Wagner, mid-90s fastball return intact

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Billy Wagner made his triumphant return from Tommy John elbow surgery last night, coming on in relief of Johan Santana in the eighth inning and retiring all three batters he faced. Wagner got swinging strikeouts on Brian McCann and Reid Gorecki, induced a fly out from Chipper Jones, and showed that his surgically repaired left arm can still bring the heat.
Here are the MLB.com velocity readings for his 14 pitches:
94-mph fastball
95-mph fastball
86-mph changeup
84-mph slider
83-mph slider
95-mph fastball
84-mph slider
87-mph changeup
94-mph fastball
94-mph fastball
95-mph fastball
95-mph fastball
95-mph fastball
84-mph slider
At his peak Wagner averaged 97-98 miles per hour with his fastball, but he was at 94-95 mph during the two seasons preceding the surgery and had a 2.50 ERA with 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Last night he threw eight fastballs and they were all either 94 or 95 mph. He averaged 84 mph on four sliders, which is also right in line with his 2007-2008 velocity.
Obviously only time will tell if Wagner can maintain his velocity and bounce back quickly from appearances, but for one night at least the 38-year-old looked every bit like the dominant force he was before going under the knife. Perhaps it shouldn’t be shocking that the greatest left-handed reliever of all time can come back months ahead of schedule from career-threatening elbow surgery and resume pumping 95-mph heat, but it was still pretty damn impressive to watch.

Cubs place Ben Zobrist on 10-day disabled list with back soreness

Ben Zobrist
AP Images
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Cubs infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with back soreness. The move is retroactive to April 14. While it doesn’t appear to be the precursor to any serious injury, Zobrist has already missed six straight days of activity after feeling his back tighten up last weekend. Should he see the minimum time on the DL, as expected, he’ll be eligible to return by the start of the Cubs’ series against the Indians on Tuesday.

Prior to his injury, the 36-year-old outfielder raked an impressive .326/.408/.465 with three extra-base hits in 49 plate appearances. He last appeared for the Cubs during their homestand last weekend and helped propel the team to a 14-10 win over the Braves with three hits, two walks and two RBI. Provided that he can remain healthy going forward, it’s a promising start for the veteran outfielder, who has yet to return to the All-Star-worthy numbers he posted with the club in 2016.

With Zobrist sidelined for the time being, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shared the leadoff spot and center field duties over the last week. Happ went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two games before passing the baton to Almora, who collected five hits and two RBI in 11 at-bats.