The Week Ahead: A Puerto Rican hero goes home

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There has been a lot of focus on Bobby Valentine as potentially being the next manager of the Florida Marlins, but lost in the shuffle is the interesting story of Marlins interim manager Edwin Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who was promoted from the Marlins Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans just a week ago to replace the fired Fredi Gonzalez, is the first Puerto Rican to manage in the big leagues.

This seems surprising enough given Puerto Rico’s baseball heritage, but it’s true. And in an even cooler twist, Rodriguez will get to return home as a big league manager this week when his Marlins take on the New York Mets in a three-game series in San Juan starting on Monday.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has been noncommittal when discussing his team’s manager situation, saying “right now Edwin is the manager. We’ll see what happens.” Rodriguez appears to be well aware that his position is tenuous at best, and just plans to enjoy the ride while he can.

Rodriguez says he’s flattered merely to have the chance to be part of a history-making event for his country.

It’s the third time the Marlins — who have a large Latin following — have played a regular-season series in San Juan. They took two of three games from the Montreal Expos in 2003, then swept the Expos in 2004.

“I’m just excited to go there and share this moment with the country,” Rodriguez said. “For many, many years, baseball people in Puerto Rico, they were questioning who’s going to be the first and not only who, when it’s going to happen. I think that’s why it’s so important for the people in Puerto Rico.”

Rodriguez’s home is actually closer to San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium than the hotel where the Marlins will be staying, so this will be a true homecoming.

Ticket sales have reportedly been brisk since it became evident that Puerto Ricans could see one of their own calling the shots in a big-league dugout for the first time, and the significance isn’t lost on the Florida clubhouse.

“We can’t quite grasp the anticipation or the excitement that he’s going through right now,” Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla said. “Everyone dreams about going home and playing. It’s got to be a very exciting time for him, and we’re all very excited for him.”

Let’s hope Loria can hold off on naming a permanent manager for a few days and let Rodriguez enjoy this moment. Unless, of course, he wants to hire Rodriguez.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
Phillies at Reds, June 28-30:
Cincinnati keeps hanging in there, holding the slimmest of edges atop the NL Central. The Phillies are in third place in the NL East, but are 11-3 against NL Central teams. Things could get interesting in a hurry.

Dodgers at Giants, June 28-30: This intense rivalry is always entertaining, even more so though when both teams are in contention. The teams enter the week battling for second place, within shouting distance of the San Diego Padres.

Rays at Red Sox, June 29-30: It’s only a two-game series, but it’s a big one as both teams try to jockey for the No. 2 spot behind the Yankees in the AL East. The Rays are looking to regain their hitting strokes after a rough week that saw a dugout confrontation between B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria.

Rangers at Angels, June 29-July 1: The Angels have been resurging of late, trying to get back to the top of the AL West. But the Rangers enter the week with a four-game lead and are playing even better. This will be a true test for both teams.

Brewers at Cardinals, July 1-4: The Brewers don’t appear to have the talent to truly contend, but they undoubtedly wouldn’t mind causing some harm to their rivals’ chances in this four-game series.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Nationals at Braves (ESPN2)
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.: Mets at Marlins (ESPN2)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Rays at Twins (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Marlins at Braves (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mets at Nationals (FOX)
Sunday, 8:15 p.m.: Royals at Angels (ESPN)
*Check local listings

And for those of you who have asked for a schedule of MLB Network games, you may find that here.

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Lost in all the excitement over Bobby Valentine’s potential return to managing has been the interesting story of Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez, the first Puerto Rican to manage in the big leagues. He’ll return home this week as the Marlins face the Mets in San Juan.

Yoenis Cespedes blames a lack of golf for his early season slump

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Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.

It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.

Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:

He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.

“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”

The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.