Daily Dose: Pedro Who?

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ja happ.jpgWith the Phillies facing a decision on who to bump from their rotation once Pedro Martinez is deemed ready, J.A. Happ submitted his case for remaining a starter with the best performance of his career Wednesday. He tossed a complete-game shutout against the Rockies, striking out a career-high 10 while allowing just four hits and two walks, and the 127-pitch effort makes him 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA.
Happ’s outing ranks among the top dozen starts in the NL this season and easily overshadowed the six innings of three-run ball that Martinez threw at Double-A in his third and perhaps final rehab appearance. Jamie Moyer is the obvious choice to be replaced by Martinez thanks to his 5.55 ERA, but the 46-year-old is signed for next season at $6.5 million and the Phillies don’t see him as a bullpen option.
That leaves poor Happ as the odd man out, because Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton obviously aren’t going anywhere. There’s no question that Happ is a better option than Moyer or Martinez down the stretch, but the Phillies may want to prep him for a postseason bullpen role and a six-game cushion in the division gives them a chance to do that without really risking their odds of getting there.
While the Phillies make a choice between experience and money or performance and youth, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Believe it or not the Mets suffered another big injury Wednesday, as Jon Niese exited his start in the second inning with what turned out to be a complete tear of his right hamstring. He was just starting to look like he was in the majors to stay, but the 22-year-old lefty will miss the remainder of the season. Nelson Figueroa tossed 4.1 shutout innings in relief of Niese and could take his rotation spot.
Bobby Parnell is another option, as Jerry Manuel admitted that he’s considered a move back to the starting role that he filled in the minors and seemingly took the first step toward stretching out his arm with a three-inning relief appearance. His upside as a starter is fairly limited, because Parnell had a 4.67 ERA and 188/104 K/BB ratio in 45 starts between Double-A and Triple-A before moving to the pen.
* Already on the disabled list with an injured shoulder, Erik Bedard is headed for an MRI exam after complaining of soreness following a bullpen session Tuesday. Bedard is eligible to come off the shelf on August 10 and if healthy could still be traded by the Mariners, but even a minor setback would rule that out and end the impending free agent’s time in Seattle after 30 starts and 11 wins in two years.
AL Quick Hits: Tim Wakefield (calf) felt strong enough to throw a bullpen session Wednesday, but there’s no timetable yet for his return … Bobby Jenks was again unavailable Wednesday because of kidney stones … Jason Berken will remain in the rotation despite going 0-9 since winning his MLB debut … Boston inked Paul Byrd to a minor-league deal Wednesday and he could be a September rotation option … Acquired from the Cardinals last week to finish the Mark DeRosa deal, Jess Todd could claim a late-inning role in the Indians’ bullpen … Cody Ransom began the season as Alex Rodriguez’s fill-in, but was designated for assignment Wednesday after batting .190 … Brandon McCarthy (shoulder) is slated to begin a rehab stint Saturday at Triple-A … Francisco Liriano took his AL-high 11th loss Wednesday, allowing four runs before the bullpen imploded … David Ortiz was benched Wednesday versus lefty David Price, with Mike Lowell starting at DH.
NL Quick Hits: Scott Rolen went deep in his return to the lineup Wednesday after getting beaned Sunday … Roy Oswalt (back) threw from flat ground Wednesday and will try a mound session Friday … Clint Barmes was hitless Wednesday and is now 8-for-66 (.121) since the All-Star break … After starting 54 straight games since being called up, dizziness kept Andrew McCutchen out Wednesday … B.J. Ryan will try to find another minor-league deal after being released Wednesday by the Cubs … Chris Young is expected to avoid surgery on his injured shoulder, but won’t pitch again this year … Wandy Rodriguez (hamstring) tossed a bullpen session Wednesday and noted afterward that he “felt great” … Chad Gaudin had his second straight poor outing Wednesday after looking like he was ready to be a fantasy asset … Micah Owings (shoulder) threw a simulated game Wednesday and could begin a rehab stint next week … Jimmy Rollins homered Wednesday for the third straight game.

The Mets are among six teams that help Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 19:  A detailed view of the blackboard with theoretical physics equations in chalk by Alberto Ramos, Theoretical Physics Fellow and visitor, Antonio Gonzalez-Arroyo from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (both not in frame) at The European Organization for Nuclear Research commonly know as CERN on April 19, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.

Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.

Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”

Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.

Video: Albert Pujols hits 569th career home run, tying Rafael Palmeiro

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 22:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 22, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.

Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.

Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.

Alex Gordon to miss three to four weeks with a fractured scaphoid bone

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 22:  Alex Gordon #4 and Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals collide going for a foul ball against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on May 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Royals 3-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.

Gordon suffered the injury colliding with third baseman Mike Moustakas attempting to catch a fly ball on Sunday afternoon. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports.

Gordon was having a tough 2016 campaign and the injury only makes it worse. He’s hitting .211/.319/.331 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 166 plate appearances on the year.

The Royals will likely use Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in left field in Gordon’s absence.

Orioles trade reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning on May 17, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.

Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.

Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.

Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.