Over the off-season, the Twins announced they were moving Joe Mauer from behind the plate to first base, a decision meant to alleviate the day-to-day physical stress their $184 million man had gone through, particularly recently. Mauer suffered a concussion last season from a foul tip and has also had back problems from time to time.
Mauer played at first base for the first time during spring training. Per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, Mauer didn’t experience any issues and felt comfortable out there.
“It felt a little different,” Mauer said. “I’ve never actually played first base here at Spring Training, so I was a little worried about seeing the ball off the bat. It’s a little bright out there, so it was nice I was able to get a ball in the first inning and make a play.”
Mauer also went 1-for-2 with an RBI to top off his afternoon. Mauer, 30, has played in 115 or more games just once in the last three years, so if the Twins can get him to play close to a full season, they should be able to recapture any value lost from the position switch.
The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.
Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.
The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.
After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.
Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:
The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.
The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.