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The toughest player to strike out on every team

MLB.com @williamfleitch

With the increase in velocity by starting pitchers -- and perhaps more importantly, relievers -- as well as the fading stigma of a swing and a miss, strikeouts are as central to baseball as they have ever been. One can argue about whether that's a positive thing or a negative thing, but the facts are undeniable.

That places an increased value on players who can do the most basic of baseball activities: Put the bat on the ball. In 1941, Ted Williams had fewer strikeouts than homers. You won't be seeing that anytime soon. But these are the toughest players to strike out on each team, a topic that seems fitting in light of a record-setting 21-pitch at-bat on Sunday.

With the increase in velocity by starting pitchers -- and perhaps more importantly, relievers -- as well as the fading stigma of a swing and a miss, strikeouts are as central to baseball as they have ever been. One can argue about whether that's a positive thing or a negative thing, but the facts are undeniable.

That places an increased value on players who can do the most basic of baseball activities: Put the bat on the ball. In 1941, Ted Williams had fewer strikeouts than homers. You won't be seeing that anytime soon. But these are the toughest players to strike out on each team, a topic that seems fitting in light of a record-setting 21-pitch at-bat on Sunday.

They might not all be huge power hitters, or even close to stars, but they have a skill that's rarer and rarer every month -- and thus, they are more valuable than ever.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

EAST

Orioles: Manny Machado
The O's, always a strikeout-happy franchise, lead the American League in strikeouts this year, and they're a good bet to hang onto that spot. All those K's have masked an big improvement from Machado this year. Two years ago, he K'd 120 times to go with 48 walks for a 5:2 K/BB ratio. This year: only 15 K's with 12 walks. Everyone else on the Orioles is struggling, but he sure isn't.

Red Sox: Mookie Betts
It's a little unfair for a guy of Betts' talents to have such an excellent batted-ball profile, but he has had progressively better K/BB ratios each year of his career. He had two fewer walks than strikeouts in 2017; he may cross the threshold this year.

Yankees: Didi Gregorius
Remember when Gregorius was just supposed to be the slap-hitting defensive-minded Derek Jeter replacement? Even when he was hitting six homers a year he didn't strike out much, but to hold onto that skill while hitting 25 homers a year might be his greatest asset.

Video: MIA@NYY: Gregorius powers Yanks with two home runs

Rays: Mallex Smith
Considering Smith has little to no power -- he's still stuck on five career homers -- it's a good thing he puts the ball in play. Smith is a very '80s player, actually: He steals bases, he hits a ton of triples and he just hits it on the ground and runs.

Blue Jays: Yangervis Solarte
The poor Padres sat around for years waiting for Solarte to become the star they were hoping for, and now that he's in Toronto, he's becoming that guy. Now that he's added power to his contact game, look out. Some guys just finally figure it out in their 30s.

Video: TOR@NYY: Solarte crushes a solo homer to right-center

CENTRAL

White Sox: Jose Abreu
Abreu certainly seems like the type of player who strikes out a lot, but he really doesn't, at least not relative to the rest of baseball. His AB/K ratio has gone up every year of his career. But the fact that he is the pick for the White Sox is also a sign that the Sox might strike out too much.

Indians: Jose Ramirez
For all the discussion of the Tribe's fantastic rotation over the past few years, having a player like Ramirez -- who was a .219 hitter with little power as recently as 2015 -- blossom into what he has become has been just as pivotal. His batting average has gone down this year, but he's hitting into a lot of bad luck. Expect a turnaround soon.

Tigers: Victor Martinez
We might be nearing the sunset of Martinez's fascinating career, though his April bounceback has reminded us what we once had. The key to his success, this year and any other, is his ability to put the bat on the ball. He led the AL in AB/BB ratio as recently as 2013 and '14, and he still has that skill today.

Royals: Alcides Escobar
Not much has gone well for the Royals so far, but they do have the third-fewest strikeouts in baseball, even though it's not helping them score any more runs. Much like Escobar, who has always been a contact hitter; the issue is that even though he can hit the ball, he can't hit it hard.

Twins: Max Kepler
Kepler is among the team leaders in homers and walks, which makes his low strikeout total -- the lowest AB/K on the team by far -- all the more impressive for player who is still only 25.

Video: MIN@TB: Kepler crushes a go-ahead solo homer in 9th

WEST

Astros: Alex Bregman
Bregman was thought to be on the verge of busting out, and don't let his relatively slow start fool you: He's walking more than he strikes out, and he has the lowest K-rate on the team, even lower than Jose Altuve's. He's about to come around, and then, look out.

Angels: Andrelton Simmons
Mike Trout famously nearly made it all the way through Spring Training without striking out, but he's been racking them up since the season started. It's Simmons, long one of baseball's best contact men, who continues to set the contact pace.

Video: LAA@TEX: Simmons picks up his first homer of 2018

A's: Jonathan Lucroy
The power he once had -- he hit 24 homers just two years ago -- seems to be gone, but Lucroy has been all the A's could have hoped for when they snapped him up for cheap in the offseason.

Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki
Of course it's Ichiro: He has averaged more than 10 at-bats per strikeout six times in his career. He's not quite there this year, but he's closer than anyone else on his team.

Rangers: Adrian Beltre
Elvis Andrus is actually off to an extreme contact start -- just two strikeouts in 61 plate appearances -- but he's on the DL for the first time in his career with a fractured elbow. Thus, the call goes to Beltre, who, because he's a future Hall of Famer who is good at everything, is good at putting the bat on the ball as well. He strikes out once every six at-bats, which is below his career average ... but still the best on the Rangers.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

EAST

Braves: Kurt Suzuki
You want bat control? Suzuki has struck out twice in 56 plate appearances. He'll lose his job when Tyler Flowers comes back, but right now, he's leading the Braves in OPS.

Video: ATL@WSH: Suzuki launches home run off foul pole

Marlins: Miguel Rojas
Rojas likes to keep the fielders busy; he hardly walks or strikes out or homers. He's a No True Outcomes sort of guy.

Mets: Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez once struck out more than 100 times in a season for seven straight years, but as he has become Old Adrian Gonzalez, he has become a contact guy; he has the second-best AB/K ratio on the Mets, one of the primary reasons he has been such a positive contributor so far.

Phillies: Maikel Franco
The Phils strike out a ton by design. Franco has clearly focused on putting the ball in play more this year … not that it's helping him get on base much more.

Nationals: Anthony Rendon
Rendon has elevated himself to near-superstar status over the past couple of seasons, and it's not a coincidence his K rate has dropped each of the past four years.

Video: NYM@WSH: Rendon hits an RBI double to left field

CENTRAL

Cubs: Ben Zobrist
There was a stretch in the middle of his career where Zobrist struck out a lot, but he has curtailed it with the Cubs as he has gotten older.

Reds: Joey Votto
The correct answer to any question about the Reds is always Joey Votto.

Brewers: Hernan Perez
The Brewers are as much of a grip-it-and-rip-it team as any in baseball, so it's not much of a surprise their players -- even their stars -- strike out a lot.

Pirates: Corey Dickerson
So far this season, Dickerson is doing everything right. Maybe he should get released right before the season starts every year.

Video: PIT@MIA: Dickerson scorches an RBI single to center

Cardinals: Jose Martinez
Martinez has always been a contact hitter, but now that he has added exit velocity and launch angle, he has essentially become a monster. Martinez is now as key as anyone to the 2018 Cards.

WEST

D-backs: Jarrod Dyson
Much like Smith, when you run like Dyson does, you just slap the ball and then run, run, run.

Video: SF@ARI: Dyson rops RBI triple off center-field wall

Rockies: DJ LeMahieu
The LeMahieu Plan has always been to offset his relative lack of power by hitting line drives and trying to avoid the strikeout. It continues to work for him at Coors Field, even if it might not work anywhere else.

Dodgers: Joc Pederson
So here's a surprise for you. Pederson was renowned for his strikeouts his whole career, even into last October. But here are his AB/K ratios every year of his career:

2014: 2.5
2015: 2.8
2016: 3.1
2017: 4.0
2018: 10.7

That's a massive jump. Either it's too early and too fluky, or someone got Pederson a bigger bat or something.

Padres: Carlos Asuaje
With all the young players the Padres have, a bunch of strikeouts is invevitable. Asuaje has the best strikeout rate on the team, if not much else.

Giants: Joe Panik
Perhaps this should be Brandon Belt, after his record-setting 21-pitch at-bat on Sunday, but he has a strikeout rate of almost 25 percent for his career. Panik, meanwhile, is below 10 percent since entering the league in 2014. If you're going to be a second-base exclusive left-handed hitter without much power, you better not strike out much. Panik doesn't. He's quietly off to the best start of his career.

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

The most interesting rookie you need to know more about

Padres' Cordero runs like Gordon, hits as hard as Gallo
MLB.com @mike_petriello

"I haven't seen a ball [hit] like that," said Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer after San Diego beat Arizona, 4-1, on Friday. If you weren't watching the game, you couldn't possibly have imagined who he'd been talking about.

Remember, Hosmer spent years in Kansas City with powerful hitters like Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez. He's shared a division with Miguel Cabrera and Jose Abreu, and a league with Mike Trout and Nelson Cruz. And Hosmer is teammates now with Wil Myers, and Paul Goldschmidt was in the D-backs' lineup that night. Hosmer has seen his share of sluggers who can crush baseballs.

"I haven't seen a ball [hit] like that," said Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer after San Diego beat Arizona, 4-1, on Friday. If you weren't watching the game, you couldn't possibly have imagined who he'd been talking about.

Remember, Hosmer spent years in Kansas City with powerful hitters like Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez. He's shared a division with Miguel Cabrera and Jose Abreu, and a league with Mike Trout and Nelson Cruz. And Hosmer is teammates now with Wil Myers, and Paul Goldschmidt was in the D-backs' lineup that night. Hosmer has seen his share of sluggers who can crush baseballs.

The veteran first baseman wasn't talking about any of them. He was talking about relatively unknown rookie -- San Diego outfielder Franchy Cordero -- who in his 39th career game had crushed a 489-foot blast, the longest home run tracked by Statcast™ in 2018, and the ninth longest since the system came online in '15. For those who follow such things, it was the latest exhibition of Cordero's elite tools in his brief career. For everyone else, let's introduce you to the most interesting player you don't know enough about.

Video: SD@ARI: Cordero hits a 489-foot homer off scoreboard

There's a difference between being exciting and being good, of course, and for the moment, Cordero is more the former than the latter. In 139 career plate appearances, his line of .233/.277/.450 outlines serious issues in getting on base. Cordero has struck out in 41 percent of his plate appearances, and in the history of baseball, there's never been a hitter to have a season of at least 400 plate appearances while striking out that much. Even in the strikeout-happy world of 2018, there's such a thing as too many strikeouts.

But we'll get back to that part, because Cordero is only 23, and 139 career plate appearances is only a handful more than guys like Trout and George Springer have piled up in the first few weeks of this season alone. Let's focus on the tools. The tools are loud.

Almost no one hits the ball harder
Hitting the ball hard is a skill. We've always known that, but it's a lot easier to quantify it now. When Cordero hit his monster home run vs. Arizona, it left the bat at 116.3 mph, making it the hardest-hit ball by a Padre since Statcast™ came online in 2015. He also has the second-hardest (115.5 mph) and fourth-hardest (115.1 mph) hits on that list, all in the past two weeks. Remember, Cordero has had 139 career plate appearances, and he's failed to make contact at all in nearly half of them -- yet he already owns the top of San Diego's leaderboard.

Now, maybe that says more about the Padres than it does Cordero. Let's expand. Nearly 900 hitters have stepped to the plate in 2018. Only 16, or just over one percent, have hit a ball 115 mph. Only four have done it at least three times, and the other three hitters are probably exactly the three you would have guessed: Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo. Cordero's there, too. You can't fake this.

We got a taste of this last year.In only 99 plate appearances. Cordero had 49 tracked balls in play, and five of them were hit at least 110 mph. That's as many as Kris Bryant had in 665 times to the plate. It's more than Cody Bellinger (three in 548 plate appearances), Corey Seager (two in 613 plate appearances) or Joey Votto (one in 707 plate appearances). It's not something Billy Hamilton has done even once in over 1,600 plate appearances since 2015.

There's more to life than exit velocity, of course. But there's a leaderboard with Stanton, Cordero, Judge and Gallo. This is a skill, and Cordero has it.

Elite speed with the best in the game
The other names on that exit velocity lists are good athletes, of course, but none of them are known for their speed. Cordero, meanwhile, had the most triples of anyone in the Minors in 2016, with 16, and the most triples of anyone in the Minors in 2017, with 18. (He'd add three more with the Padres.) Throw in six seasons of double-digit steals, and you figure he can move.

Video: SD@ARI: Cordero hammers a triple to right field

Cordero can, of course, and this is another thing that we can do a better job of explaining now. We measure speed with a metric called "Sprint Speed," which is expressed in feet per second on a player's competitive runs. (Read more about how it works here.) The Major League average is 27 feet per second, and the truly elite players can get over 30 feet per second.

Last year, there were 548 qualified players. Cordero's Sprint Speed was 29.8 feet per second, making him easily the fastest player on the Padres and placing him 15th overall -- or in the top three percent. This year, he's in the top 10 of 324 qualifiers, or, again, in the top three percent. That's elite, game-changing speed. The triples say it, the eye test says it, and the data does, too.

Quality defense despite inexperience
There was a time where Cordero was among the worst defenders in the Minors. Signed as an infielder, he made 44 errors in 56 games at shortstop in 2012; two years later, he made 51 miscues in 56 games. The next year, Cordero began his transition to left field, and he first became a full-time center fielder in '16.

That means that when Cordero made his Major League debut last year, he had barely more than a year of center-field experience under his belt. In a relatively small sample size… he was spectacular.

The way we explain that is relatively simple; by looking at the difficulty of every batted ball hit to an outfielder, we can see how many chances an average outfielder would have been expected to make, and how many the fielder in question actually converted. By looking at the difference between the two numbers, we can get to value added… or not.

In 2017, there were 180 outfielders with at least 40 catchable opportunities. Guess who added the most value.

Catch percentage added, 2017
+11 points, Cordero (84 percent expected catches, 95 percent made)
+7 points, Byron Buxton (87 / 94)
+7 points, Adam Engel (86, 83)
+6 points, Kevin Kiermaier (89, 95)
+6 points, Zack Granite (87, 93)
+6 points, Leonys Martin (88, 94)

Buxton and Kiermaier are almost universally considered the two best defensive outfielders in the sport, so that's a nice list to be on -- with the obvious caveat that Cordero didn't play anywhere near as often as they did.

Still, that kind of speed makes tracking down balls a little easier, and we saw what he could do when he turned this 39 percent Catch Probability play off the bat of Jose Peraza into an out:

Video: CIN@SD: Cordero charges in to make a sliding grab

… as well as 97 feet to make this nice running play to rob Travis Shaw.

Video: SD@MIL: Cordero runs 97 feet to make four-star catch

Of course, Cordero's misplay in the same Arizona game may have cost Tyson Ross a chance at a no-hitter.

Ultimately, we don't know what Cordero will turn out to be. It's worth noting we had a lot of the same conversations after 2016 about Milwaukee's Keon Broxton -- strong defense, great exit velocity and a concern about strikeouts -- and after a disappointing '17, he's back in the Minors. On the other hand, Judge came up and struck out 44 percent of the time in a partial season in '16, before breaking out last year.

Cordero is at least showing small signs of improving his plate discipline, cutting his swing rate as time goes on.

Cordero is still striking out too much -- 32.5 percent of the time in 2018. But in today's game, all you really need to do is get below 30 percent, if you have enough other tools, and he surely has that. (His lopsided .243/.282/.514 line is above average, thanks to that power.)

It's possible that like Broxton, Cordero might never make enough contact to let everything else shine. He might be nothing but unrealized potential. Cordero is not a star -- not now, maybe not ever. He's exciting, however. He's interesting. Cordero has all the physical talent you could want, and he's only 23, capable of playing a strong center field, showing elite speed and next-level power. On a rebuilding Padres team with plenty of young talent on the way, Cordero might be the most fascinating name of all.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

San Diego Padres, Franchy Cordero

5 reasons LA phenom's debut is a must-see

The 2018 season has already given us some must-see debuts, from Shohei Ohtani to Tyler O'Neill to Gleyber Torres . And the kids show no signs of slowing down: On Monday night, righty Walker Buehler -- the Dodgers' top prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 12 overall -- is set to make his first Major League start against the Marlins. 

L.A. got a brief glimpse of Buehler last year, when he pitched 9 1/3 innings over eight appearances as a September callup. Now, though, he takes his turn in the rotation for the first time. Here's why every Dodger fan should be excited for Buehler Day.

Moving day: Division title odds in full swing

Red Sox, D-backs improve their standing, while Nats fall back in NL East
MLB.com @castrovince

The season might be young, but that doesn't mean the stuff we've seen to date doesn't have mathematical meaning.

A combination of some division favorites moving slow out the chute and some hot starts from upstarts has affected the standings. But how much does that combo affected the expected outcomes?

The season might be young, but that doesn't mean the stuff we've seen to date doesn't have mathematical meaning.

A combination of some division favorites moving slow out the chute and some hot starts from upstarts has affected the standings. But how much does that combo affected the expected outcomes?

FanGraphs' playoff odds can help us here. Let's take a look at the biggest changes to division-winning odds so far. The needle hasn't moved much in the American League Central and AL West, where the Indians and Astros, respectively, are still heavy favorites. But the percentages have shifted a bit elsewhere, so we'll focus on those four divisions below, all of which have seen at least one team see its odds of winning the division swing at least 10 percentage points.

As is always the case with projections, these mean absolutely nothing. But the changes do give us a little window into the calculated value of what we've watched. We've ordered them based on how much the projection has changed, starting with the largest swing.

Video: Take a look back at the historic start for Red Sox

AL EAST
Yankees: -30.5 (53.8 to 23.3)
Red Sox: +34.2 (39.0 to 73.2)

This is the starkest shift in baseball so far. The AL East was predicted to be the most legit division race in baseball, but the Red Sox are more legit than most imagined. Even after dropping two of three in Oakland over the weekend, they've got the best run differential in the game at plus-64, and they took two of three from the Yanks in the first installment of The Rivalry this year. Boston and New York next meet April 30-May 3 in the Bronx.

Though their division odds have taken a hit, the Yankees are still given an 87.4-percent chance of reaching the postseason one way or another, a drop of only 2.3 percent from the start of the year.

Video: TOR@NYY: Didi, Torres, Andujar, Severino lead Yankees

The Blue Jays, by the way, are in the strange spot of having improved their odds of winning a Wild Card (up 5.9 percent to 43.0) with their solid 13-8 start while their odds of winning the division have decreased (down 2.9 percent to 3.5). They dropped three of four to the Yankees over the weekend and get their first look at the Red Sox in a three-game series that starts Tuesday in Toronto.

NL EAST
Nationals: -17.0 (77.8 to 60.8)
Mets: +12.1 (18.2 - 30.3)

Another big shift here in what looked to be a slam-dunk division. The Mets have taken four of the first six head-to-heads, which gives them some early confidence. But as if injuries aren't always enough of an X-factor with the Mets, the bullpen has become a big one, too. The relief corps posted a 1.51 ERA in the season's first 14 games, but it has since imploded to post a 10.18 ERA over the last seven. Certainly something to monitor as we examine the Mets' staying power atop what is becoming a more dynamic division by the day.

Video: NYM@ATL: deGrom K's 10, hurls seven scoreless innings

If the Nats play to their talent level, they'll obtain another October entry (FanGraphs has their odds at 77.9 percent). But the Phillies are one of the hottest teams in baseball with wins in 14 of their last 17, improving their playoff percentage 10.4 points (to 55.2) and their division odds three points (to 6.0). The Braves have also looked frisky in the early going, raising their playoff odds 5.3 points (to 8.5). The Mets' strong start to the Mickey Callaway era has given them a better-than-50-50 chance of advancing (55.2).

NL CENTRAL
Cubs: -15.9 (81.4 to 65.5)
Cardinals: +12.9 (15.0 to 27.9)

The arrival of Yu Darvish was supposed to seal the Cubs' third consecutive Central title, but so far their starters not named Jon Lester have a 5.84 ERA. Between that and a boom or bust offense, it's been a start somewhat reminiscent of the so-called "hangover" year of 2017. While the Brewers (5.1 percent chance of winning the Central) and Pirates (1.4 percent) have both seen slight increases in their odds, the Cardinals are the ones soaking up the majority of the Cubs' lost percentage points. In winning eight of their last nine (the lone loss in that span came against Lester), they've gotten a 2.23 ERA from their starters and exactly six runs per game from their offense. That'll play.

Video: STL@CHC: Lester fans seven, allows no earned runs

If nothing else, the Cards have banked 13 early wins in what could be a crowded NL Wild Card race. Their odds of making the playoffs have gone up 6.8 percentage points, to 68.5. The Cubs still have an 88.8 percent chance of reaching October, and the 14-9 Brewers are at 23.9 percent.

NL WEST
Dodgers: -8.6 (85.2 to 76.6)
D-backs: +12.0 (5.2 to 17.2)

As you can see, the projections are starting to take the D-backs more seriously. They've taken five of six from the Dodgers so far (the two clubs meet again April 30-May 3 at Chase Field) and just became the first team to win seven consecutive series to start a season since the 2005 White Sox (we seem to remember that turning out pretty well on the South Side). The D-backs are facing another injury challenge with Taijuan Walker's Tommy John surgery, but their lineup is getting healthier (Jake Lamb and Steven Souza Jr. are on the mend) and they've done well to maintain the momentum from last year's Wild Card win.

Video: D-backs right-hander Walker to undergo Tommy John

The D-backs are the only West team to improve their playoff odds in the early going (their chances of advancing have risen 20.3 points to 44.2). Though the Rockies are a respectable 12-11, they've dropped 6.2 percentage points in their odds of reaching the playoffs (12.5 percent). The Dodgers are still heavy favorites to get in, at 88.3 percent.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Farquhar 'progressing well' after surgery

White Sox right-hander recovering from brain hemorrhage
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- The White Sox released an extensive update Monday regarding the condition of pitcher Danny Farquhar, currently a patient at RUSH University Medical Center after suffering a brain hemorrhage and ruptured aneurysm during the team's game against Houston in Chicago on Friday.

"Farquhar's medical team reported on Monday that Danny is progressing well following a successful surgery Saturday to address the aneurysm," the update read. "Farquhar has use of his extremities, is responding appropriately to questions and commands and is speaking to doctors and his family.

CHICAGO -- The White Sox released an extensive update Monday regarding the condition of pitcher Danny Farquhar, currently a patient at RUSH University Medical Center after suffering a brain hemorrhage and ruptured aneurysm during the team's game against Houston in Chicago on Friday.

"Farquhar's medical team reported on Monday that Danny is progressing well following a successful surgery Saturday to address the aneurysm," the update read. "Farquhar has use of his extremities, is responding appropriately to questions and commands and is speaking to doctors and his family.

"Farquhar remains in critical but neurologically stable condition in the ICU unit at RUSH. Farquhar's wife, Lexie, and family members are present at the hospital as he continues to receive treatment and close monitoring by the neurosurgical team. He is expected to remain in the neurosurgical ICU at RUSH for the next few weeks.

"Fans interested is sending 'Get Well' wishes and letters of support to Farquhar should address mail to him at Guaranteed Rate Field, 333 W. 35th Street, Chicago, IL 60616.

"His family and the White Sox organization appreciate all of the messages of support for Danny, and the White Sox also appreciate fans and friends keeping Danny and his family in their thoughts and prayers."

Tweets and messages of hope and prayer for Farquhar have come from around baseball since Friday, with the Rays, one of Farquhar's former teams, also displaying his No. 43 jersey in their dugout. One of his White Sox jerseys has been with the team's relievers in their bullpen.

The White Sox said they will provide additional updates on Farquhar's health as appropriate.

"It makes you not take life for granted, that's for sure," said White Sox pitcher Carson Fulmer when asked about his friend and teammate on Sunday. "It can definitely happen to anyone, but regardless if it's anybody in this clubhouse, any one of our family members, anybody that anybody in this clubhouse is close to, the brotherhood that we have will continue to stick with them and be here for anything that anybody needs at any time."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Danny Farquhar

This is how the Cards found Jose Martinez

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- If you're looking for numbers to explain what Jose Martinez is doing, why he's doing it here and just how big of a grain of salt his white-hot start should be taken with, one in particular stands out.

That's the exit velocity reading from his clothesline-like solo homer on April 12 against the Reds, a seared 113.7-mph shot that sent fans scurrying for cover beyond the left-field wall. The radar says more than the Cardinals first baseman's .329/.409/.526 slash line, basically because it suggests those numbers are real. And more than any other swing of Martinez's brief big league career, that big one in Cincinnati offered the best snapshot of why St. Louis' front office targeted him three years ago, and how they essentially found a middle-of-the-order bat on the baseball equivalent of the clearance aisle.

ST. LOUIS -- If you're looking for numbers to explain what Jose Martinez is doing, why he's doing it here and just how big of a grain of salt his white-hot start should be taken with, one in particular stands out.

That's the exit velocity reading from his clothesline-like solo homer on April 12 against the Reds, a seared 113.7-mph shot that sent fans scurrying for cover beyond the left-field wall. The radar says more than the Cardinals first baseman's .329/.409/.526 slash line, basically because it suggests those numbers are real. And more than any other swing of Martinez's brief big league career, that big one in Cincinnati offered the best snapshot of why St. Louis' front office targeted him three years ago, and how they essentially found a middle-of-the-order bat on the baseball equivalent of the clearance aisle.

"He just hits the ball hard," manager Mike Matheny said, emphasizing the adjective and needing no further explainer.

Video: STL@CIN: Martinez rips a solo homer for his third RBI

It's an Occam's razor-type answer, but not an incorrect one -- 113.7 mph home runs are Giancarlo Stanton hard, Aaron Judge territory. It's a zip code only one other Cards hitter visited in at least the past three seasons. The other, Marcell Ozuna, cost a bundle of four prospects to acquire. Martinez required only cash, and a relative morsel of it, after the Royals designated him for assignment in 2016.

"It was one of those kind of deals that seems small at the time," general manager Michael Girsch said. "But every now and then, you hit big on one of them."

Cardinals officials first eyed Martinez a year earlier, when he was swinging his way to a Pacific Coast League batting crown for Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate in Omaha. He hit .384/.461/.563 that season, his 12th in pro ball without a big league taste. The breakout year failed to make a major prospect out of Martinez, who by that point was 26, had cycled through three organizations, undergone three knee surgeries and never hit for power. Back home in Venezuela that winter, he wondered what he still had to prove.

"My mom was there," Martinez said. "And she said, 'You did everything you can do to be a big leaguer, so don't stop now.'"

Meanwhile, the Cards saw sleeper potential oozing out of Martinez's 6-foot-6 frame, specifically the batted-ball numbers it sent simmering onto their Trackman screens.

"The data supported the fact that he hit the ball really, really hard. The .380 wasn't a fluke," said Girsch. "But he didn't elevate a ton. You could see that by his launch angle and you saw it in his stats."

Video: Mozeliak impressed with Martinez's strong start

To the Cardinals, Martinez profiled as a prime depth candidate to bolster a Triple-A Memphis roster set to graduate Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. If pushed, maybe he could help the big league club as an ancillary piece. Then the Royals, their roster stuffed and on their way to a World Series, didn't promote Martinez that September.

"That's when we started to realistically think he might actually hit free agency," John Vuch, who oversees the Cards' acquisition of Minor League free agents, wrote in an email. "Up to that point, I think we all assumed he'd wind up on the Royals' 40-man roster. … I was ready to contact his agent as soon as the bell rang for free agency."

The Royals protected Martinez by adding him to the 40-man late on the final day to do so, less than a week after beating the Mets in the World Series. They designated him for assignment the following May to clear space for Whit Merrifield, at which point the Cardinals pounced.

"We were confident he could be a good right-handed hitter off the bench. That's what we thought we were getting," said Girsch. "Since then, he's been raking."

After altering his swing in an attempt to elevate the ball more ("Ground balls are not allowed!" Martinez says now), Martinez posted some of baseball's best offensive peripherals over a partial season in 2017. This year he's been even better, swinging his way out of questions over his playing time and into the No. 3 spot in the Cards' lineup. Martinez leads the club with 29 hard-hit balls (defined by Statcast™ as exceeding a 95-mph exit velocity), which he's dispersed indiscriminately: 14 on hits, 15 on outs. The hard outs means he is actually underperforming his metrics, despite his gaudy slash line.

"He may have had more value to a team like Kansas City or anywhere else if more of that data was out there.," Matheny said. "I'd never heard of him, so I've been excited and surprised. The more I watch Jose, the more I realize it's legit."

To find the last Minor League transaction to make such an impact in St. Louis, you have to look at Ryan Ludwick, who hit 84 home runs with the club from 2007-10.

"When you look at his history and the impact he's having on this club, I don't know if anybody could have connected those dots," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "To see where he was a few years ago to see where he is today, it's a pretty cool story. If you think about, most of those stories don't end like this."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Jose Martinez

This former Yanks star thrilled Gleyber has No. 25

Gleyber Torres, the Yankees' top prospect and No. 5 prospect in the Majors, made his debut on Sunday afternoon in the Yankees' 5-1 victory. Though he went 0-for-4, the future is bright for the star infielder. 

No one was happier than Mark Teixeira -- though for a rather odd reason. You see, Torres donned No. 25, which was Teixeira's number. Many stars might be peeved that their uniform number wasn't kept off the field for a few years in honor of the glorious years before. 

Manaea, Machado win AL POW; Corbin nets NL

MLB.com

Major League Baseball recognized last week's top performers on Monday by announcing the A's Sean Manaea and the and the Orioles' Manny Machado of the American League and the D-backs' Patrick Corbin of the National League as the Players of the Week presented by W.B. Mason.

Manaea was responsible for one of the season's biggest highlights by pitching the seventh no-hitter in Oakland A's history on Saturday against a Red Sox team that had won 17 of its first 19 matchups and averaged more than six runs per game in that span. Manaea struck out a career-high-tying 10 batters in the 108-pitch gem.

Major League Baseball recognized last week's top performers on Monday by announcing the A's Sean Manaea and the and the Orioles' Manny Machado of the American League and the D-backs' Patrick Corbin of the National League as the Players of the Week presented by W.B. Mason.

Manaea was responsible for one of the season's biggest highlights by pitching the seventh no-hitter in Oakland A's history on Saturday against a Red Sox team that had won 17 of its first 19 matchups and averaged more than six runs per game in that span. Manaea struck out a career-high-tying 10 batters in the 108-pitch gem.

"Honestly, it still doesn't feel real," Manaea said after the game. "Even after the last out, I couldn't imagine throwing a no-hitter in the big leagues, especially against a team like the Red Sox. It's incredible. I don't even know what to say."

The A's lefty shares the Player of the Week honors in the AL with Machado, who has been red hot at the plate of late. The O's shortstop wrapped the week with two home runs against Indians ace and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber on Sunday.

Machado hit .500/.560/1.273 (11-for-22) with five home runs, two doubles, eight RBIs and seven runs scored in six games last week.

Video: Manny Machado on hot start, being named AL POTW

"He's on top of his game on both sides of the ball for the most part. It's been fun to watch," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

In the NL, Corbin helped the D-backs en route to seven consecutive series wins with a pair of dominant performances last week. He followed up a one-hit shutout against the Giants on Tuesday by striking out 11 batters and holding the Padres to two runs in six innings on Sunday.

"He's amazing," Arizona pitcher Robbie Ray said. "The way he mixes the different speeds on his slider, he's turned it into two pitches really -- a curveball and a slider. He's leading us right now, and we're doing our best to keep up with him."

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Patrick Corbin, Manny Machado, Sean Manaea

Here is the best game every day this week

2016 World Series rematch, Ohtani's start vs. champs and more highlight slate
MLB.com @RichardJustice

If you couldn't get enough of the 2016 World Series, this is your week. While it may not be the exact same dynamic, it's going to make for some must-watch television for baseball fans.

If you like history, there could be be a significant milestone.

If you couldn't get enough of the 2016 World Series, this is your week. While it may not be the exact same dynamic, it's going to make for some must-watch television for baseball fans.

If you like history, there could be be a significant milestone.

Finally, if you've got those Shohei Ohtani mound appearances circled on your calendar, you'll want to catch the action Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.

Overall, it'll be a week when a little more of the story of 2018 unfolds, a season that so far features surprise contenders making some of the division races way more interesting than they were projected to be.

Let's look at some of the week's best games day by day:

MONDAY: Nationals at Giants (10:15 p.m. ET, MLB Network, MLB.TV)
This one features two of the most interesting teams in the game, both hit hard by injuries, both still attempting to hit their stride. This first month has been a showcase for Bryce Harper, who has never been better. The Giants have two of their three injured starting pitchers, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, back, and they will now find out what kind of run they're capable of making.

TUESDAY: Angels at Astros (8:10 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
Ohtani's fourth start on the mound will come against one of baseball's deepest and best lineups. He lasted just two innings because of a blister on his right middle finger in his start last Tuesday vs. the Red Sox. He'll be opposed by one of the Astros' aces, in this case Charlie Morton, the No. 5 starter with a 0.72 ERA. As Albert Pujols closes in on joining the 3,000-hit club, Minute Maid Park, his favorite visiting park, would be an appropriate place to make history. In 133 games in Houston, Pujols has 30 homers and a .275 average.

Video: BOS@LAA: Ohtani exits after two innings with blister

WEDNESDAY: Cubs at Indians (7:10 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
It may not have the same feel as the 2016 Fall Classic, when these two clubs delivered one of the great postseason series ever played. Eighteen months later, both teams appear to be headed back toward the postseason, and if nothing else, this two-game set should be a good litmus test for both.

THURSDAY: Mets at Cardinals (1:15 p.m. ET, MLB.TV) and Red Sox at Blue Jays (7:07 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
Why settle for one? Here's a day-night doubleheader. The Mets opened the season by winning two of three from the Cardinals at Citi Field as part of an 11-1 start. The Cards have won eight of nine since a slow start to make this a fascinating matchup. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays will attempt to slow down baseball's hottest team.

Video: STL@NYM: Cespedes rips a solo homer to left

FRIDAY: Braves at Phillies (7:05 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
Two young teams that are changing the balance of power in the National League East, if not the entire NL, go at it in Philadelphia. Both these teams play with energy and aggressiveness that is absolutely captivating to watch. Both have a chance to get better as the young players get more comfortable.

SATURDAY: Dodgers at Giants (DH) (4:05 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
That both these teams begin the week still trying to get above .500 only makes a series that's always entertaining even better. There'll be some urgency to things, and with the Giants' rotation almost whole again, this is their chance to make a statement about where they fit into the NL West race. The Dodgers are a long way from being whole again, and they no longer seem like the NL West slam dunk they appeared to be on Opening Day.

SUNDAY: Yankees at Angels (8:07 p.m. ET, ESPN)
This will be a showcase for baseball's newest generation, from Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres for the Yankees to Ohtani for the Angels. Both these teams appear to be good enough to make the postseason, but there's still plenty of season to go.

Video: TOR@NYY: Torres receives ovation before first at-bat

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Injury updates: Bryant, Rendon, CarGo, Waino

MLB.com

Here's a roundup of the latest injury news across the Majors:

Kris Bryant, Cubs
The Cubs' star third baseman took a pitch to the helmet in the first inning of Sunday's 9-7 win over the Rockies, and he passed all tests after being examined. Bryant has a small laceration above his left eye caused by his sunglasses, but tests showed no signs of a concussion. Bryant was still being evaluated after the game, and he will be monitored carefully as he travels with the team to Cleveland, where the Cubs will open a two-game set on Tuesday night. More > -- This report was first posted on April 23

Here's a roundup of the latest injury news across the Majors:

Kris Bryant, Cubs
The Cubs' star third baseman took a pitch to the helmet in the first inning of Sunday's 9-7 win over the Rockies, and he passed all tests after being examined. Bryant has a small laceration above his left eye caused by his sunglasses, but tests showed no signs of a concussion. Bryant was still being evaluated after the game, and he will be monitored carefully as he travels with the team to Cleveland, where the Cubs will open a two-game set on Tuesday night. More > -- This report was first posted on April 23

Anthony Rendon, Nationals
Rendon landed on the disabled list on Sunday, retroactive to Thursday, due to a deep bruise under his left big toe that was caused by a ball he fouled off his foot more than a week ago. Rendon attempted playing through the injury, but he won't be available to return to the lineup until Sunday, a week after hitting the DL. More > -- This report was first posted on April 23

Andrelton Simmons, Angels
Simmons took a 95-mph Johnny Cueto fastball to his right elbow during Sunday's loss to the Giants. X-rays came back negative, and he is listed as day to day with a right forearm contusion. The Angels are hoping Simmons' injury is not serious injury; the shortstop can return to action as early as Monday night's game against the Astros. In the meantime, Simmons is icing his elbow to reduce the swelling. More > -- This report was first posted on April 23

Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
CarGo was placed on the 10-day DL with right hamstring soreness before the Rockies' 9-7 loss to the Cubs on Sunday afternoon. The Rockies believe the outfielder, who was hurt while making a 5-star catch in Wednesday's 10-2 loss at Pittsburgh, is not feeling 100 percent. Gonzalez took batting practice on Saturday and was available to pinch-hit, but his injury left Colorado without an outfielder. CarGo's DL stint is retroactive to Thursday. More > -- This report was first posted on April 23

Video: COL@PIT: CarGo dives to make a five-star catch

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Waino is on the 10-day DL with a familiar right elbow injury; he's battling the same discomfort that caused him to undergo surgery in October. Wainwright needed six weeks to recover from the operation, and he's confident that his timetable this time will be short. Wainwright first felt the pain during his season debut, on April 5, when he pitched just 3 2/3 innings vs. the D-backs. The discomfort popped up again this weekend. More > -- This report was first posted on April 23

Zach Britton, Orioles
Britton threw 20 fastballs off a half-mound on Friday as he works his way back from offseason Achilles surgery. Orioles manager Buck Showalter thinks it is realistic he could return a little after he is eligible to return off the disabled list on May 28. The next step in Britton's recovery is taking fielding practice on Saturday.

"Felt really good. It was the first bullpen, so I had to think about that too," said Britton after his rehab session. "Arm felt really good. Just had to really think about getting over that foot, no hesitation, especially as we got going. Maybe the first couple throws, but once we got going it felt really good." More > -- This report was first posted on April 20.

Trey Mancini, Orioles
Mancini left Friday's game against the Indians after hitting his right knee into the base of the left-field wall. He chased down Indians slugger Yonder Alonso's foul ball, but the ball landed into the stands. Mancini collided into the padded wall, but his knee hit the unpadded base of the wall. He was checked by trainers and left the field gingerly. More > -- This report was first posted on April 20.

Hunter Pence, Giants
The Giants placed Pence on the 10-day disabled list as he continues to nurse a right thumb sprain. Pence hurt his thumb on April 3 after attempting to make a diving catch. He has played through the injury, but now has been given time for it to properly heal. More > -- This report was first posted on April 20.

Steven Wright, Red Sox
Wright was removed from his rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday with stiffness in his back. He was making his first rehab start as he recovers from left knee surgery.

The timetable for his return to the Red Sox is unclear. He started on the 10-day disabled list after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection at the site of his surgery. More > -- This report was first posted on April 20.

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Pedroia is slated to rejoin the Red Sox in Boston next week, but his timetable to return to action is undecided. He has been out after undergoing left knee surgery in October.

"He's doing everything, but it's like the beginning of Spring Training for him," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. -- This report was first posted on April 20.

A.J. Pollock, Chris Owings and Randall Delgado, D-backs
Pollock and Owings are nursing injuries after colliding with each other in the outfield on Thursday night. Owings took a knee to the head, but was able to pass his postgame concussion test on both Thursday and Friday afternoon. He also took batting practice with the team.

"Got some sleep last night and felt pretty good," Owings said. "I think they just kind of wanted to give me a day."

Pollock injured his right hand, according to D-backs manager Torey Lovullo. The injury isn't considered serious as Pollock was granted a day off.

"He was going to try and play," Lovullo said. "He banged up his hand in that collision. I decided to remove him from the lineup for precautionary reasons." As for Delgado, he underwent a medical examination on Friday night. He is recovering from a left oblique strain that has landed him on the disabled list. Lovullo said he is progressing in rehab starts, despite a dip in velocity.

"He feels good," Lovullo said. "We just obviously have noticed that the velocity is down. We want to just make sure." More > -- This report was first posted on April 20.

Video: SF@ARI: Owings leaves game after great sliding grab

Danny Salazar, Indians
Salazar is making strides toward a return to the starting rotation. He has been sidelined with right shoulder inflammation, but reports out of extended spring training have been favorable, according to Indians manager Terry Francona.

"We're cautiously optimistic that he's kind of turned a corner," Francona said. "His intensity in the bullpens has been good and he says he feels pretty good. So that's good." More > -- This report was first posted on April 20.

Eddie Butler, Cubs
Butler was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right groin strain on Friday. He last pitched against the Cardinals on Thursday and allowed four runs in his outing. Butler said he felt something right before pitching and tried to battle through the pain.

"It ended up affecting my finish -- it didn't have the late life it should have had," Butler said of the groin's effect on his pitching. "It just tightened up on me, felt like it wouldn't loosen up. Obviously four hitters in a row got on, let's go ahead and make a change."

Butler is 0-1 with a 4.30 ERA in six games covering 14 2/3 innings. He has walked five and struck out 10. More > -- This report was first posted on April 20.

Video: Butler, Farrell, Maddon on recent roster moves

Odrisamer Despaigne and Chris O'Grady, Marlins
Despaigne was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right forearm strain Friday. He was replaced in the sixth inning of Thursday's game and is the ninth Marlin on the disabled list.

O'Grady also landed on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain. More > -- This report was first posted on April 20.

Delino DeShields, Rougned Odor, Doug Fister, Jurickson Profar, Elvis Andrus, Rangers
DeShields, recovering from surgery to repair a broken bone in his left wrist, was 1-for-3 with a bunt single on Thursday in his first rehab game with Double-A Frisco. He played five innings in center field. DeShields was scheduled to play Friday and then be re-evaluated. He will likely be activated in the next few days.

Odor, who was placed on the disabled list April 10 with a strained left hamstring, is able to swing a bat and play catch, but he has yet to start a running program. He is projected to return in early May.

Fister, sidelined with a strained right hip muscle, threw a 58-pitch bullpen session on Friday without any issues. The Rangers will see how he responds this weekend before they decide what the next step will be. Rangers manager Jeff Banister said a rehab start in the Minors may not be required since Fister last pitched on April 11.

Profar was back in the lineup on Friday after missing two games while going through the concussion protocol. Profar had to come out of Monday's game with the Rays in the second inning when he was upended trying to turn a double play and fell on the right side of his face.

Andrus, on the disabled list with a fractured right elbow, was back with the team on Friday after staying home during the Rangers' six-game road trip. Andrus is expected to be out until at least early June but will start traveling with the team again.

Andrus suffered the fracture when he was hit by a pitch April 11 in a game against the Angels. The initial prognosis was 6-8 weeks, and this is the first time he has been on the DL in his career. More > -- This report was first posted on April 20.

Carlos Rodon, White Sox
Rodon will throw a side session Saturday for pitching coach Don Cooper at Guaranteed Rate Field and then will return to Arizona to begin making starts in extended spring training on Monday. That rehab trail will lead the left-hander throughout the White Sox system before he returns to the big club some time after May 28. More > -- This report was first posted on April 20.

Madison Bumgarner, Giants
The Giants have a tentative timetable in place for the return of their ace, after he had three pins removed from his fractured throwing hand on Thursday.

If all goes well, Bumgarner could return to the mound by late May, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bochy said Bumgarner could potentially be ready sometime around May 25.

Bumgarner has yet to pitch this season after being hit by a comebacker in his Spring Training start on March 23. The 28-year-old had a 3.32 ERA in 17 starts last season for San Francisco, a season in which he also missed extended time due to injury after a dirt-bike accident in late April. More > -- This report was first posted on April 19.

Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
Donaldson, who had been playing through a dead arm issue since Opening Day before landing on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation last Friday, played catch at the Blue Jays' Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla., on Thursday.

"He threw today and felt great," manager John Gibbons said. "I don't know what that means in terms of a timeline, but he felt great, which is the important thing. ... He won't be here Saturday. That won't happen." More > -- This report was first posted on April 19

Ken Giles, Astros
Giles hasn't pitched since Saturday due to back tightness, manager AJ Hinch said. Hinch added that he doesn't yet know whether the right-handed reliever will need to be placed on the disabled list.

"We don't want him to miss too much time," Hinch said. "Right now, just given that he can't move around and do the things he normally does, it's a little concerning. But we haven't talked DL yet.

Luckily our starting pitchers have gone deep into games, and I don't have enough innings for all our relievers, so Giles being down a few days hasn't impacted us."

Giles posted a 2.30 ERA with 34 saves for Houston last season, but struggled in the postseason, giving up 10 runs in 7 2/3 innings (11.74 ERA). In six appearances so far this season, he's allowed two runs on six hits over five innings (3.60 ERA). More > -- This report was first posted on April 19

Joe Musgrove, Pirates
Musgrove has yet to make his Pirates debut after a muscle strain in his right shoulder sidelined him to begin the season. The right-hander said he felt good after throwing a 25-pitch bullpen session off the mound at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday.

Musgrove threw mostly fastballs and changeups during the low-intensity session with pitches around 75-80 mph. He said he planned on throwing a more intense, 35-pitch bullpen session on Sunday and hoped to add a simulated game next Wednesday in Pittsburgh before going out for a rehab assignment. More > -- This report was first posted on April 19

HR leader Trout's 'Space Jam'-inspired secret

Mike Trout smacked a Major League-leading ninth home run on Sunday in the bottom of the eighth against the Giants. The two-run shot was a line drive to right field and we were reminded, once again, that his bat is one of the best in the game. We know his resume is filled to the brim with accomplishments including two American League MVP's and six All-Star selections -- to name a few. And now we know he has some Space Jam-inspired juice that's perhaps been carrying him this whole time.

Brandon Belt just set the record; here's who's next

Belt's 21-pitch battle with Barria takes over top spot
MLB.com

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt made history Sunday, working a 21-pitch at-bat during San Francisco's 4-2 win over the Angels in Anaheim. Belt hit 16 foul balls in the first-inning at-bat against Jaime Barria that ended in a fly ball to right field.

Belt's 21-pitch at-bat is now the longest on record since 1988, as far back as the data is available. Below is a look at the other at-bats near the top of the list:

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt made history Sunday, working a 21-pitch at-bat during San Francisco's 4-2 win over the Angels in Anaheim. Belt hit 16 foul balls in the first-inning at-bat against Jaime Barria that ended in a fly ball to right field.

Belt's 21-pitch at-bat is now the longest on record since 1988, as far back as the data is available. Below is a look at the other at-bats near the top of the list:

1. Brandon Belt, 1B SF vs. Jaime Barria, RHP, LAA
April 22, 2018: 21 pitches, flyout

2. Ricky Gutierrez, SS, HOU vs. Bartolo Colon, RHP, CLE
June 26, 1998: 20 pitches, strikeout swinging
Gutierrez and Colon combined for the previous record in a marathon at-bat to lead off the top of the eighth. Colon won, getting Gutierrez to strike out swinging, and then retired the Astros in order to complete his eight-inning outing in the Tribe's 4-2 win.

Video: HOU@CLE: Colon K's Gutierrez in 20-pitch at-bat

3. Kevin Bass, RF, HOU vs. Steve Bedrosian, RHP, PHI
July 23, 1988: 19 pitches, flyout
Bedrosian blew a two-run lead in his eighth-inning relief appearance, but ended the Astros' rally by retiring Bass after a 19-pitch battle. The Astros went on to win in walk-off fashion on a wild pitch.

4-T. Brian Downing, DH, CAL vs. Ken Patterson, LHP, CWS
Sept. 1, 1990: 18 pitches, lineout
Downing led off the bottom of the ninth inning as his California Angels looked to overcome a four-run deficit against the White Sox. Downing put up a valiant effort, working an 18-pitch at-bat against Patterson, but lined out in the 9-5 defeat.

4-T. Bip Roberts, LF, KC vs. Felipe Lira, RHP, DET
May 18, 1997: 18 pitches, groundout
Roberts ran up Lira's pitch count early with 18 pitches in his first-inning at-bat. At 14 pitches, his teammate Tom Goodwin stole second base, giving the Royals a runner in scoring position.

4-T. Alex Cora, 2B, LAD vs. Matt Clement, RHP, CHC
May 12, 2004: 18 pitches, home run
Cora punctuated an 18-pitch battle with Clement with a two-run homer in the Dodgers' bullpen that stretched the Dodgers' lead to 4-0 in the victory over the Cubs. The 18 pitches in that at-bat were more than Clement had thrown in any inning but the third.

Video: CHC@LAD: Alex Cora wins 18-pitch battle with a homer

4-T. Adam Kennedy, 2B, ANA vs. Luis Vizcaino, RHP, MIL
June 10, 2004: 18 pitches, walk
Kennedy worked an 18-pitch walk to load the bases against Vizcaino, who had just entered the game with runners at second and third. Vizcaino retired his next two batters to escape the jam, but the Anaheim Angels held on to win, 5-4.

4-T. Marcus Semien, SS, OAK vs. Doug Fister, RHP, HOU
June 3, 2016: 18 pitches, groundout
Semien ran up Fister's pitch count with an 18-pitch groundout in the second inning. He also drew a walk in the fifth and launched a leadoff homer in the seventh for the A's first run in the 12-2 loss to the Astros.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Johnny Cueto's ERA is now a ridiculous 0.35

Ri