton is even hitting lefties …

Josh HamiltonOne of the biggest indicators that Josh Hamilton is finally right at the plate is his recent success against left-handed pitchers.

Southpaws have given the Angels’ left-handed slugger fits all year. Over his first 60 games, he had a .165/.192/.281 slash line against southpaws. But since Aug. 9, a stretch that has seen him bat .339 with 14 walks to get his batting average up to a season-high .243, he’s been a lot better.

Hamilton has 15 hits in 44 at-bats vs. lefties in that span. Over the last six games, he’s gone 3-for-3 with a homer against Mark Buehrle, 1-for-2 with a walk against Derek Holland and 2-for-3 against David Price.

“Staying square has been the biggest thing,” Hamilton said. “I’ve talked about it all year. And the last few, I would say, couple of weeks, I’ve been better off lefties. If I can stay square on them, then I know I can on righties also.”

Hamilton — at .243/.302/.429, with 20 homers and 67 RBIs on the year — says it’s “the [lefties] that are erratic” that give him the most trouble.

“Guys that are more established and know how to pitch the game, know how to play the game, like Price or Buehrle or [Andy] Pettitte, guys like that [are the ones he’s more comfortable against],” Hamilton said. “But once you start seeing them, getting comfortable, that carries over to guys who are erratic.”

Some additional notes from Tuesday’s 12-6 win over the Blue Jays

  • Hamilton is now one of seven players with at least 20 homers and 25 doubles in each of the last four seasons, joining Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Alfonso Soriano, David Ortiz, Prince Fielder and Robinson Cano.
  • Five hits and four extra-base hits in one game are each career-highs for Mark Trumbo. His three doubles tied a single-game franchise record, and he became the first Angels player ever to notch five hits and five runs scored in one game. Four extra-base hits in one game ties a franchise record, done nine other times and last by Erick Aybar in 2011.
  • Mike Trout, who has hit safely in 12 straight games, is now the third Angels player to have 180 hits in back-to-back seasons.
  • Kole Calhoun, who hit an RBI double in the fifth, has an RBI in 13 of his last 14 starts and leads all rookies with 22 RBIs since joining the Angels on July 28.

Alden

How Angels’ ‘Big 3′ stacks up in 2013 …

Josh Hamilton

I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.

But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.

In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …

  • Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
  • Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
  • Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
  • Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
  • Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
  • Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
  • Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
  • Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
  • Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
  • Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
  • D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
  • Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
  • Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
  • Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
  • Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524

* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized. 

** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae. 

Alden 

Game 129: Red Sox-Angels …

Coming off a 4-2 road trip, and back-to-back losses to put a sour end to it, the Angels return home (rather briefly). They’ll play three against the Red Sox team they swept at Fenway Park last week before opening up a six-game road trip through Seattle and Oakland.

“That was a tough loss, Saturday was,” veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. “Sunday, we were either going to hit him [Max Scherzer] or we weren’t. But Saturday, I think we should’ve come through with that game. We had the lead in the eighth inning and just blew it.”

But  with his team still 4 1/2 out of the Wild Card and a solid 10 games back in the AL West, Hunter prefers to look at the positive.

“Four of six on the road,” he said. “That’s pretty good for baseball. And now we’re coming home with four [wins] in our last six, it’s just like we won two series.”

Red Sox (62-67)

Scott Podsednik, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Ryan Lavarnway, C
James Loney, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, DH
Ryan Kalish, RF
Jose Iglesias, SS
Pedro Ciriaco, 3B

Pitching: RH Clay Buchholz (11-4, 4.47 ERA)

Angels (66-62)

Mike Trout, CF
Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, DH
Kendrys Morales, 1B
Mark Trumbo, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Maicer Izturis, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C

Pitching: RH Jered Weaver (16-3, 2.74 ERA)

  • Pujols still doesn’t feel 100 percent, but he showed enough during some pregame agility and baserunning drills to return to the lineup for the first time since suffering an injury to his right calf at Fenway Park on Wednesday. “Obviously, I’m not where I want to be,” Pujols said, “but it’s good to be back in the lineup. I’m still going to be taking it easy. It doesn’t bother me swinging, but running I’m still a little bit sore.”
  • Asked when he could return to first base, Pujols said: “I don’t have a magic ball, so whenever I feel good. If it’s tomorrow, where I can go and take some grounders and feel good, I’ll go and play my position. But I don’t think that’s a problem here. We have two good first basemen here who can play the position, so as long as I’m in the lineup, that’s more important than anything else.”
  • Mike Scioscia couldn’t divulge much regarding Scott Downsdeparture from the team, saying only: “Right now we’re not sure [how long he’ll be out]. Hopefully as a little time goes on, we’ll get a little more clarity as to Scott’s situation.” Downs left Sunday night, flying back home to Kentucky.
  • Without Downs, and with Hisanori Takahashi being claimed by the Pirates on Friday, the Angels have no lefties in their bullpen. The Red Sox, at least, are without lefty sluggers David Ortiz (DL) and Adrian Gonzalez (trade).
  • Garrett Richards has had three stints as a reliever. One went well (a two-out save against the Tigers on Friday), but he gave up two runs to the Red Sox on Thursday and three to the Tigers on Saturday. Asked about his bullpen role moving forward, Scioscia said: “I think he’s got a power arm that can possibly play in the back end of a ‘pen. We’ll slot him in where we think he can help us, depending on who’s available on a given night.”

Alden

Trumbo’s favorite Derby homer? It’s a tie for first …

KANSAS CITY — Mark Trumbo impressed a lot of people with his Home Run Derby showing on Monday night, even though he was eliminated in a tiebreaker swing-off by Jose Bautista. Asked for his favorite of the 13 through the first two rounds, Trumbo narrowed it down to two — the one that landed on the roof of the Hall of Fame building beyond the left-field bleachers (measured at a conservative 428 feet); and the smoking line drive out to straightaway center (420).

“I’d say the one on top of the roof,” Trumbo said, before backtracking — “but the one to center was impressive. I think a lot of the guys really liked the line drive.”

Trumbo’s average distance per home run — 434 feet — was the longest among the competitors, including champion Prince Fielder. He started off slow each round, then got into a little bit of a rhythm towards the middle, but felt he could’ve done better.

“I felt like I never really got into a great rhythm,” Trumbo said. “It seemed like I’d hit one, make an out, and then have to take a few pitches. Ideally, the goal is to get into an extended rhythm, kind of like Prince did, and then rattle off a better total. My biggest thing was just to have fun with it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. I wanted to get one. That was the advice — don’t get a goose egg.”

Trumbo’s favorite moment?

“[David Ortiz] pulled me aside before I left yesterday and that was really cool,” he said. “He was telling me it took him three or four times of doing it to really feel like he — not had it down, but had a chance. Things move very, very quickly when you’re out there. You can’t really simulate that.”

But C.J. Wilson, at least, can capture it.

As usual, Wilson was out there with his camera and estimated taking roughly 800 photos of the Derby participants. He’ll look over them when he has time in the next few days and print them out for Trumbo to keep.

“I had my brand-new camera out there, taking some cool images that I’ll process while we’re on the road in the next couple days and see if I can come up with some winners,” Wilson said. “It’s just fun. Jered [Weaver] and Mike [Trout] and I were out there just trying to hype him up and keep him motivated and have a good time. It’s a lot of pressure out there, when you’re the only guy batting for a couple minutes at a time in front of the fans.”

Trumbo’s roommate also TiVo’d it. But many of those in attendance won’t need reminders of the show Trumbo put on. Many were impressed.

“I know my Twitter following went way up,” Trumbo said with a smile.

“Any time I’m in something, I want to win. But I’m going to take away some really cool memories from it.”

Some other pre-All Star Game notes

  • Asked about their friendship in a pregame presser, Trout joked of Bryce Harper: “We don’t like each other.” Bryce: “It’s like Bird and Magic. He’s Magic, I’m Bird.”
  • Maybe more LeBron and Wade? “I hope I play with [Trout] one day,” Harper said. “I think him playing center field, me playing right field, as a one-two punch, I think that’d be fun.”
  • Trout was asked who wins in a footrace between him and Peter Bourjos. His response: “I think Peter’s got me around the bases in an inside-the-parker, but home to first, we were talking about it the other day, I think I have him by a couple of steps.”
  • Weaver was told he’ll pitch the fifth inning tonight. As for how it affects him for the second half? It’s just like a normal bullpen session.
  • Trout and Trumbo are not really sure when they’ll get in. “I have all my gloves, as usual,” Trumbo said. C.J., of course, is sitting out due to a blister he doesn’t expect to impact his second half.
  • Weaver on not being named the starter for the All-Star Game a second straight year, despite leading the Majors with a 1.96 ERA: “I told you guys, whatever happens, I’m just excited to be here, be a part of it. Obviously it would’ve been cool to start back-to-back years, but I’m just excited to be able to get out there and throw an inning and just be part of this whole experience. It’s fun. It’s great to hang out with all these guys and just see who they are as a person instead of just battling against him.”
  • One guy Weaver was really excited to get to know a little better here: Adam Dunn. “He’s a funny character, man.”

Some Angels All-Star Game links …

Some intriguing All-Star Game stories …

The lineups …

NL

Carlos Gonzalez, DH (COL)
Melky Cabrera, CF (SFG)
Ryan Braun, LF (MIL)
Joey Votto, 1B (CIN)
Carlos Beltran, RF (StL)
Buster Posey, C (SFG)
Pablo Sandoval, 3B (SFG)
Dan Uggla, 2B (ATL)
Rafael Furcal, SS (StL)

SP: RH Matt Cain (SFG)

AL

Derek Jeter, SS (NYY)
Cano, 2B (NYY)
Josh Hamilton, LF (TEX)
Bautista, RF (TOR)
Fielder, 1B (DET)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (TEX)
MikOrtiz, DH (BOS)
Mike Napoli, C (TEX)
Curtis Granderson, CF (NYY)

SP: RH Justin Verlander (DET)

Alden

The ASG rosters that should’ve been …

American League

Mike Trout, CF (.343 BA, .399 OBP, 23 SB)
Rookie of the Year? How about MVP? Trout has elevated himself to that level already.
Robinson Cano, 2B (.316 BA, 20 HR, 50 RBI)
Best second baseman in baseball. And it isn’t even close.
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (.323, 18 HR, 68 RBI)
Best hitter in the AL, in my mind, and better at third base than I thought he’d be.
Josh Hamilton, LF (.318 BA, 26 HR, 74 RBI)
Somebody’s going to give this guy an absurd amount of money this offseason.
Jose Bautista, RF (.911 OPS, 27 HR, 64 RBI)
As Mike Scioscia said in Toronto, “How is this guy only batting .240?” He’s as fun to watch hit as anyone.
David Ortiz, DH (.302 BA, 22 HR, 55 RBI)
Remember when we all thought he was finished?
Paul Konerko, 1B (.333 BA, 14 HR, 42 RBI)
Like fine wine, Konerko seems to get better with age.
Joe Mauer, C (.327 BA, .415 OBP, 38 RBI)
He’s only catching about half the time, but he’s healthy and back to being himself offensively. Huge sigh of relief for Twins.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (.370 OBP, 11 HR, 42 RBI)
As slick as there is with the glove and a great hitter.

SP: Justin Verlander (9 W, 2.58 ERA, 128 SO)
Weaver’s numbers are better, but the reigning MVP deserves to start one of these.

National League

Andrew McCutchen, CF (.360 BA, 16 HR, 54 RBI)
Oh, and 14 steals. The guy does it all. An absolute freak.
Ryan Braun, LF (.309 BA, 23 HR, 59 RBI)
It was a rough offseason. Good to see him pick up right where he left off from his MVP year.
Joey Votto, 1B (.350 BA, 14 HR, 47 RBI)
Here’s all you need to know about how good a hitter Votto is: He’s hit ONE infield pop-up since ’09.
Giancarlo Stanton, DH (.364 OBP, 19 HR, 50 RBI)
Man, I sure hope he can compete in the Home Run Derby.
Carlos Gonzalez, RF (.340 BA, 17 HR, 58 RBI)
Like McCutchen, this guy does it all on the field.
David Wright, 3B (.350 BA, 10 HR, 55 RBI)
What a travesty that Pablo Sandoval is starting at third base over him.
Aaron Hill, 2B (.300 BA, 11 HR, 39 RBI)
Two cycles in one half? Yeah, he gets the nod.
Carlos Ruiz, C (.357 BA, 13 HR, 46 RBI)
Ruiz was always lost in those deep Phillies lineups. Not anymore. Without him, they have nothing this year.
Starlin Castro, SS (.291 BA, 40 RBI, 16 SB)
Tough year for NL shortstops. I’ll take the one with the most upside.

SP: R.A. Dickey (2.15 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 12 W)
Great story, great person, great season. I don’t care if he’s a knuckleballer. He deserves it.

*** I’ll be taking the Baltimore series off. Follow Joe McIntyre for Angels updates, and look for stuff on the Angels’ first half and the upcoming Trade Deadline very soon. I’ll catch up with y’all from KC.

Alden

Too many All-Star no-shows? …

PHOENIX – All-Star Game managers Ron Washington and Bruce Bochy took on a tall order leading up to the Midsummer Classic, and it didn’t end when they submitted their roster selections more than a week ago.

The need for a wide array of substitutions has provided quite the juggling act.

In the week since Major League Baseball announced the players who would make up the National League and American League squads for Tuesday’s 82nd All-Star Game at Chase Field, 17 replacements have been named – 10 in the AL and seven in the NL – including five for the starting lineups.

A lot of those who bowed out of the All-Star Game did so because they pitched on Sunday and were thus ineligible (like Justin Verlander, James Shields, Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain and Cole Hamels); and others are either on the disabled list or sporting serious injuries that have kept them out (like Jose Reyes, Ryan BraunShane Victorino, Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez and Placido Polanco).

Then there are others like David Price, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter – nursing current or past ailments, but not the type that have necessarily put them on the shelf in recent days.

“It’s kind of sad, especially since over the last couple of years it’s been known that this game is going to dictate home-field advantage in the World Series,” said Indians manager Manny Acta, who was selected by Washington to be one of the AL’s coaches. “I can’t speak for people, only they know their own situations, but the fan voting and the player voting, I think it’s very important, and it’s kind of, in a way, disappointing not to see some of those guys. But, again, I can’t speak for those guys that are hurt.”

One of Acta’s players benefited from an absence, as Asdrubal Cabrera was able to get the start at shortstop with Jeter out. With the left side of both teams’ infield dropping out, Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen and Troy Tulowitzki also got starting nods in place of players the fans voted in.

For the most part, players feel fans just need to accept the fact that last-minute things happen.

“The biggest responsibility for the player is to the teammate he’s playing for,” Rangers DH Michael Young said. “Obviously they have a great responsibility to the fans, but I’m sure they’re taking their fans and their cities under consideration when they make decisions.”

“There are factors right at the end that force them to not come,” White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko added. “People just have to understand that.”

Few players seem to soak in the spotlight of the All-Star Game more than David Ortiz, who will captain the AL squad in the State Farm Home Run Derby and is usually in a playful mood at this time of year. No matter how many times he takes part in this event, the All-Star Game never seems to get old for “Big Papi.”

With black sunglasses, a sharp-looking suit and what seemed like a permanent smile, Ortiz said he believes all his peers share those sentiments.

“Everybody likes to come to the All-Star Game,” he proclaimed. “There’s not one player who wouldn’t like to be here. This is something that every player is looking forward to do. So I’m pretty sure that those guys who have dropped out, they have a reason. It could be injuries, or personal problems. This is like a family thing right now. Everybody wants to bring their family around here, their kids to hang around the players, to put a good show for the fans because the fans spend tons of time voting for you.”

– Alden 

* Filed this week: A look at who could be next to 3,000 hits; Thornburg aims to make impact on Brewers; Astros prospect Altuve not short on talent

My AL & NL lineups differ from yours …

… But only slightly.

See, I never expect perfection when so many fans from so many different places and with so many different biases vote so many times. But, I gotta say, the 32.5 million of you who voted this year didn’t do half-bad. Of course, I would’ve made a few changes.

Here’s my lineup …

American League 

Catcher- Alex Avila, Tigers: Easy choice. Joe Mauer has barely played, Carlos Santana has struggled, and Russell Martin‘s production at the plate went south after a hot start.

First base- Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: Another no-brainer. He’s fitting in perfectly at Fenway, and if not for a man named Bautista, he’s the best hitter going.

Second base- Robinson Cano, Yankees: Something tells me he’ll be dominating this position for years to come.

Third base- Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: Solid, healthy year — and you can’t say the same about Evan Longoria.

Shortstop- Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: I’m sorry, but you can’t pick Derek Jeter (pictured above by The Associated Press). I could understand if this was his final year and you want to send him out a la Cal Ripken Jr. But Cabrera has been an offensive and defensive key for the thriving Indians.

Outfield- Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Um, yeah, he’s good.

Outfield- Curtis Granderson, Yankees: Off to one of his best starts while looking very good in that 2 hole.

Outfield- Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: He’s providing what Boston needs from him — getting on base, stealing bases and serving as a steady presence at the top of the order — while putting up power numbers to boot.

Designated hitter- David Ortiz, Red Sox: “Big Papi” needed a good start in his walk year, and he has it.

National League 

Catcher- Brian McCann, Braves: Unreal that he’s made it to six straight All-Star Games and hadn’t started one until this year. Glad that will change.

First base- Joey Votto, Reds: He’s the reigning NL MVP and is off to another great start even if the power numbers aren’t where they were at this point last year. (I know what you’re thinking, but keep reading.)

Second base- Rickie Weeks, Brewers: All-around solid year, and Chase Utley is still working his way back.

Third base- Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: Having a solid year, and for some reason very few realize it.

Shortstop- Jose Reyes, Mets: No doubt about this one. Not sure why it took him so long to pass Troy Tulowitzki.

Outfield- Ryan Braun, Brewers: One of baseball’s best keeps getting better.

Outfield- Matt Kemp, Dodgers: He’s the first half’s NL MVP if not for a guy named Reyes. Looks like a change in managers has done him well, for whatever reason.

Outfield- Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Didn’t expect him to have the first half he’s had, but glad to see I was wrong.

Designated hitter- Prince Fielder, Brewers: Not fair? Hey, it’s my lineup!

– Alden 

** What I wrote this week: Fielder at ease in his walk year; Yankees haven’t stopped winning since being swept by the Red Sox. 

Bautista a 1-man show — & no 1-hit wonder

NEW YORK – Somehow, Jose Bautista has become a bit of a traveling one-man show.

That show marched into the Bronx this week, where Bautista and the team he is now the unquestioned face of – the Toronto Blue Jays – arrived at Yankee Stadium for a three-game set. It was there that a mob of New York reporters greeted the slugger that has emerged as one of baseball’s best hitters after about a decade of obscurity, and it was there that a packed Yankee Stadium mercilessly booed him each time he walked to the plate.

That’s what happens when you arrive in the kind of way Bautista has.

The native Dominican burst onto the scene last year in his age-30 season with 54 homers and a fourth-place finish in American League Most Valuable Player voting. This year, the right-fielder – who was signed by the Blue Jays to a heavily-debated five-year, $65 million contract this past offseason — has essentially erased any skepticism about being a one-hit wonder.

Now, everywhere Bautista goes, fans are coming out to see him, reporters are flocking to interview him and opposing managers are wondering how to stop him.

Is he the best hitter going?

“I would argue that,” Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill said. “But I get to see him on a day-to-day basis, so I’m a little biased. … It’s not necessarily the home runs or the hits that he gets, but his whole game; the whole way he approaches baseball, or the hitting side of it. It’s by far the best I’ve seen.”

It’d be pretty easy to make the case that Bautista has been baseball’s best hitter since the start of the 2010 season, as he’s at the top of the leader boards in many statistical categories.

This year, he has taken his game to a whole new level, including bumping up his batting average which was a major deterrent for him in MVP voting last year.

It’d be pretty easy to make the case that Bautista has been baseball’s best hitter since the start of the 2010 season, considering his Major League-leading 1.055 OPS and 73 homers. This year, he has taken his game to a whole new level, leading the Majors with 19 homers and a 1.269 OPS while adding a .342 batting average — a category that was a major deterrent for him in MVP voting last year.

“To me, it tells me it’s for real,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “In our league, you might have a one-month period or a two-month period, but if there’s weaknesses, with all the video people can watch, they’re going to find it. You’re not finding it on Bautista. He’s making people pay at an alarming rate. It’s good at-bats; you don’t see him chase a ton of pitches, and he’s patient. He’s doing what it takes to be a great player.”

To say Bautista’s recent success came out of nowhere may be an understatement.

He was drafted in the 20th round in 2000, played for four organizations in his first big-league season in ’04, then hit just .254 with 15 homers with the Pirates in ’07 — his only year topping 500 plate appearances from 2004-09.

Bautista was always confident that he could thrive in the Majors … but as the league’s premier slugger?

“I never thought about that because, to be honest with you, I never thought I was going to get the chance again to be an everyday player, and even if I did, I didn’t expect to hit 50 home runs. At one point in the game to be the leader in home runs you had to hit not 50, you had to hit 60 and 70,” Bautista said. “I definitely didn’t think about that too much, but it’s something that’s obviously very gratifying.”

The treatment of Bautista with men on base seems similar to that of Pujols, or perhaps of home run king Barry Bonds in his heyday. The Blue Jays’ right fielder paces baseball in free passes with 43 and has already tripled his intentional-walk total from last year.

It’s a tribute to his patience, but perhaps also to the lack of protection around him.

Adam Lind is the Blue Jays’ de facto cleanup hitter, but he has been out since May 7 due to lower back tightness. So, against Bartolo Colon in the series opener on May 23, manager John Farrell had shortstop Yunel Escobar hitting behind Bautista in the No. 4 spot — making him his fourth cleanup hitter since Lind went on the DL.

In his first at-bat against the Yankees that Monday, Bautista deposited a Colon fastball over the left-center field wall to put him one homer away from 20. Then, in the sixth, he was intentionally walked with none out and a man on second in a 1-1 game.

“They’re taking the bat out of his hand,” Farrell said before the game. “Just from a sheer strategy standpoint, they’re not putting him in a position where he could affect the outcome of the game, particularly late in the game.”

Bautista’s numbers are even more impressive when you consider his lack of chances. But perhaps most impressive is that his emergence as a star hitter has began in the “Year of the Pitcher.”

After a torrid start, Bautista is on pace to finish with 66 homers and become the first player to even reach 60 since ’01.

“I don’t think even think about that,” he scoffed. “I could care less.”

What Bautista does care about is helping the usually under-the-radar Blue Jays win – something he’ll do with defense, demeanor and discipline.

Last year, Bautista opened eyes. So far this year, he has shown the second-guessers he’s here to stay.

“I expected myself to perform well, just because now I know I did it once, and knowing that if I kept my focus on the approach and what led me to the success, that I was going to be able to repeat it,” Bautista said. “It is somewhat gratifying knowing that a lot of people are skeptical about what happened last year, and I guess I’m proving them wrong.”

– Alden 

** What I wrote this week: Some thoughts on the Buster Posey-Scott Cousins collision; the Marlins are thriving, and hardly anyone has noticed; Rafael Soriano could miss up to two more months

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