Previewing Sunday Night Baseball: Dodgers at Cubs

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With the Dodgers and Cubs less than an hour away from first pitch, here are a few things to consider:

– Eric Milton (1-0. 3.00) makes his third start of the year for the
Dodgers. Milton won his first game in nearly three years his last time
out, limiting the Rockies to a single run over five innings. He didn’t
pitch at all last season because of Tommy John surgery. He was called
up from Triple-A Albuquerque on May 14.

– Sean Marshall (3-3, 3.70) toes the rubber for the Cubs. He pitched
five innings in a rain-shortened win over the the Pirates on Wednesday,
allowing one run while striking out six. He’s lowered his ERA from 4.15
to 3.70 over his last four starts. Left-handed batters are just
6-for-35 (.171) off the 26-year-old southpaw.

– Alfonso Soriano has a .133 batting average over his last 11 games
that has seen his batting average dip to .246, but he is 6-for-12 (no
homers) in his career vs. Milton.

– Juan Pierre is batting .394 since taking over left field for the
suspended Manny Ramirez on May 7. The Dodgers are 13-9 in that time.

– The Cubs have gone deep in eight straight games.

– Reed Johnson has three homers and six RBI in over his last six games after failing to homer in the season’s first 24 games.

– The Dodgers were shut out for the first time this season on Saturday. They have yet to lose three in a row this season.

– After winning the National League’s Rookie of the Year award in
2008, Geovany Soto has struggled this season with a .215/.338/.273
line. He has homered just once in 121 at-bats.

– Without the presence of Ramirez, Andre Ethier’s batting average
has dropped from .327 to .257. He was among the league leaders in RBI
when the month started, but he has just three RBI in his last 20 games.

– The injury-riddled Cubs have won four of their last five games to bring their record to 15-12 this month.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.