April Fools? Willie Bloomquist is leading off for Diamondbacks

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Willie Bloomquist is a poor man’s Jeff Francoeur in that wherever he goes the local media members do glowing features on him, the managers play him far too often, and he performs terribly.

It didn’t take long for Bloomquist to cast his spell on Arizona manager Kirk Gibson, who has inexplicably written him into the lineup as the Diamondbacks’ leadoff man against stud right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies today.

Seriously.

Bloomquist is starting at shortstop for an injured Stephen Drew, so I won’t mock his presence in the lineup, but putting him in the leadoff spot is absurd and makes Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez batting Jason Heyward sixth yesterday look downright genius.

During the past three seasons Bloomquist hit .259 with a ghastly .300 on-base percentage and .328 slugging percentage versus right-handed pitchers and in that same time period Jimenez held right-handed hitters to a .224 batting average. By putting Bloomquist atop the lineup Gibson is not only giving the most plate appearances to one of the worst hitters in baseball, he’s asking a guy who can’t get on base against righties to set the table for the Diamondbacks’ best hitters.

We’re two days into the season and this is already the leader in the clubhouse for worst lineup decision of 2011, although now that I’ve pointed it out Bloomquist will probably go 5-for-5 with two homers.

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.