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    A season ago, the Atlanta Braves didn't know what to make of rookie right-hander Jose Fernandez. After he shut them down Tuesday night, they fell over each other heaping praise on one of the game's top young players.

    Fernandez matched his career high with 14 strikeouts, allowing three hits (all singles) and walking none over eight innings, combining with closer Steve Cishek for a 1-0 victory by the Miami Marlins. He didn't hit any home runs this time, but Fernandez also went 1 for 3 at the plate.

    The Braves expressed no sour grapes whatsoever. Nothing like, "We missed our chances," or "The ump was blind," or "Lucky kid." Via the Associated Press and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was all happy talk.

    • "He pitched amazing. We went up against a buzz saw today" — Chris Johnson

    • Braves hitters "were coming back shaking their heads" — Manager Fredi Gonzalez

    • "He's got the capability of running those type of games out every time he goes out"— Gonzalez

    • "It sucks to be on the wrong end of it, but from a pitching standpoint it doesn’t get any more fun than that – I think he’ll probably tell you the same thing" — Alex Wood.

    And also, from his couch, Chipper Jones:

    A cynic might wonder: What are they getting at? What happened this past September definitely seemed like bygones, when Hernandez hit his first major league home run against the Braves, who didn't seem to like him very much. Fernandez tangled with Brian McCann and Johnson over some unwritten rules violations, which otherwise overshadowed Fernandez's fine performance. Fernandez and Johnson even seemed to spit at each other as Fernandez rounded the third-base bag. McCann blocked Fernandez from going to the dugout until he heard what McCann had to say. Of course, the Braves had ignored teammate Evan Gattis staring at a home run that he had hit against Fernandez earlier in the game, which had goaded Fernandez to reply, but whatever.

    Fernandez, 21 at the time, took what McCann said to heart, offering genuine apologies after the game for his part in escalating the tensions, and the Braves seemed to accept it.

    In the rematch, Fernandez did nothing obvious to show up the Braves — other than making them look bad at the plate. There was no rubbing it in, like other players might. In fact, Fernandez gave credit to his catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, for doing whatever it is he does behind the plate, and to luck being on his side. Showboating is not for Fernandez anymore, which is fine.

    And if it gives the Braves etiquette committee nothing to work with, we're all better for it.

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    David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

  • Yes, it's still very early in the season. So early that a couple of hot days at the plate can turn a disappointing batting average into a somewhat respectable one. So early that every statistical analysis comes with the requisite "small-sample size" warning.

    But still, when you're a reigning MVP or home-run champ or a big-money offseason free agent, you're going to be judged by your output right away. Here we are, three weeks into the season, and there are definitely some disappointments around MLB, a couple of whom may surprise you.

    Flip through the slideshow above to check out nine of baseball's early season disappointments. Maybe Miguel Cabrera will get his mojo back by the time you're done. If anybody can do it, it's him. He had a nice night Tuesday with three hits and a homer, bumping up his batting average by 29 points.

    Point proven, redemption can be but a few big swings away.

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    Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Tom Sherrill of Pomona, Calif., a 29-year-old Los Angeles Angels fan and a staff sergeant in the Air Force, is the person who caught Albert Pujols's 500th career home run Tuesday night. And what did he want from the Los Angeles Angels in return for handing it over?

    Nothing.

    "I'll take whatever they want to give me, but I'm not going to be picky. I just want to make sure that Albert gets the ball. I'm just happy to be a part of it," Sherrill told Angels broadcasters Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza on Fox Sports West.

    How remarkable is that? Considering the small ransoms some fans charged for a home run hit by Barry Bonds when he was chasing (and surpassing) Hank Aaron, it's pretty refreshing to hear a guy with the ball say he was just happy to be there.

    Sherrill did insist on something before he met with Pujols:

    As for souvenirs, Sherrill at least walked away with an Angels cap. Was it game-used? Does it have Albert sweat? Not sure. Plus, Gubicza and Rojas said they'd give him four tickets to any game he wanted. So he's not walking away empty handed for swag. But he also appeared to go into the situation with the right attitude: It's all about the experience of being involved. That always will be the best part, no matter what parting gifts the Angels include.

    Here are Nos. 499 and 500:

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    David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

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    Twenty-six men in major league history have hit at least 500 home runs — 26 men and one "Machine."

    Albert Pujols connected for two homers in his first three at-bats Tuesday night at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., giving him 500 for his career. He went deep for a three-run homer to left in the first inning and, after striking out in the top of the second, followed with a long two-run shot to center in the fourth. Pujols is the first player ever to hit homers No. 499 and 500 in the same game. Both came against right-hander Taylor Jordan. His homers helped give the Los Angeles Angels a 7-2 lead against the Nationals.

    Regardless, Pujols got a largely standing ovation from the Washington crowd.

    At 34 years old and coming off two down seasons for him because of injuries, Pujols leads the majors in 2014 with eight homers. Pujols has lost some of his luster since coming over from the St. Louis Cardinals, where he became the only player in major league history to bat at least .300 with 30 or more home runs and 100 RBIs in his first 10 seasons. (Yeah, two of those stats are batting average and RBIs, but color me impressed anyway.)

    The Angels haven't been nearly as successful with Pujols as the Cardinals have been without him over the past two seasons, but he's still one of the greatest players in history. By the time he retires, how many will have been better hitters? Twenty? Fifteen? And for a time, Pujols was a very good defensive first baseman.

    Eddie Murray, next on the all-time list with 504 homers, is one of 16 in the 500-home run club who also are in the Hall of Fame. Adam Dunn of the White Sox, with 443 home runs, is behind on the active list. And let's not forget that Alex Rodriguez leads active players with 654 homers — no matter how many asterisks you want to put next to them. Pujols never has had any serious PED shadows following him, the Jack Clark charges included, but he'll always be tied to the era in which he played — in which he dominated.

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    David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

  • MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn has missed the past 19 games as head coach of San Diego State's baseball program while regaining strength and recovering from ongoing cancer treatments. Gwynn had kept the news quiet since March 24, apparently until Fox 5 in San Diego reported Monday that he was on medical leave. Gwynn told the San Diego Union-Tribune that while he's "doing good," he's not sure when he'll be able to return to the Aztecs.

    Gwynn, who had surgery on his mouth in 2012, has suspected that his cancer comes from chewing tobacco. He turns 54 years old May 9. Assistant coach Mark Martinez runs the team now, as he has other times Gwynn has been unable.

    Gwynn, who has coached for 12 years since retiring from the San Diego Padres in 2001, has enacted a policy that doesn't allow anyone associated with the SDSU team but him to talk about his personal health issues. His comments to the U-T were made to sound positive, but they also are vague:

    When reached by phone [Tuesday] morning, Gwynn said, “I have no comment, other than to say I’m doing good. That’s all I can say. But nobody believes me because there hasn’t been any information out there. But, trust me, I’m doing good.”

    There are four weeks remaining in the regular season, but it remains to be seen if Gwynn feels well enough to be back in time to finish out the year.

    “That I don’t know,” said Gwynn. “That’s the truth. I don’t know. I know I’ll be back to talk to the team. I just don’t know if I’ll be back coaching. I don’t know.”

    It's the toughest spot in the world if you are Gwynn, obviously, and it's also sad and awkward for the players and those work for the team and the SDSU athletics department. The Aztecs are enjoying their best season in perhaps 30 years, sporting a 28-12 record before their game Tuesday night against Cal State Northridge, which is to be played at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Gwynn is the biggest reason the program is successful, yet he can't fully participate because of his health issues. How can everyone get the most of this experience? They can't. On top of it all, Gwynn must worry about his own mortality.

    Big BLS H/N: The Sporting News

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    David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

  • No other major league manager has been more critical of the new video review system than John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox. He's not just complaining to complain, although the Red Sox seem to have gotten the short end on some big calls so far. Regardless of how it's affected his team, Farrell made a necessary point to MLB Network Radio on Sirius/XM on Tuesday: Taking away challenge power from managers surely will speed up the game's pace, even with replay a part remaining of the process going forward:

    "I think they should just take it out of the managers' hands. So, you're not going to slow the game down. If there's someone that's reviewing every play going on, then you send down the message, 'Hey, reverse that call.' You're eliminating the manager walking out, so hopefully that wouldn't slow things down, but you're also governing it within the umpire's group. If the umpires are using video as another way of getting the calls right, then, you know what? It keeps it in your hands."

    While it's not realistic to expect a manager never to challenge — small "C" — a close call or say, "That should be reviewed," Farrell is definitely onto something. The power and accountability should be with the umpires. Replay should be a tool that helps them make more accurate calls. If a fifth umpire were part of the rotation at games, in the press box, working with replay HQ in New York, we would be another step toward replay fulfilling its intentions.

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    David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

  • Here's what we know:

    • Matt Harvey works for the New York Mets.

    • Harvey had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery six months ago Tuesday.

    • Dr. James Andrews reportedly performed that surgery.

    • Harvey tweeted a photo of himself in recovery wearing a surgical gown featuring an animal's paw — as baseball beat writer Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News noted.

    • An aside: The photo also featured Harvey extending his left middle finger in jest.

    • Perhaps pressured by his employer, Harvey deleted the tweet from his Twitter history.

    • Not stopping there, Harvey deleted his entire Twitter account, which has been the focal point of disagreement in the past between the pitcher and the Mets.

    • The Mets have shown a dislike for Harvey talking.

    • Matt Harvey has not otherwise been heard from since.

    • It is a curious thing for a hospital serving humans to have its patients wear gowns adorned with an animal's paw.

    • If you do a certain kind of internet search for "Dr. Andrews Vet," the photo above of Dr. Andrew Turkell appears. No, he is not James Andrews, but he is a doctor and he's wearing O.R. scrubs with a similar "paw" logo to those worn by Matt Harvey in post-op. A groggy surgical patient easily could be confused.

    • Next to the doctor and in front of an ominous-looking tube — big enough for a fully grown human to fit — is some kind of poodle-spaniel. Unless it's former Mets closer Armando Benitez.

    Possible conclusion: Matt Harvey has been turned into a dog by someone he thought was Dr. James Andrews.

    More on this as it develops.

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    David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

  • Major League Baseball suspended and fined four players on Tuesday, punishment from the Easter Sunday brawl between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    The brawl was sparked when Carlos Gomez of the Brewers hit a triple off Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole. Gomez admired it momentarily, thinking it was a homer. Cole had words with Gomez after he slid into third. Gomez charged Cole and both benches cleared. Travis Snider and Russell Martin of the Pirates and Martin Maldonado of the Brewers were central figures in the on-field fight, with Maldonado most notably punching Snider in the face. 

    The league fined Gomez, Snider, Martin and Maldonado each an undisclosed amount and threw down these suspensions:

    • Gomez — three games
    • Maldonado — five games
    • Snider — two games
    • Martin — one game

    Cole wasn't fined or suspended for his involvement, which was a surprise to some people, but he didn't do anything except talk to Gomez. Players can appeal their suspensions and continue to play until there's a ruling. Gomez plans to appeal, according to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi.

    According to ESPN's Buster Olney, Maldonado, the Brewers backup catcher, was fined $2,500. As you can see below, Maldonado connected the biggest punches in the fight and left Travis Snider of the Pirates with a very visible black eye.

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    Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Matt Harvey says he "can't believe it's been six months already" since Dr. James Andrews performed Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery on his right arm. To commemorate the anniversary Tuesday, or half-anniversary, Harvey sent a NSFW tweet of a vintage photo — which he since has deleted — of him laying in recovery at the hospital. Gown and cap. With his left middle finger extended.

    Nottafinga!

    [UPDATE: First the tweet, and now Harvey's entire Twitter account seems to have been deleted. Hopefully, Harvey himself won't be deleted next.]

    The New York Mets must not have liked it. Perhaps grandmothers everywhere wouldn't like it. Maybe you don't like it, because it's vulgar. But look at it this way, imagine the outrage if somebody we "didn't like" — such as Bryce Harper, or heaven forbid Yasiel Puig or Carlos Gomez, sent a similar photo. Heck, if Puig had posted himself giving the finger to Twitter, secret authorities might be repatriating him to Cuba at this very moment. (Well, "Cuba.")

    But we "like" Harvey, so "we" let it go. Here's what Harvey probably was thinking: "I'm not going to let this surgery get me down, no matter how daunting the task might be of rehabbing and returning to the mound. [The heck with you], Tommy John surgery!" And that's not a bad sentiment to have at all. Plus, among people of Harvey's age, there's an irreverent, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin way of being that's a little more... well, irreverent.

    Plus also too, the Mets seem — from the outside — kind of oppressive when it comes to speech. They've gotten on Harvey's case before about what he says, how he says it and who he talks to, so they've helped cultivate a bit of a rebel here. Not that Harvey was sticking his middle finger at Mets management. Nobody is saying that. Well, somebody might be saying that somewhere. Somebody's probably doing that somewhere.

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    David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

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    Countless kids across North America have pitched baseballs against brick walls with a strike zone box painted over an imagined home plate. That's all Los Angeles Angels right-hander Garrett Richards was doing Monday night at Nationals Park — reminiscing — when he uncorked two errant pitches in one at-bat against Washington's Denard Span. Both pitches missed the mark so badly that they bounced hard off the brick wall behind home plate. The second pitch, for ball four, bounced so hard it went all of the way back to Richards on the mound.

    Who needs a catcher, anyway?

    The reactions of the umpire, Angels catcher Chris Iannetta and the fans behind the screen were the best part. The fans acted like they were on a roller-coaster ride at Disneyland. Gee, does this happen every time the Angels come to town?!

    Span tried smiling at Richards while taking his base, but Richards was still in competitive beast mode so he didn't give much of a reaction to Span's reaction. I guess if you're the pitcher in that situation, it's more embarrassing and frustrating than amusing. Not to us, though. Regardless of the outcome of that at-bat, Richards pitched pretty well again, lowering his ERA to 2.52 after giving up one run and one hit, along with four walks and a wild pitch — not that either of the Span pitches counted as wild, as no one was on base at the time. "Hey, what about my six strikeouts?" he might say? (He also had six strikeouts.)

    The wall behind the plate at Nationals park is so springy, it probably reminded Richards of this product:

    In fact, Franklin Sporting Goods might want to think about marketing these pitch returns in the style of anyone's favorite ballpark. The actual national-park looking stone of Nationals Park, red brick for Wrigley Field, etc.

    The Garrett Richards Pitch Return! (Please send all royalties to Yahoo Sports, c/o Big League Stew.)

    Big BLS H/N: SB Nation

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    David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

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