In a moment the baseball gods couldn’t have scripted much better, 20-year-old stud prospect Jason Heyward made his big-league debut Monday afternoon and blasted a three-run homer 450 feet off Carlos Zambrano in his first at-bat. The crowd in Atlanta chanted Heyward’s name before he stepped into the batter’s box and the post-homer scene can probably be described best as pandemonium.
Zambrano went on to completely unravel, allowing eight runs without making it out of the second inning, but few people will remember any of that when watching the first clip of Heyward’s career highlight video 25 years from now in Cooperstown. OK, so that’s admittedly a bit over the top, but Heyward is truly a special prospect and I’ll be shocked if he ends up being anything less than a multi-time All-Star.
While the Jason Heyward Era gets off to a memorable start, here are some other notes from around baseball …
* In addition to Heyward announcing his arrival as a future star, some established stars did their usual thing on Opening Day. Albert Pujols went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers against the Reds. Tim Lincecum tossed seven shutout innings against the Astros. And just like last season Zack Greinke saw a Quality Start wasted when the Royals’ bullpen blew a two-run lead (Cy Young runner-up Felix Hernandez had a similar fate in Oakland).
* Ben Sheets, Shaun Marcum, and Jake Westbrook each drew Opening Day starts after missing 2009 following elbow surgery. Westbrook struggled to throw strikes in Chicago and Sheets was merely OK versus Seattle, but Marcum took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Texas. He eventually gave up a three-run homer to Nelson Cruz and had his win vanish when Jason Frasor blew a save, but it was a very encouraging outing.
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* Milwaukee’s lineup included a couple surprises, with Carlos Gomez in the second spot despite a .292 career on-base percentage and 39-year-old Jim Edmonds starting over Corey Hart after sitting out 2009. Gomez grounded into a rare double play before four straight hits, notching a homer and a steal in the same game for just the second time. Edmonds went 1-for-4 with a walk and will likely start often over Hart versus righties.
* Clearly distraught about being included on my “players to avoid” list, Garrett Jones homered in his first two at-bats against Vicente Padilla. Jones has always had plenty of power and has now gone deep 25 times in 395 career at-bats, but his lengthy, mediocre minor-league track record still has me convinced that his batting average and overall production will come crashing back down to earth soon enough.
* If you’re not sick of me yet, you can also find me spending way too much time on Twitter.
AL Quick Hits: Josh Beckett and the Red Sox finalized a four-year, $68 million contract extension that keeps him in Boston through 2014 … Mark Buehrle shut out the Indians for seven innings Monday and also made one of the best defensive plays you’ll ever see from a pitcher … Scott Kazmir (shoulder) was “very surprised” by the Angels putting him on the disabled list to begin the season … After saying last week that he’d refuse any assignment to the minors, Hank Blalock changed his mind and will report to Triple-A for the Rays … Ron Washington confirmed that Neftali Feliz will serve as the Rangers’ primary setup man … Willie Bloomquist started at third base in the Royals’ opener, but Alberto Callaspo (oblique) is hoping to return Tuesday … Kevin Kouzmanoff went 0-for-4, grounded into two double plays, and committed an error in his A’s debut … Casey Kotchman opened the season batting third for the Mariners, behind Ichiro Suzuki and Chone Figgins, and drove in four runs.
NL Quick Hits: Jose Reyes (thyroid) singled and stole two bases in an extended spring training game Monday … Roy Halladay had an excellent Phillies debut, allowing one run in seven innings … Colby Rasmus homered Monday and also robbed Scott Rolen of a potential homer with a leaping grab in center field … Drew Stubbs was on the bench Monday in favor of Chris Dickerson and Laynce Nix … Cameron Maybin was a mess Monday, going 0-for-4 with three swinging strikeouts and several poor plays in center field … Jeff Suppan (neck) is aiming to return from the disabled list when eligible Saturday … After struggling down the stretch with a wrist injury last season, Mark DeRosa homered in his Giants debut … Johan Santana out-dueled Josh Johnson, allowing one run in six innings Monday … Not only did Yadier Molina (oblique) start Monday, his grand slam broke the game open late … Mike Jacobs went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Monday while inexplicably batting cleanup for the Mets.