Alex Rodriguez misses sixth straight game with sprained thumb

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Alex Rodriguez is out of the starting lineup for the sixth straight game tonight due to a sprained left thumb. But it isn’t all bad news.

According to the Associated Press, Rodriguez was encouraged after taking batting practice this afternoon.

The difference? Following the advice of Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, A-Rod put a strip of athletic tape around his bat which allowed him to take batting practice pain-free.

“Today is a really good day,” Rodriguez said after hitting with two batting practice groups. “I’m really encouraged.”

“It was the best I’ve felt in over a month,” Rodriguez added. “There’s no question. Good idea by Kevin.”

While Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said earlier this week that the injury will likely linger into the postseason, anything that can help take pressure off the thumb is a very good thing. As of now, Yankees manager Joe Girardi hopes to have Rodriguez back in the lineup at third base on Saturday.

Anibal Sanchez accepts optional assignment to Triple-A

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The Tigers announced on Monday that pitcher Anibal Sanchez has accepted an optional assignment to Triple-A Toledo. Pitcher Warwick Saupold was recalled from Toledo to take Sanchez’s roster spot.

Sanchez, 33, continued to struggle this season pitching out of the bullpen. He gave up 26 runs (21 earned) on 34 hits and nine walks with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings. Nine of those 34 hits were home runs. Sanchez finished the 2015 season with a 4.99 ERA and last season with a 5.87 ERA, so he’s had a rough go of it in recent years.

The decision to go to Triple-A was Sanchez’s, Anthony Fenech of the Free Press reports. Sanchez wants to be stretched out as a starting pitcher again.

Braves release James Loney

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Just a few days after inking him to a minor league deal, the Braves have released first baseman James Loney, the team announced on Monday. Loney became expendable when the Braves acquired Matt Adams from the Cardinals on Saturday as a replacement for the injured Freddie Freeman.

Loney, 33, appeared in two games at Triple-A Gwinnett. He had one hit, a single, and one walk in eight plate appearances.

Loney will likely have to wait for another team to deal with an injured first baseman or DH before he can secure another contract.