During last weekend's series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cubs television broadcasters Len Kasper and Bob Brenly mentioned that Dodgers infielder Jamey Carroll made his major league debut with the Montreal Expos against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Sept. 11, 2002.
Carroll was 28 years old and a seven-year minor league veteran when he finally got the call to the majors, but the promotion likely had more to do with circumstance than with merit. Carroll, who was hitting .280 at Triple-A Ottawa when the Expos called him up, likely made it to the majors for a simple reason. The Expos were in immediate need of an infielder and Carroll, who had finished his minor-league season, was a short distance away in his nearby hometown of Evansville, Ind.
Carroll took advantage of his serendipitous opportunity and has remained in the majors ever since.
In baseball, like in life, sometimes opportunities are presented to people because they are in the right place at the right time.
Sam Fuld is the latest major leaguer to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity.
Fuld, who played six years in the Cubs farm system and parts of three seasons with the North Siders at the major league level, got his big chance when Tampa Bay left fielder Manny Ramirez abruptly retired after just two games. Fuld, who the Devil Rays acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade last winter, was handed the starting role and has run with it.
Entering Monday's action, Fuld ranked eighth in the American League with a .346 batting average and he led the league with 10 stolen bases. The scrappy 5-foot-10 Fuld has quickly become a fan favorite in St. Petersburg thanks to his hustle and a number of spectacular catches. A grab he made while playing right field against the White Sox on April 8 saved three runs and perhaps is the major league's defensive play of the year.
The Rays started the season 0-6, but have since righted the ship by winning 11 of their last 16 to get to .500.
Fuld already has two four-hit games - against the White Sox on April 18 and against the Boston Red Sox on April 11. In the game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Fuld homered, tripled, and hit two doubles. He stepped to the plate in the ninth inning needing a single for the cycle and smashed a line drive into the left-field corner. With Tampa Bay well ahead, some wouldn't have a problem with Fuld pulling up at first to achieve the milestone, but he rounded the bag and pulled into second with his second double.
"I never anticipated this kind of start,'' Fuld recently told Sports Illustrated. "Sure, I have high expectations for myself. But do I think I'm going to win an American League batting title? No. At the same time, I think I can make a significant contribution.''
Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Farnsworth (1-0, 1.23 ERA) is 5-for-5 in converting save opportunities, but has not been annointed as the Tampa Bay "closer." Farnsworth is yet to walk a batter in 7 1/3 innings,
Derek Lee, Baltimore Orioles: The Baltimore Orioles' season has been Tampa bay's in reverse. The Orioles won six of their first seven but have since dropped 11 of 13. A big reason for Baltimore's woes has been a slow start by Lee who is hitting just .211 with one homer and two RBI.
It's my father's theory that Lee very well could now be considered as a sure-thing Hall-of-Fame player if not for the broken wrist he suffered at Dodger Stadium on April 19, 2006. The injury caused Lee to miss two months and Dad swears that the first baseman has never quite been the same since.
Ted Lilly, Los Angeles Dodgers: Lilly, in his return engagement at Wrigley Field on Saturday, was roughed up for five runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision. Lilly (1-2, 5.13 ERA) has allowed at least four runs in three out of his first five starts this season.
Ryan Theriot, St. Louis Cardinals: Theriot (.311/.361/.356) went into the season with a goal of being patient and seeing more pitches and has already drawn six walks.in 99 plate appearances. He has committed six errors in 21 games at shortstop.
Xavier Nady, Arizona Diamondbacks: Nady made his second straight start Monday and sixth total at first base this season. Nady, who is 5-for-21 (.238 BA) with three RBI, hasn't seen any playing time in the outfield.
Mike Fontenot, San Francisco Giants: Fontenot has seen part-time duty at second base, third, and short but has just three hits - a double, triple, and homer - in 20 at-bats. His home run came off former teammate Lilly and snapped a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning in San Francisco's 4-3 win over Los Angeles on April 13.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/derosma01.shtml, San Francisco Giants: DeRosa is hitting .333 in 18 at-bats. He has played three games at third place and one game at first.
Tom Gorzelanny, Washington Nationals: Gorzelanny is 0-2 with a 4.96 ERA in three starts with Washington.
Rich Harden, Oakland Athletics: Harden, master of the five-inning start, began the season on the 15-day disabled list - and it looks like it's going to take much longer than that before we see him back on the mound.