Andruw Jones celebrated his 33rd birthday in style on Friday night, slugging two solo home runs, including a walk-off shot in a 7-6 win over the Mariners.
Jones, who reportedly lost 15 to 20 pounds over the winter, is off to a fantastic start in Chicago, batting .293/.408/.756 with six home runs and nine RBI over his first 41 at-bats this season. He’s been a lone early bright spot for an offense that has combined to hit just .219/.302/.386 thus far.
Still on cloud nine following Friday’s win, the resurgent Jones told Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune the following:
“I’m way far from done. I think I can play five more years.”
It’s a nice comeback story and he certainly deserves regular at-bats in the short-term, but don’t look for this success to continue. Recognize that he’s hitting .412/.500/1.118 with four home runs against lefties, as compared to
a meager .208/.345/.500 with two home runs and 10 strikeouts in 24 at-bats against right-handers, consistent with his declining profile since his 41-homer season in 2006. U.S. Cellular Field should prove to be a pretty nice launching pad for him, but chances are he’ll be more useful as a strict platoon player before it’s all said and done.
Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?
Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.
Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.
Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.
Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.
Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.