A year after it looked as if it would be the young pitchers who made up the next wave of superstars -- like Barry Zito, Mark Prior, Mark Buerhle -- it's been the hitters who have been the story of April.
Blalock, the Rangers' 22-year-old third baseman, leads the majors with a .392 average. Devil Rays rookie Baldelli, an Opening Day starter at just 21, has hit in 23 of his first 25 big league games and is one hit short of matching Ichiro's rookie record of hits in April (39). Bradley, who just turned 25, finally is showing his long-anticipated promise, getting off to a .375 start. And lest we forget 2001 Rookie of the Year Pujols, still only 23, and Soriano, a budding megastar at just 25.
All five rank in the top 10 in the majors in batting average. All five no older than 25. Who said baseball wasn't child's play?
Is Tommy John surgery becoming inevitable?
The three most-feared words a pitcher could hear used to be "Tommy John surgery." But reconstructive elbow surgery has become far from a death sentence to pitchers' careers. Think more of a $6 Million Man vibe.
Florida's A.J. Burnett will become the latest to join Club Tommy John, which already includes a collection of National League stars: Matt Morris, Kerry Wood, John Smoltz and Kris Benson. All have rebounded from the surgery to regain their previous stature, and in Morris' case, become even more dominant. Just look at the ERA rankings, where Morris, Wood and Benson all reside in the top 20.
In Burnett's case, he's looked like a Dr. James Andrews patient waiting to happen. The Marlins right-hander exceeded 120 pitches in 10 of his 29 starts last season. Burnett made four starts this season after injuring his wing -- and still threw 98 mph -- including his season-ending 111-pitch start Friday.
But whether it's high pitch counts or just awkward mechanics, young hard-throwing pitchers who face Tommy John surgery are becoming more rule than exception. Luckily for them, it's become merely an 18-month detour.
Four RBIs from Lance Berkman? Is that a misprint?
Let's get this straight: Rey Ordonez has driven in five times as many runs as Lance Berkman? Cubs pitcher Mark Prior (five) has more? Uhh, what?
Shockingly, after leading in the leading the NL in RBIs last season with 128, Berkman has knocked in only four runs in 2003 to go with a .221 average.
And Berkman isn't the slow-starting type. Last season, he finished April with 10 home runs and 26 RBI. But a sprained elbow ligament has cost Berkman six games thus far, and seemingly has zapped his confidence at the plate.
The frustration looks like it's getting to the Astros slugger. Berkman was ejected from a game for only the second time in his career Tuesday against Atlanta for arguing balls and strikes. Fittingly, it ended an 0-for-2 night.
If the elbow pain is more than Berkman's letting on, Houston could have a situation on its hands similar to Jeff Bagwell's last season. Playing in pain after shoulder surgery in 2001, Bagwell "slumped" to 31 homers and 98 RBIs -- well below typical Bagwell numbers. Healthy again in 2003, Bags leads the majors with 10 homers.
Is Brian Kingman getting nervous?
He's not using Mapquest to get the directions to Comerica Park just yet, but Brian Kingman may become a fixture in Detroit before the year is over. Or before August. The majors' last 20-game loser, who seemingly would rather let go of his right leg before his lone claim to fame, will become acquainted with Mike Maroth soon.
Maroth already is 0-6, becoming only the second pitcher in history to lose six games in April (joining Dave Stewart). And Maroth tries to avoid loss No. 7 on Thursday against Baltimore. On a team that is 3-21 in April, is the end of Kingman's 20-loss jinx merely a formality?
Well, it's not like Detroit will just pull him from the rotation. Not only was he the Tigers' Opening Day starter, he really hasn't pitched that horribly. In three of his six starts, Maroth has allowed three or fewer runs in seven innings. It's just that Detroit is that bad. And with that, Maroth's chances of reaching baseball infamy are that good.