Daily Dose: Oblique strain sidelines Upton

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Justin Upton was putting together one of the greatest seasons in baseball history for a 21-year-old, batting .301/.374/.541 with 20 homers, 48 total extra-base hits, 66 RBIs, 68 runs, 16 steals, and 45 walks through 103 games before suffering a strained oblique Wednesday. He was placed on the disabled list Thursday and a similar injury cost Upton a month last year, so he may be out until September.
Despite being benched on Opening Day by a manager who was fired, Upton has emerged as one of the game’s brightest young stars by posting a .915 OPS that ranks 11th all time among 21-years-olds behind Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Albert Pujols, Mel Ott, Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Mathews, Cesar Cedeno, Joe Jackson, and Hal Trosky. His injury is a speed bump on a Hall of Fame path.
While the Diamondbacks’ hugely disappointing season takes another painful turn here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Jason Bay and J.D. Drew are both banged up and Rocco Baldelli landed on the disabled list Thursday after fouling a ball off his foot, so Boston recalled prospect Josh Reddick and shifted Kevin Youkilis to left field. Youkilis has 17 career starts in the outfield and the move allowed the Red Sox to keep Mike Lowell and Victor Martinez in the lineup while giving Casey Kotchman his first start with the team.
Kotchman responded by homering against the Yankees after going deep just six times in 336 plate appearances with the Braves. Bay may end missing the entire New York series with a strained hamstring, but Drew was able to reach base four times while playing through a groin injury. Reddick won’t have any fantasy value, but Kotchman could have some brief AL-only upside if he gets hot right away.
* After watching J.A. Happ’s brilliant 10-strikeout complete-game shutout against the Rockies, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made it clear Thursday that he’s in no danger of giving his spot in the Phillies’ rotation to Pedro Martinez. Amaro said that Happ “isn’t going anywhere” and “deserves to stay in the rotation” after going 6-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 14 starts, adding that a six-man rotation is possible.
* John Smoltz struggled again Thursday, failing to make it out of the fourth inning versus the Yankees while allowing eight runs on nine hits and four walks. Smoltz is now 2-5 with an ugly 8.32 ERA in eight starts for the Red Sox and while a 33/9 K/BB ratio in 40 innings suggests that he’s still somewhat effective eight homers and a .343 opponents’ batting average show that he’s hardly fooling anyone yet.
AL Quick Hits: Frank Francisco pitched a scoreless eighth inning Thursday to set up C.J. Wilson for the save … Thanks to nice run support Joba Chamberlain won Thursday despite allowing two homers and a career-high seven walks … Tommy Hunter kept defying the odds Thursday with seven innings of three-run ball while improving to 4-2 with a 2.64 ERA … John Danks gave up seven runs Thursday and has struggled in three straight starts since missing a turn in the rotation with a finger injury … Jed Lowrie left Thursday’s game after straining his forearm on a swing … Adrian Beltre singled in all four at-bats Thursday in his third game back from shoulder surgery … Bruce Chen won Thursday for the first time since 2005, snapping a streak of 13 straight losses … Juan Cruz (shoulder) went on the shelf Thursday after allowing 29 runs in his last 28 innings … Hank Blalock homered Thursday, but is hitting .198 with 24 strikeouts and zero walks since the break.
NL Quick Hits: Guillermo Mota, Joe Torre, and Prince Fielder all avoided being suspended for Tuesday’s bean-ball incident … After going deep in three straight games, Jimmy Rollins missed the cycle by a homer Thursday … Cliff Lee struck out nine over seven innings of one-run ball Thursday, making him 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA for the Phillies … Ryan Zimmerman was 4-for-4 with a homer Thursday and is now just one long ball shy of matching his career-high of 24 from 2007 … Alex Romero went 4-for-7 with a steal and hit a tie-breaking double in the 12th inning Thursday … Chris Coglan turned in his fifth straight multi-hit game Thursday and also swiped his sixth base … As expected, Bobby Parnell will replace Jon Niese (hamstring) in the rotation … Clint Barmes went hitless for a sixth straight game Thursday, making him 8-for-74 (.108) since the All-Star break … Despite winning 63 games last year and being 44-65 this season manager Bud Black’s contract was extended Thursday by the Padres.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.