We begin our nightly roundup with two items that sent shock waves across baseball.
There are some great urban legends in baseball lore. For example, there's the story that after Rickey Henderson was traded to the Seattle Mariners late in his career, he saw teammate John Olerud wearing his helmet in the field and responded, "Hey, I used to play with a guy with the Mets who did that." The joke being that Henderson played with Olerud when he was the Mets. That story was, sadly, later debunked. Another good one was Glenallen Hill reportedly landing on the DL after having a nightmare about spiders that so scared him that he jumped out of bed and crashed through a glass table. Sadly, we might have to debunk that one as well after this tweet Monday.
For a few hours Wednesday, we had another one. Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman repeated a rumor she had heard that prospect Clint Frazier asked if the team ever unretired numbers. He wanted to wear No. 7, which just happens to be retired in honor of Mickey Mantle. That led to responses such as this:
You should go into your workplace every day with Clint Frazier's "Can you unretire Mickey Mantle's number for me?" level of confidence.— Y B T Z (@the_Zubes) April 5, 2017
Later, everyone from Frazier to general manager Brian Cashman denied it happened. Waldman apologized. Frazier said on Twitter that he would "never ask for a legend's number."
Ready to play some baseball. i care more about the front of the jersey than the back.— Clint Frazier (@clintfrazier) April 5, 2017
That one turned out to be fake news. For the Texas Rangers, however, there was nothing fake about the grand slam that Francisco Lindor hit off Sam Dyson to help turn a 6-4 ninth-inning deficit into a 9-6 win for the Cleveland Indians.
Dyson lost Monday's season opener when he allowed three runs in the ninth. He allowed five runs in this one to get a blown save and another loss as the Indians completed a three-game sweep. For Lindor, the StatCast guys report that he hit just one home run last season off a pitch as fast as the 94.1 mph fastball from Dyson (Note: MLB has changed its tracking system this year, and pitch velocities are going to be an estimated 0.7 mph or so faster). Lindor already has great bat-to-ball skills, and if he's learning to turn on good heat, expect more than the 15 home runs he hit last year. If you want an MVP candidate in the AL besides Mike Trout, Lindor should rank high on the list.
As for Dyson, it's only two games, but when you give up eight runs in two games, your grip on the closer role is suddenly tenuous. Matt Bush would seem the likely replacement, though Jeremy Jeffress saved 27 games last season for the Milwaukee Brewers. For the Rangers, this was eerily similar to the third game of the season last year, when then-closer Shawn Tolleson gave up five runs in the ninth in a loss to Seattle. In mid-May, Tolleson lost his job to Dyson, who went on to record 38 saves. For now, manager Jeff Banister says Dyson's job is safe.
Jeff Banister won't remove Sam Dyson as closer. "This is a guy that's been really good for us. I'm not going to jump off after two games."— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) April 6, 2017
Is this a bad time to mention that the Rangers have never made the playoffs after starting 0-3?
On second thought, maybe go ahead and demolish the Ballpark this year. How does tomorrow sound— Joey Matches (@BBTiA) April 6, 2017
Elsewhere in the majors on a pretty exciting night of baseball -- unless you're already three games behind the Houston Astros in the AL West -- we had two walk-off home runs besides Lindor's go-ahead slam, three games that went at least 12 innings and Bartolo Colon stifling his former Mets teammates.
The most valuable reliever in baseball: I told you the Astros were the most fun team in baseball! After the Mariners scored in the top of the 13th (but left the bases loaded), George Springer hit a two-out, 3-2 curveball from Chase De Jong -- making his major league debut -- into the Crawford Boxes in left-center for a walk-off three-run homer in a 5-3 win. It was 353 feet and would not have been a homer at any other park. But the star of the game was long reliever Chris Devenski, who tossed four hitless innings with seven strikeouts for Houston. The Mariners were so helpless, flailing at his changeup, you saw several guys shaking their heads in confusion, like they hadn't seen a changeup all spring training. Anyway, as one of few relievers in baseball who is a true multi-inning weapon, Devenski is going to be one of the most valuable assets in any bullpen.
A night of good pitching: The most notable performance was Chris Sale's dominant Boston Red Sox debut on a cold night at Fenway. He threw seven scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a game the Red Sox finally won on Sandy Leon's three-run homer in the 12th. The Cincinnati Reds' Brandon Finnegan allowed just one hit in seven innings against the Philadelphia Phillies in a 2-0 victory. Three of my breakout pitching candidates also excelled in their 2017 debuts, and yes, I'm absolutely going to point this out while I have the opportunity:
Opposite Sale, Jameson Taillon threw seven scoreless innings. I was watching this game and really like the way he moves the ball around the strike zone, mixing in his four-seamer and sinker with a great curveball (he also added eight changeups). With a good arm, good plan and better breaking ball than Gerrit Cole's, he could be the staff ace by season's end -- or by the end of April.
James Paxton picked up where he left off last season, with six spotless innings in a no-decision against the Astros. He hit 98 mph with his fastball and showed the same ability to pound the strike zone.
The most important of these outings came from Orioles righty Dylan Bundy, who allowed one run with eight K's and no walks in seven innings in a 3-1 win over the Blue Jays. Zach Britton recorded his 50th consecutive save, the fifth-longest streak in history. (The No. 2 guy is Jeurys Familia, with 54, but Eric Gagne's 84 is a long way off.) The big thing for Bundy is he has added a cutter/slider to his arsenal (Bundy referred to it as a slider in spring training), a pitch the Orioles had stopped him from throwing after drafting him, even though it was regarded as his best pitch in high school. He threw 16 of them and got three outs, all strikeouts.