Daily Dose: The other LaRoche

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Many people were quick to write off Andy LaRoche when he got off to a
bad start in the majors, batting just .184/.288/.272 in 111 games
between the Dodgers and Pirates. However, as awful as those early
numbers were LaRoche’s track record in the minors predicted long-term
success and sure enough he finally appears to have gotten on track at
the age of 25.

Pittsburgh showed patience when LaRoche started the season 2-for-22
and he’s responded by going 47-for-139 (.338) with 16 extra-base hits
in 40 games since, giving him a nice .304/.374/.435 mark overall.
LaRoche may never develop more than 20-homer pop, but he’s hitting for
a nice batting average, getting on base at a good clip, and playing
solid defense just like his minor-league stats predicted.

While the Pirates are rewarded for their patience with LaRoche, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Beginning the year with Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson in the
rotation hasn’t worked out especially well for Oakland, as the
21-year-olds have combined to go just 4-10 with a 4.93 ERA in 20
starts. Despite that manager Bob Geren revealed that the A’s will call
up 22-year-old Vince Mazzaro to make his big-league debut Tuesday
against the White Sox.

Much like Cahill and Anderson, Mazzaro is a good prospect who likely
isn’t ready to thrive in the majors yet. Taken out of high school in
the third round of the 2005 draft, Mazzaro posted ERAs of 5.05 and 5.33
at Single-A before going 12-3 with a 1.90 ERA in 22 starts at Double-A
last season. However, at 22 years old with a 3.80 ERA and 71/26 K/BB
ratio in 90 innings at Triple-A rushing him seems silly.

* An MRI exam on Grady Sizemore’s inflamed left elbow revealed no
structural damage, but Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff said Monday that
he may still be facing surgery. Sizemore is expected to spend two weeks
resting the elbow and getting treatment, but if he doesn’t show
significant improvement during that time he’s a candidate for
arthroscopic surgery that would sideline him for another 4-6 weeks.

* Edinson Volquez’s return from the disabled list lasted all of one
inning Monday, as he experienced numbness in several fingers on his
pitching hand and exited after getting swinging strikeouts on Rick
Ankiel and Jason LaRue. Volquez is set to be examined further Tuesday
and had been on the DL for two weeks because of back spasms.

* Rich Hill struggled in his start last week, but bounced back
Monday with seven shutout innings against the Mariners. Hill was one of
my favorite sleeper targets this year because he still possessed
big-time strikeout ability if the control issues that plagued him last
season could be cured. Spring elbow problems delayed his Orioles debut,
but he now has a 4.15 ERA and 22/12 K/BB ratio in 21.2 innings.

AL Quick Hits: Joba Chamberlain likely quieted some critics
Monday by throwing eight innings of two-run ball … White Sox general
manager Kenny Williams said Monday that he never talked to the Astros
about Roy Oswalt … Coco Crisp will be away from the Royals for at least
the next few days following the death of his great grandmother … Jeremy
Bonderman (shoulder) threw eight shutout innings in a rehab start
Sunday at Triple-A … Victor Martinez started at designated hitter
Monday despite fouling a ball off his knee Sunday … Xavier Nady
experienced elbow pain while playing catch Monday, but will try to
throw again Tuesday as he attempts to avoid Tommy John surgery … Jarrod
Washburn lost his duel with Hill despite slicing his ERA to 3.22 with
seven innings of one-run ball … John Smoltz (shoulder) allowed one run
over five innings in a rehab start Sunday at Single-A.

NL Quick Hits: Carlos Beltran was once again scratched from the
lineup Monday with a stomach virus … Jose Valverde (calf) tossed a
25-pitch bullpen session Monday and is scheduled to do so again
Wednesday … Kyle Lohse (forearm) reported no problems following a
bullpen session Sunday and is on track to start Wednesday … Aramis
Ramirez (shoulder) said Monday that he’s still hoping to rejoin the
Cubs after the All-Star break … Anibal Sanchez (shoulder) is slated to
come off the disabled list to start Tuesday … Mike Cameron is
day-to-day after leaving Monday’s game with a knee injury … Ricky
Nolasco pitched well Monday in his second start at Triple-A, allowing
one run in seven innings … According to Jerry Manuel, Jose Reyes (calf)
could come off the DL as soon as Friday … Troy Glaus (shoulder) has
been cleared to resume throwing … Hiroki Kuroda came off the shelf
Monday with five solid innings against Arizona, allowing two runs.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.