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It’s one of the longest home runs in the 13-year history of PNC Park, and the longest home run of Rizzo’s career. His previous high was a 432′ blast off the Pirates’ Jared Hughes on Sept. 16, 2012.
Rizzo’s opening day smash is the second longest in the big leagues this season, behind Braves outfielder Justin Upton, who hammered a 460′ shot off Cole Hamels at Turner Field on Monday. (video here)
Meanwhile, three former Cubs have registered some of the longest tape measure shots in PNC Park’s history (which, unfortunately, I was unable to locate an up to date list of the park’s longest home runs as of 2012). To the best of my knowledge, Sammy Sosa remains atop the list with his 484′ smash that landed near the base of the flag poles in deep left-center field on April 12, 2002.
Three months later, Daryl Ward, then playing for Houston, crushed one 479′ on July 6, 2002. It remains the only home run to reach the Allegheny River on the fly.
Matt Stairs, as a member of the Pirates, cleared the right-center field seats with a 461′ blast that rolled into the Allegheny on July 21, 2003.
Name the Cubs opening day first baseman last year. Anthony Rizzo? Bryan LaHair? Nope, try Jeff Baker.
LaHair was a late scratch with a tight back (if I remember correctly). Baker stepped in nicely going 1-for-3 with a walk in the Cubs 2-1 loss vs. Washington.
Thankfully, however, LaHair was back playing the next game, albeit off the bench, and returned to the starting lineup by the third game of the season.
LaHair went 2-for-4 with two doubles in his first start to began his tear of batting .390, 5 HRs, 14 RBI during the month of April (a hot streak that essentially made LaHair an NL All-Star).
It appeared whatever back troubles LaHair suffered on opening day were minor, if that, and may have simply been the result of the cool weather at Wrigley Field during pregame warmups. Ultimately, it was no biggie.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Darwin Barney this year, who’s looking at a possible 15-day DL stint after suffering a knee injury during the Cubs final exhibition game on Saturday.
Barney, chasing down a popup, gashed his left knee to the bone after colliding with a concrete slab in foul territory. The cut required five stitches, and likely has Darwin out of game action for the next several days–at best.
So yeah, losing your Gold Glove second baseman right before opening day is definitely a biggie.
In the meantime, newcomer Brent Lillibridge will make today’s opening day start at second base in place of Barney. And if Darwin does, in fact, get placed on the DL, another journeyman, Alberto Gonzalez, 30, could also see playing time at second.
If we’re lucky Barney will be back soon, and possibly soon enough for us to forget 12 months from now he ever missed the 2013 lid lifter. Chances are, though, we won’t forget if Mr. Gold Glover starts the season on the DL.
Tyler Colvin is starting the season in Colorado, but not with big league team.
In an unexpected move, the Rockies optioned the 27-year-old to their Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs. However, it’s not suspected Colvin will stay in the minors for long.
Although he’s blocked from a starting job by outfields Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer, Colvin’s versatility to play all three outfield position, and first base, should be enough to bring him back to the bigs on a bad team.
In the meantime, the Rockies think regular at-bats will help Colvin improve on the rough numbers he posted in the Cactus League this spring:
.167 (8-for-48), 14 K, 18 games.
Cubs fans seem to have difficulty letting go of the Colvin trade (Dec. 2011) because neither RHP Casey Weathers (Colorado’s 1st Rd pick in 2007) or Ian Stewart have panned out with Chicago.
But Colvin hasn’t reached the potential many saw with him in 2010: 20 HRs, 56 RBI in 135 games. His biggest obstacle, in Chicago and Denver, in establishing himself as a starter has been a continuous struggle with hitting for contact.
2010: 100 K, 25-perent of plate appearances.
2011: 58 K, 26-percent of plate appearances.
2012: 117 K, 26-percent of plate appearances.
Granted Colvin has shown plenty of pop at the plate (.858 OPS in 2012), he strikes out far too often, whiffing at a clip of once every 3.6 at-bats in his career.
That certainly had to be one reason why Jed Hoyer traded Colvin in the first place; he’s not a player who fits the organization’s grind-it-out plate mentality. But the other reason Hoyer made the move was to replace Aramis Ramirez at third base, and Stewart was expected to be the everyday starter, which obviously takes precedent over a swing-happy fourth outfielder.
If we have to choose a winner in the trade it’s Colorado because of the inclusion of DJ LeMahieu, who was packaged with Colvin, and served a bench role as a backup infielder with the Rockies last season. Weathers, on the other hand, went (4-2, 6.62) in 31 games with the Cubs Double-A affiliate in 2012.
Realistically, however, neither side benefited greatly from the trade, and the evaluation could change entirely if Stewart finally has the breakout season the Rockies always expected, and the Cubs have been waiting for.
Besides, the Cubs already have their own left-handed batting outfielder with good pop and a knack for striking out. And Brett Jackson may have a greater upside than Colvin does anyway.