x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

The year of the rookie

The season is not quite two months old, and already it seems 2010 is the Year of the Rookie with many first-year players making big impacts.

Austin Jackson avoids a pitch in a game against the Dodgers.
Austin Jackson avoids a pitch in a game against the Dodgers.

The season is not quite two months old, and already it seems 2010 is the Year of the Rookie. With more than two-thirds of the season still to be played, a remarkable number of first-year players have made big impacts. Atlanta's Jason Heyward, who made an instant splash by homering in his first major league at-bat, is the most significant of the rookie class, but by no means is he the lone newbie. The Cincinnati Reds surprised everyone by including Mike Leake on their opening day roster, despite the fact he had never pitched an inning of minor league ball.

Walt Jocketty, the Reds general manager, said there was nothing that Leake could learn at the minor league level and placed him in the rotation. Drafted out of Arizona State last summer, Leake has hardly looked or pitched like a novice. He does not overpower anyone with his stuff, but he exudes poise and maturity on the mound. Obviously, he must be doing something right to get off to a 4-0 start with a 2.91 ERA. Austin Jackson was the prize piece in the three-team deal between the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Tigers in the off-season. The Tigers dealt off Curtis Granderson and got Jackson in return. Jackson had not played above Double-A before this season, but the Tigers were impressed enough with his play in spring training to give him the starting centre field job. He has not disappointed. Despite a league-leading 48 strikeouts, Jackson is hitting .329 and catching everything.

Starlin Castro, the 20-year-old Chicago Cubs shortstop also made the jump from Double-A, and his raw athleticism and instincts were apparent from the first game when he homered and knocked in six runs in his major league debut. The Cubs liked him enough to move incumbent shortstop Ryan Theriot to second base. Amazingly, the most anticipated player has yet to make it to the big leagues. All of baseball is eager to see Stephen Strasburg, who has over-matched minor league hitters to date, but probably won't be called up by the Washington Nationals until June. To date, he has been an other-worldly 6-1 with a 0.89 ERA, splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A. Opposing hitters have batted just .124 against him. For now, Strasburg is packing minor league ballparks as fans rush to see the phenom. In short order, the same thing will happen at the major-league level. @Email:sports@thenational.ae

Players of the week ? Mike Sweeney, Mariners. The veteran designated hitter has heated up at the plate, going 9-for-21 (.429) with three homers and nine RBI, cementing his role in the Seattle lineup. ? David Ortiz, Red Sox. Only two weeks ago, there were whispers that Ortiz, below, was on the verge of being released. But that was before he rediscovered his swing and hit four home runs and drove in 11 runs in his last seven starts. Teams of the week ? Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays were 6-1 last week and maintained the best overall record in baseball. Most impressive was that they went into New York and swept two games from the Yankees. ? Atlanta Braves. The Braves had a slow start, but have played better of late (6-1) and may have established themselves as the team the Phillies have to worry about in the NL East. Dud of the week ? AJ Burnett, Yankees. New York's No 2 starter is winless in his last three starts and has given up 25 hits and 16 earned runs over his last 17 2/3 innings.

Series of the week ? St Louis at Chicago Cubs, Friday-Sunday. This is perhaps the best rivalry in the National League and the Cubs could use the opportunity to close the gap in the NL Central. ? Texas at Minnesota, Friday-Sunday. The Twins are in first place in the AL Central, which was expected. The Rangers are in first in the West, which was not.