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MLB News and Notes: Week of April 9

You have to love the fact that the beginning of baseball season is one of the signs that spring is here. Unless, of course, you live in one of the parts of the country where it’s 3o degrees and snowing. So let’s pull the shades down, put on some baseball, and pretend like spring is here.

Sometimes, it takes pitchers a little while to warm up, and that can take a toll on a team’s pitching staff. So far in 2018, we’ve seen three position players take the mound. Phillies center fielder Pedro Florimon became the first position player to try his hand at pitching in 2018. Only two days after Opening Day, he was called upon to cover the eighth inning of a lopsided 15-2 beatdown by the Braves. Brewers utility player Hernan Perez, on the other hand, wasn’t given nearly as long of a leash when he took the mound during Thursday’s 8-0 loss to the Cubs. His circumstances were a bit different, as Milwaukee closer Corey Knebel labored through two outs in the ninth inning before collapsing on the mound with a hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list. Last but not least, Rays second baseman Daniel Robertson stepped up to deliver the most impressive non-pitcher pitching performance of the year. Down 10-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, he replaced Sergio Romo to face the top third of the Red Sox’s lineup, and he promptly put Brock Holt away with a pop-up to second base and induced back-to-back line outs from Andrew Benintendi and Blake Swihart to end the inning.

This leads us to our regular feature concerning a certain rookie who is both pitching and hitting regularly for an MLB team.  Shohei Ohtani hit his third homer of the season Friday night in his first at-bat against the Oakland Athletics, crushing a 93 mph two-seam fastball from A’s starter Daniel Gossett to left-center, a 449-foot solo shot. In his first outing on the mound last Sunday, the rookie from Japan gave up three runs and three hits in six innings, with one walk and six strikeouts. Yesterday, Ohtani threw six perfect innings against the A’s before Marcus Semien singled to left with one out in the seventh inning to break up the perfect game. He finished with 12 strikeouts and just one walk in seven innings. Ohtani is now batting .389/.421/.889 across 19 plate appearances to go along with his 2.08 ERA and 12.5 K/9 in two starts.

Things are not going so well for the newest member of the Bronx Bombers. After a stellar Opening Day, Giancarlo Stanton is batting a meager .133 with one other homer and 14 strikeouts in 36 plate appearances in the eight days since the opener. In Sunday’s 8-7 loss to Baltimore, Stanton finished 0-for-7 with five strikeouts, dropping his batting average to .167. He’s now up to 20 strikeouts in 48 plate appearances, good for a 41.7 percent strikeout rate.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts exited Sunday’s game against the Rays in the seventh inning after suffering an apparent leg injury. Bogaerts slid into the visiting dugout trying to prevent an errant throw from leaving the field of play. He will be further evaluated on Monday. Bogaerts has been on a tear to start the season, batting .368 with nine extra-base hits, including a pair of homers, with seven runs and nine RBI in 40 plate appearances.

Andrew McCutchen enjoyed his first big moment with the Giants, collecting six hits and delivering the game-winning, three-run homer against the Dodgers Saturday night. He became the eighth San Francisco Giant to hit a walk-off homer in the 14th inning or later. Buster Posey was the last one to do it when he walked the Reds off in the 17th inning last year. He also became the first big leaguer to hit a walk-off with his team trailing in the 14th inning or later since July 11, 2015, when he did it to the Cardinals. Despite the six-hit night, McCutchen is still hitting just .258/.281/.419 on the young season.

After a hot start with his new team, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich went on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique strain. Yelich sustained the injury during the club’s 6-0 loss to the Cardinals last Wednesday. He had been trying to work his way back to the lineup, but a DL stint ended up being necessary. If all goes well, he could return to the lineup sometime next week. In the meantime, Domingo Santana will receive regular playing time in the Brewers’ outfield.

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez broke his right thumb when he was hit by a pitch during Sunday’s game against the Pirates. He’s looking at an extended absence. Suarez has started every game at third base this season and hit second in all but one. He’s been one of the few bright spots in Cincinnati’s rough start to the season, batting .308/.419/.654 through his first seven games.

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