Link-O-Rama: Strasburg to debut in AFL

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* Now that they have Stephen Strasburg signed, the Nationals plan to have the No. 1 overall pick make a few instructional league starts before pitching in the Arizona Fall League. According to general manager Mike Rizzo, the goal is to have him throw “35-50 innings total” after not pitching since San Diego State’s season ended in late May. Strasburg will wear No. 37, just like he did in college.
* Alfonso Soriano has been dealing with knee pain since running into the outfield wall at Wrigley Field on April 22, hitting just .231/.288/.395 in 99 games since then while going 11-for-70 (.157) with 18 strikeouts this month. He’s been out of the lineup for the past three games and is set to undergo an MRI exam this afternoon. “I hope it’s nothing serious,” Soriano said. “I want to see the doctor and see. I don’t like surgery.”
* Also in the Cubs’ outfield, Milton Bradley talked yesterday about the “hatred you face on a daily basis” and how “it’s hard to be comfortable when you don’t get a hit and get booed every time.” Luckily for everyone involved, there are still two years and $21 million remaining on his contract.
* Random trivia: A.J. Pierzynski is batting .316 with 13 homers and 38 RBIs, putting him on pace to become just the third player in baseball history to hit above .300 with at least 15 homers and fewer than 50 RBIs in a season. The others? Bill Madlock (.309-15-44) in 1978 and Richie Zisk (.311-16-43) in 1981.
* Thanks to Joe Maddon and the Rays, hair-dye sales in the greater St. Petersburg area have gone through the roof.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.