Daily Dose: Bossman Junior back on track

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B.J. Upton spent the first week of the season on the disabled list
following winter shoulder surgery and hit just .204 with two homers, 60
strikeouts, and a measly .587 OPS in 45 games through the end of May.
Everything changed for him once the calendar flipped to June and
Upton’s hot stretch continued Sunday as he tied career-highs with four
hits and four RBIs in a win over the Mets.

Upton is now hitting .330 with three homers, six doubles, 13 runs,
and 15 RBIs in 18 games this month while going 11-for-13 swiping bases.
He’s also struck out in 22 percent of his plate appearances after
whiffing 28 percent of the time through two months and as usual Upton
has drawn walks in bunches. He’s still sporting a sub-.700 OPS, but the
time to buy low is clearly disappearing in a hurry.

While the Rays score double-digit runs for the 11th time in 71 games
to increase their MLB-best total to 401, here are some other notes from
around baseball …

* CC Sabathia was yanked from Sunday’s start against the Marlins in
the second inning with left biceps tendinitis. Sabathia wanted to
remain in the game and said afterward that he plans to make his
scheduled start Friday against the Mets, but manager Joe Girardi
expressed less optimism about his status. For now at least no MRI exam
is planned and he’s slated for a bullpen session Wednesday.

Sabathia has just 70 strikeouts in 102 innings after racking up 251
in 253 innings last season, but his fastball velocity is actually up
slightly compared to 2008 and prior to Sunday’s abbreviated start he
was 5-1 with a 2.92 ERA and 45/15 K/BB in his previous eight outings.
Phil Hughes would likely get the nod to replace him if needed, but
Sabathia will no doubt try to pitch through the injury if possible.

* Barry Zito had a season-high with eight strikeouts Sunday against
the Rangers, missing that many bats for just the fifth time in 79
starts with the Giants. Zito had 205 strikeouts during his first full
season in 2001 and averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings through the
age of 24, but has failed to reach 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings in
any of seven seasons since then.

However, after eight strikeouts in seven innings Sunday his
strikeout rate is up to 6.8/9 for his highest mark since 2004. Zito’s
average fastball was under 85 miles per hour in 2007 and 2008, but his
velocity has improved to a 86.5 mph this year and he’s again having
tons of success with his amazing curveball. Since two bad outings to
begin the season Zito has a 3.85 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 74 innings.

AL Quick Hits: Justin Morneau’s league-high streak of 319
straight games ended Sunday because of “general soreness” … David Ortiz
homered Sunday for the fifth time this month after going deep just once
through 46 games … Mike Lowell missed his second straight game Sunday
because of soreness in his surgically repaired hip … Kevin Millwood had
a season-high 10 strikeouts Sunday, but took a loss while allowing
three runs … Gil Meche came into Sunday with 16 straight scoreless
innings and a 3.31 ERA, but was rocked for nine runs … Mark Buehrle
tossed seven shutout innings Sunday, improving to 7-2 … Denard Span
(ear) is expected to come off the disabled list when eligible Thursday
… Evan Longoria broke out his June slump by going 4-for-5 with a pair
of doubles Sunday … Ricky Romero hurled his fourth straight Quality
Start on Sunday … Dallas Braden cut his ERA to 3.26 with seven innings
of two-run ball Sunday.

NL Quick Hits: Albert Pujols homered twice and drove in six runs
Sunday, giving him an MLB-leading 26 long balls and 68 RBIs … Ryan
Howard homered as a pinch-hitter Saturday, but returned to the hospital
Sunday and saw his MLB-high streak of 343 straight games snapped
because of the flu … Cole Hamels struck out 10 and allowed just two
runs in eight innings Sunday, but took a loss … After giving up 25 runs
in his previous five outings, Wandy Rodriguez allowed one run on two
hits over seven innings Sunday … General manager Dan O’Dowd denied
Saturday that Brad Hawpe is being shopped … Geovany Soto homered Sunday
for the fourth time in June after going deep just once through 40 games
… Khalil Greene homered Sunday for the third straight game, but left
with a bruised leg after being hit by a pitch … Troy Tulowitzki notched
his first three-hit game of the season Sunday and also added a walk.

Marlins have begun extension talks with Dee Gordon

Dee Gordon
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote three weeks ago that the Marlins were probably going to explore an extension this winter with second baseman Dee Gordon. And it sounds like those talks are underway.

Via beat writer Joe Frisaro of MLB.com:

As a guest on MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” show Wednesday morning, Gordon confirmed his camp has been in talks with the Marlins regarding a multiyear deal. A source told MLB.com that the discussions are preliminary and have just recently started.

“My agent is doing the talking,” Gordon said on the show. “They’re just keeping me in the loop. I think it’s going pretty well right now. We’ll see how that goes. I’m just playing the waiting game. We’re going to do the right thing.”

The 27-year-old carries three more seasons of salary arbitration, so there’s no real rush to get something done before next spring. Gordon carries quite a bit of leverage after posting a career-best .333/.359/.418 slash line in 145 games this past season for the Fish. He led all major leaguers in hits (205) and stolen bases (58).

Braves sign Bud Norris to one-year contract

Bud Norris

Bud Norris has found a home for his attempt at a bounceback season, signing a one-year deal with the Braves. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says it’s worth $2.5 million, which is a huge cut from his $8.8 million salary this year.

Norris had established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter from 2009-2014, but had a brutal 2015 season split between the Orioles and Padres with a 6.72 ERA in 83 innings and a late-season move to the bullpen.

In announcing the signing the Braves referred to Norris as a starting pitcher, so joining the rotation for a rebuilding team gives him a chance to get his career back on track with an eye on hitting the open market as a free agent again next offseason. And if he fares well, the Braves could use him to add a prospect or two at the trade deadline.

The Cubs acquire Rex Brothers from the Rockies

Rex Brothers Rockies

The number of people who, if you held a gun to their head, would say that “Rex Brothers” was a game show host and/or local TV news personality from the late 1970s or early 80s is not insignificant. But if you’re a Rockies fan or if spend all day thinking about baseball you know that he’s a reliever who has played in Colorado for the past five years. Now you know him as a reliever for the Cubs:

Brothers — a former Best Shape of His Life All-Star — was pretty good until he hit a brick wall in 2014 and spent most of 2015 in Triple-A. He had something of a bounceback after being called up when rosters expanded in September, but that’s not the sort of thing to excite anyone. He could be useful for the Cubs or just spring training cannon fodder and organizational depth.

Cabrera just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and pitched a grand total of 14 games in the Dominican Summer League. He’s young and was a $250,000 signee from the Dominican as a 16-year-old so, by definition, he’s a project. Worth giving up Rex Brothers for him if you’re the Rockies, worth risking for some depth in the pen if you’re the Cubs.

Diamondbacks hire Dave Magadan as hitting coach

Dave Magadan Rangers
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Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks’ new hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with the Rangers last month after three years filling the same role in Texas.

Magadan also previously was the Red Sox’s hitting coach and his teams have generally done pretty well, including the Rangers scoring the third-most runs in the league this year.

He’ll have plenty of talent to work with in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the league led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta. Turner Ward, who had been Arizona’s hitting coach, chose to leave the team two weeks ago.