With White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu on the sideline dealing with a left ankle injury, Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz used the opportunity to become baseball’s latest home run leader. Cruz belted his 16th homer of the season, a fifth inning solo shot off of Indians starter Trevor Bauer, breaking a tie with Abreu to move ahead.
Cruz has been very productive for the Orioles after hurriedly signing a one-year, $8 million deal with the club in late February. Along with the 16 homers, Cruz has 44 RBI which is the most in the American League and second only to Giancarlo Stanton’s 47. Cruz is also slashing .295/.361/.612.
If not for Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion, Cruz would be in the running for Player of the Month honors, now with nine home runs, 19 RBI, and a .305/.346/.642 slash line in the month of May.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.