Justin Ruggiano leaves Rays, signs with Astros

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UPDATE: One week after declining the option of remaining in the Rays’ system Ruggiano has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Astros.

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Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster housecleaning is costing Triple-A Durham its best players.

This morning the Rays traded reigning Triple-A MVP Russ Canzler to the Indians for cash considerations after designating him for assignment and his Durham teammate Justin Ruggiano chose free agency over an assignment to Triple-A.

Ruggiano has struggled in a few brief stints in the majors, hitting just .226 with six homers and a .621 OPS in 98 games spread over three seasons, but he’s consistently posted strong numbers in the minors and probably deserves a chance somewhere at age 29.

Of course, he’s also spent the past five seasons at Durham, so it’s understandable that Ruggiano would decline an assignment there and take his chances finding work in another organization. Overall at Triple-A he’s hit .289 with 68 homers and an .835 OPS in 476 games, which suggests his best role in the majors would be as a platoon corner outfielder facing primarily left-handed pitching.

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.