Paul Maholm throws simulated game, nearing rehab assignment

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The first-place Braves haven’t missed Paul Maholm much since he landed on the disabled list last month with a bruised left wrist, but he’s on track to rejoin the starting rotation soon.

Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that Maholm made it through a simulated game this afternoon with no issues. The next step will be a minor league rehab assignment, which could set him up to be activated as soon as next Thursday against the Cardinals.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he is still thinking over how he will handle Maholm’s return, with a six-man rotation among the possibilities. This could be a way to give Julio Teheran some extra rest down the stretch.

Maholm, 31, has a 4.41 ERA and 82/36 K/BB ratio in 118 1/3 innings through 20 starts this season. He has a 5.33 ERA in 17 starts since beginning the year with three consecutive scoreless outings.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.