Shin-Soo Choo returns ahead of schedule from broken thumb

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Shin-Soo Choo was scheduled to come off the disabled list next week, but in a surprise move the Indians activated him today about six weeks into what was initially an 8-10 week recovery timetable for a broken left thumb.

They’re obviously confident that Choo is healthy, but he certainly didn’t show it by going 0-for-6 with two strikeouts in two rehab games at low Single-A.

To make room for Choo on the roster the Indians designated Austin Kearns for assignment after the veteran outfielder hit just .200 with two homers and a .589 OPS in 57 games. Kearns is only owed another $400,000 or so this season, so he’s cheap enough that another team could pick him up as a right-handed bench bat if they’re convinced he still has some upside, but he hasn’t cracked a .750 OPS since 2007.

Choo was also struggling before the injury, hitting .244 with a .687 OPS in 72 games after topping a .300 batting average and .875 OPS in each of the past three seasons. If healthy he’ll provide a huge boost to the Indians as they try to reclaim the AL Central lead, but the early return will be worth keeping an eye on.

Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title

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The Marlins announced on Sunday that outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title when the city of Miami host’s the All-Star Game festivities next month.

Stanton, 27, defeated Todd Frazier in the finals of last year’s Home Run Derby at Petco Park, hitting 20 home runs to Frazier’s 13. Stanton hit a total of 61 home runs in the Derby. This will be the third Home Run Derby in which Stanton has participated.

Stanton also went 1-for-3 with a solo home run to help the Marlins defeat the Cubs 4-2 on Sunday. He’s now batting .274/.357/.551 with 20 home runs and 49 RBI in 311 plate appearances.

Aaron Hicks to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.

Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.