Who knows what kind of production teenage sensation Bryce Harper will have with the Nationals this season? But one thing’s for certain: Not many players that young have managed to play 100-plus games in a big league season.
According to baseballreference.com, nine teenagers have played 100-plus games in the big leagues since Baltimore native Al Kaline, a Hall of Fame outfielder, did it in 1954 with Detroit.
“The key for Bryce Harper to be successful is to have a balance of confidence and enough maturity to know that he has a lot to learn,’’ Kaline said during a spring training interview. “He’s got the talent. It depends on his approach.’‘
Kaline hit .276 with four home runs for the Tigers in 1954. Rusty Staub played in 150 games for Houston in 1963, and a year later, there were two teenagers in the bigs, Ed Kranepool of the Mets and Tony Conigliaro of the Red Sox.
The best-known teenagers are the Brewers’ Robin Yount, who played 107 games as an 18-year-old in 1974 and then 147 games the following season, and Ken Griffey Jr., who hit .264 with 16 home runs for the Mariners in 1989.
The most surprising names on the list are Jose Oquendo, who hit .213 for the Mets in 1983, and shortstop Edgar Renteria, who hit .309 in 106 games for the 1996 Florida Marlins.
* The Orioles are an improved team, and Dan Duquette, the new boss, deserves credit. His best move was trading Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. His second-best move was signing lefty Wei-Yen Chen.
It’d be silly to anoint the Orioles contenders after starting with a strong month: They swept the lowly Twins, and then after getting swept at home by the Yankees, they bounced back with a winning trip to three different time zones.
They’ve beaten the Blue Jays five of six, but lost to the dysfunctional Angels. The question is what kind of shape will be the Orioles be in mid-May after playing 15 games versus the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Rangers?
Here’s a look at what’s ahead:
* This could be the year the Yankees’ pitching falls off. CC Sabathia is dominating, but the rest of the rotation is off. Hiroki Kuroda hasn’t found his stride. Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are getting hit hard. Michael Pineda is out with a shoulder injury and Freddy Garcia has been demoted to the bullpen in favor of David Phelps.
* The Red Sox are coming off a 6-1 road trip, but it’s not as impressive when you consider the games were in Minnesota and Chicago. Still, the Red Sox are ready for the Orioles, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs on the final day of 2011. “Nobody liked what happened at the end of last year,’’ Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia told reporters Sunday.
* The pitching-rich Rangers are getting their two longest trips out of the way early. They were 8-1 on their first trip and they arrived in Toronto at sunrise Monday to start a stretch where they play 10 games in 11 days, including four in Camden Yards.
* The Rays are 14-8 after their April schedule included the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Angels and Rangers - all potential playoff teams. At the beginning of the season, the Rays said they would have been happy with a .500 record at this point. “We could still be playing better,’’ Rays pitcher David Price told reporters.
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