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Yadier Molina and Michael Wacha are getting closer for the Cardinals


The Cardinals are just one game back of the Brewers in the loss column in the National League Central and they could be back to full strength soon.

Jenifer Langosch of reports that if all goes well during a full workout tomorrow, Molina could begin a minor league rehab assignment as soon as Wednesday. When the veteran backstop tore a ligament in his right thumb on July 9, the initial fear was that he would miss the remainder of the regular season, but he now appears on track to rejoin the Cardinals for the final month.

Meanwhile, Langosch reports that Wacha is scheduled to throw live batting practice to Springfield hitters on Wednesday. The 23-year-old right-hander has been sidelined since mid-June with a stress reaction in his shoulder, but the Cardinals are hopeful that he’ll be able to pitch in September.

UPDATE: Even better news for the Cardinals here, as Molina will apparently begin his rehab stint on Tuesday:

Wild Card, Division series umpires announced

Angel Hernandez
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Major League Baseball just released the umpire assignments for the Wild Card Game and the Division Series. As always, the basis for these assignments is a proprietary, scientific calculation undertaken by Major League Baseball, mixing in (a) skill; (b) seniority; and (c) trolling of baseball bloggers who, unlike 99% of the rest of the world actually know the names and track records of various umpires and who are easily riled.

Which is to say that, while we have no Joe West in the early playoff rounds this year — too obvious, perhaps? — we do get an Angel Hernandez.

Here are the assignments. The asterisks represent the crew chief of each unit. Guys with little up arrows next to their names are regular season crew chiefs in their own right. Print this out and keep it near your television so you know who to yell about before the broadcasters tell you who to yell at:

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Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon

I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.