Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times alerts us to something neat: the Mariners are going to call up and presumably play the first Italian-born player in nearly 50 years. And it’s not as if he were born at Aviano Air Base and came to the states when he was still in diapers, either. He’s totally Italian:
[Alex] Liddi, 23, will also be the first graduate of the MLB European Academy to play in the majors as well as the first Italian born and raised player to do it … Liddi stayed in his native city of San Remo and played amateur baseball in Italy until signed by Seattle at age 17.
Cue a bunch of obvious Italian stereotypes because most of us just can’t help ourselves. And cue some not-so-obvious ones from people like me.
You see, my wife’s family is Italian. Like, really Italian with a whole branch of it including her much older half-sister having been born, raised and still living over there. Which means I have a nephew named Marco over there who is not much younger than Liddi, and through a couple of meetings and a lot of silly interaction on Facebook I have been exposed to a fair amount of Italian youth culture. Which is simultaneously awesome, hilarious and frightening.
If Liddi is anything like that completely ridiculous nephew of mine and his dozens of completely ridiculous Italian friends, I would highly, highly recommend that the beat writers get near this guy in the clubhouse after games because he will NOT offer you the boilerplate “I just want to help the team win some games” rebop. Rather, he’ll, like, dance and then name-check some weird European combination hip hop/death metal band and then show you inappropriate pictures of his friend’s girlfriend which — when you see them — you’ll wonder how in the hell his friend let him have a copy in the first place. And when you try to gently criticize him, everyone will yell at you for being insensitive to the impressionable young boy.
Or maybe I’m just working through some family issues right now.
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.
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.