We're almost out of April, the month of small samples and sometimes-dreary conditions. With Sunday comes the month of May, and maybe that's a good thing for a Twins reliever named Trevor.It's definitely a good thing for baseball fans, who can count on improved first-pitch temps and more meaningful standings
We're almost out of April, the month of small samples and sometimes-dreary conditions. With Sunday comes the month of May, and maybe that's a good thing for a Twins reliever named Trevor.
It's definitely a good thing for baseball fans, who can count on improved first-pitch temps and more meaningful standings and stats. Here are the topics to watch as you flip your calendar. It's the weekend cheat sheet.
1. Debut for two
The Mets traded former first-round Draft pick Michael Fulmer to the Tigers to get Yoenis Cespedes, and that's a huge reason why they went to the World Series.
The Royals traded former first-rounder Sean Manaea to the A's to get Ben Zobrist, and that's a huge reason why they went to and won the World Series.
So we already know what the defending league champs got out of those deals. Now it's time to see what the sellers have to show for it, and we'll get our first real look on Friday night, when Fulmer makes his Detroit debut against the Twins (8:10 p.m. ET, Target Field) and Manaea makes his A's entry opposite the Astros (10:05 p.m., Oakland Coliseum).
Fulmer, 23, is the Tigers' No. 1 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, and Manaea, 24, is No. 2 on the A's list. Fulmer has a power fastball/slider combo, while the 6-foot-5 Manaea is an imposing lefty and strikeout machine. Though Fulmer is likely just temporarily filling in for the injured Shane Greene (blister), Oakland manager Bob Melvin already said Manaea is likely to stick around awhile.
2. Rivalry renewed
As far back as STATS LLC's data goes for this sort of thing (the 1913 season), 40 players have logged at least 1,000 plate appearances against the Yankees over the years. And in that group of 40, only two have logged a higher OPS against Yanks pitching than David Ortiz's .960 mark: Ted Williams (1.103) and Jimmie Foxx (.977).
(They're both in the Hall of Fame, if you need 'em.)
We'll see if Ortiz can keep battering the Bronx Bombers this weekend, with his farewell season's first installment of the Red Sox-Yankees clash, a three-game set at Fenway Park. The Friday and Saturday games, both starting at 7:10 p.m., will be broadcast on MLB Network.
3. The right stuff
The weekend's best pitching matchup, on paper, belongs to Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard on Sunday (1:10 p.m., Citi Field, on FS1), in the series finale between the last two NL pennant-winners. It's Mad Bum and Thor, an October legend vs. a budding one.
We were salivating over Syndergaard's stuff before this season, but he's kicked it up a notch in 2016, with his fastball averaging almost 99 mph and, amazingly, his slider jumping from 88.6 last year to 92.3 this year. With the power arsenal, the 1.69 ERA and the flowing locks, Syndergaard's starts have become must-see events, no matter your rooting interests or beliefs in Nordic gods.
Bumgarner's stuff has generated conversation of a different sort, with some expressing alarm about his fastball velocity being about two clicks below where it was a year ago. His response?
"I don't care."
And maybe he shouldn't, because Bumgarner is striking out 11.5 batters per nine.
4. Houston, we have a… solution?
It's still too early for outright alarm, but not too early for action.
That's why the Astros acted on their underperforming rotation, which has the highest ERA (5.37) in the American League. Scott Feldman is out, and Chris Devenski is in. Devenski, who gets the nod Saturday in Oakland (4:05 p.m. ET at The Coliseum) is a 25-year-old right-hander acquired in the 2012 trade that sent Brett Myers to the White Sox.
Though not lauded as a premier prospect, a la Fulmer and Manaea, the rookie Devenski has impressed with a 0.66 ERA in 13 2/3 innings out of Houston's bullpen. This will be his first Major League start.
5. Archer hits the mark
The Saturday slate is loaded with great giveaways, from the A's Sean Doolittle Metallica gnome (with sound!) to the Mariners' Nelson Cruz "Boomstick" bobblehead to the Mets' Syndergaard-en gnome.
But the award for best timing goes to the Rays, who will hand out the Chris Archer K-counter bobblehead on the very day Archer opposes the Blue Jays (6:10 p.m. at The Trop).
Archer hadn't been racking up the K's as expected in his first few starts this season, but he bounced back in a big way against the Orioles on Monday, dominating a tough lineup with only five hits allowed, 10 strikeouts and no walks in 6 2/3 innings.
We asked the Archer bobblehead if Tampa Bay's ace is back on track, and he nodded yes.
6. Tu-Tu-Tu Turner!
If you noticed a curious absence from the above rundown of Saturday giveaways, you, friend, are a true pro on the promotions beat.
The bearded beauty that is the Justin Turner Chia Pet gets its own spot in this weekend rundown, if for no other reason than to direct you to an awesome promotional video sure to delight the "I Love the 80s" crowd:
7. The Chase is on
If we told you Zack Greinke has a 1.93 ERA and .565 opponents' OPS, you'd think he was worth every penny of that $32.5 million-per-year contract the D-backs gave him.
Well, he does!
The problem is that those numbers are in two road starts. In three starts at Chase Field, Greinke has a 9.72 ERA and 1.109 opponents' OPS. And Chase is where he'll be Saturday (8:10 p.m. ET), when he faces a Rockies team that roughed him up for seven runs in four innings in his Arizona debut on Opening Day.
We'll see if Greinke can overcome his early issues (opponents have been pulverizing pitches he leaves up in the zone) in his last outing of April. Hopefully it will be a little smoother than his reluctant attempt to "drive the bus" after a base hit the other night.
8. Hill on the hill
From a high-profile acquisition enduring early troubles to a low-profile one enjoying stunning success, let's talk about Rich Hill. The A's felt strongly enough about a four-start sample with the Red Sox last September (1.55 ERA in 29 innings) -- after Hill spent part of the 2015 season in independent ball -- that they gave him a one-year, $6 million deal and a spot in their rotation.
It's a deal with Rich rewards so far, as Hill has logged a 2.42 ERA through five starts, going into Sunday's 4:05 p.m. ET game against the Astros. A former reliever with control problems, the former sidearmer went back to an overhead delivery and is getting tons of swings and misses with his fastball. That's a pertinent point against a Houston team with the highest strikeout rate in the league.
9. (Stro)man up
Appropriately enough, at a time when people are openly discussing his need to show more emotional maturity, Marcus Stroman makes his next start on his 25th birthday.
Sunday's 1:10 p.m. ET start opposite Jake Odorizzi and the Rays is Stroman's first outing since he showed some legitimate dugout rage on Monday night. He left a game against the White Sox with a 5-1 lead, only to see the bullpen squander the advantage in a 7-5 loss. Stroman pounded his right fist into the dugout bench when two of the baserunners he left behind came in to score, and, though Stroman insisted his anger was with himself and not reliever Brett Cecil, the general perception was that this was a bad look.
The game needs more players who aren't afraid to express themselves. But the expression doesn't work so well when it can easily be interpreted as trouble with your teammates, and that's something Stroman is learning as he develops into an elite starter. But his frustration is certainly understandable: Seven of the 17 runs attributed to him this season scored after he left the ballgame.
Everything's bigger in Texas, of course, but the biggest news out of Texas this weekend isn't taking place on a big league field but at Double-A Frisco, where Yu Darvish will make his first rehab start following his 2015 Tommy John procedure.
The Rangers' pre-Cole Hamels ace hasn't faced hitters from an opposing team since Aug. 9, 2014. He'll likely be limited to about 30 pitches as he begins to build up a tolerance for what could be a late-May return to the Majors.
You gotta believe Rangers fans have been eagerly awaiting that arrival.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.