Edwin Encarnacion joins the 40-homer club

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For the third straight season the Blue Jays have a 40-homer hitter, as Edwin Encarnacion went deep last night for the 40th time after Jose Bautista reached that mark in both 2010 and 2011.

Encarnacion has always had a ton of offensive upside, especially in terms of power potential, so much so that the Reds and Blue Jays lived with his mostly awful defense for seven years waiting for him to have a breakout season. And yet prior to this year he was a lifetime .260 hitter with a .789 OPS and career-high of 26 homers in 2008.

Now he has 40 homers in 138 games, along with a .279 batting average and .946 OPS that ranks third in the American League. And his defense is no longer an issue, because Toronto has used Encarnacion at first base and designated hitter.

Josh Hamilton leads baseball with 41 homers this season and at least a few other hitters from a group that includes Ryan Braun, Adam Dunn, Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, and Giancarlo Stanton figure to crack 40 homers by the end of the season. For now, though, Encarnacion is just the fifth right-handed hitter to reach 40 homers during the past six seasons, joining Bautista (twice), Albert Pujols (twice), Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Reynolds.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.