Jonathan Papelbon has not been Mr. Popular in Philadelphia, not after he was frequently unreliable last season, lost several MPH on his fastball, and blew a save in incredulous fashion against the Rangers on Wednesday. Fortunately for him, though, manager Ryne Sandberg stuck with him and asked him to get the save on Saturday afternoon against the Cubs. He did, nailing down the 2-0 victory for the Phillies.
After the game, Papelbon was asked about the ups and downs of being a closer. Via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki on Twitter, Papelbon used an interesting analogy:
Space Mountain, for the uninitiated, is the name of a roller coaster at Disney World. Papelbon went back into serious mode, adding that he recognizes the need to be a pitcher as opposed to a thrower, considering he was only registering 90-91 MPH against the Cubs.
Papelbon, 33, is in the third year of a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies. However, he has a fifth-year option for 2016 worth $13 million that can potentially vest, as it requires the right-hander to finish 55 games in 2015 or finish 100 combined games between 2014-15. It’s certainly a contract GM Ruben Amaro is starting to regret.
The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.
Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:
Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:
In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.
The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.
The Athletics called up their top prospect on Saturday, inserting shortstop Franklin Barreto into the lineup for their second game against the White Sox. Barreto was originally scheduled to make his major league debut on Sunday, but got a head start after Jed Lowrie sustained a minor knee sprain in Friday’s 3-0 win and was scratched from Saturday’s lineup.
Barreto, 21, has been rapidly climbing the rungs of the A’s minor league system after getting dealt by the Blue Jays in 2014. He got his first taste of Triple-A action late last year, going 6-for-17 with three RBI and getting caught stealing in two attempts. He fared little better this spring, slashing .281/.326/.428 with eight home runs and a .754 OPS through his first 309 PA in Nashville.
While his minor league production has been solid, if underwhelming for a prospect of his caliber, the A’s are expected to give the rookie infielder a long leash with both Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder sitting on the disabled list. Pinder landed on the 10-day DL after suffering a left hamstring strain on Friday. Semien, meanwhile, is still working his way back from the 60-day DL with a right wrist fracture and likely won’t rejoin the team until he completes a rehab assignment with High-A Stockton.