Brad Penny is going to be in the best shape of his life

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If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know that I obsessively track those players who are reported to be “in the best shape of their life” each spring.

Best Shape of His Life stories can take a couple of different forms. There’s the straightforward “Player X is looking good” story which, if we’re lucky, actually uses the phrase “best shape of his life.”  Close relatives to these stories are the “Pitcher X has developed a new pitch/developed a new grip/is standing on the other end of the rubber now” stories and “Player Y has taken up yoga/medicine ball work/Thighmaster and is now way more flexible than he used to be.  The specifics aren’t terribly important. What’s key is that they are put out there by some anonymous source or agent or someone, and are clearly designed to counteract a public flaw assigned to the player the previous season related to conditioning, fragility or just plain sucking.  They’re as predictable as the first crocuses of spring.

And they’re getting earlier!  Today we had what I consider to be my first official sighting of a Best Shape of His Life story. Self-reported, from Brad Penny:

Heading to the gym. I’m going to be i’n the best shape I’ve ever been for the upcoming season.

I know the season just ended, my friends, but with that report, I feel like spring is right around the corner!

Angel Hernandez made a great call on a tough play

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Fans, and even some writers, tend to jump on umpires when they make bad calls, but rarely if ever point out when they make good calls on tough plays. Angel Hernandez is one of those umpires who gets a lot of flack — and I may suggest even deservedly so — but in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, he made a great call on a very tough play during Thursday afternoon’s game between the Phillies and Marlins.

With a runner on first base and two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Phillies leading 2-1, first baseman Brock Stassi laced an Edison Volquez pitch down the first base line. Michael Saunders, who was on first base, came around third base and attempted to score. The relay throw from second baseman Dee Gordon beat Saunders, but Saunders slid expertly to the back of home plate, avoiding the tag from catcher J.T. Realmuto just long enough to slip his hand in and touch the plate. Hernandez ruled Stassi safe with no hesitation because he was in a great position to get a look at the play. In real time, it was a bang-bang play. The Marlins didn’t challenge the call.

The MLB.com video doesn’t have the best angle, but still shows what a close call it was in real time. This .gif from Meghan Montemurro of The News Journal provides the best angle:

Hernandez also made this nonchalant grab of Andrew Knapp‘s face mask when the catcher tossed it attempting to catch a foul pop-up:

Yoenis Cespedes leaves game with pulled hamstring

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The Mets and Braves are playing today and it’s not a great day for the Mets in the injury department.

First they scratched Noah Syndergaard with a “tired arm.” Now they’ve lost Yoenis Cespedes, who pulled up limping at second base following a double in the bottom of the fourth:

The team has announced that he has pulled his left hamstring.

Cespedes, of course, missed three games over the weekend due to hamstring issues. That was merely tightness, however, and following an off day and a rainout, Cespedes played last night without incident. But it now looks as though he’s going to miss some serious time.