Daily Dose: Big Papi heating up

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David Ortiz has finally broken free of his season-long slump, taking CC
Sabathia deep Thursday for his third homer in five games. It’s
certainly not time to say that Big Papi is back to his usual self yet,
but he’s now 9-for-29 (.310) with three long balls already this month
after batting .185 with one homer in 178 at-bats through the end of
May.

Unfortunately for Ortiz and his fantasy owners this hot streak
figures to be put on hold over the weekend–and for nine of the next 15
games–because Boston will be playing under NL rules during interleague
games. He’ll no doubt see plenty of pinch-hitting opportunities and may
get a couple starts, but the Red Sox will just hope that he doesn’t
cool off before the AL schedule resumes on June 29.

While the Red Sox win eight straight games versus the Yankees for
the first time since 1912, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Kelvim Escobar looked fairly good in his return to the Angels’
rotation Saturday, but will give up plans of starting another game this
year after determining that his surgically repaired shoulder simply
isn’t ready for the workload. He’ll move to the bullpen, where he’s had
plenty of success in the past, and Angels relievers have combined for
an AL-worst 5.71 ERA. Matt Palmer will replace him in the rotation.

* David Price struggled to throw strikes again Thursday, failing to
make it out of the fifth inning while handing out six walks and needing
105 pitches to record 13 outs. Price has an impressive 26 strikeouts
and .188 opponents’ batting average in 19 innings, but 18 walks and
just 58 percent strikes. He showed good control prior to this season,
but walked 18 in 34.1 innings at Triple-A before the call-up.

* John Maine admitted Thursday that his shoulder “hurts a little
bit,” so New York placed him on the disabled list after initially just
pushing his next start back a day while saying that he was going
through a “dead arm” period. “Nothing serious,” Maine said. “My
shoulder is just fatigued. It’s dead. I think I pushed it a little too
much. Now it’s starting to lock up on me.” Fernando Nieve may fill-in
Saturday.

* Chien-Ming Wang will remain in the rotation for now, with manager
Joe Girardi saying Thursday that the struggling right-hander will make
one more start before the Yankees reevaluate his role. “At some point,
production is important,” Girardi said. “We told him that it’s a very
important start.” Wang will start Wednesday at home against the
Nationals, with his pregnant wife set to be induced Tuesday.

AL Quick Hits: Zack Greinke allowed three runs over 7.1 innings
in a no-decision Thursday, but two of them scored off the bullpen … Jim
Thome will be limited to pinch-hitting duties for the next nine games
of interleague play … Jason Bartlett (ankle) is expected to remain
sidelined until next week, but Pat Burrell (neck) will rejoin the
lineup Friday after missing a month … Ervin Santana allowed six runs
over 4.2 innings Thursday and now has a 7.47 ERA in six starts since
coming off the disabled list … Garrett Olson beat his old team
Thursday, holding the Orioles to two runs over five innings … Luke
Scott went deep again Thursday, giving him nine homers since coming off
the DL on May 27 … Gavin Floyd took a shutout into the eighth inning
Thursday, but got a no-decision when Bobby Jenks blew a save … Koji
Uehara returned from the DL by allowing four runs over five innings
Thursday … Orlando Hernandez will try a minor-league comeback with
Texas.

NL Quick Hits: St. Louis is reportedly interested in Miguel Tejada, which could be a good fit
… Max Scherzer shut out the Giants for 7.2 innings Thursday, tossing a
career-high 116 pitches … Willy Taveras went hitless Thursday and is
0-for-20 this month while battling through hamstring soreness … Huston
Street gave up a three-run homer Thursday while working on a fourth
straight day … Fighting the blogosphere
hasn’t slowed Raul Ibanez down, as he smacked a three-run homer
Thursday … Javier Jazquez had a dozen strikeouts over eight innings of
one-run ball Thursday, but got a no-decision … Mike MacDougal worked
three innings in the past two days, so Joe Beimel picked up a one-run
save Thursday … Carlos Delgado (hip) is reportedly still at least three
weeks from swinging a bat … Geoff Blum delivered his second
game-winning hit in 24 hours Thursday with a walk-off single in the
13th inning.

Josh Johnson retires from baseball

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Josh Johnson #55 of the San Diego Padres poses during Picture Day on February 21, 2014 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.

Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.

Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.

Report: Angels close to a multi-year deal with Luis Valbuena

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Luis Valbuena #18 of the Houston Astros hits a three run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.

Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.

Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.