SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Players throughout Major League Baseball wore caps with an “SD” logo Friday to honor the 17 victims of the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
For Colorado Rockies minor leaguer Colton Welker, the gesture hit especially close to home.
Welker, a top infield prospect in the Rockies’ system, played for Stoneman Douglas’ state title team in 2016 and was a fourth-round draft pick by Colorado in June of that year. Along with Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Oakland Athletics minor-league pitcher Jesus Luzardo, he’s one of three alumni of the Parkland high school playing in the Cactus League this spring.
Welker, called upon to pinch-hit by Rockies manager Bud Black in the eighth inning Friday, was robbed of a hit by Arizona’s Rey Fuentes in a line drive to center field. He came on to play third base and flied out to center field again in the 10th inning of the Diamondbacks’ 7-6 victory.
“There were definitely a lot of emotions after the tragedy,” Welker told ESPN after the game. “To come out here and get to strap it on with the big team felt good. The last time I wore this hat I was over there (in Parkland) playing baseball. That’s what got me here, so it meant a lot to me.
“I tried not to make it a big deal of it today. But it was very cool to be out there with these guys and watch them work and watch what the best do every day. It’s just a great experience being around them.”
Welker was friends with Parkland athletic director Chris Hixon and football coach Aaron Feis, both of whom died along with 14 students and a teacher in the Feb. 14 shooting. Feis, who was killed while throwing himself in front of students to protect them, was a security guard at the school and let Welker into the building each day.
As a middle school student in Parkland, Walker rode the bus to school each day with Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who confessed to the killings.
“All my friends are still down there,” Welker said. “My mom still lives down there. She says the town is quiet and it’s still healing. It’s going to take some time after something like that happens. But they’re doing a great job regrouping and staying together and staying strong. They’ll get back to school soon and get athletics going, and that will be good.”
Welker, ranked as the Rockies’ No. 7 prospect by ESPN’s Keith Law, has hit .341 with a .496 slugging percentage in his first two minor-league stops with Grand Junction of the Pioneer League and Asheville of the South Atlantic. As he embarks upon his third professional season, his heart and mind are constantly with the people back home in Parkland.
“That’s where I want to raise my kids,” Welker said. “It’s the greatest place on earth. They have great schools all the way from elementary through high school. It’s a beautiful place to grow up. I’m beyond proud to say I’m from there.
“It’s sickening to know that our name is on the map for that, and not for the other great things that we’ve accomplished. But (baseball) is something I can use to help people, and maybe represent the school and lift people up even more.”
The Rockies were among many teams to wear the Stoneman Douglas caps on Friday, with several managers taking time to reflect on how baseball can offer a diversion.
“Anytime people are hurting, and we know the community is hurting right now, baseball can sometimes play a part with the healing process,” New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “And so to honor them and try and have a little bit of thoughts and prayers and our thoughts are with people who are hurting, it’s something small that it was cool to be a part of.”
More than 2,500 of the Stoneman Douglas caps were ordered from New Era, MLB spokesman Steven Arrocho said, with many of them expected to be signed and auctioned off to benefit those affected by the shooting.
Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday’s gesture “puts everything in perspective.”
“Wearing the hats today, I think that means a lot to all of us. It puts everything in perspective,” Cora said. “Something that obviously, it gets your attention. My daughter turns 15 in a few weeks, and I got an email the other day from her school talking about them having a drill. That’s not normal.”
After five straight series losses, the Los Angeles Dodgers are looking for answers
They were built for unprecedented greatness, a pursuit only strengthened by a blistering start. But now, 5½ weeks into their season as reigning champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers are basically average. An initial 13-2 record has been followed by 15 losses in a stretch of 20 games, a stunning reversal that has the Dodgers at 18-17 while occupying the No. 3 spot of a division they have dominated for most of the past decade.
“I’m pissed, personally,” Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer said after a 2-1 loss to the crosstown rival Los Angeles Angels on Sunday afternoon. “I freakin’ hate losing. I wanna win. That’s why I came here. We are not playing up to our capability right now.”
After Bauer left a curveball slightly up to Angels first baseman Jared Walsh with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning — a pitch that resulted in a two-run double — Bauer retired 10 in a row to keep the game close. But the visiting Dodgers only scored a single run all outing in support. They put the leadoff runner on in the fifth, sixth and seventh and came up empty each time. While still down a run in the ninth, they put two runners on base with one out for Justin Turner, their best hitter this season, and lost anyway.
The Dodgers have lost five consecutive series for the first time since the stretch run of the 2017 regular season, when they cruised to a massive division lead and seemed bored for most of the second half. They’ve gone 5-15 for the first time since the early portion of the 2018 regular season, when they suffered through what several players described as the proverbial World Series hangover.
Dodgers utility man Chris Taylor said the team is “too talented for it not to turn around,” a notion demonstrated by a plus-32 run-differential — first in the National League. But the root of their struggle is difficult to identify. The Dodgers haven’t been hitting to their capabilities, but they haven’t been hitting poorly. Their starting pitching has fallen off a tad, but it has been a strength nonetheless. Their bullpen has been short-handed, but it hasn’t necessarily imploded.
The Dodgers have been hurt mostly by an inability to match their hitting with their pitching on the same day. They’ve also played a lot of weird games, with this week serving as a prime example.
The Dodgers dropped both ends of a doubleheader from Wrigley Field on Tuesday after Clayton Kershaw struggled through the first inning of Game 1 and the bullpen blew a late, two-run lead in Game 2. The following day, they took leads in the 10th and 11th and still lost. They returned to Southern California, enjoyed a day off and then prepared to face an Angels team that had lost four straight. It felt as if the Dodgers might finally break out again. But on Friday, two of their most important pitchers (Julio Urias and Joe Kelly) each gave up four-run innings. On Saturday, the Dodgers took a 13-0 lead and nearly gave it all up. And on Sunday, they went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
“You can say it’s early, and you can say there’s no need to panic and you can say all these things — and they’re all true,” Bauer said. “But at the end of the day, we’re not just gonna roll the bats and balls out there and win baseball games. We’re not just gonna sleepwalk our way to winning another division title and going to the World Series again. That’s not how it works.
“You gotta go out there and beat someone, every single day. And we haven’t been good at it. We have to be better.”
The Dodgers have lost a major league-leading 10 games by one run. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wasn’t quite sure how to interpret that, but he struck an optimistic tone postgame on Sunday. He credited the at-bat quality in the series finale and constantly alluded to how close his team seems to turning a corner.
Still, he admitted that other players share Bauer’s anger.
“There’s no complacency.” Roberts said. “Guys are grinding. That’s who we are. But at the end of the day, it’s a performance game. We’re better than this, and we expect to win baseball games considerably more than we lose. He has every right to be upset, and he’s not alone in that.”
The Dodgers aren’t whole, of course. Cody Bellinger, the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2019, hasn’t played since April 5. Two key bench players, Zach McKinstry and Edwin Rios, reside on the injured list. Dustin May has opted for season-ending Tommy John surgery. Tony Gonsolin — May’s replacement in the fifth spot of the rotation — is still working his way back. And three crucial relievers are currently recovering from injuries, a list that includes Corey Knebel, Brusdar Graterol and David Price.
But the Dodgers haven’t fallen too far behind in the NL West. They sit 2½ games back of the surprising San Francisco Giants and 1½ games back of the San Diego Padres, with nearly 80% of the season remaining.
Roberts claims he hasn’t even looked at the standings. He doesn’t believe he needs to.
“We’re gonna be at the top of this division,” Roberts said. “I have no doubt in my mind.”
St. Louis Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado homers in win over Rockies, says playing former team was ‘definitely weird’
Yadier Molina hit an RBI double, and Ryan Helsley got Josh Fuentes to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded. St. Louis completed a three-game sweep and has won nine of 11 overall.
Arenado was acquired from the Rockies in a blockbuster trade in early February after the star third baseman spent the first eight years of his career with Colorado.
He said it felt strange playing against his old teammates during the weekend series.
“It was definitely weird,” Arenado said. “Obviously, I know a lot of those guys. At the end of the day, it was a great series to win.”
Arenado has reached safely in 18 of the past 20 games. His mom, Millie, was in attendance on Mother’s Day, which made the home run even more enjoyable.
“It’s just great to have moments like that with your family,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “That’s what life is all about. These are magic moments that people will cherish for a long time.”
Wainwright (2-3) struck out five and walked three over 8⅓ innings, improving to 11-1 against the Rockies. He retired nine batters in a row at one point and eight straight during another stretch.
The 39-year-old right-hander fell two outs short of his 11th career shutout. His last one came in 2016. The veteran simply keeps plugging along.
“I can’t even tell you how much younger I feel than when I was 36, 37. It’s just not even close,” Wainwright said. “I have a great time outperforming expectations.”
Molina and Wainwright have made 279 starts together, which ranks them sixth all-time.
“This guy amazes me every time he takes the mound,” Molina said.
Helsley earned his second major league save and first this season.
Arenado homered leading off the second against German Marquez (1-4), who allowed two runs, one earned, in six innings. Marquez struck out six and walked three.
Molina added a run-scoring double in the fourth.
St. Louis improved to 14-4 since April 23, the best record in the majors during that span.
The Rockies have lost 22 games — 13 by two runs or fewer — and dropped to a major league-worst 2-14 on the road.
“There were a couple situational at-bats where we didn’t get it done early in the game,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “And then again we didn’t get the big hit there in the ninth. We just couldn’t cash in.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Atlanta Braves add some bullpen depth, bring back veteran Shane Greene on a one-year contract
ATLANTA — Relief pitcher Shane Greene has signed a one-year contract to rejoin the Atlanta Braves.
Greene, who was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett, will need some time to get ready before returns to the majors. The right-hander went 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings last season.
Braves relievers began Sunday with a 4.56 ERA that ranked 22nd in the majors. It’s a considerable slip from last year when the bullpen ranked fourth with a 3.50 ERA.
“He showed the benefit in the role he assumed in that very strong bullpen last year,” manager Brian Snitker said before the game when the deal was not yet official. “There’s a guy that’s willing and able to do pretty much any role in that bullpen. He came to me last year when we had all the starting woes and guys were down and said, `I’ll start games if you want me to.’ He’s a durable guy. He had a very solid year. If and when we get him back here, I’ll be excited to get him in the mix.”
The Braves are expected to get reliever Chris Martin back on Tuesday. He has missed the last 29 games with right shoulder inflammation.
“These guys have done a great job this last week,” Snitker said of his relievers. “They’ve been very big in that series in Washington and last night what those guys did, they’ve done a really strong job here, handing the ball off to each other and what they’ve done, but if you add guys like that, absolutely, it’s going to help strengthen the bullpen.”
Atlanta originally acquired Greene in a three-player trade with the Detroit Tigers on July 31, 2019, and he has pitched 55 games for the Braves over the last two seasons, going 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA and one save.
Greene allowed seven runs over his first six appearances with Atlanta after being acquired in 2019, but in his last 49 games for the club dating to August 14 of that season he has allowed just 12 runs over 48.0 innings for a 2.25 ERA and 38 strikeouts.
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