Strasburg was able to play catch on Sunday morning

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We’ve been tracking Stephen Strasburg news all morning and will continue to do so this week as the Nationals make an important decision on his immediate future with the club.

Strasburg, 22, was lifted from his start against the Phillies on Saturday night after feeling pain in his right elbow during a fifth-inning pitch to outfielder Domonic Brown.  He was later diagnosed with a strain of the flexor tendon in his forearm, but all signs so far point to him being just fine.

According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, the right-hander played catch on Sunday morning before heading back to Washington, D.C. for an MRI.  The results of that examination will determine whether he is shut down for the rest of 2010 or kept active.  But he did play catch, and that’s a major positive.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo denied a report from Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus stating that the team has already decided to shut Strasburg down.  For what it’s worth, we’re finding it hard to believe that the kid is going to throw another pitch this season.  Even if everything checks out fine, he topped out at 109 innings last year with San Diego State and is up to 123.1 total frames between the minors and majors this season.  Strasburg is too valuable to that organization in the long term and, for all intents and purposes, 2010 is a done deal for the Nats.

The D.C. medical staff would be wise to tell the young phenom to shut it down and aim to get himself back to full health by the start of spring training next February.

Three A’s rookies hit their first big league home runs on Saturday

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The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.

Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:

Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:

In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.

The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.

Athletics call up top prospect Franklin Barreto

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The Athletics called up their top prospect on Saturday, inserting shortstop Franklin Barreto into the lineup for their second game against the White Sox. Barreto was originally scheduled to make his major league debut on Sunday, but got a head start after Jed Lowrie sustained a minor knee sprain in Friday’s 3-0 win and was scratched from Saturday’s lineup.

Barreto, 21, has been rapidly climbing the rungs of the A’s minor league system after getting dealt by the Blue Jays in 2014. He got his first taste of Triple-A action late last year, going 6-for-17 with three RBI and getting caught stealing in two attempts. He fared little better this spring, slashing .281/.326/.428 with eight home runs and a .754 OPS through his first 309 PA in Nashville.

While his minor league production has been solid, if underwhelming for a prospect of his caliber, the A’s are expected to give the rookie infielder a long leash with both Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder sitting on the disabled list. Pinder landed on the 10-day DL after suffering a left hamstring strain on Friday. Semien, meanwhile, is still working his way back from the 60-day DL with a right wrist fracture and likely won’t rejoin the team until he completes a rehab assignment with High-A Stockton.