Matt LaPorta out 4-6 months following hip surgery

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Things apparently aren’t going to be easy for Matt LaPorta in Cleveland.
Despite being one of the best hitting prospects in baseball and more or less MLB-ready at the age of 24, LaPorta began this season at Triple-A, played sparingly after being called up to Cleveland for the first time in May, and was sent back to the minors three weeks later when it became clear that manager Eric Wedge inexplicably had no use for him.
He remained in the minors until the Indians were completely out of contention, finally getting another shot in mid-August after batting his usual .299/.388/.530 with 42 extra-base hits in 93 games at Triple-A. The second time around Wedge at least gave him everyday playing time down the stretch and LaPorta batted .273 with six homers and 12 doubles in 139 at-bats.
Wedge was then fired as manager, making it all but certain that LaPorta would enter 2010 as a starter at either first base or an outfield corner. Except now he’s facing 4-6 months of recovery and rehabilitation after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery this morning and is no sure thing to be fully healthy by Opening Day, let alone the start of spring training.
If healthy there’s little doubt that LaPorta will be an impact hitter for the Indians, who acquired him from the Brewers as the centerpiece of the last year’s CC Sabathia trade. He’s hit .254/.308/.442 through 198 plate appearances in the majors after batting .291/.384/.557 in the minors, and the former first-round pick offers 30-homer power with strong plate discipline and a reasonable strikeout rate.
The good news is that he was probably destined to end up at first base long term anyway, so a slight decrease in speed or mobility following the surgery perhaps wouldn’t hurt him as much as some players. However, for a top prospect who’s been given something less than a clear path already and an Indians team in need of young players to step up in 2010, LaPorta going under the knife is a tough and unexpected break.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.