Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar became the 20th member of the Royals to be hit by a pitch this season – tied with the Rangers for the most hit batsmen in baseball -- when he was hit in the ear flap by a high-90’s fastball from Indians starter Danny Salazar on Wednesday. He left the game with a left cheek contusion.
As Yordano Ventura was opposing Salazar on this particular day, there was some thought that the right-hander would certainly retaliate on behalf of his teammate. Ventura has built up a reputation over his first four starts with a penchant for retaliation and is currently facing a seven-game suspension for his role in a benches-clearing confrontation with the White Sox last week. Ventura, however, did not intentionally throw at anyone and completed his first start without being removed for medical or ejection-related reasons.
As for Escobar, the Royals are waiting for the results of evaluations before making any decisions. There is a chance Escobar could need a stint on the 15-day disabled list. Christian Colon replaced Escobar in the game and likely would become the everyday shortstop if needed.
Escobar proved quite important to the Royals last season as they advanced all the way to the World Series. He played in all 162 regular season games while hitting .285 with 34 doubles and five triples, and stole 31 bases in 37 attempts (84 percent). Escobar has posted nearly identical rate stats as last year to begin the 2015 season, but he swiped only two bases in three attempts. Regardless, losing his speed and doubles potential would prove problematic for the Royals, currently 14-7 and a half-game behind the Tigers for first place in the AL Central.
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Two of the most talked-about free agent signings, Nelson Cruz with the Mariners and Hanley Ramirez with the Red Sox, became the first two to enter the double-digit home run club this season. Both clubbed their 10th round-trippers on Wednesday evening. Ramirez clubbed a two-run shot off of Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey in the third inning of a win. Cruz absolutely demolished a Wandy Rodriguez offering for a solo home run in the second inning in a win against the Rangers.
The Mariners signed the 34-year-old Cruz to a four-year, $57 million contract in December, looking past his injury history and involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. The Red Sox inked Ramirez to a four-year, $88 million deal in November with the intention of moving him from shortstop to left field. (That decision hasn’t worked out well defensively, but he’s made up for it and then some with his offense.)
Their respective teams aren’t complaining about the early returns and neither are their fantasy owners. Ramirez was selected 20th overall on average in Yahoo fantasy leagues behind Robinson Cano and Yasiel Puig, and ahead of Adrian Beltre. Cruz went 68th on average behind Matt Holliday and slightly ahead of Mookie Betts. Had Ramirez not had injury-related concerns and Cruz not had both injury- and PED-related issues, both likely would’ve been taken a bit earlier. Fantasy owners willing to take a risk on either or both players are reaping some serious early dividends. Along with leading baseball in home runs, both also lead in RBI with 22 apiece.
Pujols Exits with Apparent Hamstring Injury
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols grabbed at his left hamstring in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Athletics. Pujols singled off of Dan Otero but was replaced by pinch-runner Grant Green. MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports that Pujols appeared to be moving better once he was out of the game, which suggests the injury may just be minor. That’s certainly a relief as hamstring injuries are usually bad news. At this point in time, though, we’ll have to wait for the Angels to provide an update.
Pujols, 35, entered Wednesday’s contest with a meager .654 OPS and hadn’t homered since April 19. After missing a large chunk of the 2013 season due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot, Pujols had a completely healthy and productive 2014 campaign, finishing with a .272/.324/.466 triple-slash line, 25 home runs, and 105 RBI in 695 plate appearances. Despite his age, Pujols still has the potential to be a top-ten offensive first baseman, but that’s a tall task if the injury bug is an impediment.
National League Quick Hits: Bartolo Colon suffered his first loss of the season on Wednesday after giving up four runs in 6 2/3 innings to the Marlins … Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski extended his hitting streak to 12 games in a loss to the Nationals on Wednesday … Giancarlo Stanton clubbed his sixth home run of the season in Wednesday’s win and also has 20 RBI … Ryan Howard homered in a loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday, giving him three homers in his last five games … Yunel Escobar (hand) is expected to return to the Nationals’ lineup on Thursday … Trevor Rosenthal improved to 8-for-8 in save chances when he closed out Wednesday’s win against the Phillies … Major League Baseball found no evidence of tampering on the part of the Cubs’ in the process of hiring manager Joe Maddon … Andrew McCutchen recorded his 1,000th career hit with an infield single in Wednesday’s win against the Cubs … Todd Frazier hit his sixth home run of the season in a loss to the Brewers on Wednesday … Ryan Braun hit two home runs, including a grand slam, to help the Brewers win their fifth game of the season Wednesday versus the Reds … Joc Pederson batted leadoff for the first time in his major league career on Wednesday and clubbed a first-inning home run against the Giants … Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino, currently on the disabled list, said he’s “definitely worried” after inflammation was found in his right elbow … Andrew Cashner struck out 10 batters in a loss to the Astros on Wednesday … The Diamondbacks placed starter Archie Bradley on the 15-day disabled list with a head injury. He was hit in the face by a Carlos Gonzalez line drive on Tuesday … Hunter Pence (forearm) could take batting practice as soon as this weekend.
American League Quick Hits: The Yankees placed starter Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list Wednesday, retroactive to April 24, with right wrist tendinitis and a right forearm strain … The Red Sox activated Rusney Castillo (shoulder) from the disabled list at Triple-A Pawtucket … Desmond Jennings (knee) is still day-to-day but missed his fourth consecutive game on Wednesday … Chris Davis delivered the big blow, hitting a three-run home run in the first inning of Wednesday’s win against the White Sox, played in an empty Camden Yards … R.A. Dickey remained winless on the season after allowing four runs in seven innings in a loss against the Red Sox … Yordano Ventura got the loss Wednesday after giving up five runs in 5 1/3 innings to the Indians … Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs in Wednesday’s win against the Twins … Jeff Samardzija was hammered in a start at an empty Camden Yards, giving up eight runs in five innings to the Orioles … Twins minor league pitching prospect Adrian Salcedo was suspended 80 games for the use of a performance-enhancing substance and a stimulant … Jason Kipnis hit a three-run home run on Wednesday to help the Indians beat the Royals … Dallas Keuchel’s ERA ballooned to 0.73 after allowing a run in eight innings to the Padres on Wednesday … C.J. Wilson had fluid drained from his left elbow following his last start, but is still on track to start Friday against the Giants … Kyle Seager is dealing with a “banged-up thumb” according to Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon … Jarrod Parker threw 71 pitches in a rehab start with High-A Stockton on Tuesday, moving one step closer towards a potential return to the Athletics in May … The Rangers purchased the contract of first baseman Kyle Blanks from Triple-A Round Rock on Wednesday.