Around the Major Leagues: 2013 week 1

Boston's Will Middlebrooks had a 3-HR game

Pierce Jefferson provides updates on the major news across Major League Baseball during the first week of the season.

Introduction

 

Before I get started, I'd like to introduce myself.  My name is Pierce Jefferson.  To answer all of the questions sure to follow: Yes, I am related to Thomas Jefferson.  Yes, I have heard of Pierce Brosnan.  Yes, I am James Bond, and you can most certainly call me 007.  Now that it's covered, we can move on.

 

You may remember my name from reading my weekly Memphis Redbirds reports last season or from my contributions the past two years involving the Draft.  If not, I don't blame you for regretting the decision not to read them.

 

I will be writing ‘Around the Major Leagues' reports each week this season to provide the readers of TheCardinalNation.com with news and notes, along with my personal commentary and analysis from teams all around the major leagues.  Since this is a brand new thing, I expect these reports to expand and evolve over the course of the season, hopefully with the input and suggestions from all of you.

 

I encourage everyone to email me at piercerjefferson@yahoo.com or contact me on twitter (@MLBPJ) with questions, comments, or suggestions.  Also feel free to email me any links to articles you'd like me to include in these reports.  Lastly, I'd love to hear your opinions about any events or news going on in the game so that I can include them in here, as well.

 

Anyway, that's enough about me.  On to the first week in baseball!!

 

AL East

 

-Boston's offense in 2013 will rely heavily on David Ortiz's health.  The Boston Herald notes that the Red Sox have a plan that would get the designated hitter back in the lineup by the third week of April.  Ortiz is recovering from a small tear in his right Achilles and will get roughly 25-30 at bats in the minors before joining the club.

 

-Speaking of Boston injuries, starter John Lackey went down in fifth inning of his first start with a bicep injury.  Though its not expected to be serious, it certainly gave the Red Sox a scare.  Lackey has been out for over a year following Tommy John surgery.

 

-Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is a beast, and he further proved that with a monstrous day against Toronto on Sunday.  Middlebrooks smashed three home runs and added a double, totaling 14 bases on the day in a 13-0 rout for the Red Sox.

 

-There is slight concern over the drop in velocity from C.C. Sabathia's fastball.  According to the New York Post in his Opening Day start, the left-hander's fastball hovered around 88-90 miles per hour, hitting 91 nine times and 92 twice.  Sabathia assured fans that he was fine, claiming that the velocity will come back as he continues to throw.

 

-Speaking of the Yankees, second baseman Robinson Cano made noise when he fired agent Scott Boras earlier this week and went with an agency headed by rap-artist Jay-Z.  It's hard to imagine Cano leaving New York after signing with a guy whose well known song is titled ‘Empire State of Mind'.

 

-There is still no timetable on the return of shortstop Derek Jeter, and there are several rumblings that he may not be ready to return until May.

 

-Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia set a club record that he'd rather not have while catching knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on Opening Day.  His three passed balls qualified as the most ever in club history.  Henry Blanco got the difficult opportunity to catch Dickey on Sunday and allowed one passed ball.

 

-It's a shame that long-time Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts just can't stay healthy anymore.  He hasn't played in more than 60 games since 2009.  Roberts didn't last the first week of the season, as he ruptured a tendon in the back of his knee running to second.  The former All-Star will miss three to four weeks.

 

-The Baltimore Sun had some fun statistics about first baseman Chris Davis' torrid start to the season for the Orioles.  Quoted from the newspaper: "In his first four games of 2013, Davis had more RBIs (16) than 17 other major league teams and at least twice as many RBIs as the Marlins (8), Padres (8), Giants (8), Cubs (7), Dodgers (7), and Pirates (6)."  Davis belted four home runs this week and is on pace to at least match his 33 from last year.

 

AL Central

 

-Left-hander John Danks of the White Sox is on track in his recovery from shoulder surgery, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.  There remains no timetable on his return, however, as Danks had mixed results in a minor league game recently.  The left-hander missed most of last season because of his shoulder and is in the second year of a 5-year, $65 million extension.

 

-Catcher Tyler Flowers is certainly on pace to make up for the loss of the 27 home runs the White Sox incurred on the departure of A.J. Pierzynski.  Flowers belted a home run in each of his first two games of the season against the Royals.

 

-Most people probably don't know that ace Justin Verlander has never won an Opening Day start.  That all changed Monday when he shut down the Twins lineup through five innings.  Detroit certainly hopes it won't be the last after signing him to a 7-year, $180 million extension.

 

-It took the Tigers all of four days to sign former closer Jose Valverde to a minor-league deal, not long after their closer-by-committee blew its first save in its second opportunity of the season.  The right-hander can opt out of his deal if he's not called up within a month.

 

-When Kansas City traded a huge piece of their future in a deal that brought in starter James Shields, they expected him to take over as ace in a revamped rotation.  If Opening Day was any indication, the Royals have themselves a sure bet.  They may have lost 1-0 to the White Sox, but Shields dominated in six innings by fanning six batters, walking none, and whose lone damage came off a solo-shot from Tyler Flowers.

 

-It took less than a week into the season for the Indians to promote starter Trevor Bauer, taking the place of injured Scott Kazmir for Saturday's game.  Bauer issued seven walks in his debut and was then optioned back down to Triple-A the next day.  Carlos Carrasco will take his spot in the rotation.

 

AL West

 

-Following a slew of mega-extensions, the Rangers didn't want to be left behind.  Texas came to agreement with shortstop Elvis Andrus on an 8-year, $120 million extension.  Andrus immediately becomes the fourth-best paid shortstop in the game.

 

-Andrus' contract begs the question what happens to top prospect Jurickson Profar, who is now officially blocked long-term by Andrus at short.  Can the Rangers convince second baseman Ian Kinsler to shift to first base?  So far, they haven't succeeded.  At the very worst, Profar represents a significant trade chip for Texas, though they'd surely like to find a spot for him on the team.

 

-Yu want early-season excitement?  Ok, that's my one and only Yu Darvish pun.  He provided plenty of excitement in his first start of the season.  All of Texas and most of baseball was tuned in to catch what looked to be the 24th Perfect Game in MLB history.  Darvish allowed a single up the middle to infielder Marwin Gonzalez on what would have been the 27th and decisive out of the ballgame.

 

-The Houston Astros made history by setting a record upon their debut in the American League.  Well, maybe not one they'd like to have.  The Astros struck out a staggering 43 times in their first three games against the Rangers, setting a major league record for the most strikeouts in the first three games of a season.  Then, according to the Houston Chronicle, the Astros made another mark by becoming the first team in 90 years to record four consecutive games with at least 13 strikeouts at any point during the season.  Ouch.

 

-The mayor of San Jose is willing to go to great lengths to speak with Bud Selig about a possible relocation site for the Oakland Athletics.  Asked by the San Francisco Chronicle if he'd consider suing MLB, he responded, "If necessary-"  Check out the rest of his response here.

 

-The Seattle Mariners are getting what they bargained for with outfielder Michael Morse, which is power and lots of it.  The left fielder has five of the nine home runs that the Mariners have recorded through the first week of the season.

 

NL East

 

-The Marlins made a bizarre, questionable move upon the promotion of top pitching prospect Jose Fernandez after the announcement that starters Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi would begin the season on the disabled list.  It's not just irresponsible that Miami is promoting a 20-year old pitcher who hasn't pitched above single-A.  The Marlins are now starting the clock early on an uber-talented prospect while having absolutely no shot at competing this year.  Scratch this off as a bone-headed decision by an organization that has come under plenty of scrutiny this past year.

 

-There has been concern over the drop in velocity of Roy Halladay for the Phillies.  His first start of the season did nothing to alleviate those concerns.  Though he recorded an impressive nine strikeouts over 10 of his outs, Halladay didn't last through the fourth inning.  The right-hander had trouble hitting 90 miles per hour, as he surrendered five runs, six hits, and coughed up two home runs.  There is legitimate concern that he's done as a consistent threat.

 

-One Upton brother is off to a hot start in Atlanta.  The other is trying to catch up.  Justin Upton belted five home runs in his first five games with the Braves.  B.J. Upton connected with a home run on Saturday off Carlos Marmol to tie the game, but he is hitting just .150 through Sunday.  Hey, it's the first week of the season.  No one is worried.

 

-As one Upton brother was celebrating in the dugout during the ninth inning on Saturday, the other came up to face Marmol.  Justin lifted a 1-2 pitch over the center field wall for the walk-off win.  According to Mark Townsend of Yahoo! Sports, the Uptons became the first pair of brothers since Cal and Bill Ripken in 1996 to homer in the same inning.  According to Elias, they became the first pair of brothers ever to hit the game-tying and game-winning home runs in the same inning.  Expect a fun summer in Atlanta.

 

-First baseman Freddie Freeman of the Braves was fuming after the announcement that he'd be placed on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique strain.  The Associated Press quoted him as saying, "They didn't even give me a choice.  It's my career.  I should be able to make that decision."  Oblique strains are a tricky thing, but you have to at least respect the fire in him to play through it.

 

NL Central

 

-The Cubs will be without second baseman Darwin Barney for at least two weeks.  NBC Sports announced that Barney was placed on the 15-day disabled list after needing five stitches to close up a cut on his knee.  The second baseman is expected back soon after.

 

-Starter Matt Garza for the Cubs is taking to the mound and will return sometime in early-May.  In the meantime, the Chicago Sun-Times writes that Travis Wood is making his case for a permanent spot in their rotation.

 

-Time was short for Carlos Marmol as the closer for the Cubs.  The right-hander blew a save against Atlanta on Saturday and surrendered runs in each of his three appearances this week.  Manager Dale Sveum subsequently announced on Sunday that Japanese hurler Kyuji Fujikawa would take over his spot.

 

-Outfielder Ryan Ludwick of the Reds will be out until at least July after suffering a dislocated shoulder on a slide into third base on Opening Day.  Cincinnati was counting on Ludwick to be a major contributor to the offense after pounding 26 home runs last season.  Chris Heisey will now get the majority of starts in left field during Ludwick's absence.

 

-The Cardinals were a part of the longest game in Chase Field history this week.  Hey, that's a fun stat for the fans if they win.  The Cardinals didn't.  The game lasted five hours, 32 minutes and left Cardinals fans (the ones who stayed up, anyway) flipping off the power to their television sets in frustration.

 

-Already facing the start of the season without first baseman Corey Hart, the Brewers will be without third baseman Aramis Ramirez for at least two weeks.  Ramirez sprained his knee in the fourth inning of their game on Friday and was subsequently placed on the 15-day disabled list.  The middle of their lineup is immediately less intimidating.  Ryan Braun still lurks, but he's dealing with a neck issue that has kept him out of the lineup.

 

-The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examined closer John Axford's drop in velocity.  Axford was sitting 91-92 miles per hour on his fastball, down from his normal 96-97 mph.  The Brewers are banking on a rebound year from Axford to make up for arguably the worst bullpen in baseball last year.

 

-Newly-acquired Milwaukee starter Kyle Lohse made his debut on Friday with a solid start against the Diamondbacks.  The former Cardinals starter limited the opposition to one run over six innings with no walks and five strike outs.  Milwaukee's offense didn't respond as they lost 3-1.

 

NL West

 

-Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki sure did his best to make up for lost time after getting his first start since May 30th of last year.  The California native of the Rockies belted a home run in each of his first two games of the season against Milwaukee.  The rest of the NL Central was grateful.  At least, until they have to face him.

 

-Todd Helton made his 16th-straight Opening Day start, the longest active streak in the majors.  Whether it's his last remains to be seen, though he hasn't let anybody know he's retiring.

 

-With the abundance of long-term extensions being handed out to star players of the past week, speculation mounts between Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Dodgers certainly have the money to sign the left-hander, but both sides are apparently nowhere close to a deal.  Kershaw is poised to be a free agent following the 2014 season, so rumors will continue to swirl.

 

-Tim Lincecum didn't do much to prove that his control issues are a thing of the past.  When you walk seven batters in your debut, the questions will remain.  The right-hander limited the Dodgers to two unearned runs and fanned four batters in his debut, despite the wildness.  If Lincecum continues to walk as many batters it is impossible to expect the same results on a consistent basis.

 

 

Pierce Jefferson can be reached via email at piercerjefferson@yahoo.com. Follow him on twitter (@MLBPJ).

 

© 2013 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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