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.

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.