Nick Johnson is likely to make the Orioles … “if healthy”

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When it comes to Nick Johnson, using the “if healthy” caveat makes anything that follows sound sort of silly, but manager Buck Showalter indicated yesterday that the perpetually injured first baseman is likely to make the Orioles out of spring training … if healthy.

“I think he brings some things that I’d really like to have our guys feed off of with some of the on-base percentage and deep counts,” Showalter told Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun.

Johnson is one of just 10 active hitters with at least 2,500 career plate appearances and an on-base percentage above .400, and the other nine guys on the list have all been superstars: Todd Helton, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Lance Berkman, Joey Votto, Jason Giambi, Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones.

Of course, the problem with Johnson is that he’s 33 years old and has a total of just 3,214 plate appearances. He also hasn’t been healthy since 2009, when he batted 574 times for the Nationals, walked more (99) than he struck out (84), and got on base at a .426 clip to rank second among NL hitters.

At this point I’d certainly bet against Johnson being healthy and staying healthy, but if he can somehow manage to avoid the disabled list I’d also bet on him posting an excellent on-base percentage. Getting hurt and getting on base are simply what he does.

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.