Rich Harden pitches well in return from disabled list

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Rangers right-hander Rich Harden was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday night and took the mound immediately against the Angels.  Coming off a six-week stint on the disabled list and entering the outing with a 5.68 ERA and 1.68 WHIP, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if he got shelled.

But he didn’t.  Harden limited the Angels to five hits and one earned run over five innings while racking up three strikeouts and firing 62 of his 88 pitches for strikes.  The Rangers won the game 2-1 and the 28-year-old moved to 4-3 on the year.  He talked to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Anthony Andro afterward.

“It felt good. It’s been a long wait, just thinking about getting out
there. It’s not a good feeling not being able to pitch and not being
able to help your team out. I really wanted to go out and be aggressive
and put the ball in play.”

Harden had a brutal start to the 2010 season including a 5.68 ERA over five starts in May and a 7.31 ERA over three starts in June.  But ask any American League hitter — or just check the stats — and you’ll find that Harden is regarded as one of the nastiest starters in the game.  He employs a fastball-changeup combination that can be lethal and his 9.21 career strikeouts-per-nine innings rate is exceptional.  He’s going to play a major role for the playoff-bound Rangers down the stretch, and possibly into October.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.