Gerrit Cole posed a conundrum. One of those paradox-wrapped-in-a-mystery-inside-an-enigma-mixed-with-anomaly-sauce-spread-across-a-contradictory-bagel problems that turned normal people like Jason Parks into connect-the-string radicals like John Nash.
Cole was a surefire front-of-the-rotation workhorse, a 240-pounder with a clean delivery and a mean streak. He was smart, scouts said, the type that made adjustments to your adjustments. He was the No. 1 pick in 2011. Some said he was baseball's No. 1 prospect in 2013.
Here was a pitcher who possessed a fastball and slider that were deemed so utterly dominant that Baseball Prospectus ranked both amongst the very best pitches in the minor leagues before the season. The fastball is a 96-mph cue ball from Hades with movement. The slider runs in the upper-80s and snaps downward like a jarred icicle. And if offenses attempt to cheat on either, the 6-foot-4 right-hander spins a changeup that has dejected hitters stepping out of the box before the home plate umpire can yell, "Strike."
Thus, the conundrum: How on earth can a pitcher with three above-average major league pitches only strike out 23.8% of the batters he faced in Double-A? How is it theoretically possible that 82.5% of Triple-A batters managed to avoid strike three against Cole?
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The series of theories proposed to answer this question were far-reaching and at times philosophical; they often ended with the author playing pop psychologist. We don't have space for these theories. What's more important is the grand-scheme question that this type of conjecture begets. The question wasn't: "Can Gerrit Cole dominate in the big leagues?" The question was: "When will Gerrit Cole decide to dominate in the big leagues?"
He decided on Monday, firing seven shutout innings in a 1-0 win in Arlington. Cole struck out a career-high nine batters and scattered a trio of rinky-dink singles.
Yu Darvish put on a show of his own, allowing only one run over seven frames, but all eyes were on Pittsburgh’s ace. Darvish suffered the double indignity of taking the loss and leaving early with cramps. He'll be fine.
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Juan Uribe hit three home runs in his first three at-bats against the Diamondbacks late Monday night. If you anticipated reading that sentence today, you've either figured out how to manipulate wormholes or you're schizophrenic. Either way, welcome to the column.
Uribe's last three bombs came over his previous 54 games. Luis Cruz, who began the year as the starting third baseman over Monday's star, managed only three extra-base hits in 118 at-bats before the Dodgers banished him from the roster.
The Dodgers hit six home runs in all, because Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez decided to follow Uribe's lead in treating Randall Delgado and company like a series of soft-tossing pitching machines.
Dodgers' Cuban Import
The United States of America began enforcing a partial embargo against Cuba in October, 1960. Thirty-three years later, U.S. Congressman Robert Torricelli presented The Cuban Democracy Act, legislation that essentially meant that you still couldn't legally buy Cohiba Robustos, despite what your boss' humidor might have had you believe.
Luckily, there are no such sanctions against signing Cuban ballplayers; assuming he safely defects first. Alexander Guerrero did so, and Ned Colletti broke into the Guggenheim Baseball Management group's money vault and escaped with a series of barrels filled with money, Walter White-style. Colletti rolled those barrels across his office floor at Guerrero's agent until the man was pinned against the wall, begging for a ceasefire.
Or at least that's how it played out in my head.
Guerrero receives $32 million in a contract that will run between five and seven years. The 26-year-old played shortstop in Cuba, but he's expected to be limited to second base in the majors. That's just fine by the Dodgers, who will have a gaping hole at the keystone in 2014 if Mark Ellis isn't welcomed back. If Los Angeles wants to make it rain on Robinson Cano this winter, Guerrero could also shift to third and replace Monday's hero, the free-agent-to-be Uribe.
Guerrero, 26, slashed .290/.402/.576 with 21 home runs in 328 plate appearances during his final season in Cuba, numbers that resemble Yoenis Cespedes' production prior to the outfielder's own defection.
AL Quick Hits: Felix Hernandez, out since September 2 due to a strained oblique, was scratched from Wednesday's start against the Astros; Hernandez is slated to throw a bullpen session this weekend before the Mariners announce when he'll make his next start ... Brandon Maurer will take the hill against Houston in King Felix's steed ... Justin Masterson (oblique) wants to start playing catch as soon as Friday, but he'd have to experience zero setbacks to have a chance to make a start or two before the end of the season ... Scott Diamond will rejoin Minnesota's new six-man rotation; Diamond shouldn't be anywhere near a fantasy roster, even in an all-Diamond league (start Neil or Dustin, in that case) ... Avisail Garcia underwent a double root canal on Monday and was given the night off ... The Rangers need a fifth starter on Tuesday and are considering Alexi Ogando, despite the fact that they'd hoped to keep him in the bullpen this month ... Boston will pick up Jon Lester's $13 million option in 2014 ... Ubaldo Jimenez whiffed 10 and yielded an unearned run in seven innings of the Indians' 4-3 win over the Royals ... Alex Rodriguez finished 2-for-4 with a homer against the Orioles ... Josmil Pinto doubled three times and walked in a win over the Angels; he's batting .565 in 23 at-bats ... Howie Kendrick will be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday, but he's initially only expected to be available off the bench ... Chris Sale allowed only one run in eight innings to beat Max Scherzer and the Tigers ... Taijuan Walker (5 IP, 2 ER, 8 K) and Jarred Cosart (5 IP, 0 ER, 3 K) dueled through a half-game precocious pitcher’s duel in Houston’s 6-4 victory; the 21-year-old Walker was making his final start of the season and has been shut down by the Mariners.
NL Quick Hits: The Braves promoted catcher Christian Bethancourt from Double-A Mississippi; he's not going to play much this year, but has a decent chance of making next season's Opening Day roster if impending free agent Brian McCann is not re-signed ... Cliff Pennington will be away from the Diamondbacks until Friday due to the birth of his second child ... Domonic Brown (mild tendinitis in his right Achilles tendon) is scheduled to resume baseball-related activities on Tuesday and hopes to return for the final two weeks of the regular season ... Bryce Harper (hip) is expected to return to the lineup later this week ... Giancarlo Stanton missed Monday's game due to soreness in his right foot and ankle; X-rays were negative and he's considered day-to-day ... Aaron Harang will take the hill on Thursday against Washington in his Mets' debut; don't you dare consider signing him in any format ... Hardware in Jason Heyward's jaw was removed Monday, but the 24-year-old's postseason status is still in doubt; he's schedule to take batting practice on Friday ... Wandy Rodriguez (elbow, forearm) will throw a sim game Thursday, while teammate Charlie Morton hopes to throw his own bullpen session on Wednesday. Pittsburgh hasn’t released timetables for either pitcher, though it's a near-certainty that Rodriguez won't start again this year ... The Mets aren't considering a plan to non-tender Ike Davis this winter, but Davis (oblique) was placed on the 60-day disabled list Monday, ending a season in which he managed to slash only .205/.326/.334 ... Bobby Parnell has also been ruled out for the season and will undergo surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck in the near future; LaTroy Hawkins will remain closer through the end of the season ... Wilmer Flores returned to the Mets' lineup on Monday, though he's still dealing with ankle pain in both limbs ... Gio Gonzalez tossed a one-hitter against the Mets.