Victor Zambrano’s mother was recovered from kidnappers in Venezuela on Tuesday. That’s good. The threat to anyone connected with Major League Baseball, however, remains the same: if they think you can pay a ransom, your family is subject to kidnappers. That’s bad! So bad that the Mets are considering asking their catching prospect Josh Thole to return home from his winter league team there.
Whether Thole — a young, not-yet-rich American who presumably has no family in Venezuela — faces the kind of threat that rich, native Venezuelan starts like Zambrano and Yorvit Torrealba do is an open question. I mean, it’s my uneducated guess that these kinds of people don’t want to risk the kind of heat that would come down if they started picking up random U.S. citizens, but who the hell knows?
What I do know, though, is that if I were running a Major League team I’d (a) do everything I could to persuade my Venezuelan players to relocate their families; and (b) I’d probably not want anyone playing in the Venezuelan winter leagues. Baseball simply ain’t worth this kind of thing.
Brewers closer Corey Knebel set a modern major league record for relievers to start a season, as Thursday’s appearance marked his 38th consecutive appearance with a strikeout. He set down the side in order in the ninth inning, striking Josh Bell out to start the frame.
Aroldis Chapman held the record previously, recording a strikeout in his first 37 appearances of the season in 2014 with the Reds.
Knebel, 25, has flown under the radar despite having an incredibly good season. He moved into the closer’s role in mid-May when Neftali Feliz, now a free agent, struggled. After Thursday’s appearance, Knebel is 12-for-15 in save chances with a 0.96 ERA and a 65/17 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings.
Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.
In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”
Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.
Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.