The National League is poised to have some excellent rotations

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Even with Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez still up for grabs, the National League already seems set to sport some excellent rotations in 2013. How about this for the top four:

Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler
Giants: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito
Phillies: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick
Reds: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey

The Haren addition gives the Nationals an edge over the Giants, in my opinion. There seemed to be league-wide concern about his back and hip, but he should be another above average starter to go along with the three potential aces already in the rotation.

The second four doesn’t look too bad, either:

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano
Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook
Braves: Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm, Mike Minor, Randall Delgado
Mets: R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Jonathan Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee

The Dodgers may very well add Greinke and join the top tier. They also have Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu pending, and while there’s been some skepticism of late about getting him signed, there’s certainly nothing stopping the Dodgers from coming up with the money.

The Cardinals have question marks in their top five, most notably with Garcia’s shoulder. But they have Shelby Miller and maybe Trevor Rosenthal, if they choose to use him as a starter, ready to step in.

Likewise, the Braves’ group isn’t quite so impressive at the moment, but their best pitcher, Brandon Beachy, is planning a midseason return from Tommy John surgery.

And then there’s the Mets, if they don’t trade their Cy Young Award winner.

Honorable mention to the Diamondbacks, who have Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and some excellent prospects behind them, as well as Daniel Hudson perhaps returning from Tommy John in June or July.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.