Hunter Pence takes a seat on Houston’s bench

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With trade rumors swirling, Hunter Pence is on the Astros bench on Wednesday night.  However, it’s not because he’s been dealt, says the Houston Chronicle’s Zachary Levine.

Pence, mired in a 7-for-40 skid since the All-Star break, was told Tuesday that he’d get tonight off.

Pence has just one extra-base hit and two RBI in 11 games since his All-Star appearance.  He had 17 doubles, eight homers and 43 RBI in 55 games during April and May, but he has just seven doubles, three homers and 19 RBI in 42 games since.

Still, Pence’s trade value remains sky-high.  The Astros reportedly backed out of a deal with the Phillies that might have included two top prospects in right-hander Jarred Cosart and first baseman Jonathan Singleton.  The Braves could also redouble their efforts to land the right fielder after losing Brian McCann to the disabled list.

Then there are the Red Sox, who insist on testing the waters whenever an All-Star talent becomes available.

The Astros still appear unlikely to deal Pence, preferring instead to discuss starting pitchers Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez.  Still, given the dearth of talent in the organization, they’d be foolish to rule anything out.

Alex Dickerson to miss 2017 season after undergoing back surgery

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Padres’ outfielder Alex Dickerson won’t see PETCO Park anytime soon — at least, not as its starting left fielder. The 27-year-old was diagnosed with a bulging disc in his lower back prior to the start of the 2017 season, and hasn’t made any kind of substantial progress in the months since. According to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, he suffered a setback in his recovery process last week and is set to undergo a season-ending discectomy next Wednesday.

Over 285 plate appearances, Dickerson batted .257/.333/.455 with 10 home runs and a .788 OPS for the Padres in 2016. He missed several days with a right hip contusion last July, but hasn’t experienced any substantial health problems since undergoing surgery in 2014 to repair a torn ligament in his left ankle.

The expected recovery period for lower back surgery is 3-4 months, according to Lin, which puts Dickerson’s estimated return just a few days before the end of the regular season. The Padres aren’t scraping the bottom of the NL West, but their 29-44 record doesn’t bode well for a postseason run this year. Assuming Dickerson rehabs his back in a timely manner, he should be in fine form to enter the competition for left field next spring.

Video: Hanley Ramirez’s No. 250 career home run barely left the field

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Hanley Ramirez played a pivotal role during the Red Sox’ 9-4 win over the Angels on Friday night, crushing a two-run homer off of Alex Meyer to bring the Sox up to a four-run lead in the fourth inning.

Well, crushed might be the wrong word. The ball cleared the right field fence with a mere 350 feet, landing just beyond Pesky’s Pole to bring Ramirez’s career home run total to an even 250.

According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Ramirez’s milestone blast wasn’t the shortest home run of the year — not by a long shot. That distinction currently belongs to Rays’ outfielder Corey Dickerson, who skimmed the left field fence at Rogers Centre with a 326-foot homer back in April.