Daily Dose: Everyone, Meet Mr. Heyward

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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.
* Rotoworld’s award-winning Season Pass product offers subscriber-only columns, daily waiver wire and starting pitcher advice, extensive prospect coverage, detailed bullpen and rotation databases, frequently updated projections and rankings, and much, much more. If you’re not satisfied simply putting your teams on cruise control after draft day, Season Pass can help you make the most of this season.
* 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.

The Mets are among six teams that help Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 19:  A detailed view of the blackboard with theoretical physics equations in chalk by Alberto Ramos, Theoretical Physics Fellow and visitor, Antonio Gonzalez-Arroyo from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (both not in frame) at The European Organization for Nuclear Research commonly know as CERN on April 19, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.

Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.

Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”

Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.

Video: Albert Pujols hits 569th career home run, tying Rafael Palmeiro

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 22:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 22, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.

Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.

Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.

Alex Gordon to miss three to four weeks with a fractured scaphoid bone

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 22:  Alex Gordon #4 and Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals collide going for a foul ball against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on May 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Royals 3-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.

Gordon suffered the injury colliding with third baseman Mike Moustakas attempting to catch a fly ball on Sunday afternoon. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports.

Gordon was having a tough 2016 campaign and the injury only makes it worse. He’s hitting .211/.319/.331 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 166 plate appearances on the year.

The Royals will likely use Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in left field in Gordon’s absence.

Orioles trade reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning on May 17, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.

Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.

Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.

Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.