NEW YORK -- This past weekend at Citi Field, a pair of rookies, one the most talked about prospect in the game, the other a recent call-up who has already been causing a stir in his first week, crossed paths for the first time on a major league field. In a season that is looking like it will be the Year of the Phenom, both
"He's a very confident and comfortable young man at this level,'' Mets manager
"He's a great kid,'' Braves skipper
Heyward also stands out for his remarkable calm. While others have compared him to
One scout has called Heyward "the best prospect I've seen in decades." On Sunday, Cox praised his baserunning ability by saying, "He has big-time instincts. He has some larceny in him.'' Keep in mind that those comments came from a level-headed future Hall of Famer who's seen it all and has every reason to keep expectations down. And they come, too, with Heyward having exactly
Heyward was programmed to be a star from the start, as his father,
Some have said the buildup is too much, the hype too high for Heyward. But everyone from baseball lifers like Cox to scouts to sportswriters have been raving about him. Veteran
To be precise, Heyward has 59 at-bats, but they've been pretty productive ones. He has four home runs and 16 RBIs for the offensively inept Braves (see below). But he also has 23 strikeouts, including at least one in each of the last eight games before the rain-shortened 1-0 defeat Sunday night to the rival Mets. Cox acknowledged pitchers are making early adjustments to beat him and now it's Heyward's turn to adjust. It's a "cat and mouse game'' Glaus said.
Pitchers may soon have to adjust to Davis as well, who had a stellar first week in which he batted .318 with a .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage. Going into the season, Davis was ranked as merely the seventh best first-base prospect by
You can't tell that to Mets fans now, not after Davis started his career by excelling at the plate and helping the Mets to six wins in his first seven games. He also powered his first big league home run on Friday, 450 feet to the faraway Citi bridge in right-center field. "I've only seen one other player hit it there and that was
Davis said he couldn't be sure it was the farthest ball he's ever hit since he said he swings hard every time and has connected that sweetly a few times before. But he didn't seem too concerned about it. Davis, the son of former Yankees relief star
With Davis already in the majors, and already thriving, Manuel and the Mets brass have reason to be excited, though they aren't getting ahead of themselves. "He's smooth, he's rhythmic, he has soft hands and he really gets extended when he hits -- so that means power,'' Manuel said. "The test will come when he goes around [the league] a couple times.''
Mets fans eager for a new hero aren't going to wait that long. They are already crediting Davis for the Mets' sudden hot streak that has them back above .500 for the first time since Opening Day. But Davis' ascension happened to come shortly after the return of the team's most important player, shortstop
While Mets people were guarding against the label of "savior'' being applied, nobody sees any sign the attention is going to Davis' head. "He's got all the tools, there's no question about it,''
Heyward and Davis are far from the only young stars drawing praise in a year that may wind up being recalled for its sterling rookie class, even if not all the best ones have reached the majors yet.
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There is a temptation, even a danger, in making such declarations. As Glaus pointed out, there's a very good reason the great prospects are often still compared to
At least, not yet.
Cox didn't even bother to speak to shortstop
"What are you going to ask him?'' Cox said. "We have done a lot of talking [in the past].''
The Braves, as currently constructed, can't afford to make these kind of mistakes. While they possess one of the better and best-balanced rotations in the game, there are all sorts of offensive questions.
Cox has yet to settle on a leadoff hitter, and it's no wonder, what with all the likely candidates, from
Still, the Braves' hitting issues go deeper than that. They are batting .228 as a team. There's some heat on hitting coach
"The worst person to blame for a team not hitting is the hitting coach,'' Cox said. "We all feel bad. We're not hitting that bad. It's just that when we get 'em on, we're not getting 'em in ... That's the hardest job in the world. Terry's a very good hitting coach, very good.''
Another issue facing the Braves is that
"We can't afford for me to be sitting out,'' Jones explained. "I've got to be in there. We've got to try to get this turned around.'' Jones admitted, though, that if a left-hander was facing the Braves, his sore hip probably would not have allowed him to play.
Jones continues to be dogged by injuries, which caused his former teammate
Jones' bigger worry lately may be his defense. While he can still hit OK, he was atrocious at third base in the series against the Mets. He dropped one popup, let another almost hit him in the foot and made a throwing error on a ball he never should have thrown. Cox said he wasn't concerned about Jones' defense, pointing out that before Jones' threw the ball away he had "made a great play catching the damn ball'' in the first place. And Jones attributed his short throw to his hand being "completely mud,'' a reasonable excuse under the circumstances.
Jones is surely a Hall of Fame player, and he should be credited for his toughness. But at times he seems slightly imperfect as a clubhouse leader. One day in spring training I saw him spend the better part of an hour complaining about possibly having to make the trip from Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to Bradenton. Of course he wasn't really on the trip to Bradenton, anyway, but that didn't deter him. It went on so long that veteran journeyman
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