Justin Upton

The NL All-Star starting lineup will outshine the AL’s

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OK, so there hasn’t been any actual All-Star ballot results released yet. That doesn’t mean I can’t do my fun little exercise here. What follows is my best guess at the All-Star Game starting lineups.

National League

CF Andrew McCutchen
2B Brandon Phillips
1B Joey Votto
LF Justin Upton
RF Bryce Harper
3B David Wright
DH Carlos Gonzalez
C Buster Posey
SS Troy Tulowitzki

Ryan Braun and Paul Goldschmidt would have great cases as the designated hitter, too, but since the lineup is already righty heavy, Gonzalez makes more sense, I think. Shin-Soo Choo will also be a possibility if he keeps this up.

American League

LF Mike Trout
2B Robinson Cano
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
RF Jose Bautista
DH David Ortiz
CF Adam Jones
C Joe Mauer
SS Jhonny Peralta

The top of the American League’s lineup matches up fine with the NL’s, probably even bettering it. But the bottom doesn’t compare. Of course, I’m just guessing at Jones. Trout would seem to be a lock as a starting outfielder, but Bautista and Jones aren’t. Among those who could factor in are Nelson Cruz, Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Torii Hunter and Alex Rios.

The NL also has an unfair advantage here in that it gets to pick its DH, while the AL has to live with whoever is voted on. That’s not a problem if Ortiz stays healthy, but it means Chris Davis, who ranks second in the AL in OPS and RBI and first in homers, gets ripped off. There’s also no place for Evan Longoria.

Shortstop is the real problem. With Jose Reyes and Derek Jeter hurt, Peralta has been the best of the rest, though maybe Elvis Andrus will get voted in over him.

Sonny Gray was denied insurance coverage for the World Baseball Classic

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Pitcher Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during photo day at HoHoKam Stadium on February 22, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.

According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.

Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.

While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.

Report: Josh Hamilton likely to undergo another knee surgery

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers in the dugout before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 24, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
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Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.

More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.

Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.