Tagged in: American League

Boston Red Sox name Eduardo Rodriguez their Opening Day starter

A year after a bout with COVID-19 denied him an opportunity to be the Boston Red Sox’s Opening Day starter, Eduardo Rodríguez is getting a do-over.

Manager Alex Cora made the declaration Wednesday following Boston’s 9-1 spring training victory over the Minnesota Twins. Rodríguez threw an efficient 55 pitches, striking out six and giving up two hits and one earned run over five innings.

“Indeed, it’s going to be Eduardo. He’s one of the best out there,” Cora said of the left-hander. “He had a great season in ’19. Last year, he wasn’t able to pitch for obvious reasons. What he’s shown now, he’s healthy and he’s ready to go. … It was just a matter of time.”

Boston opens its calendar April 1 versus the Baltimore Orioles. Rodríguez went 13-5 for the Boston team that won a franchise-record 108 games and the World Series in 2018. He went into the next year at the bottom of the rotation behind Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi.

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But Rodríguez had the best season of the group, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA to finish sixth in American League Cy Young voting. He made his major-league-leading 34th start on the final day of the season with a chance at 20 wins but did not figure in the decision. Still, he finished with career bests in wins, ERA, starts, innings (203⅓) and strikeouts (213).

With Sale recovering from Tommy John surgery, Rodríguez was in line to start on Opening Day in 2020 before testing positive for the coronavirus and being diagnosed with inflammation in his heart muscles.

He said he couldn’t even complete a 25-pitch workout without feeling tired; on Aug. 1, just one week into the season, he was shut down for the year.

After putting the extended rest and recovery time to good use, he said he’s ready to take advantage of a chance he has yet to have during his five major league seasons.

Speaking prior to Cora naming him the starter, Rodríguez told reporters he would be honored to get the ball in the opener.

“If given the opportunity, I’m going to be so happy to do it because that’s something that everybody wants to do one time in their career,” he said.

“If I have the opportunity this year, I’m going to really appreciate it. I’m going to love it.”

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Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu wins AL batting title

New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu has made batting title history. LeMahieu clinched the American League batting title Sunday and became the first player in the modern era to gain a batting title in each league. He’d previously won the National League batting title with the Rockies in 2016, hitting .348. LeMahieu led MLB in batting average both times.

“Guys don’t win batting titles in both leagues, because you win it in one league, they probably keep you,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly, the 1984 AL batting champ, told reporters following Saturday’s game (NYY 11, MIA 4), including the Associated Press. “It’s a different game nowadays.”

The modern era starts in 1900 and Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty won the batting title in each league at that time. Delahanty won the 1899 NL batting title with the Philadelphia Phillies and 1902 AL batting title with the Washington Senators, but the 1899 batting title is disputed, hence LeMahieu being the first in the modern era.

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The only other player to attain the batting title in multiple official leagues was Pete Browning.

He won the 1882 and 1885 American Association batting titles with the Louisville Eclipse and the 1890 Players’ League batting title with the Cleveland Infants.

LeMahieu, an impending free agent poised to land a significant payday, is the first Yankee to collect the batting title since Bernie Williams hit .339 in 1998. 

Anderson (.335) won the batting title last year and LeMahieu (.327) ended second. This is only the seventh time in history the same two players finished first and second (in either order) in the batting title race in back-to-back years, and the first time since Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams did it in 1956 and 1957.

Of course, LeMahieu’s batting title this year occurred in an unusual 60-game campaign as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s difficult to consider it on par with a 162-game batting title. That said, you can only play the schedule you’re given, and every team played the same number of matches. This is baseball in 2020.

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