Jesse Pantuosco

Baseball Daily Dose

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Dose: Bad News for Andrus

Friday, April 13, 2018


It’s crisis time in the Lone Star State.

 

How doomed are the Rangers? Well for starters, they’ve dropped four straight and 10 of their first 14 with a three-game set coming up against the defending World Champion Astros, who already took three of four against Texas earlier this year. Coming off a losing season that saw Texas trade away its most valuable asset, ace starting pitcher Yu Darvish, we knew the Rangers would be in rough shape for 2018. Manager Jeff Banister seems to have embraced the challenge ahead, adorning his office with a sculpture of Sisyphus, a character in Greek mythology known for pushing a boulder up a steep hill. It’s sort of a depressing metaphor because, despite his best efforts, Sisyphus never quite reaches the top. Every time the boulder gets close, it falls all the way down again.

 

Which brings us to the Rangers’ latest disaster (yes, even their off days are brutal). In a year where little has gone right, Elvis Andrus has been a bright spot for Texas, leading the team with a .327 average through 52 at-bats. It’s a small sample size to be sure, but after hitting .297 last year while setting career-highs in both home runs (20) and RBI (88), it was reasonable to expect another leap forward for the Rangers’ All-Star shortstop. So naturally, it all came crashing down like the boulder Sisyphus could never push up the hill. Andrus exited Wednesday’s game after being hit by a pitch and was later diagnosed with a fractured right elbow. The injury won’t require surgery but it will cost Andrus a chunk of the season as the 29-year-old now faces a 6-to-8-week recovery.

 

Aside from perhaps Adrian Beltre, who has a Hall of Fame plaque waiting for him in Cooperstown whenever he decides to hang up his cleats, Andrus is likely the team’s most consistent hitter. He’s also a major source of speed (nine straight seasons of 20-plus steals) and a strong defender at shortstop. It’s a gut-wrenching loss for a team with precious little to look forward to, at least this season. Six-to-eight weeks is far from a life sentence but it’s a long enough absence to bury whatever slim chances the Rangers had of making a surprise run in the AL West.

 

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Looking at their current roster, the Rangers don’t have much of an identity. They haven’t quite given up on the present, clinging to veterans like Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo and Cole Hamels. But at the same time, the Rangers are also setting up their future, stashing talented youngsters like Delino DeShields, Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara. The biggest prize in their prospect treasure chest is Willie Calhoun, who is biding time in Triple-A while he waits for a spot to open up in the Rangers’ outfield. That’s a good foundation and it’s not crazy to think the Rangers could field a decent club in a few years. But pitting this team as currently constructed against the Houstons and Anaheims of the world—not to mention contenders from other divisions like the Red Sox, Yankees and Indians—seems like a recipe for failure.

 

Who knows—maybe the Rangers will make me eat my words by staying competitive throughout Andrus’ absence. Texas certainly wouldn’t be the first team to rally around an injured star. The chip-on-the-shoulder narrative is a common one in pro sports. But based on how the Rangers have played in the early going, it’s going to be an uphill battle without Andrus.

 

Mr. 2,000

 

Much has changed since Joe Mauer first arrived in Minnesota. You’ve probably noticed the Twins no longer play their home games in the cavernous Metrodome. But the most glaring difference is the team’s roster, which looks nothing like the division-winning squad that Mauer played on as a rookie in 2004. That team was led by a young core featuring Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan, all of whom have since retired.

 

Fourteen years later, Mauer is the only Twin from that era still standing. And, despite the fact that he turns 35 in a week, Mauer’s bat hasn’t aged a bit. Through two weeks of play, the former first overall pick finds himself leading the majors in batting average at .412. That’s nothing new for Mauer, who has three AL batting titles to his credit with his most recent coming in 2009, the year he won MVP.

 

At one point, it looked like Mauer was on his way to becoming a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the greatest catchers of all-time, but his Hall candidacy has taken a significant hit in recent years. For one, he doesn’t play catcher anymore—Mauer dons a first-base mitt these days. But second and most importantly, last year was Mauer’s first .300 season since 2013. That’s quite the dry spell for a player who was perennially among the league’s top hitters during his prime. It probably didn’t help that Minnesota went through a seemingly endless rebuild during this time, which finally ended last season when the Twins made their first playoff appearance in seven years.

 

This isn’t the Mauer of yesteryear. He’s mostly a singles hitter at this point (not that he was ever much of a power guy) and barely registers on the fantasy radar now that he’s lost his catcher eligibility. And after being the team’s unquestioned star for the better part of a decade, Mauer is more of a supporting cast member now, offering veteran leadership to young stars like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.

 

But there’s no denying Mauer’s hot start. And thanks to his latest two-hit effort Thursday against the visiting White Sox, the six-time All-Star can check another milestone off his list. That’s right—you’re looking at the newest member of the 2,000-hit club. Mauer reached No. 2,000 in his third and final at-bat of the night, poking a two-run single to center off White Sox reliever Aaron Bummer in the seventh inning. That staked the Twins to a 4-0 lead and they would later win by that exact score.

 

Not to get sappy, but Mauer will always have a special place in my heart as a player I grew up watching in the minor leagues. He made a brief but memorable stop in New Britain, Connecticut (a half-hour from where I grew up), hitting .341 across 73 games for the Rock Cats in 2003. A number of big leaguers have come through New Britain over the years, but only a handful of them are still around and few if any have had the impact that Mauer has had.

 

Thursday was unquestionably a celebration of Mauer and his career accomplishments, but it was also an excellent showcase for one of the best young arms in baseball, Jose Berrios. The Twins right-hander foiled the White Sox over seven shutout innings, limiting Chicago to three hits while matching a career-high with 11 strikeouts. Berrios showed plenty of promise last year in his first full season in the majors and looks ready to build on that success in 2018. The biggest criticism of Minnesota last year was that the team didn’t have a true ace (apologies to Ervin Santana) but it looks like Berrios is well on his way to becoming exactly that.

 

AL Quick Hits: Rick Porcello was money on Thursday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning in a 6-3 win over the Yankees. Hanley Ramirez left that contest after taking a pitch off his right wrist, though luckily for the Red Sox, his X-rays came back negative … David Price will be given an extra day of rest after leaving Wednesday’s start with numbness in his left hand. Instead of starting Monday’s Patriot’s Day game against Baltimore, Price will get the nod Tuesday night in Anaheim … MLB suspended Joe Kelly (six games) and Tyler Austin (five games) for their roles in Wednesday’s bench-clearing brawl at Fenway. Alex Cora, Phil Nevin, Xander Bogaerts, Marco Hernandez, Dustin Pedroia and CC Sabathia were fined, but not suspended for the dust-up … Aaron Hicks served as the Yankees’ DH in his return from the disabled list on Thursday, going 0-for-4 in a loss to Boston. Hicks had been out with an intercostal strain … Shohei Ohtani plated three runs on a bases-loaded triple Thursday as the Angels cruised to a 7-1 win over Kansas City. The Japanese Babe Ruth is hitting .346 with three homers and 11 RBI through 26 at-bats this season … Ian Kinsler returned from the disabled list Thursday after missing 12 days with a groin injury. He went 1-for-5 with a home run, his first as an Angel, in L.A.’s victory … An MRI on Welington Castillo’s injured knee came back clean, though he wasn’t available for Thursday’s game against Minnesota. Omar Narvaez drew another start behind the plate for the White Sox, who have now lost five of their last six.

 

NL Quick Hits: Joey Votto got a rare day off Thursday against St. Louis. The absence snapped his streak of 202 consecutive starts at first base … Mark Melancon underwent a stem cell injection on Thursday. Dr. James Andrews cleared Melancon of any ligament damage in his right forearm, though it will be at least another two weeks until the right-hander resumes throwing. Hunter Strickland will continue to fill in at closer for the Giants … Johnny Cueto threw off flat ground on Thursday and will test his sprained ankle when he throws a live batting practice on Saturday. If all goes well, Cueto will have a chance to return Tuesday against the Diamondbacks … Wil Myers estimated that his injured elbow is about 90 percent after hitting off a tee on Thursday. He’s close to beginning a minor league rehab assignment and could be back with the Padres sometime next week … The Padres managed just one hit in Thursday’s loss to the Giants. It came when Clayton Richard, who pinch-hit for Bryan Mitchell in the third inning, ripped a single off Giants starter Chris StrattonMark Reynolds signed a minor league deal with the Nationals on Thursday. The 34-year-old bopped 30 long balls for the Rockies a year ago, though 21 of them came at hitter-friendly Coors Field … DJ LeMahieu went 4-for-5 with two homers, two doubles and a career-high four RBI Thursday in a win over Washington. He’s only the third Rockie to hit two homers and two doubles in the same game and the first to do it since Corey Dickerson in 2014 … Charlie Blackmon missed another game on Thursday. A quad injury has sidelined him since Monday.



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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