Kyle McClellan to get first shot at replacing Wainwright

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When the Cardinals announced last week that right-hander Adam Wainwright was going to need Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, many assumed that a free agent starter would be brought in to replace the injured ace. Kevin Millwood is still on the market, as is Jeremy Bonderman.

But the Cardinals have insisted that they are going to try internal candidates first, and we might have just found our front-runner.

According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, right-handed setup man Kyle McClellan is going to get first crack at the vacancy left by Wainwright’s injury.

McClellan, a 26-year-old St. Louis native, was drafted and brought up through the minors as a starter. The Cardinals moved him to the bullpen in 2008 and have kept him there since, but they’ve flirted with the idea of trying him in the rotation in recent years and that flirtation is now going to turn serious this spring.

He possesses a fastball that typically clocks in around 90-93 MPH, a cutter that checks in at 87 MPH, and a hard-breaking curve. He also throws a changeup. It’s a quality and almost starter-like arsenal of pitches.

McClellan posted a stellar 2.27 ERA over 68 appearances last season, striking out 60 batters and walking only 23 across 75.1 innings of relief work. If things don’t go well for him in the rotation, the Cardinals will probably turn to youngster Lance Lynn. Or maybe they’ll take another look at the free agent market.

Note: Matthew Leach of MLB.com and a couple of other local St. Louis guys had this story first.

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.