Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Among the Finalists for the MLB’s Hank Aaron Award

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is in the running for a coveted MLB award…

The 22-year-old Dominican-Canadian professional baseball player and designated hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays has been named a finalist for the Hank Aaron Award, the first since the legend’s death.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Guerrero is a finalist alongside Shohei Ohtani, Bryce HarperJuan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr.

The winners of the award, which was established in 1999 by Major League Baseball to honor the best offensive player in each league, will be announced in November.

Ohtani, the favorite for American League MVP, is the first player who also pitches ever nominated. In addition to Ohtani and Guerrero, New York’s Aaron Judge, Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins, Oakland’s Matt Olson, Kansas City’s Salvador Perez and Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez are the American League nominees.

Joining Harper, Soto and Tatis in the National League are Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos, San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt.

In a phone interview, Billye Aaron, who was married to Hank Aaron for 48 years, said her husband “was always very excited about the award itself and, of course, very excited about the World Series because, during that time, before every fourth game, he had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know and shake hands with the winners.”

The voting panel includes eight Hall of Fame players — including new voters Chipper Jones, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz — as well as a fan vote.

Aaron, MLB’s longtime home run king and one of the most beloved and respected players in the game’s history, died in his sleep in January.

“I’m still in a state of grief beyond measure,” Billye Aaron said. “I’m doing OK. I have some difficulty many days. But like everybody else, when you come to this stage in your life, you have to learn to cope with it. You can’t change it. You can’t do anything about God’s will. So you learn to accept it and learn to go on.

“I miss him so very, very much. I loved him so very, very much.”

Aaron, she said, would have been particularly excited for the NL Division Series that starts Friday between the two MLB teams for whom he played: the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. Aaron played his first 12 years for the Milwaukee Braves before they moved to Atlanta, where he spent nine seasons. A two-year stint with the Brewers wrapped up his career.

“He loved Milwaukee. He loved the Milwaukee Braves. He loved the Milwaukee Brewers,” Billye Aaron said. “And he loved, of course, the Atlanta Braves. He probably would’ve had some difficulty not rooting for both teams. The team that is your bread and butter — you probably would fall into that category. And being on the staff as well. So he probably would have to pull for Atlanta. But I know he had a strong fondness for the Milwaukee team.”

MLB intended to honor Aaron in Atlanta at July’s All-Star Game. Blowback from Georgia’s new voting-rights laws, however, prompted MLB to shift the game to Denver’s Coors Field, where Freeman and Judge escorted Billye Aaron onto the field for the ceremony that celebrated her husband.

While MLB weathered criticism for the choice, Billye Aaron said “it was the right thing for Major League Baseball to do.”

“In light of the political situation going on then and continuing to go on now,” she said, “the decision to move the All-Star Game out of the city of Atlanta, in spite of the impact that it would have on Atlanta and on the businesses that were preparing for the great game — I still think Major League Baseball did exactly what it needed to do in recognizing that racism can overrule some things.”

Salvador Perez Ties Johnny Bench’s Record for Homers in a Season by a Catcher

Salvador Perez is rewriting history…

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball catcher and Kansas City Royals slugger has tied Johnny Bench‘s record for homers in a season by a catcher with his 45th in a 7-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.

Salvador Perez

Perez hit a two-run homer in the first inning, matching Bench’s total from 1970 for the most by a player who played at least 75% of his team’s games at catcher.

Perez is tied with Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the Major League Baseball lead in homers and also leads the MLB with 112 RBIs.

“We’re witnessing a special season,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’re witnessing a special player. To be able to be put in the conversation with one most would say is the best ever is pretty rare.”

His talent is not lost on the opposition.

“Salvador, it seems like he’s hitting a home run a day against everybody,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “You can’t miss against him right now.”

Perez is three homers away from matching Jorge Soler‘s team record from 2019. Soler extended the Royals’ record by 10. Perez also tied Mike Sweeney for second on the club’s all-time list with 197 home runs. George Brett holds the club record with 317.

After bouncing back from an elbow injury that caused him to miss all of the 2019 season with an elbow injury, Perez has been on a tear. His 56 home runs in 2020 and 2021 are the most in MLB over that span, while his 144 RBIs rank third.

If Perez, Guerrero and Shohei Ohtani (44) — from Venezuela, Canada and Japan, respectively — are atop the home run leaderboard until the season’s end, it will be the first time in MLB history that the top three leaders were all born outside the United States, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Vince Velasquez Signs Minor League Contract with San Diego Padres

Que padre(s)! Vince Velasquez is heading back to the mound…

The 29-year-old Latino professional baseball pitcher, a right-hander, has signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres.

Vince Velasquez

Velasquez, who was released by the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, is expected to be added to San Diego’s active 28-man roster this weekend in St. Louis and make a start during the three-game series against the Cardinals, the Padres said.

A seven-year veteran, Velasquez, 29, is 3-6 with a 5.95 ERA this season.

He previously played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies.

Marlins’ Pitching Prospect Edward Cabrera to Make MLB Debut This Week

Edward Cabrera is ready for his big moment…

The 23-year-old Dominican highly regarded pitching prospect is scheduled to make his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut on Wednesday when the Miami Marlins take on the Washington Nationals.

Edward Cabrera

Cabrera is 3-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 13 starts at three minor league levels this year. He was sidelined early in the season by a biceps injury.

The right-handed pitcher is 19-25 with a 3.54 ERA in five seasons in the minors, recording 361 strikeouts in 341 innings.

Miguel Cabrera Becomes Newest Member of MLB’s 500 Home Run Club

Miguel Cabrera is in elite company…

The 38-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player, a first baseman and designated hitter for the Detroit Tigers, is now a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in baseball, after becoming the 28th member of the 500 home run club with a sixth-inning blast for the Tigers on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Miguel Cabrera

Cabrera connected on a 1-1 pitch from left-hander Steven Matz, sending the ball over the scoreboard in right-center field. The 400-foot homer tied the score at 1. The Tigers won the game 5-3 in 11 innings.

The 14,685 fans at Rogers Centre rose for a standing ovation as Cabrera rounded the bases. After celebrating with his teammates, the Tigers slugger came out of the dugout to accept a curtain call, taking off his helmet and bowing to the crowd behind Detroit’s dugout.

“It’s something special for my country, for my family, to be able to do this,” he said. “I’m really happy.”

Cabrera is the first player to reach the mark in a Tigers uniform. Detroit manager AJ Hinch asked Cabrera to address the team after the game, and the slugger thanked his teammates for their support.

“So proud for him and his family, and a career accomplishment so rare you may never get to be a part of this again,” Hinch said. “We have no idea who the next person can be to pass this big number.”

Cabrera went 31 at-bats between his 499th and 500th home runs, the third-longest such stretch in MLB history, behind Jimmie Foxx (61) and Harmon Killebrew (43), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Now in his 19th season in Major League Baseball, Cabrera foretold his future greatness in his first major league game on June 20, 2003, when he hit a walk-off home run to dead-center field in the bottom of the 11th inning for the Florida Marlins in a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay.

Indeed, he was precocious enough at the plate as a much-hyped 20-year-old that by October of that year he was batting cleanup for the Marlins in the World Series. He is still the youngest player to start at cleanup in a World Series game.

It has been a slow trek to 500 for Cabrera, who had 446 home runs at the end of the 2016 season after hitting 38 that year, marking the 10th time he had reached 30 home runs. He hasn’t hit more than 16 in a season since, as injuries and age sapped his power output. His 500th home run was his 13th of 2021.

Still, Cabrera is one of the best all-around hitters in the 500 home run club. His .311 career batting average ranks fifth among the 28 players; only nine batted .300 in their careers. His career adjusted batting is 19.2% better than the league average, which ranks behind only Ted Williams and Babe Ruth among club members, and he won batting titles in 2011 (.344), 2012 (.330), 2013 (.348) and 2015 (.338). The only other right-handed hitters with 500 home runs and a .300 average are Manny Ramirez, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Frank Thomas.

Cabrera’s four batting titles ties Williams for the most among members of the 500 home run club, pending inclusion of the Negro Leagues‘ stats, according to ESPN Stats & Info research. Cabrera also is the only member of the club who was born in Venezuela.

Cabrera has won two home run titles, as well, leading the American League with 37 in 2008, his first season with the Tigers after a trade with the Marlins, and then again with 44 in 2012. That was Cabrera’s Triple Crown season, in which he became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to lead his league in home runs, RBIs and batting average. Cabrera won his first of back-to-back MVP awards during that 2012 campaign, beating out Mike Trout both times.

A few more home run facts from Cabrera’s career:

  • He has 41 two-homer games and two three-homer games. His three-homer games came against Oakland on May 28, 2010, and versus Texas on May 19, 2013.
  • His most victimized team: He has hit 50 home runs against Cleveland.
  • His most victimized pitcher: He hit seven off Phil Hughes.
  • He has hit seven walk-off home runs, that first one in his first game coming off Al Levine.

Next up for Cabrera: The 3,000 hit club, which has 32 members. He needed 134 hits at the start of the season, and in spring training, Cabrera said he wished to join both clubs in 2021.

“I hope I can get to 500, 3,000 this year,” he said in February. “It’s one of my goals this year. Mentally, I feel good. I feel mentally strong. I’m trying to go day by day and trying to play hard.”

It appears Cabrera will fall short of that milestone, as he has 2,955 hits. He had one stint on the injured list this year, missing 13 games in April with a biceps strain.

He is still signed through 2023, however, so he should get there in early 2022. The 3,000/500 club includes just six players: Aaron, Mays, Albert Pujols, Eddie Murray, Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro.

San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. Hits Two Homers in Return from Injured List

Fernando Tatis Jr. is back in the game with a bang…

The 22-year-old Dominican professional baseball player, known as “El Niño“, wasted no time making his mark in his return from the San Diego Padres’ injured list on Sunday, hitting his 32nd and 33rd homers in an 8-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks while playing right field for the first time as a professional.

Fernando Tatis Jr.

Tatis had one thought running through his mind as he returned to San Diego’s lineup.

“Make them remember why they missed you,” he said grinning.

The MLB All-Star — batting leadoff — ripped a double down the left-field line in his first at-bat but was stranded at third in the first inning. He added a solo homer in the third on a towering fly ball that landed in the left-field stands and another solo shot in the fifth that easily cleared the wall in approximately the same spot.

“Fernando being Fernando,” Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “It never ceases to amaze any of us.”

It was Tatis’ fifth multi-homer game this season and No. 8 for his career. He added a bases-loaded single in the eighth that brought home Victor Caratini and Trent Grisham.

Tatis also caught David Peralta‘s fly to right for the final out of the bottom of the first.

Tatis had been on the injured list since July 31 after partially dislocating his left shoulder for the third time this season.

The electrifying star usually plays shortstop, but the Padres decided to move him to the outfield for the time being. The hope is there’s less chance he’ll get hurt, allowing him to stay in the lineup for the rest of the season.

He wasn’t challenged much in the outfield on Sunday, but he made a few routine catches.

“It was pretty chill,” Tatis said.

Tatis suffered a partially dislocated left shoulder on a violent swing April 5 against the San Francisco Giants and went on the 10-day injured list. He reinjured the shoulder diving for a ball and left a game against the Cincinnati Reds on June 19 but missed only one game.

He left a spring training game after hurting the shoulder while making a throw but was back two days later. He revealed then that he had been dealing with shoulder discomfort since his minor league days. Tatis also missed eight games in mid-May after testing positive for COVID-19.

He became the first Padres player voted to start an All-Star Game since Tony Gwynn in 1999.

The return of Tatis is a huge boost for the Padres, who have 15 players on the injured list and have taken a nosedive in the National League West standings. They still occupy the second NL wild-card spot in the playoff race but are feeling pressure from the charging Cincinnati RedsPhiladelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves.

Juan Francisco Leads Dominican Republic to Country’s First-Ever Baseball Olympics Medal

2020 Tokyo GamesJuan Francisco is the Domincan Republic’s new hero…

The 34-year-old Dominican former professional baseball first baseman homered to help give the Dominican Republic a four-run, first-inning lead, then hit a tie-breaking, two-run double off Seunghwan Oh in a five-run eighth inning to help lead his team to a 10-6 victory over South Korea to claim the bronze in men’s baseball at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Juan Francisco

Melky Cabrera had four hits for the Dominicans (3-3), who won a baseball medal for the first time, and the country’s first-ever team medal.

South Korea (3-4), the 2012 London Games gold medalist, took a 6-5 lead in a four-run fifth inning against five pitchers. Kang Baek-Ho hit a go-ahead single.

Oh (2-1), a 39-year-old right-hander who pitched in Major League Baseball blew a save for the second time in the tournament.

Kansas City farmhands Jeison Guzman and Erick Mejia singled in the eighth, Seattle Mariners prospect Julio Rodriguez walked and Oh threw a wild pitch that tied the score.

Dominican Republic Baseball

Francisco, a six-year big league veteran whose last major league at-bat was in 2014, had struck out in his three previous plate appearances and nine times overall. The 34-year-old doubled to the left-center gap for an 8-6 lead, and Boston Red Sox prospect Johan Mieses followed with a long two-run homer to left.

Francisco hit .208 (5 for 24) with two homers and five RBIs during the tournament, the last for baseball in the Olympics until at least 2028.

Cristopher Mercedes (1-0), who pitches for the Central League‘s Yomiuri Giants, threw 3 1/3 shutout innings through the eighth as the fourth reliever out of the Dominican bullpen.

Jumbo Diaz, four years removed from his last big league appearance, relieved with two on in the ninth and got three straight outs for the save.

Rodriguez, a 20-year-old at Double-A Arkansas, put the Dominicans ahead 2-0 on an afternoon of intermittent rain when he sent a 0-1 pitch well over the left field wall. Francisco drove the next pitch in the last row of the right-field seats for his second Olympic homer and a 3-0 lead.

Mieses walked, and that was it for South Korea starter Kim Min-woo, who allowed four runs, three hits and a walk in one-third of an inning. Charlie Valerio added a sacrifice fly.

Dominican starter Raul Valdes, a 43-year-old left-hander who was the oldest player in the tournament, gave up five runs and nine hits in four-plus innings. Valdes’ last big league appearance was for Houston in 2014.

Rodriguez was hit on the right hand by a pitch from Park Se-Woong in the sixth but stayed in the game.

Jhan Marinez‘s first attempt to relieve was foiled when the bullpen cart started to the mound when he had just one leg on it, causing him to stumble. He got back on and walked his only batter.

White Sox’s Seby Zavala Becomes First Player in MLB History to Hit First Three Career Homers in Same Game

Seby Zavala has homered his way into MLB history…

The 27-year-old Latino professional baseball player and Chicago White Sox rookie hit the first three home runs of his career on Saturday night, including a grand slam, but the Cleveland Indians rallied to beat Chicago 12-11.

Seby Zavala

Zavala became the first player in big league history to hit his first three career home runs in the same game, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. The catcher played his 18th game in the majors — he was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on July 6 to replace the injured Yasmani Grandal.

Batting ninth, Zavala hit a solo homer in the third off Triston McKenzie. He connected for a grand slam off McKenize in the fourth for a 6-1 lead and a solo drive against Bryan Shaw in the seventh.

“I always knew I could swing it,” Zavala said. “Going through a rough patch for a couple of months, I knew if I kept working, something would click and I feel pretty good at the plate.”

With a chance to become the 19th player to hit a record-tying four homers in a game, Zavala singled in the eighth and finished with six RBIs.

Zavala — who will turn 28 on August 28 — played at San Diego State, finishing up with the Aztecs in 2015. Later that year, he was a 12th-round selection by Chicago in the June entry draft. He hit 20 home runs at Triple-A Charlotte in 2019.

His magic wasn’t enough to outpace the Indians on this night, however, as Austin HedgesOwen Miller and Amed Rosario homered to help Cleveland overcome a five-run deficit.

The Indians totaled nine runs in three straight innings to take the lead. Justin Garza (1-0) threw two scoreless innings. Emmanuel Clase got five outs for his 13th save.

Jose Altuve Among Seven Houston Astros Players Named as Finalists for 2021 MLB All-Star Game

Jose Altuve is one step closer to another All-Star game…

The 31-year-old Venezuelan Major League Baseball second baseman, a six-time MLB All-Star, is among seven Houston Astros players named as finalists to start in the 2021 All-Star Game.

Jose AltuveThe Astros have an MLB best seven finalists this season.

On June 23, Altuve hit his 150th career home run, doing so off Thomas Eshelman of the Baltimore Orioles.

The top three finalists for each position based on fan voting in each league, plus designated hitter for the American League, were announced Sunday.

Three teams — the Los Angeles DodgersChicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays — have five finalists for the Midsummer Classic, which will be played July 13 at Coors Field.

Voting on the finalists begins Monday and ends Thursday. The AL and NL All-Star starters, based on those votes, will be announced on Thursday at 9:00 pm ET on ESPN. The remainder of the All-Star teams will be unveiled next Sunday at 5:30 pm ET on ESPN.

The finalists:

Catcher:

AL:

  1. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
  2. Martin Maldonado, Astros
  3. Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox

NL:

  1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
  2. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Willson Contreras, Cubs

First base:

AL:

  1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
  2. Yuli Gurriel, Astros
  3. Jose Abreu, White Sox

NL:

  1. Max Muncy, Dodgers
  2. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Second base:

AL:

  1. Marcus Semien, Blue Jays
  2. Jose Altuve, Astros
  3. DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees

NL:

  1. Ozzie Albies, Braves
  2. Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Gavin Lux, Dodgers

Shortstop:

AL:

  1. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
  2. Bo Bichette, Blue Jays
  3. Carlos Correa, Astros

NL:

  1. Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
  2. Javier Baez, Cubs
  3. Brandon Crawford, Giants

Third base:

AL:

  1. Rafael Devers, Red Sox
  2. Alex Bregman, Astros
  3. Yoan Moncada, White Sox

NL:

  1. Kris Bryant, Cubs
  2. Nolan Arenado, Cardinals
  3. Justin Turner, Dodgers

Outfield:

AL:

  1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
  2. Aaron Judge, Yankees
  3. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
  4. Michael Brantley, Astros
  5. Adolis García, Texas Rangers
  6. Teoscar Hernandez, Blue Jays
  7. Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles
  8. Alex Verdugo, Red Sox
  9. Randal Grichuk, Blue Jays

NL:

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr.
  2. Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds
  3. Jesse Winker, Reds
  4. Mookie Betts, Dodgers
  5. Chris Taylor, Dodgers
  6. Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
  7. Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
  8. Joc Pederson, Cubs
  9. Mike Yastrzemski, Giants

Designated hitter:

AL:

  1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
  2. D. Martinez, Red Sox
  3. Yordan Alvarez, Astros

Melky Cabrera Helps Lead the Dominican Republic Past Venezuela for Final Olympic Baseball Berth

Melky Cabrera is headed to the Tokyo Games…

The 36-year-old Dominican baseball player, nicknamed The Melkman, sparked a comeback from a three-run deficit with a two-run homer to help lead the Dominican Republic past Venezuela 8-5 on Saturday and win the final qualifier at Puebla, Mexico.

Melky Cabrera

In the process, the Dominican Republic claimed the final Olympic baseball berth for the COVID-19-postponed 2020 Tokyo Games.

Former Kansas City Royals infielder Ramon Torres hit a go-ahead infield single in a six-run fourth inning for the Dominicans, who joined host Japan, the United States, Israel, Mexico and South Korea at the Olympics. The baseball tournament will be played from July 28 to August 7 in Fukushima and Yokohama.

Baseball, dropped from the Olympics after 2008, was restored for the Tokyo Games and is being dropped again for 2024, though it is likely to be added for Los Angeles in 2028.

Players on 40-man Major League Baseball rosters are not eligible.

San Francisco prospect Diego Rincones put Venezuela ahead with a three-run homer in the second inning off Radhames Liz, whose last major league appearance was with Pittsburgh in 2015.

Emilio Bonifacio walked off starter Yapson Gomez with two outs in the third, and Cabrera, a 15-year big league veteran, greeted former Los Angeles Angels pitcher Eduardo Paredes with a two-run homer.

Juan Francisco singled leading off the fourth and Milwaukee Brewers prospect Harold Chirino relieved. Boston prospect Johan Mieses singled, Diego Goris followed with a tying double and Torres singled for a 4-3 lead.

Charlie Valerio‘ had an RBI single, Gustavo Nunez hit a two-run single and Bonifacio added a sacrifice fly for an 8-3 lead.

Former big leaguer Dario Alvarez pitched a hitless fourth for the win.

Milwaukee prospect Alexander Palma singled in a run in the seventh off former Arizona prospect Luis Castillo, and Danry Vasquez hit an RBI double with two outs in the ninth off Jairo Asencio before Palma’s game-ending groundout.

The Netherlands was eliminated Friday. Australia, China and Taiwan withdrew from the final qualifier citing the coronavirus pandemic.