Rangers considered heavy favorites to sign Roy Oswalt

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Roy Oswalt is reportedly close to choosing his new team and returning to the mound, and according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com the Rangers are heavy favorites to sign the 34-year-old right-hander.

In fact, an unnamed “baseball official” told Crasnick that he “would be shocked” if Oswalt doesn’t end up in Texas.

Along with the Rangers the Dodgers, Phillies, Brewers, Orioles, and Red Sox have also been linked to Oswalt, who threw 139 innings with a 3.69 ERA and 93/33 K/BB ratio for Philadelphia last season.

Neftali Feliz is on the disabled list and expected to be out until after the All-Star break with a sprained elbow and it’s possible that the Rangers could shift him back to the bullpen once healthy, creating a rotation spot for Oswalt. For now Scott Feldman is filling in for Feliz, joining Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, and Derek Holland in the rotation.

Ted Lilly’s shoulder injury may have magnified the Dodgers’ interest in Oswalt after watching him throw last week and if the Phillies get bad news on Roy Halladay’s shoulder it’s easy to envision them giving Oswalt a call for a reunion. Depending on which sources you choose to believe Oswalt’s primary motivation is pitching close to his Mississippi home, playing for a contender, or cashing in for the biggest contract. Or maybe some combination of all three, which seemingly also gives Texas the edge.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.

Report: Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman initiate Marlins’ staff cuts

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A report from Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reveals that prospective Marlins’ owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman have already initiated several key firings within the organization. While the sale of the team is still pending final approval next month, Jeter reportedly pushed club president David Samson to remove four special assistants this week: Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, Jack McKeon and Jeff Conine.

Hall of Fame infielder Dawson, outfielder Perez and Marlins’ legend Conine served as special assistants to the president. McKeon, who served as team manager from 2003-2005 (and briefly in 2011), was terminated from a 12-year post as special assistant to owner Jeffrey Loria.

The move didn’t come as a big surprise to Dawson and McKeon, Jackson and Spencer noted. It’s part and parcel of dealing with new ownership. But it was disappointing news nonetheless, especially as the long-tenured McKeon might lose an opportunity to return next September to manage one game and cement his status as the oldest manager in MLB history.

Should the Marlins’ sale go through in October as expected, this figures to be the beginning of several cuts. Per Jackson and Spencer:

Jeter also is expected to fire some people on the baseball side of the operation, though it’s believed president/baseball operations Michael Hill will be retained, at least indefinitely if not permanently.

Any replacements for those already released from the team have yet to be announced.