Indians, Twins meet in San Juan, Puerto Rico
April 17, 2018 3:00 AM
by Ramon Scott
Major League Baseball will return to the great Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for the first time in nearly seven years for a special pair of games between the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins this Tuesday and Wednesday, along with numerous festivities that began on Monday.
The major leagues had already scheduled the Puerto Rico Series at historic Estadio Hiram Bithorn before the worst natural disaster in the island’s history last September when Hurricane Maria truly devastated the beautiful territory.
Now, baseball’s focus is on its charitable contribution to the citizens, as well as the return home for a few of the game’s brightest young stars.
For the Twins, the trip is a welcome relief to head to warmer weather following a series of postponements last weekend, including snowy conditions in Minneapolis. Despite temperatures expected in the 90s in San Juan this week, there is a 40 percent chance of rain during tonight’s game.
The series is big, too, with the Twins and Indians setting the early pace in the American League Central.
Minnesota pitcher Jose Berrios will get the start on Wednesday, as the Twins purposefully kept him inserted in the rotation that would allow him to take his turn at the stadium where so many Puerto Rican greats have played the game. His teammate Eddie Rosario will host a clinic at his old high school in Guayama on Monday.
The Indians’ Francisco Lindor will conduct a larger clinic at his former grammar school on Monday, while teammate Roberto Perez will join Lindor and Berrios on Tuesday several hours before the game to unveil a pair of mobile response units, which were outfitted and stocked by MLB to provide repairs and construction.
Before Tuesday’s game, which will match Corey Kluber, of the Indians, and Jake Odorizzi, of the Twins, major league baseball will honor first responders. Josh Tomlin is Berrios’ opponent on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the teams and baseball officials will honor Roberto Clemente and his family by placing a marker near the shore at Isla Verde where the troubled relief plane Clemente had chartered crashed, ironically, as the legendary Hall of Famer from the Pirates was trying to get relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.
Several other charitable activities are scheduled as well, as Puerto Ricans try to recover and return some normalcy in their lives, which has been difficult under circumstances that have included a nearly wiped-out power grid, widespread flooding and 64 deaths on the island alone.
Baseball is the most popular sport in Puerto Rico and the territory has produced over 100 major leagues. Over the past several years, a Latin cradle of coaches and managers has started to emerge as well.
The Major Leagues have played 47 regular season games on the island, with 43 of those being played as home games for the Montreal Expos during the 2002 and 2003 season when the Canadian teams’ future home status was up in the air.
Toronto and Texas opened the season at Bithorn Stadium on April 1, 2001, in the first MLB game played in P.R., while the Marlins took two of three from the Mets in series back in late June of 2010, the last time the major leagues played at the 18,000-seat ballpark.
Hiram Bithorn was the first major leaguer to hail from Puerto Rico, but many greats have come from the Commonwealth, including Hall of Fame inductees Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar and Ivan Rodriguez.
Now a look at this week’s best.
CARDINALS (-105) at CUBS (Wed., 11:20): The Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks has burned the money in all three starts so far despite a reasonable 3.71 ERA and is -3.8 units over last three-plus years despite team’s 29-19 record in his starts, while the Cards’ Luke Weaver comes in 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, going UNDER in all three starts. STL, 4-3
ASTROS (-160, 7.5o20) at MARINERS (Wed., 7:10): Gerrit Cole has just one win to show for his 36 strikeouts in 21 innings and a 1.29 ERA, but Astros certainly pleased with their acquisition, while the Mariners’ Mike Leake isn’t going to mow ‘em down, but has a reasonable 3.50 ERA and is up nearly four units already over his three starts. HOU, 5-3
PIRATES (EV, 8) at PHILLIES (Thu., 4:05): Jameson Taillon is one of the surprise reasons Bucs off to their incredible start, as he carries an ERA of just 0.89 into his fourth start here. The Phillies’ Jake Arrieta may still be trying to get things rolling here in just his third start, but he got the win at Tampa Bay on Saturday, going 6-2/3 innings already. PHL, 4-3
ROYALS (+105, 9o15) at TIGERS (Fri., 10:10): The Royals’ Jason Hammel is down three units already in three underdog starts despite 3.86 ERA. Tigers’ Michael Fulmer had two good starts, allowing just one run over eight innings against Pittsburgh in his first start, before getting hit hard by Cleveland. Fulmer is up nearly nine units in his career so far. DET, 5-4
METS (-175, 8o15) at BRAVES (Fri., 4:35): Noah Syndergaard and the red-hot Mets mowed down the Brewers on Sunday, but has not beaten the Braves in four career starts. Sean Newcomb had a terrific outing two starts back, shutting out host Colorado with nine strikeouts and no walks over six innings, but he walked four in two other starts. NYM, 4-3
GIANTS (+130, 9u15) at ANGELS (Fri., 7:07): Derek Holland is down three units after three underdog starts so far as the struggling Giants piece-meal their pitching in the early going. Halos’ fifth-starter Andrew Heaney is trying to stay healthy but is getting the trust for now in his second start as Angels ride the momentum of their early success. LAA, 6-4
BLUE JAYS (+135, 10u15) at YANKEES (Sat., 10:10): Toronto’s Jaime Garcia was scheduled to pitch on Monday against the Royals. He has been a favorite target of Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton has three home runs in just 12 ABs against him. Jordan Montgomery took some widely-reported steam on Friday and won as a big road favorite at Kansas City. NYY, 6-5
INDIANS (-125, 7.5o20) at ORIOLES (Sat., 1:05): The O’s Dylan Bundy is up over five units at home so far in his career and has spun a 1.40 ERA this season, drastically increasing his K/9-rate by over three strikeouts early on. Tribe’s Trevor Bauer has also been strong in his first three starts with a 2.25 ERA in seven Ks in each game. CLE, 4-3
RED SOX (-150, 8.5) at ATHLETICS (Sat., 6:05): Red Sox could land on Hector Velasquez, who got the money in both his starts so far. Boston will move the staff around after Monday’s postponement, with Chris Sale likely coming back on Friday. We have the A’s Sean Manaea as a top 20 performer on the mound so far with a 1.74 ERA over fours starts. BOS, 5-3
PADRES (+170, 8.5u20) at DIAMONDBACKS (Sun., 1:10): The Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt has three home runs off of Luis Perdomo in 20 ABs. Perdomo missed his last start after a five-game suspension for throwing behind the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado. Arizona’s Patrick Corbin has a 2.45 ERA so far and is averaging nearly 10 strikeouts per game. ARI, 6-3
NATIONALS (-105, 8u20) at DODGERS (Sun., 5:05): With Jeremy Hellickson scheduled to get a start last Monday, Gio Gonzalez should go here after road outing at the Mets last Tuesday, as the Nats’ pitching has been strong but offense scuffling. The Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu faced the Padres on the road last Monday, as L.A. started the week in last. LAD, 4-3