AL home run leader Jose Bautista could pull off a first

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In major league baseball’s long history, no player with at least 100 plate appearances has ever managed to hit under .260 and slug at least .600. Jose Bautista, though, has a chance to do it this year.
With 125 games under his belt, Bautista is batting .258/.374/.597 with 40 homers and 95 RBI. Except for a brief stretch at the beginning of this month, his average has been under .260 all season. His slugging percentage, though, has most frequently been in the mid- to high-.500s. Only these last few weeks has it really seemed likely that he could come in at .600.
Again, no player has ever managed such a feat. Barry Bonds came closest, hitting .262 and slugging .617 over the course of 102 games in 1999. Roger Maris hit .269 and slugged .620 during his 61-homer campaign in 1961. Matt Williams, who appeared to be making a run at Maris in 1994, hit .267 and slugged .607 in 112 games in that strike-shortened season.
Those are the only three players to hit less than .270 and slug over .600 in a season, and Bonds didn’t even quality for the batting title when he did it. It’s just really tough to slug .600. Adam Dunn would seem to be a candidate, but his career-high for slugging percentage was .569. Ryan Howard hit .313 the lone year of his career in which he slugged .600. Mark Reynolds hit .260 with 44 homers last year, yet he was still far short of .600, coming in at .543.
So, Bautista is still a long shot. But that he’s this close after 125 games is already pretty remarkable.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.