What we're watching: Hudson returns against Marlins

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– Fresh off a sweep of the Rockies to move into a tie for the wild card lead, the Giants will begin a three-game series in Philadelphia tonight. The opener will feature dueling left-handers in Jonathan Sanchez and Cole Hamels. Sanchez, who pitched poorly enough in the first half to be bounced from the rotation for a time, has gone 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA since his return to starting games. That stretch includes a no-hitter against the Padres and a win over the Phillies. Hamels is winless in his last five starts, though he did shut out the Pirates for eight innings last time out. He’s 7-8 with a 4.52 ERA.
– The assignment facing Minnesota’s Jeff Manship in his first major league start would seem to have just gotten a whole lot easier. Now he’ll face a demoralized White Sox team that just saw Jim Thome and his 897 OPS against right-handers given away last night. Manship, a Notre Dame product with a decent fastball and a plus curve, is getting a shot in the rotation after allowing four runs over seven innings in five relief appearances. It’s left-handed power hitters that figure to provide him with the most problems, and the White Sox no longer have any of them.
Game of the Night
Atlanta vs. Florida – One day later than originally expected, Tim Hudson will make his return from Tommy John surgery tonight against the Marlins. The 34-year-old went 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his four Triple-A starts, though it’s worth noting that International League hitters did bat .320 against him. The Marlins will counter with a rehabbing right-hander of their own in Anibal Sanchez. It will be his third start since returning from his latest round of shoulder woes. He beat the Braves by allowing one run and two hits over six innings in his return from the DL on Aug. 21, but he struggled last week against the Mets, giving up four runs — two earned — and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Twins’ top prospect Nick Burdi will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.

Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.

It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”

Brock Holt has been shut down from game activity

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Things have gone from bad to worse for Red Sox’ outfielder Brock Holt, who was shut down “for the foreseeable future” on Friday after meeting with head trauma specialist Michael Collins. The Red Sox placed Holt on the 10-day disabled list in April after he began experiencing vertigo, the latest in a series of head injuries he’s sustained since last spring.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato, the outfielder was initially advised to attempt playing through his symptoms, but it quickly became apparent that the strategy wasn’t going to work. Now, the plan is to shut him down from any game activity in the hopes that he’ll be able to recover from all lingering symptoms before returning to the roster. Club manager John Farrell told reporters that the 28-year-old is still cleared to take batting practice and work on his defense, but won’t continue his rehab starts in Triple-A Pawtucket for the time being.

Holt had been making regular appearances for the Pawtucket Red Sox and was batting .209/.292/.372 with two home runs through 14 games this spring. This season marks his fifth run within the Red Sox’ organization. He experienced a bit of a slump at the plate in 2016 and slashed .255/.322/.383 after breaking out during his first All-Star year in 2015.

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe suggests that the team’s concern for Holt extends past his setbacks at the plate. It’s still a long road to a full recovery, and while Farrell told reporters he believes the outfielder is on track to make a return sometime in 2017, he’ll need to make sure that Holt is both physically and mentally prepared to do so.