By Evan Brunell
LATIN Phillies: When Orioles third base coach Juan Samuel played for the Phillies in the late 80s, he was lucky if he had one teammate of fellow Latin descent. There were years when he was the lone one. Those were the memories Samuel recalled all these years later, even as Philadelphia has changed its fortunes with eight Latin representatives on the active roster.
"When I came to spring training, I'm like, 'We have our own little neighborhood over here,' " Samuel said earlier in the season. "I was joking with Danys Baez and Carlos Ruiz in spring training. I called that end of the clubhouse the barrio. 'Let me go to the barrio and talk to the guys.' "
Most of that increase comes with the explosion in the game of Latin players, which has increased the level of talent and given these players more teammates to identify with. That's important to these players.
"Every organization has a signed a lot of players from Venezuela, Panama, Dominican Republic, Cuba, everywhere," reliever Danys Baez said. "So most of the time there are a lot of guys to talk to and share experiences from when you were a younger age.
"It's very important. Sometimes it's good even when you're supposed to talk in English. When you're learning, it's important to have somebody to talk to. Again, you can tell them about how it was when you were younger and how things were in your country. What it's like. Because every [Latin] country is different. So it's good to have somebody to share that kind of experience with."
The increasing globalization of the game is a good thing. Hispanic players now are a healthy percentage, but there is still much work to be done. Japanese players are coming to the states with increasing frequency, but the decline of African-Americans is concerning. MLB is to be commended for its efforts so far to reverse that trend, though, and are also making significant in-roads in European markets. (Philadelphia Daily News)
WHIZ KID: Growing up a Red Sox fan, I'm not a fan of Sports Illustrated covers because of its featuring of Nomar Garciaparra in the famous (at least, it's famous locally) "A Cut Above" cover; that cover ran around the time Nomar's career took a permanent turn for the worse after being hit by a pitch on the wrist. SI also predicted a World Series victory in 2000 for Boston with yet another cover... except it would take four more years for that ring. (And yes, I remember both covers well.) Ah, the Sports Illustrated jinx... well, anyways, SI.com is touting Starlin Castro on its next cover. Manager Mike Quade was quick to speculate on whether the dreaded jinx applied to Castro.
"How many do you have to deal with?" Quade said. "You have the sophomore [jinx], the S.I. [jinx]. If there's two jinxes, do they cancel each other out?" (MLB.com)
HEART-ATTACK ROBBERY: This is a disgusting story to write, but here goes: in early April, a Pirates usher was found dead in the middle of the street with only a superficial head injury. Turns out he was suffering a heart attack in the car. Along comes a 17-year-old who pulled the usher out of his car -- not to help, but to rob him of his wallet and car, leave the usher dying in the street. That 17-year-old was just arrested for the robbery, although he will not be charged with homicide. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
EMPTY SEATS: Low attendance is starting to scare some in the game, and several St. Louis reporters write about what the 3 percent dropoff at Busch Stadium thus far might mean. Here's the thing: it's just too early. Once school comes out and the weather warms up, one will be able to better evaluate the numbers. It seems as if every April we have this discussion, although gas prices and a housing market that many predict has hit rock-bottom may prove a tipping point. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
SIX-MAN ROTATION: Rotations these days are growing, even if there isn't any clear evidence that a five-man rotation is any better than a fourth. The White Sox may try their hand at a six-man rotation when Jake Peavy returns, both to ease him back into game action and to keep an impressive Phil Humber in the rotation. (Chicago Tribune)
BANGED-UP Twins: The Twins placed DH Jim Thome on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday night and recalled shortstop Trevor Plouffe, who will handle short until Tsuyoshi Nishioka returns. Incumbent shortstop Alexi Casilla is being shifted to second where he indicates he is more comfortable. But it doesn't stop there -- manager Ron Gardenhire said that outfielder Jason Repko is probably headed to the DL with Ben Revere being recalled. (Star Tribune)
BELT'S BACK: Or rather, he will be eventually. Belt is tearing up Triple-A and with the injuries the Giants have been hit with lately, Belt could be back in the majors sooner rather than later. The only problem is who the team kicks off the squad in the outfield -- Nate Schierholtz is already going to be dumped for Andres Torres once Torres returns from the DL. It's too bad Belt can't play shortstop.
RETURNING MARINERS: Life in Seattle will only get better once the team is back at full strength. The nearing return of closer David Aardsma and progress of center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, then, are things to be celebrated. (Seattle Times)
PAY ATTENTION: The Royals are stepping up warning fans of the danger of batted balls and bats after a four-year-old suffered a fractured skull after being hit with a foul ball. There's some discussion in the article of expanding the netting behind home plate all the way to the foul poles. Sounds awful, right? Is it more awful than a four-year-old's shattered skull? (Kansas City Star)For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.