Bryce Harper needs thumb surgery, could miss more than two months

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Bryce Harper’s head-first slide into third base Friday will likely cost him at least two months, as Keith Law of ESPN.com reports that the Nationals outfielder needs surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb and is unlikely to play again before July.

Harper, who was benched by manager Matt Williams last week for a lack of hustle, was off to a modest start by hitting .289 with one homer and a .722 OPS through 22 games.

Washington brought in Nate McLouth this offseason specifically to address outfield depth, paying a premium to sign him for a part-time role. And now he’ll be in a full-time role as Harper’s replacement after logging a total of just 43 plate appearances so far. McLouth hit .258 with 12 homers and a .729 OPS in 146 games for the Orioles last season, so while he’s a solid all-around player he can’t come close to replacing Harper’s upside and overall impact.

UPDATE: Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com confirms the 6-8 week recovery timetable, so missing the remainder of the first half seems like a real possibility.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman not considering demoting struggling Greg Bird

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Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.

GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”

Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.

Chris Archer threw behind Jose Bautista

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Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.

Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.

The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.