Kosuke Fukudome living up to 'Mr. April' label

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Kosuke Fukudome is hitting .288 with a .384 on-base percentage and .481 slugging percentage to rank second on the Cubs with a hefty .865 OPS, but the 33-year-old outfielder is in danger of losing starts because for the third time in three seasons he’s slumping after a great first month.
As a 31-year-old rookie in 2008 he hit .327 with a .915 OPS in April, but fell to .241 with a .695 OPS from May 1 on. Last season he hit .338 with a 1.052 OPS in April, but just .245 with a .753 OPS once the calendar flipped to May. And this year Fukudome batted .344 with a 1.084 OPS in April, but has hit just .250 with a .709 OPS in 30 games since.
Add it all up and in three seasons Fukudome has hit .335 with a 1.004 OPS in April compared to .244 with a .723 OPS in May, June, July, August, and September. Toss in rookie Tyler Colvin waiting in the wings with a .294 batting average and .966 OPS in 97 plate appearances in a part-time role and it’s easy to see why Lou Piniella is pondering a change, but Fukudome making $13 million this season and being owed another $13.5 million next year complicates things. And so far at least he’s been one of the Cubs’ best hitters.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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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.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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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.