What we're watching – June 29

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– Roy Halladay returns from the disabled list to face the Rays for the
first time this season. He’s won seven in a row since his only loss of
the year on April 21, but the Rays have often challenged him. He went
just 2-3 with a 4.11 ERA against Tampa Bay last year, leaving him 11-7
in his career against a team that’s typically resided in the cellar.
Jeff Niemann will oppose Halladay. The Rays have scored at least eight
runs in eight of his last nine starts.

– The AL West’s top two teams will face off for the second time this
season, with the Angels again playing in Texas. They were swept in
Arlington back in May, but they’re playing far better baseball now, as
they finished with a MLB-best 14-4 record during interleague play. Sean
O’Sullivan and Vicente Padilla are the scheduled starters.

– Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez actually entered this season 4-0 against
the Dodgers in his career, but he’s gone 0-3 with a 10.20 ERA against
the NL West leaders in 2009. In his other 12 starts this season, he’s
6-4 with a 2.66 ERA. Jimenez will face L.A. for a fourth time tonight
and a second time with the Dodgers minus Manny Ramirez. The Dodgers
will use Randy Wolf, who is 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA in June after pitching
extremely well during the first two months.

Game of the Night

San Francisco vs. St. Louis – Tim Lincecum will have to go through
Albert Pujols as he attempts to earn his ninth victory. The 25-year-old
has won all three of his previous starts against the Giants, allowing
five runs over 19 innings in the process. Pujols is 2-for-5 with a walk
and two strikeouts against him. The Cardinals will throw Brad Thompson,
who has gone 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA in five starts since joining the
rotation. A solid week would help his case for keeping the spot over
Todd Wellemeyer when Kyle Lohse returns.

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.