Rays undecided about rookie Jake McGee’s role for 2011

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After sitting out most of 2009 following elbow surgery Jake McGee returned to the mound last season as a starter with great success and then shifted to the bullpen in the second half before debuting with the Rays in September as a reliever.

However, now that McGee is two years removed from going under the knife pitching coach Jim Hickey told Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times that the Rays “still like McGee as a possible starting pitcher” because “you can’t have too much starting pitching and with that big body he’s got I just see a guy who’s capable of eating a lot of innings for a lot of years.”

Even after trading Matt Garza to the Cubs the Rays still have a full rotation, with top prospect Jeremy Hellickson expected to replace Garza alongside holdovers David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, and Jeff Niemann. And they also still have Andy Sonnanstine, who started 72 games from 2007-2009 before spending most of 2010 in the bullpen.

Hickey called McGee “a really good candidate” to step into the bullpen following the free agent departures of Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, and Randy Choate. It may be similar to Chris Sale in Chicago, where the White Sox believe he’ll eventually be a top-of-the-rotation starter but may end up keeping him in the bullpen for the short term simply because there’s a bigger immediate need there.

Baseball America ranked McGee as the game’s 37th-best prospect in 2007 and 15th-best prospect in 2008, and in 20 starts and 10 relief appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last season he posted a 3.07 ERA and 127/36 K/BB ratio in 106 innings while allowing just three homers.

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.