USA TODAY Sports Weekly
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL NOTES
Baltimore Orioles: For the second time in three days, Adam Frazier played a big part in a walk-off win for the Baltimore Orioles. Frazier dashed home on Mason Englert’s wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Orioles their sixth straight victory, 2-1 over the Detroit Tigers on April 23. The Orioles won for the 10th time in 12 games, this time on a day when Detroit’s Eduardo Rodriguez retired the first 20 Baltimore hitters. Frazier, a pinch-runner April 23, drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth April 21 with a ground ball to the right side.
Boston Red Sox: Masataka Yoshida has already made some mechanical adjustments at the plate during his rookie season with the Boston Red Sox after starring for years in Japan. Yoshida homered twice during Boston’s nine-run outburst in the eighth inning as Boston rallied to beat the Milwaukee Brewers. He became the first Red Sox player to go deep twice in one inning since Hall of Fame slugger David Ortiz in August 2008. Yoshida is the fourth rookie in major league history to hit two home runs in an inning and the first since Joe Pepitone for the New York Yankees in 1962, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Yoshida twice led Japan’s Pacific League in batting before signing a five-year, $90 million deal with the Red Sox.
Chicago White Sox: Closer Liam Hendriks is cancer free. The 34-yearold made the announcement on Instagram last week and shared a slideshow of photos that document his battle against non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that begins in your lymphatic system, according to the Mayo Clinic. Hendriks completed his last round of chemotherapy earlier this month, just days after the 2023 MLB opening day. He shared a video of himself ringing the “victory bell.” Although it’s not clear when Hendriks will return to the mound, manager Pedro Grifol said Hendriks has “never stopped throwing” and participated in bullpen sessions during his treatment.
Cleveland Guardians: Daniel Espino, the club’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 14 prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, has been shut down from throwing after again experiencing soreness and inflammation in his throwing shoulder. Espino hasn’t pitched in a game in nearly a calendar year. In 2021, he posted a combined 3.73 ERA with 152 strikeouts in 912⁄3 innings as he worked his way up the Guardians minor league system. He then threw only 181⁄3 innings
last year, though in that time he struck out 35 batters. The team will have Espino evaluated on May 1 and determine the next steps after that meeting.
Detroit Tigers: The Tigers were swept by the Baltimore Orioles in a 2-1 loss April 23 in extra innings despite starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez taking a perfect game into the seventh inning. One of the worst offenses in baseball went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and squandered several opportunities to score runs in the first few innings. It was another frustrating loss, and another masterpiece from Rodriguez. Seven outs away from a perfect game, Ryan Mountcastle fouled off four pitches in a row before hitting an eighthpitch changeup for a single into left-center field. No MLB pitcher has thrown a perfect game since Seattle’s Félix Hernández did so in 2012. Rodriguez has allowed one run in 21 innings – a 0.43 ERA – over his past three starts and had a 17inning scoreless streak.
Houston Astros: Utilityman Mauricio Dubón certainly is making his presence known while filling in for injured Jose Altuve, hitting .329, with a 17-game
hitting streak, while not trying to dissect his success. “The power of belief is strong,” Astros manager Dusty Baker says. “Don’t try to figure out why, just keep doing it. When you’re talking to surfers: ‘When you ride that wave, just ride it all the way to the beach and jump off and go back and catch another one. If you start worrying about it or thinking about it, then you’ll fall off, so you just ride it.’ ”
Kansas City Royals: Left-hander Kris Bubic will have Tommy John surgery. Bubic went 0-2 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts for the Royals this season, his fourth in the major leagues. The Stanford product went 3-13 last year in his first full season in Kansas City’s starting rotation, and he has one victory in his last 15 starts combined. But Bubic made major changes to his approach in the offseason and entered this year with increased velocity and a new slider.
Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani, elite starter, slugger and impending free agent turns 29 in July, and only a handful of clubs would figure to be in the bidding. The only drawback to Ohtani’s three-day visit to Yankee Stadium last week is that
he didn’t pitch against Aaron Judge and the Yankees. “I’ve never seen a player like him go into free agency where he’s one of the top pitchers in the game (and) one of the top hitters in the game,” said Judge. “It’s going to be exciting to watch and I’m excited to see where he goes.” Ohtani usually reserves his media obligations to days when he’s pitching, but a rare and brief exception was made last week. “It’s a beautiful field, passionate fans,” Ohtani said through an interpreter of playing at Yankee Stadium. “I always look forward to playing here.” ... Catcher Logan O’Hoppe needs surgery on a torn labrum in his left shoulder, cutting short his promising rookie season. While he hopes to play again this season, he is expected to need four to six months of recovery time.
Minnesota Twins: Right-hander Pablo López and the Twins finalized a contract that guarantees $73.5 million over four seasons from 2024-27. Acquired from Miami in a January trade that sent American League batting champion and fan favorite Luis Arraez to the Marlins, López, 27, gives the Twins additional long-term stability around a
rotation that has emerged as a strength. Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle are all in the final year of their contracts, eligible to become free agents in the fall. Joe Ryan is the only other starter under club control beyond 2023.
New York Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton’s strained left hamstring will keep him sidelined until late May at the earliest, manager Aaron Boone said last week. Down at Tampa, Florida, Carlos Rodón was still dealing with back issues as he recovers from an elbow strain, further clouding the lefty starter’s exact entry into the Yankees rotation. Signed to a six-year, $162 million free agent contract, Rodon pitched just one spring training exhibition game for the Yankees before being shut down due to forearm/elbow discomfort.
Oakland Athletics: Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says that he feels “sorry for the fans in Oakland” about the Athletics’ plans to relocate to Las Vegas but denies claims by Oakland’s mayor that the franchise used negotiations with the city as leverage. Manfred added he believes the last-place A’s can field a more competitive team in Nevada. The franchise announced last week it has signed a binding agreement to purchase land for a new retractableroof ballpark close to the Las Vegas Strip after being unable to construct a new venue in the Bay Area. The A’s had been trying to escape the run-down Oakland Coliseum for years, exploring options in Fremont and San Jose before shifting focus to Oakland’s waterfront. The timeline for Oakland’s move remains uncertain, Manfred said.
Seattle Mariners: St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar had a chance to meet with his personal baseball hero, Ichiro Suzuki, during last weekend’s series in Seattle. The two talked about Japan’s WBC championship, which Nootbaar helped the team win last month. Suzuki, a longtime Seattle star, is a special assistant to the chairman with the Mariners. Nootbaar had four hits, including a homer, in the three-game series.
Tampa Bay Rays: Left-handed pitcher Jeffrey Springs was set to have season-ending Tommy John surgery. The 30-year-old Springs went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA during the Rays’ 13-0 start. The lefty departed after throwing two pitches in the fourth inning on April 13 against Boston. He threw a 79.8 mph changeup and a 83.5 mph slider to Justin Turner, then looked at his hand and elbow. His injury was initially diagnosed as ulnar nerve inflammation . ... Zac Eflin was activated from the IL on April 23 and rookie starter Taj Bradley has been dominant in his first two outings with 17 strikeouts and two walks in 101⁄3 innings.
Texas Rangers: Jacob deGrom struck out 11 batters in six innings to take the major league lead, showing no ill effects from the right wrist soreness that forced an early exit in his prior start, as the Texas Rangers beat the Oakland Athletics 5-2 on April 23. DeGrom (2-0) was pulled from his previous start after pitching four hitless innings. He threw 80 pitches, allowing a two-run home run to Shea Langeliers. Only one run was earned. Since giving up five earned runs in 32⁄3 innings on opening day to the Philadelphia Phillies, deGrom has allowed four earned runs in 23 innings (1.56 ERA).
Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is set to be a very rich man when he signs his next contract, but don’t expect it to be with the New York Yankees. The Blue Jays’ two-time All-Star doubled down on his stance last week that he will never play for the American League East rivals. “It’s a personal thing that goes back with my family,” Guerrero said through a translator, according to the New York Post. “So, that’s my decision. I would never change that.” Guerrero, who has two more years of arbitration left before he’s a free agent in 2026 when he’s 27, made the comments as the Blue Jays visited Yankee Stadium. He’s the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, who played 16 seasons with the Montreal Expos, Angels, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles.
Arizona Diamondbacks: After yet another poor start to begin the season, the Arizona Diamondbacks are cutting ties with veteran left-hander Madison Bumgarner. The Diamondbacks still owe Bumgarner, 33, roughly $38 million on the five-year, $85 million contract he signed with them as a free agent after the 2019 season. His 2023 season had gotten off to a rocky start, with a 10.26 ERA over 162⁄3 innings. Bumgarner was a four-time All-Star and the 2014 World Series MVP in his 11 seasons with the San Francisco Giants . ... The early NL Cy Young favorite? D-backs ace Zac Gallen, who hasn’t permitted a run in 212⁄3 consecutive innings, with a National League-leading 39 strikeouts. He generated 32 swings-andmisses and struck out 11 in his April 21 start against the Padres.
Atlanta Braves: Atlanta is 4-6 at home and 14-8 overall. The Braves are fourth in MLB play with 30 total home runs, averaging 1.4 per game . ... Ronald Acuña Jr. swiped his 12th base April 23, most in the majors.
Chicago Cubs: Nico Hoerner has taken well to the leadoff spot, reaching base in 19 consecutive games and posting a .424 on-base percentage in that stretch with 19 runs scored and nine stolen bases. He went 42 plate appearances without striking out . ... How stunning has the Chicago Cubs offense been this season? It scored at least 10 runs six times in its first 19 games, equaling its total in the 2022 season. “We knew in spring training this could be a special group,” Cubs first baseman Trey Mancini told reporters, “and it is.” … Starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks is on the verge of beginning a rehabilitation assignment.
Cincinnati Reds: Hunter Greene signed a six-year, $53 million contract extension to become the club’s first player with a guaranteed contract beyond the 2023 season. Greene, a right-hander, pitches with the highest average fastball velocity among all MLB starting pitchers. ... After an 8-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Reds went on a six-game losing streak where they totaled six runs with three doubles and zero homers.
Colorado Rockies: Pitcher Daniel Bard was activated from the 15-day injured list last week after the star closer had been out since March 30 due to anxiety. Last season, Bard ranked third among all National League pitchers with a career-high 34 saves. He earned the save in 91.9% of his appearances, the best mark in MLB in 2022 and the second-best percentage in a single season in Rockies franchise history. Bard pitched for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic but struggled with control, displayed most notably when he threw a pitch inside against Venezuela that broke the hand of Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve . ... It took 2,168 days, but Rockies outfielder Kris Bryant finally hit another home run at Coors Field. His last one there occurred on May 9, 2017, when he played for the Cubs.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw reached 200 victories this past week, a reminder of both the left-hander’s excellence and the near-impossibility of a pitcher reaching 300 wins nowadays. The active leader in victories is Justin Verlander with 244, and he’s 40 years old. Only four active pitchers even have 200 wins: Verlander, Zack Greinke (223), Max Scherzer (203) and Kershaw, who made it to 201 by the end of the week. Adam Wainwright is at 195 and could join that group, but he hasn’t pitched yet this year because of a groin injury. The 35-year-old Kershaw is pitching on a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but if he keeps going into 2024, he could reach 3,000 strikeouts. He’s 161 shy of that mark . ... Mookie Betts did something he’s never done in his 10-year career. The six-time All-Star played shortstop against the Chicago Cubs on April 20, 21 and 23. “It was like a dream come true,” Betts told reporters, via ESPN. “I got drafted as a shortstop and hadn’t seen it since like 2011.”
Miami Marlins: Hall of Fame short
stop Derek Jeter was part of an ownership group that bought the team in 2017. Jeter parted ways with the club last February. While he was part of the front office, part of his efforts to revamp the franchise was firing president David Samson. In an interview with Front Office Sports, Samson recalls his time with the New York Yankees star at the helm. “He was able to bring in all his own people and he thought that everything that I did was bad,” Samson said. “So he erased anything I had done. … Anything I did, he did the opposite and assumed it would work. He assumed that he could get a bigger TV deal. He assumed he could get a big naming rights deal, that he’d get tons of season ticket holders, that he would make the team a winning team. And after four years, I think he realized that being a shortstop and being an executive are two totally different things. … And I think he realized quickly that being a pitchman for Subway was probably going to be more up his alley than running the team every day.”
Milwaukee Brewers: A tough stretch for Brewers rookie position players. Center fielder Garrett Mitchell may be out for the season with a shoulder injury. Second baseman Brice Turang had an 11-game stretch where he hit .184 with 16 strikeouts. Outfielder Joey Wiemer, after a hot first week, hit .150 with 12 strikeouts in his next 14 games.
New York Mets: Through the opening week of the season, Brandon Nimmo was getting on base with walks but had only a few hits to show for it. Now, Nimmo is tying all of his plate discipline and contact skills together. Nimmo has 22 hits in the Mets’ last 11 games, helping to up his slash line to .350/.455/.500 with a total of two home runs, 14 runs, 13 RBI and three stolen bases. With a 1.6 WAR, according to FanGraphs, he is the most valuable player in all of Major League Baseball. On top of that, he’s made a half-dozen diving catches already, which puts him in the top 4% of outs above average in the field.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies took the final three games of a four-game series at home against the Rockies and have won six of eight overall as they recover from a slow start and have started making strides in their rotation. On April 23, Zack Wheeler (2-1) survived a rough fourth inning – plunking Yonathan Daza on the hand and allowing three runs – to finish with his 17th career double-digit strikeout game and ninth with the Phillies. “Just close your eyes there in the fourth,” said Wheeler, who induced 23 swings-and-misses over six innings to set the season’s high by a Phillies pitcher. In the same game, Trea Turner, who had 21 homers in 160 games with the
Dodgers last season, connected in the first inning for his first in Philadelphia since the star shortstop signed a $300 million, 11-year contract.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Before the Pirates swept the Rockies and the Reds to reach their first seven-game winning streak since 2018, manager Derek Shelton agreed to a contract extension. The length of the deal wasn’t immediately disclosed. … Outfielder Jack Suwinski had four homers, two doubles and eight RBI during the winning streak.
St. Louis Cardinals: It’s been a tough start to the season for starting pitchers Steven Matz and Miles Mikolas. Matz had a 6.55 ERA through his first four starts with 10 walks in 22 innings. Mikolas had a 7.46 ERA across his first five starts, giving up 41 hits and six homers in 251⁄3 innings. … St. Louis was five games under .500 for the first time since 2017 after two losses to Seattle.
San Diego Padres: San Diego recently closed out San Diego’s stretch of 18 straight games without a break, going 9-9. “We’re starting to play a little bit better,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I’ll tell you what, though: Everybody’s looking forward to this off date. It feels like we were about 50 games into the season already.” ... Left-hander Drew Pomeranz is expected to make one more rehab start before the Padres look at activating him. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since elbow surgery in 2021.
San Francisco Giants: Thairo Estrada hit his fourth home run for the Giants on April 23. San Francisco won consecutive games for the first time this season to split the four-game series. San Francisco entered the game with the thirdlowest winning percentage in the National League.
Washington Nationals: Patrick Corbin (1-3) permitted three runs and seven hits in six innings for the Nationals on April 23 at Minnesota, lowering his ERA from 6.30 to 5.88. He has allowed five earned runs over 12 innings in his past two starts after yielding 12 runs in 14 innings across his first three outings. “A couple of mistakes that they hit the two solo homers on. But I thought other than that, they made some weak contact,” he said. “I made some good pitches. Slider felt pretty good today.”