Like most first
basemen, the Tigers' Chris Shelton (above) likes to make small talk with
opposing runners. But this year's chats have gotten a little touchy-feely.
Because the 25-year-old hit nine home runs and batted .371 in his first 19
games, base runners have taken to rubbing him for good luck. "[They] say,
'Hey, let me get some of that,'" Shelton said. "I don't know what's
going on." Perhaps Shelton's hot streak will last. But there's a long
history of fast starters who found the cruelest months came after April.
Fernandez, Reds, 2001
Six years after defecting from Cuba, the righthander won four April starts,
tying him with Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine and Wade Miller for the NL lead.
They all went on to win at least 16 games--except Fernandez (left), who
finished 5--6. "He was throwing in the 90s early on," manager Bob Boone
said in June. "[But now] his ball is lazy. Instead of sinking, it kind of
fades." So did Fernandez: He was sent to the minors in August of that year
and never pitched in the majors again.
Handed an every-day job when starter Damian Miller got hurt, the veteran backup
catcher hit seven homers--half of his career high--in April. "I consider
myself a streaky hitter," he said. Alas, Stinnett was right. He went cold
in May and finished the season with eight long balls.
After becoming the first player to go deep in his first three trips to the
plate on Opening Day, Rhodes (right) had six home runs in 80 April at bats. But
his heroics turned out to be a curse. Convinced that he was a power hitter, he
abandoned the compact swing that got him to the big leagues--and hit only two
homers the rest of the way. "He got away from it when he hit those three
home runs on Opening Day," said hitting coach Billy Williams.
Blue Jays, 1994
Delgado arrived in the bigs with a bang, hitting eight home runs that April and
twice nearly breaking windows on the restaurants overlooking the field at
Toronto's SkyDome. "I know I'm not going to hit 150 home runs," Delgado
(left) said. The rookie was wise beyond his years: He slumped badly and was
sent back to the minors in June with a total of nine homers.
The rookie hit five home runs in 34 April at bats--or one every 6.8 trips to
the plate, double Barry Bonds's career rate. "If he continues to swing the
bat the way he has," said manager Lou Piniella of Pirkl's ability to stick
in the big leagues, "I don't see him going anywhere." Lou had to adjust
his vision. Pirkl was sent back to the minors with six homers in mid-May; two
years later he disappeared from the majors with a career total of eight.