Astros in market for catching help after Jason Castro’s injury

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Jason Castro’s season-ending knee injury leaves the Astros with career-long backup Humberto Quintero and prospect bust J.R. Towles atop the catching depth chart, so not surprisingly Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle reports that they’re now looking to add a veteran backstop.

According to Campbell the Astros are already about $2 million over their $80 million budget for this season, but owner Drayton McLane indicated Sunday that he might be willing to re-open his wallet a bit for catching help should general manager Ed Wade find a reasonable trade.

Towles is still young enough to think that he might be able to take advantage of the situation to finally show that his solid minor-league numbers are for real, but catchers rumored to be available are Ryan Doumit of the Pirates, Jesus Flores of the Nationals, and unsigned free agent Bengie Molina. Doumit in particularl has been available all winter for any team willing to assume a big chunk of his $5.1 million salary.

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.