He can't believe it either.

Hunter Pence as your 2012 NL MVP?

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CSNPhilly.com’s Casey Feeney makes the case.

I’ll admit that I wrote it off in about a nano-second after reading the headline, but the more I thought about it, it’s not so far-fetched. Ryan Howard’s RBI totals have made him an annual MVP candidate despite the fact that he’s only really had one season in which he was arguably the NL’s best player. With Howard out, Pence figures to take over as the Phillies’ cleanup hitter and he could well lead the NL in RBI opportunities. It’s not unrealistic to think that he could knock in 120-130 runs next season.

Also, with Albert Pujols gone, Prince Fielder perhaps following and defending MVP Ryan Braun maybe suspended for a third of the season (and unlikely to get the benefit of doubt from voters even if his appeal is successful), there aren’t a whole lot of sure things ahead of Pence. Joey Votto is the one rock-solid pick, and his team isn’t looking all that great. Troy Tulowitzki would be right there with him, but he’s more of an injury risk. Then there are Matt Kemp, who had to be playing at least a bit over his head last year, Justin Upton and Matt Holliday. Plus, no one should dismiss the Marlins trio of Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes.

If I were a betting man, I’d probably put a few bucks on Upton and Stanton first. A rehabbing Buster Posey is another sleeper. But Pence, even though he ranks 30th in OPS among the 84 players to have at least 1,200 plate appearances in the NL the last three years, should be somewhere in the 6-10 range as far as likely MVP candidates.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.