We're all tied up: Giants grab share of NL West lead

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We’re back at zero. That’s where we stand after Friday night, as the Giants defeated the Padres 1-0 to move into a virtual tie for first place in the National League West. This is the first time that the Padres haven’t had sole possession of first place since they were a half-game out on June 16.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins for the Giants, but they’ll take it. Friday’s starter Jonathan Sanchez tossed five shutout innings, but he did it by walking seven. That’s a lot, even for the major league leader in walks. Padres’ starter Clayton Richard was actually more impressive, holding the Giants to just two hits over six-plus innings, but his plunking of Aubrey Huff to begin the seventh ended up being the critical play of the ballgame.

After Richard was pulled for Luke Gregersen, Huff stole second base on a strikeout of Pat Burrell. He then made an ill-advised dash to third base on a ground ball hit by Jose Guillen to shortstop Miguel Tejada. Fortunately for Huff, he somehow managed to beat the throw. Chase Headley then attempted to turn a double-play on a groundball hit by Juan Uribe, however Nate Schierholtz, who was pinch-running for Guillen, delivered a brilliant takeout slide of David Eckstein, giving Uribe just the extra second he needed to cross the first base bag and allow the first and only run to score from third base. I believe that’s called manufacturing.

Schierholtz only has four at-bats this week, but he is partially responsible for helping the Giants win two games. In addition to Friday’s takeout slide, he also connected for a two-run double in Monday’s 2-0 win over the Diamondbacks.

I’m not going to bore you much more with my recap, but here’s where we are in the NL West:

Padres – 79-61 (.564) 22 games left
Giants – 80-62 (.563) 20 games left
Rockies – 77-64 (.546) – 2 1/2 games back – 21 games left

Yes, the Padres and Giants are now tied atop the NL West, but don’t sleep on those Rockies. They begin a three-game series with the Padres at Coors Field on Monday. The thing is, with two more games against the Giants this weekend, the Padres could be in second place by then.
 

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally¬†asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.