Dan's Dugout: Rising and Falling Stars Mark Early Going • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Rising and Falling Stars Mark Early Going


The pattern is familiar: as one star rises, another one falls.

Vince Velasquez, a little-known rookie pitcher who came to Philadelphia in a winter trade with Houston, is making an early bid for National League Rookie of the Year.

Vince Velasquez came to the Phils from the Astros

Vince Velasquez came to the Phils from the Astros

At the same time, Pablo Sandoval has fallen so far from his Fall Classic heroics that he’s virtually eating his way out of Beantown.

In his first start at Citizens Bank Park, the 23-year-old righthander pitched a game Thursday that was actually historic. Pitching a shutout in that bandbox is tough enough but he did it with ease and aplomb.

Feasting on the punchless San Diego Padres, who couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag, he became the first Phillies pitcher to fan at least 13 men without walking anybody or allowing any runs. His 16-strikeout performance dwarfed anything done by Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Jim Bunning, Robin Roberts, or Grover Cleveland Alexander, all of whom pitched for the Phils.

In fact, only five previous pitchers have ever pitched games with at least 16 strikeouts, no walks, no runs, and three or less hits. They are Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Johann Santana, Roger Clemens, and Kerry Wood.

With 25 strikeouts in his first two starts, Velasquez has more than justified the trade that sent Phillies closer Ken Giles to the Astros. And, by the way, the Phils got three other players in the same deal.

A California native, Velasquez added a cherry to his cake by collecting his first big-league hit.

It was his second start of the season and ninth of his career. But nobody outside the Phillies front office ever heard of the guy before.

Even with Trevor Story poking home runs for the Rockies every night, Velasquez has already staked his own claim in the NL’s rookie race.

Sandoval, meanwhile, is headed in the opposite direction.

Pablo Sandoval has fallen far from October hero

Pablo Sandoval has fallen far from October hero

The rotund Boston infielder has wormed his way to the disabled list with a left shoulder strain. Good thing for him, since he was 0-for-6 in limited action after losing his third base job to Travis Shaw, like Velasquez a first-year player with promise.

Sandoval, 29, was too hefty even during his heyday with San Francisco. Now he’s just a parody of the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Signed by the Red Sox after the 2014 season, he batted just .245 with 10 home runs and 47 runs batted in despite spending half his schedule in hitter-friendly Fenway Park. He was just as bad in the field, where his girth definitely interfered with his agility.

Kung Fu Panda was more like Kung Fu Pumpkin.

With $75 million remaining on Sandoval’s inflated contract, it will be impossible to trade him unless the Red Sox take a sizeable bite. Only the offense-starved San Diego Padres expressed interest — and that declined when the former Giants star slipped onto the disabled list.

A two-time All-Star whose resume also includes a World Series MVP trophy, Sandoval was sidelined by the Sox even before the team could examine him more closely with an MRI. Getting him off the 25-man roster was a priority.

Sandoval has lost his job and may soon be gone

Sandoval has lost his job and may soon be gone

The topper for the Sox came when the portly infielder popped his belt while taking a swing. He’s had more hits lately on the buffet line.

The Red Sox, a contending team with contentious fans, are not known for their patience. Unless he slims down soon, Pablo Sandoval is about to make that discovery.

Elsewhere in baseball:

The Mets insist they’ll manage for awhile with star pitcher Jacob deGrom, sidelined by an injury to his right lateral muscle . . .

After starting with eight straight losses, its worst showing since 1988, the Atlanta Braves took another hit — literally — when rookie leftfielder Hector Olivera was arrested for alleged domestic abuse Wednesday morning at the team hotel in Washington . . .

Renovations to Coors Field have already turned two Trevor Story shots from home runs into triples . . .

The Yankees are thrilled with the production of new second baseman Starlin Castro, obtained from the Chicago Cubs during the winter . . .

The Ken Burns documentary on Jackie Robinson, like the movie 42, omitted the important fact

Hank Greenberg was a huge help to Jackie Robinson in 1947

Hank Greenberg was a huge help to Jackie Robinson in 1947

that Pittsburgh first baseman Hank Greenberg, who battled prejudice in the ’30s, helped the rookie cope during his difficult debut season in 1947 . . .

Mexico City cemented its bid for a future franchise with strong support for the two-game spring exhibition series between the Padres and Astros . . .

Boston’s decision to send slumping outfielder Rusney Castillo back to the minors was a surprise, since the Cuban important has five years and $56 million remaining on his contract . . .

Baltimore’s burst out of the gate was highlighted by the two-out, three-run, ninth-inning homer by Chris Davis that beat Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel . . .

Cardinals outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker, an early-season sensational, was actually released by the Dodgers last May . . .

Michael Bourn may not have much left but the Cards and Astros are interested, knowing they can sign him for the major-league minimum while the Indians and Braves pay the bulk of his inflated contract . . .

Michael Morse, like Sandoval a key man for the World Champion Giants of 2014, is on the market after his surprising release from the Pittsburgh Pirates . . .

Minnesota’s awful start was complicated when talented closer Glen Perkins, previously besieged by back and neck injuries, was sidelined with a left shoulder strain . . .

Former White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche, hardly lamenting his sudden retirement this spring, is planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest with his family.


About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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