By Bob Hurst
So how are two of the most highly-touted rookies to begin the season doing? Just fine, thank you. Atlanta’s Jayson Heyward and Detroit’s Austin Jackson were named the NL and AL Rookies of the month for April, and they seem to be getting better.
Heyward, 20, led all rookies with six home runs and 19 RBIs in April to go with five multi-hit games. He hit a homer in his first major league at-bat on Opening Day against Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs, and had a walk-off, game-winning single against Colorado on April 18.
“It’s nice to be recognized,” Heyward said. “My teammates have a lot to do with it.
They’re great. They help me have fun and just go out and enjoy myself playing this game.”
Although Heyward, a right-fielder, hit just .240 in April, he has improved to .291, to go with eight homers and 26 RBIs through his first 28 games. He had his third game of three or more RBIs when he knocked in three runs in a 7-1 win over Houston on May 2.
“You know it’s not by accident he’s having the success he’s having,” Braves pitcher Derek Lowe said.
Jackson, the Tigers center-fielder and leadoff hitter, had a .364 batting average in April, and led all rookies with 20 runs, 36 hits, a .422 on-base percentage and five stolen bases.
Jackson, 23, had 12 multi-hit games last month, including a five-hit performance against the Los Angeles Angels on April 30. He hit safely in 12 of his initial 13 big league games.
Going into Tuesday’s game, Jackson was second in AL batting with a .360 average behind teammate Miguel Cabrera’s .377 mark. His 10-game hitting streak ended on Monday in a win over the New York Yankees, the team that he was a former prospect of.
In his first 30 games, Jackson hit safely in 27, the most by a Tigers rookie since Dale Alexander started 27 of 30 in 1929.
“Right now, everybody is pretty much on his bandwagon because he’s done so well,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after a game last week. “When is the last time you heard people talking about (former Tiger center-fielder) Curtis Granderson here? And I don’t mean that disrespectfully.”
Braden’s gem: Dallas Braden first made news this season when he expressed his dismay at the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, who took a shortcut back to first base after a foul ball by running across the pitcher’s mound.
But the best headline was the one he got on Monday, a day after throwing a perfect game in Oakland’s 4-0 win over Tampa Bay. Braden retired 27 consecutive Rays hitters to record just the 17th perfect game in the modern era.
“Pretty cool,” Braden said. “I don’t know what to think about it just yet. There’s definitely a select group. I’d like to have a career more than today.”
Braden, the 24th-round pick by the A’s in the 2004 draft, played for eight minor league teams in his first four years in the pros. He had a 17-23 record and 4.62 ERA before Sunday’s game.
And what did A-Rod think of Braden’s gem?
“I’ve learned in my career that it’s always better to be remembered for some of the good things you do on the field, and good for him,” Rodriguez said. “He threw a perfect game. And, even better, he beat the Rays.”
The Rays were no-hit for the third time in franchise history, and were on the losing end of a perfect game for the second time in less than a year. Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game on July 23, 2009 for the Chicago White Sox in a 5-0 win over the Rays.
StatsWatch: Here are the last 10 perfect games in major league history —
May 9, 2010: Dallas Braden, A’s, 4-0 vs. Rays.
July 23, 2009: Mark Buehrle, White Sox, 5-0 vs. Rays.
May 18, 2004: Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks, 2-0 vs. Braves.
July 18, 1999: David Cone, Yankees, 6-0 vs. Expos.
May 17, 1998: David Wells, Yankees, 4-0 vs. Twins.
July 28, 1994: Kenny Rogers, Rangers, 4-0 vs. Angels.
July 28, 1991: Dennis Martinez, Expos, 2-0 vs. Dodgers.
Sept. 16, 1998: Tom Browning, Reds, 1-0 vs. Dodgers.
Sept. 30, 1984, Mike Witt, Angels, 1-0 vs. Rangers.
May 15, 1981, Len Barker, Indians, 3-0 vs. Blue Jays.
Copyright © 2010 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.