Joe vs. Ichiro: The plot thickens

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A couple weeks ago, with Joe Mauer set to debut atop the AL leaderboard
with a .389 batting average and Ichiro Suzuki hitting .360, I wrote that “it would be great to watch those two duke it out down the stretch to see who can capture their third batting title.”

Since then Mauer has slumped and Ichiro has kept chugging along, and yesterday they flip-flopped spots in the batting title race.
Ichiro leads the league at .363 with Mauer second at .358, and Jason
Bartlett is right there with them at .345 now that he has enough plate
appearances to qualify.

There are three lesssons to be learned here. One, be careful what you wish for. Two, maintaining a .390 batting average is really hard. And three, Ichiro is really good.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.