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Must-click link: “A brother’s passage”

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Robert Sanchez has written a powerful story for ESPN The Magazine about Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer and his family. Scherzer’s younger brother, Alex, took his own life last summer following a battle with depression.

The story goes into heartbreaking detail about Alex’s death and how Max went ahead with his scheduled start against the Pirates, just days after his brother’s passing.

Max wanted to finish the outing emphatically, to leave no doubt about his resolve and give his parents one last burst of light, before everything went black again. He got a sign for a slider, low, and nodded his head. McCutchen swung at the pitch and missed.

McCutchen might chase something now, Max thought. He waited on the sign for another slider. The pitch broke inward then cut back and dropped sharply. McCutchen swung through it. Strike three.

Max took a breath and walked off the mound, his head down and his glove arched high on his left hip. From their seats, his parents held back tears. Max saw his teammates waiting for him at the edge of the dugout. They engulfed him. Hugs. Pats on the back. Handshakes.

Max nodded his appreciation, but had to get past the crowd. He walked through the dugout and into the field crew’s room near the clubhouse. Here, no one could see him. In the quiet shadows, he began to sob.

It’s not an easy read, so I can’t even imagine the weight of having to write it, but Sanchez treats the subject with grace and respect. A truly touching story about a bond between brothers and family.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.