Bryce Harper and his “ferocious brand of baserunning”

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Last night’s benches-clearing scuffle between the Nationals and Cubs got all the headlines, but before things got ugly when Bryce Harper was nearly hit by a pitch in the sixth inning the 19-year-old rookie showed once again that he’s perhaps MLB’s most aggressive baserunner.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post did a great job describing Harper’s pre-scuffle work on the bases, which included stretching a double into a triple followed by this:

Ryan Zimmerman followed and tapped a dribbler to the left of the mound, which [Justin] Germano fielded. Just off third base, Harper froze as Germano looked him back. Germano, satisfied Harper would behave like the other 99 percent of major league baserunners, turned his back and threw to first.

Harper did not behave like other major league baserunners. He did not take two quiet steps back to third base. He ran like the fastest kid in Little League, the one who runs until he is tagged out and makes other parents want to look at his birth certificate. He ran like someone dared him to. Harper darted, hell-bent for home.

Harper was safe, tying the game at 1-1. And the Nationals spent the rest of the night making the Cubs look and act like they were the Little Leaguers.

Rockies activate Ian Desmond from the disabled list

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The Rockies activated first baseman Ian Desmond from the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, the club announced. Cristhian Adames was designated for assignment to create roster space. Desmond is in Sunday’s lineup against the Diamondbacks, batting sixth.

Desmond, 31, signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Rockies in December. In March, he was unfortunately hit by a pitch and suffered a broken left hand. He underwent surgery to repair the damage.

Desmond had been playing in extended spring training as a precursor to rehab games, but he looked so good that the Rockies decided to activate him from the disabled list a little early.

Aaron Sanchez exits game after one inning with a split fingernail

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This wasn’t how Aaron Sanchez was supposed to make his triumphant return from the disabled list. The Blue Jays’ right-hander was activated for his first start on Sunday after undergoing a minor surgical procedure to have part of his fingernail removed. According to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, the surgery should have accelerated the healing process for a troublesome blister, and the team appeared confident in the right-hander’s ability to take the mound for the tail end of their homestand. Instead, Sanchez lasted just 13 pitches before exiting the game with a split nail on his right middle finger.

The team has yet to address Sanchez’s revised timetable for return, but Chisholm points out that they should be able to roll with their current rotation through May 9. If he sits out longer, the Jays could turn to left-hander J.A. Happ, who should be eligible to start sometime next month after he makes a full recovery from a bout of left elbow inflammation.

Sanchez, 24, entered Sunday with a 4.38 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 6.6 SO/9 through 12 1/3 innings with Toronto. He was replaced by right-handed reliever Ryan Tepera in the top of the second inning.