Opening day was particularly special for Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eloy Jimenez.
In large part because they weren’t stuck at El Paso and Charlotte.
It’s common for baseball’s top prospects to spend a bit of time in the minors at the beginning of the season, but the Padres and White Sox put Tatis and Jimenez on the roster this year, and they made their big league debuts Thursday. Tatis, a shortstop, had two hits in San Diego’s win over San Francisco . Jimenez, an outfielder, had a run and an RBI in Chicago’s loss to Kansas City .
Jimenez hit .355 in 55 games at Triple-A Charlotte last year, and shortly before the start of this season, he signed a $43 million, six-year contract — a record high for a player under club control who hadn’t yet appeared in a major league game.
So it was no surprise to see Jimenez in the majors right away. Tatis’ situation was different. Delaying a player’s service time for a few weeks can delay potential free agency down the road, and Tatis hadn’t played above Double-A. But instead of sending him to Triple-A El Paso, the Padres brought him right to the majors.
“I told my dad, my head was in the minor leagues,” Tatis said. “If they sent me down, I was not surprised. If they called me up, it was going to be a big surprise.”
Tatis, who turned 20 on Jan. 2, became the youngest player to start on opening day since 19-year-old Adrian Beltre in 1999. He became the youngest player with a multihit game on opening day since Robin Yount in 1975.
Tatis is ranked as the game’s No. 2 prospect by mlb.com, behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The debate about whether Guerrero should start the season with the Toronto Blue Jays or in the minors became moot when he went down with a strained left oblique.
It didn’t take long for some position players to take the mound this year.
The circumstances this time: The Dodgers and Diamondbacks played a 13-inning marathon Friday night that lasted over six hours. On Saturday, Los Angeles beat Arizona 18-5, with Diamondbacks catcher John Ryan Murphy giving up seven runs in two innings of relief. Dodgers catcher Russell Martin also pitched, retiring the side in the ninth on 10 pitches.
ALL OR NOTHING
There’s been plenty of talk over the past few years about baseball becoming a game of home runs and strikeouts, and the very early returns in 2019 indicate nothing is changing in that regard. So far, 23.2 percent of all plate appearances have resulted in a strikeout, and 3.3 percent have resulted in a homer.
The numbers last season were 22.3 and 3.0.
Lorenzo Cain robbed Jose Martinez of a tying home run for the final out of Milwaukee’s 5-4 win over St. Louis on opening day. Martinez’s pinch-hit drive nearly cleared the wall in right-center, but Cain brought the ball back, giving the Brewers the victory.
LINE OF THE WEEK
While much of the focus was on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as they began playing for the Phillies and Padres, Paul Goldschmidt got off to quite a start with the Cardinals. Goldschmidt, who was traded from Arizona to St. Louis in the offseason, homered three times in a 9-5 win over Milwaukee on Friday night.
Goldschmidt was denied a chance at a fourth home run when he was intentionally walked in the ninth inning.
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson contributed to this report.
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