Cardinals setup man Eduardo Sanchez nearing return

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It’s been a few months since we’ve checked in on Eduardo Sanchez, the hard-throwing St. Louis setup man who posted a 1.88 ERA and struck out 33 batters over his first 28 2/3 major league innings.

Sanchez has been sidelined since mid-June with an injured right shoulder, but he should be back in the Cards’ bullpen before the end of the regular season.

According to MLB.com’s Matthew Leach, Sanchez threw an “aggressive” bullpen session Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium. The right-hander treated the workout like a simulated game, taking a bit of rest between two different sets of pitches. He reported no issues with his shoulder, and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa later expressed optimism that Sanchez is on the cusp of returning to action.

“I think he’s going to throw a little bit more [before pitching in a game],” La Russa said. “Maybe [he will be activated] next week, week after, the last week. Make sure he throws enough. It’s just whenever he’s ready. When he’s ready, he pitches.”

Depending on what the Cardinals do in free agency this winter, the ninth-inning role for 2012 could be up for grabs. Fernando Salas has done a fine job this season, but he’s recently displayed signs of fatigue. Jason Motte has been dominant, but there are worries about his limited arsenal. Sanchez should be in the mix.

Video: Jaime Garcia hits a 399-foot grand slam

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Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.

The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.

Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.

As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:

Ryon Healy exits game after taking a ground ball to the face

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Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.

Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.

Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.