Chris Carpenter throws two-inning simulated game

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Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter took a big step in the right direction Sunday, throwing two simulated innings to a group of teammates in camp.

Carpenter was diagnosed earlier this month with a bulging cervical disc in his neck and has not yet appeared in a Grapefruit League game. But he’s beginning to make progress and might not have to miss a turn in the regular-season starting rotation if he’s able to avoid setbacks from here on out.

“It was a good step,” Carpenter told reporters after Sunday’s workout, per Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I was excited to get back out there and throw a little bit. Now we move on to the next step. Hopefully, I wake up good enough tomorrow and go out and do that again sometime soon.”

Carpenter will need at least three exhibition outings to get properly geared up for April.

The 36-year-old right-hander registered a 3.45 ERA and 191/55 K/BB ratio across a league-leading 237 1/3 innings last year for the Cardinals before going 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA in six postseason starts.

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.