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MLB News and Notes: Week of April 2

It was amazing to see how many people on social media borrowed the lyrics from the classic Andy Williams’ Christmas tune “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and turned it into a song for the MLB Opening Day 2018. Forget the day after the Super Bowl becoming a holiday. If MLB continues to schedule all of the teams for this day, MLB Opening Day should become the new sports-related holiday.

Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ started out this day by hitting a home run on the first pitch of the first game, which leads us the first of our two trivia questions: Name the only other player in MLB history who hit a home run on the first pitch of the first game of the 1986 season as a member of the Boston Red Sox?

Speaking of the Red Sox, Xander Bogaerts is making good headway into putting a somewhat disappointing 2017 season behind him by making some history during the first three games of this season. Bogaerts is the first player in Red Sox history to have multiple extra-base hits in the first three games of the season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only MLB player to pull off that feat in the last 100 years is Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who did it in 2015.

As of Sunday, Bogaerts is now 8-for-12 with an MLB-high five doubles and a solo homer to start the season. His OPS is 2.000. The reason for this is an offseason change in his swing style. Instead of his first move being toward the pitcher, he now rocks back just enough to build a foundation for what has become a more powerful swing.

Not to be outdone by his Northside counterpart, Chicago White Sox DH Matt Davidson hit three home runs at Kansas City on Opening Day. According to Baseball Reference, the 27-year-old Davidson is just the fourth person to turn the trick. The others are George Bell (1988), Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005). Davidson is also on track for an improved 2018 season as he batted .328 with four homers this spring.

In the too true to believe news category: Nelson Cruz left Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Indians when he twisted his ankle slipping on the dugout steps while returning to the bench after hitting a home run. Cruz exited the game in the eighth inning and was spotted in a walking boot after the game. X-rays came back negative but he will undergo an MRI as a precaution.

In the too true to believe news category II: Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez will miss four to six weeks after suffering a Grade 2 MCL tear while carrying his luggage last Tuesday. According to Perez, he missed a step and his knee hyperextended to cause the injury.  Drew Butera will see most of the duty behind the plate until Perez returns from this freak, unfortunate injury. In 2017, Butera slashed .227/.284/.319 with three home runs in 75 games for Kansas City, partly as a fill-in for Perez when he missed time due to an intercostal strain.

Catchers continue to be featured in DL news as Atlanta Braves’ backstop Tyler Flowers suffered a strained left oblique during his first plate appearance of the year against Philadelphia on Thursday. Flowers has indicated that the injury might force him to miss about a month. Then, his backup Kurt Suzuki was forced to leave Friday’s game after getting plunked by a pitch on the hand and could wind up missing extended time as well depending on the severity of that injury.

Trivia Question 2: Staying on the theme of catchers: Name the player, who is also on a current MLB roster, the only catcher to win three batting titles?

Alex Cobb will probably make his debut for the Baltimore Orioles on April 14 against the Red Sox. He will need to stretch out his arm in the minors before appearing in a major-league game. Part of the issue has to do with the baseballs used in the minor leagues. The Orioles had been working to allow the right-hander to use major league baseballs in what is expected to be his final tuneup on April 9 before joining the Orioles starting rotation. Typically, only pitchers on a minor league rehab assignment as part of a DL stint are allowed to pitch with major league baseballs. But Cobb isn’t hurt and was optioned to the minors with his approval so he could build innings in Sarasota and then with Double-A Bowie once the minor league season begins.

Recently, Eastern League president Joe McEacharn said he will allow Cobb to use major league baseballs for his game with Bowie. So what’s the big deal? Apparently, the minor league baseball has higher seams and a different feel, and pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery, as Cobb did in 2015, don’t like to throw it.

It is only one game but David Price looked like the Price of old during his first start for the Red Sox on Friday. He threw seven scoreless innings on 76 pitches while striking out five and walking none. His final pitch was a two-seam fastball clocked at 91.7 mph, a full mile per hour faster than his first pitch. Price says his elbow is pain-free and his demeanor is better, in stark contrast to 2017 when injuries took their toll mentally and physically.

Say what you will, but Shohei Ohtani on Sunday became the first player in nearly 100 years to start as a pitcher and a non-pitcher within the first 10 games of a season. Joe Bush of the Boston Red Sox and Clarence Mitchell of the Brooklyn Dodgers did it in 1920. Ohtani was DH on Opening Day and went 1 for 5. He picked up the win Sunday striking out six. His only blemish was a three-run homer by the A’s Matt Chapman.

Trivia Question #1 answer: Dwight Evans

Trivia Question #2 answer: Joe Mauer

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