Jason Heyward had a couple of problems last year: his health, adjusting to pitchers who — shockingly — decided to make him hit good pitches rather than challenging him with fastballs and being jerked around in terms of playing time and batting order and stuff. All of those things are classic ingredients for a sophomore slump, and he had a big one.
One thing that didn’t seem like a problem, however, was his conditioning. That’s one tall, muscular and — at least as far as can be ascertained from seeing him in uniform — lean young man. But apparently there was room for improvement. Dave O’Brien of the AJC:
For the record, the nearly 6-foot-5 right fielder has gone from an imposing, chiseled 256 pounds to a chiseled, imposing 235. In terms to which some of our readers may better relate, Heyward’s gone from D-1 defensive end to D-1 tight end.
A reader also tells me that Peter Gammons was on the radio last night and said that “Jason Heyward is in the best shape of his life.”
Assuming this qualifies as an official BSOML story — and I think it does — Heyward is now, at 22, the youngest BSOML dude this year, passing up the 23 year-old Chris Tillman.
Congratulations, Jason. It’s gonna be hard for anyone to top you here.
Terrible, terrible news: Christian Moreno of ESPN reports that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura has been killed in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. His death has been confirmed by police. He was only 25 years-old. There are as of yet no details about the accident.
Ventura was a four-year veteran, having debuted in 2013 but truly bursting onto the scene for the Royals in 2014. That year he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings, ascending to the national stage along with the entire Royals team with some key performances in that year’s ALDS and World Series. The following year Ventura won 13 games for the World Champion Royals and again appeared in the playoffs and World Series.
Ventura was often in the middle of controversy — he found himself in several controversies arising out of his habit of hitting and brushing back hitters — but he was an undeniably electric young talent who was poised to anchor the Royals rotation for years to come. His loss, like that of Jose Fernandez just this past September, is incalculable to both his team, his fans and to Major League Baseball as a whole.
Our thoughts go out to his family, his friends, his teammates and his fans.
Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).
Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.
While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.