Jason Heyward makes history in loss to Dodgers

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heyward headshot.jpgBut it’s not the kind of history you normally want. As the Dodgers snapped the Braves nine-game winning streak on Friday night, Jason Heyward was 0-for-5 while tying a record for a nine-inning game with five strikeouts.

We’re all familiar with the “golden sombrero,” but it’s not often that
we get to pull out the “platinum sombrero,” or my personal favorite, “The
Olympic Rings.” According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it has been done 54 other times in major league history and as recently as June 4, 2009 by Alex Rios. Heyward struck out four times against starter Clayton Kershaw and once against closer Jonathan Broxton.

Bobby Cox’s reaction to the event, according to O’Brien: “Whatever.”

It’s a momentary distraction from what otherwise has been a fantastic debut for the 20-year-old. Even with a recent 1-for-19 funk at the plate, Heyward is currently batting .274 with 10 home runs and 38 RBI. He currently ranks fourth in the National League with a .402 on-base percentage and .939 OPS. Sure, he has struck out in 24 percent of his at-bats, but you’ll sign up for a 42/33 K/BB ratio from a 20-year-old rookie anytime you can get it.

By the way, another piece of history, Kenshin Kawakami is now the first Braves pitcher to start a season 0-8 since Rosy Ryan of the 1926 Boston Braves. He hasn’t won a game since last August 31. It’s time to wonder if Kris Medlen has a chance to stick in the rotation once Jair Jurrjens returns from the disabled list later this month.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.