Daily Dose: Halladay and Downs go down

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Already wrecked by injuries, the Blue Jays’ pitching staff will likely
add two more big names to the disabled list. Roy Halladay experienced a
setback with his groin injury during a bullpen session Wednesday and is
headed for the shelf, but noted that he “absolutely” expects to rejoin
the rotation when eligible on June 28. Brett Cecil seems like the best
candidate to fill-in after holding his own in his debut.

Halladay could pitch again this month, but Toronto will probably be
without Scott Downs for quite a bit longer after he sprained a toe
while hitting Tuesday. Downs has done a great job since taking over
closer duties from B.J. Ryan, saving eight games with a 1.98 ERA and
28/4 K/BB ratio, but Ryan may get a second chance after eight straight
scoreless appearances. Jason Frasor is the other option.

While the Blue Jays try to stay above .500 with approximately 50
pitchers on the DL, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Pedro Martinez has reportedly been working out five days per week
recently in the Dominican Republic and said Wednesday that he’s close
to signing with an undisclosed team. “There’s a good chance I’ll be
signing soon, but there still isn’t anything firm,” Martinez said. He
listed the Cubs and Rays as the two teams that “have shown the most
interest” before adding that “we’re negotiating with them.”

* It took 14 games and 50 plate appearances, but Matt Wieters hit
his first career homer Wednesday against Tim Redding. Wieters is
batting .240/.283/.380 with a 12/3 K/BB ratio and four extra-base hits
overall, which clearly isn’t the production that owners had in mind
when he was called up amid crazy hype last month, but he’s 10-for-35
(.286) over the past 10 games and will get on track soon enough.

* Erik Bedard was placed on the disabled list Wednesday and will
have his sore shoulder examined by Dr. James Andrews next week, which
could ruin whatever plans the Mariners had of cashing in the impending
free agent before the July 31 trading deadline. Bedard is 5-2 with a
2.47 ERA and 65/22 K/BB ratio through 66 innings, so if healthy he
would have been very attractive to contending teams.

* John Smoltz made his final minor-league rehab start Wednesday,
giving up one run in four innings at Triple-A. He threw just 60 pitches
in preparation for his Red Sox debut next week, striking out three,
walking one, and allowing three hits. His first matchup will be next
Thursday against the Nationals, but mixed leaguers will likely want to
take a wait-and-see approach initially.

AL Quick Hits: Brad Penny picked up his 100th career win by
allowing one run in five innings Wednesday … Scott Kazmir (quadriceps)
tossed 4.2 shutout innings in his first rehab start Wednesday at
Single-A … Torii Hunter (ribs) came off the bench Wednesday, going
1-for-2 while playing center field … Derek Jeter (ankle) sat out
Wednesday’s game, but an MRI exam revealed no big damage … Dustin
Pedroia was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two steals Wednesday … Carl
Pavano’s next start has been pushed back four days due to a sore
shoulder … Pat Burrell played the outfield Wednesday for the first time
with the Rays … Scott Richmond had a career-high 11 strikeouts over
eight innings of one-run ball Wednesday for his first win since May 3 …
Chien-Ming Wang fell to 0-5 with a 12.65 ERA, giving up three runs over
five innings Wednesday as Phil Hughes relieved him with two shutout
frames … Zack Greinke allowed six runs Wednesday for his worst start.

NL Quick Hits: Micah Owings tossed six innings of two-run ball
Wednesday and smacked a three-run homer in a 4-3 win … Gary Sheffield
homered Wednesday for the third time in five games, quieting concerns
about his knee injury … Pablo Sandoval started at third base Wednesday
for the first time this month and went 0-for-3 … Ryan Braun left
Wednesday’s game with lower back tightness … Jerry Manuel said
Wednesday that Jose Reyes (calf) is at least a week from beginning a
rehab stint … Tim Lincecum allowed four runs in eight innings Wednesday
for his first loss since April 12 … Alfonso Soriano continued to
struggle Wednesday by going 0-for-4 with his sixth error … John Lannan
held the Yankees to a pair of runs in 8.1 innings Wednesday before Mike
MacDougal got the final two outs for a save … Joey Votto took batting
practice Wednesday and is close to beginning a rehab assignment …
Jonathan Broxton (toe) was unavailable Wednesday.

Yankees in, Red Sox out on Edwin Encarnacion

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler AustinGreg Bird combo in 2017.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.

Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.