Cliff Lee on track to return to Phillies’ rotation July 21

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From Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has announced his post-all-star break rotation.

A.J. Burnett will start the first game back Friday in Atlanta. Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick will pitch the next two days.

Cliff Lee, making his final rehab start Monday in Clearwater, will start July 21 at home against San Francisco and Roberto Hernandez starts the next night.

Lee has made two minor league rehab starts for the High-A Clearwater Threshers — one sharp and the other a bit shaky. The 35-year-old left-hander has been out since mid-May because of a strained muscle in his pitching elbow.

Lee could theoretically fit in three starts for the Phillies before the July 31 trade deadline and he will be an attractive name on the block if he proves to be fully healthy in those outings. He had a 3.18 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 61/9 K/BB ratio in 68 innings before landing on the disabled list and owns a stellar 2.89 ERA in 814 total innings since signing with Philadelphia. Lee is making $25 million this season, owed another $25 million next season, and carries a $27.5 million vesting option (or $12.5 million buyout) for the 2016 campaign.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”