THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 4, 2006
It was about as unlikely as Travis Hafner legging out a triple for his first major league hit, or Rafael Palmeiro going down the left field line for his 3000th hit.
Ian Kinsler went the opposite way for his first major league base hit.
Facing Curt Schilling in the third inning of yesterday’s opener, Kinsler singled to right field. If you know Kinsler’s history, you know he might actually get drilled this year more often than he forces the right fielder to make a play.
It was a perfect moment in an otherwise disappointing day.
And slightly more memorable than Mack Brown introducing me to his wife as the guy who knows more about his recruiting class every year as anyone in the country. For about three-fourths of a second, I couldn’t decide whether to correct him. But I did, breaking it to him that that’s the other guy, not me.
(Probably freaked him out that, if I really was the other guy, I’d have traveled all the way from Atlanta just to track him down at a Texas-Boston baseball game.)
The two guys from yesterday’s game who are going to have bigger years than anyone expects: Laynce Nix and the exceedingly dirty Jonathan Papelbon.
It’s a popular story to write these days that Kevin Mench is about to explode, busting down the 26-homer and 73-RBI career marks that he’s set. He might. But Nix could put up the same numbers, assuming he gets the same number of at-bats, that we all expect from Mench, and he’ll play above-average defense whether he hits at that level or not. For now, Nix probably won’t face lefthanders and it’s unclear what will happen to his role when Gary Matthews Jr. returns from the disabled list.
But don’t underestimate what Nix is capable of — right now.
And if Kinsler is going to go with the pitch with any sort of regularity, no matter how optimistic you might be about his rookie season, you’d better be careful about underestimating him, too.