By Ron Kaplan, contributor

The first weekend of the season saw an interesting mix of drama. Mostly ups, thank goodness, but a couple of downs.

Let’s get the downs out of the way…

The Cincinnati Reds demoted pitcher Zack Weiss before he had a chance to make his Major League debut, sending him to the Louisville Bats on March 31.

One of the big early stories is the difficulties Gabe Kapler seems to be having in is first big-league managing gig. Almost downright bizarre in his decision-making. For example, on Thursday, he pulled starter Aaron Nola after just 68 pitches with a 5-0 lead. The Phillies ended up losing that one as the Atlanta Braves came back to score six runs in the last two innings, including a three-run walk-off homer by Nick Markakis. The Phils won the next day, 5-4 in 11 innings but were crushed on Saturday, 15-2. This time, Kapler gaffed when he called in a pitcher from the bullpen who wasn’t warmed up. According to the USA Today story, “Kapler was coming out to pull starter Vince Velasquez, who had allowed seven runs — four earned — in 2⅔ innings. After calling for reliever Hoby Milner, Kapler was made aware the left-hander wasn’t ready to enter the game. Kapler then stalled to give Milner more time to get loose.” Inexplicably, the team was not scheduled for a game on Sunday. A typical headline represents the sentiment: “Gabe Kapler’s bullpen usage with Phillies is becoming a soap opera.” I know the Philadelphia sports fan is tough, but guys, come on, give the man a chance. (It bears repeating, so I can add another link: give Kapler a chance.)

The Los Angeles Angels placed Ian Kinsler on the disabled list with that sore groin.

Now, on to the good.

Ryan Braun drove in five runs on Friday, including a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning to give the Milwaukee Brewers an 8-6 win. The blast — #303 for his career — is his only hit of the young season. Braun did not play in the finale (the Brewers, 3-0, also didn’t play on Sunday. Who makes up these schedules?)

After Kevin Pillar homered against the NY Yankees on Thursday, accounting for the only run in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 6-1 loss, he almost literally stole the show on Saturday. In the eighth inning, he singled, then proceeded to steal second, third, and home. Must tie a record or something. In the Jays’ first four games, Pillar is 6-for-14 with the homer, a double, four runs scored, and those three steals.

And the in-between…

The St. Louis Cardinals (1-2) brought up reliever Ryan Sherriff for Saturday’s game against the host NY Mets. Sherriff looked a bit shaky, walking one and giving up a hit in 1/3 of an inning. He was charged with a run so his early ERA is 27.00.

Richard Bleier pitched 1.1 hitless innings on Sunday as the Baltimore Orioles (1-2) were shut out by the visiting Minnesota Twins, 7-0. Danny Valencia doubled as a pinch-hitter in Saturday’s 6-2 loss for his first hit of 2018.

Alex Bregman was 1-for-5 on Sunday as the Houston Astros (3-1) beat the host Texas Rangers, 8-2. It was just his second hit of the year in 16 at-bats.

Joc Pederson popped out to the catcher as a pinch-hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday in the ninth inning, the second straight game he brought to a close. He did not appear in the final two games of the series. He got his first start Sunday night, playing left field, batting seventh, going 0-for-4 with an RBI, but not striking out, so moral victory.

Ron Kaplan (@RonKaplanNJ) hosts Kaplan’s Korner, a blog about Jews and sports. He is the author of three books, including The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games and Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War.

# # #

Get your Jewish Baseball News updates via e-mail