The Pirates are in talks with Ryan Church

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Dejan Kovacevic says that the Pirates have had “extensive conversations” with Ryan Church about coming to Pittsburgh. The idea would be for him to start a bit, but move quietly to a bench role if and when Jose Tabata can take over the position on a full time basis. If I’m Church I’d probably feel pretty comfortable about Tabata’s ability to do that not kicking in until 2011, so Pittsburgh may not be a bad place to be in 2010.

Church hit
.273/.338/.384 with four home runs and 40 RBI in 359 at-bats between
the Braves and Mets. Assuming the back problems he had last year were temporary — as he claims they are despite the fact that no one I’ve ever known with back problems had them go away completely — he’s capable of better than that
.  He’s a solid platoon guy who’s hit .287/.357/.460 against
righties over the past three seasons and plays good defense in either corner.

Basically, he could be a good option as the sort of swingman the Pirates envision. Better than Rick Ankiel anyway, given the fact that he’d certainly want to start and play center in order to position himself for 2011.

Report: Steven Matz has been pitching through pain, may need elbow surgery

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Newsday’s Marc Carig reports that Mets starter Steven Matz has been pitching through pain for most of the season. He may need surgery to fix a nerve issue in his elbow. Matz was sidelined in spring training with an elbow injury and made his regular season debut on June 10.

Matz, 26, has struggled over 13 starts, posting a 6.08 ERA with a 48/19 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings. Many were scrambling for explanations for his pitching woes and now they have it.

According to Carig, the Mets let Matz skip his bullpen sessions to help him pitch through the pain. Given the Mets’ shoddy history of dealing with injuries, that’s not a good look for the club.

Carig noted on Twitter that Jacob deGrom offers some optimism for Matz’s case. deGrom underwent right elbow surgery to repair ulnar nerve damage last September and bounced back to have a great season this year.

Clayton Kershaw’s simulated game went so well he threw an extra inning

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Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to throw three innings in a simulated game on Monday. That simulated game went so well, he threw an extra inning, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Kershaw will make a minor league rehab start next and could be activated towards the end of next week.

Kershaw, 29, has been on the disabled list since July 24 with a lower back strain. That put the pause button on another outstanding season. He’s carrying a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The 87-35 Dodgers have run away with the NL West, needing some combination of 20 wins and 20 Rockies losses (19 for the third-place Diamondbacks) to officially clinch the division. While the Dodgers are all but mathematically assured of reaching postseason baseball, the club would still like to get Kershaw as ready as possible over the next month-plus.