2009 MLB American League Central Notebook
Longtime Detroit Tiger fans could take some solace that former All-Star pitcher Mark Fidrych’s death was ruled an accident.
“The Bird” was found dead under his truck on April 13 because his clothes became tangled in the truck’s power takeoff shaft. The local district attorney in Massachusetts considers the case now closed.
Fidrych, 54, became all the rage in 1976 when he won the AL Rookie of the Year not only because of his zaniness but because he was good. He went 19-9 with a 2.76 ERA and was known for having intimate conversations with the baseball.
Fidrych’s career, however, did not live up to expectations beyond that season. Arm injuries cut it short and he finished with a record of 29-19. He attempted a comeback in 1982 and 1983 with Boston but could not take his level of pitching beyond Triple A Pawtucket.
A private burial was scheduled for April 17. But people got to know Fidrych because of his warmth and genuine compassion. Outside of the 1984 World Championship team, there may not have been another more popular figure to come through Tiger baseball than Fidrych.
Right-hander Scott Baker (shoulder) came off the disabled list and started on April 15 against Toronto.
But the other good news is that catcher Joe Mauer (back) is on track to begin his rehab assignment within the next week. Mauer passed some early running tests to get the go-ahead.
Mauer is expected to continue on a track of batting practice, running and catch bullpen sessions down in Fort Myers before he starts playing games.
Meanwhile left-hander Glen Perkins has been dynamite to start the season with a 1.69 ERA in his first two starts. The Twins offense has repaid with no wins.
Left-hander John Danks is certainly making the Texas Rangers look pretty silly for trading him before the 2007 season.
Danks established his identity for his dynamite one-game playoff performance against Minnesota last year. He’s parlayed that into a nice quick start in 2009. Danks has allowed one run in his first 12 innings (0.75 ERA) and has struck out 13. He earned the win on April 16 against Tampa Bay.
Danks will likely be a contender for the league strikeout crown and don’t be surprised if he finds his way into the Cy Young award conversation during the season.
The Royals are considered the dark horses for the division crown simply because they just don’t have enough offense.
However, their pitching is electric. It starts with right-hander Zack Greinke who has not allowed an earned run in his first two starts, while right-hander Gil Meche has a 3.21 ERA. In fact, the Royals’ 3.26 team ERA ranks second in the American League and the staff is missing a lot of bats with 82 strikeouts in the first nine games, an average of nine per game.
And no starting pitcher has allowed a home run.
What is going on with reigning American League Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee? Lee is 1-2 through his first three starts but has been really roughed up.
Lee has a high 6.75 ERA and has yielded 12 earned runs in his first three starts including 24 hits in 16 innings.
Lee just hasn’t had the command he enjoyed last year when he went 22-3. He has walked eight in his first three starts.
But then again, Lee’s problems crystallize the Cleveland staff as a whole. The team ERA is 7.93 through the first nine games.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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