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.
Because of course he did.
It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt. The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.
Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.
The other night, Blue Jays reliever Joaquin Benoit needed help getting off the field after the second benches-clearing incident with the Yankees. It was later revealed that Benoit tore a calf muscle during the fracas, ending his season.
Yesterday he pointed the finger at just about everyone else for the incidents like the one that led to his injury. Hitters specifically. From The Star:
“I believe as pitchers we’re entitled to use the whole plate and pitch in if that’s the way we’re going to succeed,” Benoit said. “I believe that right now baseball is taking things so far that in some situations most hitters believe that they can’t be brushed out. Some teams take it personally.”
That “take it personally” line is interesting coming from Benoit as, in this instance, it seemed pretty clear that the whole plunking exchange which led to his injury started because Josh Donaldson took an inside pitch that did not seem to be a purpose pitch at all, too personally.
Did Benoit take a veiled swipe at his teammate here? If so, that’s pretty notable. If not it’s notable in another way, right? As it suggests that Benoit believes it’s OK for his teammates to take issue with inside pitches but anyone else who does is part of the problem?
Which is it, Joaquin?