Meet the unlikely baseball stars of the 2021 season | National sports

NEW YORK – Of all the injuries inflicted on baseball this year – and heaven knows there have been too many of them already – perhaps the most devastating and stupidest has been the broken hand suffered by the right-handed rookie. Braves, Huascar Ynoa, last Sunday.

Until he expressed his frustration at a rare bad outing by hitting a canoe bench and fracturing his right hand, the 22-year-old Ynoa was one of a handful of unlikely stars escaping this young season, carrying the Braves’ rotation – decimated by injuries to Mike Soroka (Achilles, shoulder) and Drew Smyly (forearm) and ineffectiveness from Max Fried – with four wins and a 3.02 ERA in his seven first departures. With his fastpitch coming in steadily in the ’90s, Ynoa had 50 strikeouts and just 11 steps in 44 2/3 innings before “hitting” for what will likely be at least two months. He had also contributed with his bat, hitting a pair of home runs, including a grand slam against the Nationals on May 4. Ynoa, who was acquired by the Braves in a 2017 trade deal with the Twins for left-hander Jaime Garcia, had to earn his place in the rotation this spring after it became clear Soroka was going to be lost for a period of significant time.

Only time will tell if Ynoa can regain her dominance when she returns. He’s been one of a half-dozen equally surprising stars – White Sox Yermin Mercedes and Carlos Rodon, Red Sox right starter Nick Pivetta, closer Cardinals Alex Reyes and Rangers center fielder Adolis Garcia – who have made significant contributions to their teams’ seasons.

The Red Sox entered spring training with no idea what their starting rotation was going to look like after Nathan Eovaldi and hopefully a physically recovered Eduardo Rodriguez. They certainly weren’t sure what they had in Pivetta, the 28-year-old right-hander who had wrestled fiercely in four years with the Phillies before being traded to Boston in August 2020 for relief pitchers Brandon Workman and Heath. Hembree. At the start of the weekend, Pivetta, who started the season as the back-end rotation manager, was the Red Sox’s most effective starter (5-0, 3.59 ERA, 47 2 / 3 IP), a success even if it was hard. eager to explain something other than opportunity, courage and determination. His most impressive outing was on April 28 against the Mets when he faced Jacob deGrom, throwing five shutout innings in one fell swoop, striking out seven. It should be said that Pivetta was one of the main reasons why the The surprising Sox have been in first place at the AL East for much of the season.

When the White Sox lost two of their top three hitters, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, for most of the season, there was every reason to believe their chances of bringing in their 85-year-old owner Jerry Reinsdorf, at the World Series. were doomed. Yet here they are atop AL Central with one of baseball’s best records. It has a lot to do with Rodon, who came to spring training in hopes of making his way into the squad, and Mercedes, who at the end of spring training wasn’t even supposed to. be part of the team. Rodon is a particularly inspiring success. No.3 pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, his career with the White Sox was derailed by injuries, including Tommy John’s surgery, and it looked like he was never going to reach his potential, prompting the Sox not to submit it last winter. But there were people in the organization who refused to give up on him and after re-signing him he was their first starter. After striking out 13 Yankees in six scoreless innings on Friday, Rodon, 5-1, has a 1.27 ERA and a WHIP of 0.80, including a scorer on April 14 against the Indians so far.

As for Mercedes, a 28-year-old minor league that the White Sox acquired in the Orioles’ 2017 Rule 5 Draft, he was destined for a trip back to Triple-A until Jimenez and Robert were injured. and did his best to make up for much of the lost offense, leading the majors at bat (.364 Saturday) with six homers and 25 RBIs as the DH Sox. Of course, his most notable offensive contribution to the Sox was the home run he hit, swinging to a 3-0 tally against Minnesota player Willians Astudillo in the ninth inning of a resounding victory, much to dismay. by Tony La Russa.

In Texas, nothing has gone very well this season for the rebuilding Rangers, who have gone untouched twice and are very likely to finish bottom of the AL West for the third time in four years. Their only bright spot, unlikely as it might sound in spring training, was 28-year-old Cuban center fielder Garcia, who on Saturday led the batting team (.291), OPS (.913 ), circuits (12) and RBI (35). Although he ranked fifth in the AL for ball ratio with hard hits, a red flag that pitchers could eventually start to neutralize him is the fact that he struck out 28.1% of the time in the field. instead of walking only 5.8%. When asked about his sudden success at 28, Garcia would undoubtedly say this is the first time he’s been given the chance to play regularly. After leaving Cuba in 2016, he signed with the Yomiuri Giants but only played four games with them. The Cardinals signed him in 2018, but he never got to break through their roster and, despite 32 Triple-A homers in 2019, they nominated him for an assignment.

Although he’s only appeared in 32 major league games heading into this season, the closest Cardinals right-hander Reyes, who entered the weekend with a .39, 31k ERA in 23 innings and 13 for 13 in saves, can’t exactly be described as a surprise. If only because when he threw brief stints in 2016 and 2020, he was slightly dominant. Sadly, in between, he struggled with a range of injuries, including surgery for Tommy John and another surgery for a torn lateral muscle. In spring training, the Cardinals weren’t sure who was going to be their closest, especially with Jordan Hicks returning from Tommy John’s surgery himself. While they still envisioned Reyes in a starting role, they threw him into closer competition with Giovanny Gallegos and southpaw Genesis Cabrera and by the end of March he had taken command. Glad they’re with Reyes’ spectacular return, however, the Cardinals wish he didn’t make things so difficult with his 20 walks.


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