The Week Ahead: Prospects await anticipated debuts
Cole to hit big league stage while fellow hurler Wheeler, outfielder Myers wait in wings
The coming week in Major League Baseball could be all about arrival. Just like last week.
Nobody could have expected the kind of seven-day explosion we saw from Dodgers callup Yasiel Puig last week, of course. The 22-year-old hero of Dodgers fans, Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly and astute fantasy baseball owners throughout the land hit four home runs, drove in 10 runs, had 13 hits in seven games and uncorked two of the most absurd outfield assists we've seen all year.
"It's been storybook," Mattingly said. "I'm talking on the bench and saying, 'If a guy gets a hit, he's going to hit it to Puig and he's going to throw him out at the plate and hit an inside-the-parker or something.'
"It's just crazy stuff every night. Nothing really surprises us anymore."
So what'll it be this week?
Puig has three more games in Los Angeles to dazzle the home crowd with his bat or his throwing arm or his legs, and those are against the division-leading D-backs. The Cuban phenom won't be able to do much on Thursday, which is an off-day, and then he'll take his show on the road for the first time for a weekend set against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
Puig and the Dodgers will touch down in the Steel City a few days too late to experience the Major League debut of another top prospect, but they'll be around for Gerrit Cole's career start No. 2. Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, will be called up by the Bucs on Tuesday in time to face Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants. Cole, 22, was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis.
"I caught him a couple of times in Spring Training, and I like his makeup and his attitude," catcher Russell Martin said. "In my opinion, he's going to be a good pitcher for a long time, so this will be start No. 1 of a hopefully long and prosperous career."
It remains to be seen what happens with Cole in the Pirates' rotation moving forward. James McDonald could be nearing a return from injury. Cole figures to get a second start Sunday against the Dodgers, but it could be a short stint in the Majors.
In New York, Mets fans are wondering if they're about to see their next young right-hander with electric stuff. The rumors have been flying about Zack Wheeler for weeks. This past week saw reports that Wheeler would make his first big league start this Friday. Another report indicated the Mets would have Wheeler make one more start for Triple-A Las Vegas this week. Wheeler has righted himself in the Minors this year and enters the week with a 4-1 record, a 4.14 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 63 innings for Las Vegas.
What is known is this: Wheeler is coming soon. Mets public relations guru Jay Horwitz flew to Las Vegas last week simply to talk to the 23-year-old and help him prepare for the hefty expectations that are soon to come with his promotion to the big stage in the toughest media market in the country.
"Set a personal record this week with five flights since Sunday," Horwitz tweeted. "Have got enough frequent flier miles now for a two-week trip to Mexico."
So this week, the Mets and their fans will wait on Wheeler as every move of his is monitored.
And apparently, the same thing is going on in the Tampa Bay area with Wil Myers. The 22-year-old slugging outfielder, who was the key piece for the Rays in a monster offseason trade that sent James Shields to the Royals, is heating up at Triple-A Durham, where he hit two homers on Saturday. That prompted ESPN's Jim Bowden, a former Major League general manager, to tweet that Myers will be called up to Tampa Bay "within [the] next 10 days."
That might not happen, but the coming week is sure to bring plenty of talk about Myers, just like in New York with Wheeler.
And there will be division races to talk about, too.
In the American League West, the past week saw the Oakland A's shoot right back into contention on the heels of the Texas Rangers in what seems like a replay of 2012. In fact, on Friday night, Oakland took sole possession of first place, although it gave it back on Sunday and is a half-game behind Texas.
"We just go out there and play," A's outfielder Josh Reddick said. "It's only June. As long as you're in first the last day of the year, that's all that matters."
This week, the A's get a Monday to relax before playing three-game sets at home against the Yankees and Mariners. The Rangers will play all seven days, also at home. Texas will host Cleveland for three games before meeting Toronto for a weekend four-game set.
That's the closest division race at the moment, but the AL East has bunched up a bit, too, with the Red Sox in front by 1 1/2 games over the Yankees, and the Orioles (3 1/2 back) and Rays (four back) right in the thick of things.
Similarly tight situations are developing in the National League Central, where the Reds and Pirates are within four games of the first-place Cardinals, and in the NL West, where the Giants and Rockies are 1 1/2 games behind the leading D-backs.
For the defending World Series champions, taking two of three from Arizona over the weekend was a good way to get back in gear as June rolls on.
"We need to pick it up in our overall play," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "This is what it's going to take."