In recent years, the Commonwealth of Virginia has truly emerged as a goldmine of baseball talent, and certainly the 2016 Major League Baseball season is adding credence to that. A number of the state’s MLB heroes are keying surging teams.
In Detroit, the Tigers had high expectations going into the season. They added free agent SP Jordan Zimmermann and slugging OF Justin Upton (Chesapeake). But the Motor City faithful will certainly tell you that the key to any hopes of a pennant in ’16 rest on the work of incumbent ace SP Justin Verlander (Goochland Co./ODU). When Verlander allowed 7 earned runs on May 3, raising his ERA to a very bloated 6.49, it appeared to be a lost season for the Tigers already.
Boy, has Verlander rebounded!
In 4 starts since, he has a 1.20 ERA, and his mark for the season has gone down in each of his last 4 starts, from 6.49 down to a much better 4.02. In addition, on May 18th, a Wednesday afternoon game against the Twins, Verlander added to his legend, with a 4th inning strikeout of Twins OF Eddie Rosario, the 2000th strikeout of his career. He joins Mickey Lolich as the only Tigers hurlers to ever accomplish that mark, and is less than 700 Ks from matching Lolich.
In Colorado, the Rockies sit at 23-24, 5 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West. While no team is truly out of the playoff picture on Memorial Day weekend, the Rockies have the offense to carry them. The emergence of rookie SS Trevor Story may be the talk of baseball, but one of the keys to any playoff games coming to Denver this year is slugging 1B Mark Reynolds (Va Beach/UVA). Reynolds, who is the only batter in history to post 3 200+ strikeout seasons, has found his discipline at the plate in recent years, and so far in 2016, he is 2nd in the NL among 1B with a .317 BA.
Perhaps the biggest shocker in baseball, certainly in Boston so far, has been the emergence of CF Jackie Bradley, Jr. (Prince George). Bradley, at one time a top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was struggling to hold down an OF job at Fenway due to hitting, lackluster at best. His glovework was the only thing keeping him with the Red Sox. But JBJ, has he is affectionately known as by Red Sox Nation, persevered, working with a hitting coach in Florida during the winter months.
In 2016, that has paid off, and big time!
As of May 27, Bradley is 2nd in the AL with a .341 Batting Average, tied for 4th with 35 RBIs, and tied for the league lead with 4 triples, and has garnered a Player of the Week honor during the month of May. And from April 24th to May 25th, he was unstoppable, literally!
JBJ put together a 29-game hitting streak, during which time his batting average skyrocketed 117 points! His streak included 11 multi-hit games, including, at one point, six straight!
Justin Verlander. Mark Reynolds. Jackie Bradley Jr. Proving that the Virginia-MLB pipeline is alive. And strong!
He rose from the Hampton Roads region of Virginia and put together a solid major league career, spanning 15 years, with the Twins, Rockies, and Mets. He was a batting champion and a Silver Slugger. He had numerous other individual accomplishments that very few major leaguers have ever done. He got to play for one season with childhood friend David Wright (Chesapeake).
Michael Cuddyer (Chesapeake) has announced his retirement from baseball, walking away from the last season of his 2-yr contract with the Mets.
Back from a hiatus, and now we continue this look at picking an all-time Team Virginia, a roster of players, past and present, who have come from our state.
This installment, we name one of the 3 starting outfielders.
The first spot will go to Chesapeake-native Michael Cuddyer.
Cuddyer, the second active MLer to make the team, has been in the major leagues now for 15 seasons. He spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the Minnesota Twins, and had an impressive resume. Over the course of his career playing in the Twin Cities, he batted .242 with 141 HRs and 580 RBIs. He also had some flashes of brilliance on defense, leading all AL RFs in assists-twice-and finishing among the league leaders in other key defensive categories.
On May 22, 2009, Cuddyer hit for the cycle in a game against the Brewers. Just 3 months later, on August 23, he hit 2 HRs in the 7th inning of a game against the Royals, becoming the 53rd player ever to accomplish that feat.
Cuddyer left Minnesota after the 2011 season (his first all-star game), and signed on with the Colorado Rockies. While it could have been the climate in Denver, it takes nothing away from the great run he had over 3 seasons playing in the Mile High City. he hit .307 with 46 HRs and 173 RBIs. Arguable his best season of his career came in 2013. Cuddyer was named to his 2nd all-star game, took home the NL batting title (.331) and was named a Silver Slugger. Contributing to his batting crown was a club-record 27-game hitting streak.
On August 27, 2014, Cuddyer hit for the cycle again, the 30th player ever to do so twice and third to do it in both leagues.
Cuddyer left Colorado after 2014 and came closer to home, signing a 2-yr deal with the Mets, jumping at the chance to try and help a rising Mets team win a title and play with fellow Hampton Roads native David Wright.
His debut season was marred by injuries, and he looks to bounce back in 2016 and help bring a title to Queens.
Rockies P Eddie Butler (Chesapeake) got his first major league win last September, after a disastrous debut followed by a trip to the DL. He came back in time to get two starts in September when the rosters expand, winning one, pitching well enough to get a spot in the Rockies rotation for 2015.
Monday night, he delivered in a big way with his best game to date.
Butler spoiled the home opener of the defending World Champion Giants, pitching 5 1/3 innings of scoreless ball, allowing 5 hits but walking 6, to help the Rockies win, 2-0.
After two starts so far in 2015, Butler has posted a 1.64 ERA.
Check out @MLBRosterMoves’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/MLBRosterMoves/status/529386921852940289
Much better this time around!
That is probably the best way to describe the second major league start for Rockies RHP Eddie Butler (Chesapeake).
In his debut in June, Butler was slammed for 6 runs in a loss to the Dodgers. Since then, he has been on the DL with shoulder inflammation and then returned to the minors to work on some things. Rockies coaching told him to attack the strike zone, and yesterday, Butler delivered.
Pitching against the Diamondbacks, Butler threw 6 innings and allowed only a solo HR for the only run, on 5 hits. He faced 22 batters total, and 53 of his 81 pitches were strikes. The bullpen then took over, and the Chesapeake native had his first major league win, a 5-1 Rockies victory.
The Colorado Rockies are not in the playoff picture for 2014, and are in a rebuilding mode now. And for tonight’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, they are going to get another look at P Eddie Butler (Chesapeake).
Butler, you might recall, pitched for the Rockies in his major league debut on June 6 vs. the Dodgers, and it was, to put it mildly, a disaster. He gave up 6 runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings. To make matters worse, the young righty was placed on the DL the very next day with shoulder inflammation and did not throw a baseball again until over a month later, when he started to get back into the routine with Double-A Tulsa. In 20 minor league starts this season, he went 6-10 with a 3.99 ERA.
Manager Walt Weiss says he thought Butler pitched better than his line showed last time he was with the Rockies. Pitching coach Jim Wright has advised Butler to do three things this time around-attack, attack, attack. Attack the strike zone.
“I just have to attack hitters more,” Butler said, echoing Wright’s refrain. “I think I did all right the last time here, but I didn’t throw enough quality strikes. And I gave up six runs, so you know that’s not good enough.”
6 runs, definitely not good enough. The Rockies believe in this young man. Manager Walt Weiss, Pitching coach Jim Wright, Double-A pitching coach Darryl Scott, who worked with him down at Tulsa, all believe in him.
Eddie Butler will get his second chance tonight.
Roberto Clemente was a great ballplayer but also was well known for his charity work off the field. As a result, every year MLB awards the “Roberto Clemente” award to the one player who gives back to the community through whatever charitable endeavors they are the most passionate about. One player is nominated from each team and then fans vote on the winner.
The 2014 slate of candidates is out, and this year’s choices have a certain Virginia feel to them. It includes three Virginia-natives and one players who played in Virginia on their way to the majors.
From the Detroit Tigers, P Justin Verlander (Goochland/ODU) does various endeavors that help veterans in the Detroit area, including helping with renovations at a rehab facility, providing funding for mental health for veterans, and hosting veterans in his suite at Comerica Park on his game nights.
From the Colorado Rockies, OF Michael Cuddyer (Chesapeake) may have had a lost 2014 season, with numerous injuries and multiple stints on the DL, but he did not let that get him down and still gave back to the Denver community. He has been a huge part of the Rockies startup program to help eradicate violence in schools by encouraging high school students to perform random acts of kindness in the community. He also makes appearances in the schools on behalf of the Rockies and this program. He also provides a suite at Coors field to allow disadvantaged youth to see a MLB game live.
From the New York Mets, 3B David Wright (Chesapeake) may be playing the hot corner in the big city of New York, but he has never forgotten his Virginia roots. He started an initiative to help the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, based in Norfolk and the only free-standing children’s hospital in Virginia, provide for the development of needy children, and in 4 years, this initiative has raised $560,000. He also gives back to the New York Community, visiting a NYC firehouse every September 11 to recognize firefighters, and has also donated lots of cash and resources to help with the clean up from Hurricane Sandy.
From the Washington Nationals, SS Ian Desmond (Potomac Nationals) sits on the Board of Directors for the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, a facility and organization that uses the game of baseball to promote healthy lifestyles and character development for at-risk youth. In 2012, thanks to the power of social media, Desmond met through twitter a 20-year old man with neurofibramitosis, the two formed a special bond, and Desmond went back to twitter to start a campaign to raise money to fight this disease. The goal was to raise $10,000-they raised $32,000, all of which goes to NF awareness.
So some good candidates this year. All are worthy causes, and all are exactly what Roberto Clemente would have wanted.
I missed this from the other day. Per MLB ROSTER MOVES from Twitter, the Colorado Rockies have activated OF Michael Cuddyer (Chesapeake) from the Disabled List. We will see if Cuddyer can at least finish the season without getting hurt again.
Okay, show of hands, who else thinks 2014 has been an absolute disaster for Rockies OF and Chesapeake native Michael Cuddyer?
Last year, Cuddyer was on top of the baseball world after winning the NL batting championship.
This year, a lost year. Cuddyer has now been placed on the 15-Day DL with a hanstring injury, his third trip to the disabled list in 2014. He had just recently come off the DL and had a historic night by becoming the third player in history to hit for the cycle in both leagues.
Cuddyer is in the final year of his contract with the Rockies.