Back injury sends Angels closer Brian Fuentes to disabled list

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Brian Fuentes not pitching since Opening Day didn’t raise many eyebrows because the Angels haven’t exactly had a ton of late leads to protect while starting the season 2-6, but apparently a back injury is also to blame.
Fuentes has been placed on the disabled list with a strained back, but because the move is retroactive to April 6 he’s eligible to return next Wednesday. No word yet on whether such a quick recovery is expected, but for however long he’s sidelined ninth-inning duties will go to Fernando Rodney.
Signed this offseason to serve as Fuentes’ primary setup man, Rodney actually led baseball in save percentage last season by converting 37-of-38 chances for the Tigers. With a 4.40 ERA and 61/41 K/BB ratio in 75.2 innings Rodney wasn’t anywhere near as good as his save percentage would suggest and he has a career ERA of 4.35, but as a short-term closer fill-in he’s certainly capable.
Fuentes showed some significant signs of decline last season, particularly in the second half, and an interesting aspect of his unexpected trip to the DL is that it guarantees the Angels won’t be on the hook for his $9 million salary in 2011. They have a team option on him that vests with 55 games finished this season, which is a total Fuentes barely topped in 2009 and now has zero chance of cracking this year.
Rodney is signed through next season, so this may be the first step to his taking over the job full time.

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.