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“He competes very, very well once the game starts,” Baldelli said. “The thing I talk about the most is, he’s a good player. The focus is here. He’s a quality major league player that’s multi-skilled. He can do a lot of different things out there to help a team win, and he does it on a nightly basis. You can ask him to do a lot of things, and he can help you win a game in a lot of different ways.”In one important regard, Astudillo is more Ruth than Cobb: he’s making contact look cool. Rowson calls it a “good aura.” Astudillo is the Tasmanian Devil in a batter’s box, just athletic enough to play every position in the field, and looks like anything but a professional athlete in street clothes. His nickname, “La Tortuga,” is borrowed from his turtle-like physique. The Twins list Astudillo’s weight as a squat 225 pounds.Monday afternoon in the visitors’ clubhouse at Angel Stadium, some of Astudillo’s teammates wore pale green shirts emblazoned with “La Tortuga” in the style of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ wordmark. So did Rowson.“If the guys didn’t like him,” Rowson said, “they probably wouldn’t wear it.” How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire ANAHEIM —One Willians Astudillo story goes like this: during batting practice one afternoon, Astudillo was hitting everything. Over his head, a foot outside, buried in the dirt – no matter how wild the pitch, Astudillo was determined to make contact. Rudy Hernandez, the Minnesota Twins’ batting practice pitcher, tried to throw a ball where no mortal could touch it: directly behind Astudillo’s back. The 5-foot-9 dynamo chopped down at the pitch like a tomahawk as his body spun away from home plate. He made contact.Most Astudillo stories end with him making contact. It’s his defining trait as a hitter. The 27-year-old rookie from Venezuela has struck out in less than 3 percent of his major league plate appearances through Tuesday. Consider that in the final 16 seasons of Ty Cobb’s career, the only years for which we know his strikeout totals, 4.1 percent of his plate appearances ended in a strikeout. He retired in 1928.That was an era when striking out constituted a cardinal sin, when a hitter’s raison d’être was to put the ball in play. That era ended when Babe Ruth’s prodigious power redefined hitting and gave baseball its cultural caché. Yet it wasn’t until this century that launch angles, livelier baseballs and defensive shifts began driving the game’s purest contact hitters into extinction. Watch baseball today, and sacrificing contact for power has never looked less optional.Enter Astudillo. The Twins’ catcher/third baseman/second baseman/left fielder/center fielder/pitcher (he mopped up in the ninth inning of a blowout loss last year) is more than a throwback. Astudillo is beating Hall of Famers from a century ago at their own game – against pitchers who throw harder and usually tower over him on a mound. Angels’ poor pitching spoils an Albert Pujols milestone Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error A decade ago, the Philadelphia Phillies reached back-to-back World Series on the strength of a pair of star hitters whose styles contrasted sharply. Ryan Howard was a feared slugger who averaged 50 home runs, 143 RBIs and 191 strikeouts from 2006-09. Chase Utley was a master at getting on base by whatever means necessary: singles, doubles, triples, homers, walks, errors, fastballs that grazed his arms as they dangled perilously above home plate. Their fates diverged in the 2010s.Howard, a left-handed hitter, couldn’t adapt to persistent defensive shifts once his power tool faded. At 36 years old, he collected 114 strikeouts and just 65 hits for the Phillies in 2016, his final major-league season. Utley also batted left-handed and saw his share of shifts. Yet unlike Howard, Utley’s knack for reaching base – to say nothing of his defense, baserunning and leadership – allowed him to remain a useful player past his 39th birthday. Utley had more hits (35) than strikeouts (34) in 2018, his final season playing for the Dodgers. If the plights of Utley and Howard offer a lasting omen, it’s a good one for Astudillo’s future.But even if the Twins (and the game writ large) encourage Astudillo to maintain his skill set, it’s unclear whether it can be emulated. He described his ability to make contact with a baseball as “a God-given talent, something I also have to work hard at.”“It’s a mix of talent and things I can do to get better,” Astudillo said. “Honestly it comes down to, I was born like that and I have that talent.”Astudillo’s father played baseball professionally in their native Venezuela. Astudillo’s brother, Wilfred, is just beginning to ascend the Mets’ system. At 19, Wilfred Astudillo nearly possesses the same physique (listed at 5-foot-11, 209 pounds) and plate discipline (33 strikeouts in 357 professional plate appearances) as his older brother, an odd combination for a major leaguer.Willians Astudillo spent parts of nine seasons toiling for four different organizations before the Twins finally called him up from Triple-A last summer. Astudillo has hit for average at every minor-league level. He’s always played a variety of defensive positions, primarily catcher, but patience and confidence might have been his most useful traits. The Twins only gave Astudillo a major-league look once a modest amount of power emerged – 12 homers in 78 games at Triple-A in 2018, then 10 home runs in 61 games in the Venezuelan League last winter.Baldelli practically needed a spreadsheet to check off Astudillo’s intangibles.Related Articles “I don’t know if any of us can relate to what he does because I think it’s very unique,” said Rocco Baldelli, the Twins’ first-year manager. “Not just the physical aspect of it, but the way he approaches his at-bats. I’m not sure what exactly makes him tick.“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody like him and don’t know if we ever will again.”Here’s what makes Astudillo tick: he hates striking out. Like, he really hates it, more than you hate TSA checkpoints and superfluous surcharges on a utility bill. It’s why only two major league hitters have seen two-strike counts less often than Astudillo this year. It’s why he’ll swing at a pitch behind his back in batting practice. Allowing us to re-imagine the possibilities for what a human being can do with a bat and ball is not Astudillo’s purpose. This is a bug, not a feature, of his mission as a baseball player. If Astudillo strikes out, he said through an interpreter, “it’s like I lost a battle in that moment.”The Twins are content to let him believe that.“I probably wouldn’t be one of those guys who says a strikeout’s just an out,” said James Rowson, the team’s hitting coach. “There are a lot of benefits to being able to put the ball in play consistently. You put the ball in play, there’s a chance for something to happen. I think he proves that. Every at-bat he goes up there, he’s going to make the defense make a play. He’s not going to put himself out most of the time. Most of the time you’re going to have to catch it and throw it to get him out. Or he’s going to hit a ball in the gap or hit it on the other side of the wall. So he’s dangerous because you never know what he’s going to do when he comes to the plate.” Angels manager Joe Maddon questions defensive metrics that rate Mike Trout poorly Angels’ Mike Trout working on his defense, thanks to Twitter Angels fail to take series in Oakland, lose in 10 innings
The Government is committed to reversing negative perceptions of Jamaica as a business-friendly destination, by making a real and lasting impact on the national business environment.Prime Minister, the Most. Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, made this declaration while addressing the official opening of the ATL Automotive Volkswagen Modular Showroom and Audi Terminal, on Oxford Road, St. Andrew on Friday, April 19.She disclosed that work to achieve the improvements is being done through the National Competitiveness Council, chaired by Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, with active participation from the Private Sector.“Minister Hylton and his team are charged with plotting an upward path to advance Jamaica’s position in the rankings, by taking the required actions, in partnership with the wider public and the private sectors, to address the complex issues affecting national productivity and global competitiveness,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.She also called for a new culture of customer service at all levels in the public and private sector, premised on quality, speedy response and innovative practices, which empowers workers to exercise greater discretion and appropriate attitudes in delivering excellence every time.She noted that Government has tried many initiatives in the past to encourage greater levels of customer service and so it is time to consider a classic Public Private Partnership (PPP).The Prime Minister congratulated the ATL team, inclusive of Chairman, Hon. Gordon Butch Stewart, and son and Chief Executive Officer, ATL Automotive, Adam Stewart, for their level of service in delivering high customer satisfaction over the years. “I regard the ATL brand as a high quality Jamaican brand and an important local benchmark against which we can define and implement a new service culture in Jamaica. This is an urgent need when we consider that in excess of 70 per cent of the Jamaican economy comprises service industries like the dynamic automotive sector,”Mrs. Simpson Miller said.She challenged the ATL team, to consider how it could partner with Government “to find solutions to this thorny problem (of poor customer service), which if you think about it, is at the heart of our less than desirable position in the Global Competitiveness Rankings.”For his part, Adam Stewart, noted that the company, began 45 years old ago with a vision to give customers more than they expect.“We would never stand here and say that we get it right every time, but we certainly stand here and say that every time there is an issue, we take that phone call and make it right,” he said, in explaining the company’s philosophy of good customer service.He disclosed that the new-car sector is important to Jamaica, noting that in addition to the import duties that are being paid, the sector also employs and trains many Jamaicans in a specialised field.The new facility, which employs 120 persons on site, was constructed at a cost of US$13.5 million, representing the largest investment by any automotive company in Jamaica’s history.By Andrea Braham, JIS Reporter
He said the meetings are also being used to clarify any negative perceptions people may have about the IMF.Mr. Duncan noted that the economic programme’s outcomes over the next three years would determine the extent to which Jamaica engages with the IMF following the SBA’s expiration.“Will we just need the IMF for technical assistance, or will we need another Stand-By Agreement? We have to bridge the gap and find ways (to ensure that the) Jamaican people understand and have a real sense of why we are where we are (and) how do we emerge from this, and you have to really have an open conversation with them,” he pointed out.Mr. Duncan urged the media to support the public education campaign.“This is a series that we are going to continue. We want to really ensure that we get out into the communities, talk to the people and hear what they have to say. Hopefully, it stimulates further conversations,” he said. The Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) is reporting positive response to its ‘Pon di Corner’ community sensitisation meetings.The sessions, which got under way more than two weeks ago, seek to raise awareness about Jamaica’s economic programme, which is underpinned by the three-year International Monetary Fund (IMF) Stand-By Agreement (SBA).The precautionary SBA is an insurance against unforeseen economic shocks that are beyond the country’s control.EPOC Co-Chair, Keith Duncan, said the objective is “to ensure that we talk to the people, hear what they have to say and raise their awareness”.“We have to be able to share with the Jamaican people… where the plan (will) take us in three years’ time, and where we want to be at the end of it in 2019/20. We want to have a debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio of approximately 94 per cent; we want to have non-borrowed reserves of $2.8 billion and we want to have (ample) fiscal space so that we can spend money where we need to, so we can raise the quality of life of our people,” he outlined.Two meetings have been held, to date, in Maryland, east rural St. Andrew, and Swallowfield, Kingston, and Mr. Duncan noted that the sessions generated “very interesting conversations and excellent reasoning”.The EPOC Co-chair, who was addressing the group’s quarterly media briefing at the Jamaica Money Market Brokers’ (JMMB) corporate office in New Kingston recently, said the residents welcomed the opportunity to be included in the discourse, in order to understand and “own” the programme.