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Original Issue

April Flowers

Like most firstbasemen, the Tigers' Chris Shelton (above) likes to make small talk withopposing runners. But this year's chats have gotten a little touchy-feely.Because the 25-year-old hit nine home runs and batted .371 in his first 19games, base runners have taken to rubbing him for good luck. "[They] say,'Hey, let me get some of that,'" Shelton said. "I don't know what'sgoing on." Perhaps Shelton's hot streak will last. But there's a longhistory of fast starters who found the cruelest months came after April.

OsvaldoFernandez, Reds, 2001
Six years after defecting from Cuba, the righthander won four April starts,tying him with Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine and Wade Miller for the NL lead.They all went on to win at least 16 games--except Fernandez (left), whofinished 5--6. "He was throwing in the 90s early on," manager Bob Boonesaid in June. "[But now] his ball is lazy. Instead of sinking, it kind offades." So did Fernandez: He was sent to the minors in August of that yearand never pitched in the majors again.

Kelly Stinnett,Diamondbacks, 2000
Handed an every-day job when starter Damian Miller got hurt, the veteran backupcatcher hit seven homers--half of his career high--in April. "I considermyself a streaky hitter," he said. Alas, Stinnett was right. He went coldin May and finished the season with eight long balls.

Tuffy Rhodes,Cubs, 1994
After becoming the first player to go deep in his first three trips to theplate on Opening Day, Rhodes (right) had six home runs in 80 April at bats. Buthis heroics turned out to be a curse. Convinced that he was a power hitter, heabandoned the compact swing that got him to the big leagues--and hit only twohomers the rest of the way. "He got away from it when he hit those threehome runs on Opening Day," said hitting coach Billy Williams.

Carlos Delgado,Blue Jays, 1994
Delgado arrived in the bigs with a bang, hitting eight home runs that April andtwice nearly breaking windows on the restaurants overlooking the field atToronto's SkyDome. "I know I'm not going to hit 150 home runs," Delgado(left) said. The rookie was wise beyond his years: He slumped badly and wassent back to the minors in June with a total of nine homers.

Greg Pirkl,Mariners, 1994
The rookie hit five home runs in 34 April at bats--or one every 6.8 trips tothe plate, double Barry Bonds's career rate. "If he continues to swing thebat the way he has," said manager Lou Piniella of Pirkl's ability to stickin the big leagues, "I don't see him going anywhere." Lou had to adjusthis vision. Pirkl was sent back to the minors with six homers in mid-May; twoyears later he disappeared from the majors with a career total of eight.