D.J. Short

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Nationals move struggling Doug Fister to bullpen, will keep Joe Ross in rotation

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With Stephen Strasburg due to come back from the disabled list on Saturday against the Rockies, Mark Zuckerman of CSNMA.com reports that the Nationals have decided to move the struggling Doug Fister to the bullpen while keeping rookie Joe Ross in the starting rotation.

Fister finished eighth in the balloting for the 2014 NL Cy Young Award after posting a 2.41 in 25 starts, but he hasn’t looked anything like that pitcher so far this season. The 31-year-old has a 4.60 ERA through 15 starts and has already allowed as many earned runs as he did all last year. He missed some time during the first half with a flexor strain in his elbow and has shown diminished velocity, so the Nationals can’t afford to keep running him out there every fifth day as they try to keep pace with the first-place Mets in the National League East.

The decision was handed down after Ross had another strong start this afternoon against the Diamondbacks, tossing six innings of one-run ball while striking out seven batters and walking none. The 22-year-old rookie owns an impressive 2.80 ERA and 47/4 K/BB ratio in 45 innings and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all seven of his starts. He has already thrown 121 innings this season between the majors and the minors, essentially matching his career-high workload from last year, so a potential shutdown has been discussed. However, he’s deserving of getting a longer look.

Mike Leake scratched from start with hamstring strain

Mike Leake
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The Giants announced this evening that recently-acquired right-hander Mike Leake has been scratched from Friday’s start against the Cubs due to a mild left hamstring strain. Ryan Vogelsong will get the assignment in his place.

Leake came over from the Reds before the trade deadline in exchange for right-hander Keury Mella and first baseman Adam Duvall. The 27-year-old took the loss in his first start with San Francisco last Sunday after allowing two runs over 6 1/3 innings against the Rangers. According to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News, Leake suffered the injury during normal conditioning drills and the hope is that he’ll only have to miss one start.

This will be Vogelsong’s first start since the All-Star break. The 38-year-old has posted a 4.16 ERA and 75/43 K/BB ratio in 101 2/3 innings over 16 starts and eight relief appearances this season.

Michael Cuddyer to begin minor league rehab assignment Friday

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 28:  Michael Cuddyer #23 of the New York Mets in action against the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field on June 28, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Red 2-1 in 13 innings.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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The Mets offense hasn’t need much help in recent days, but Michael Cuddyer is making progress from his left knee injury, as the team announced this afternoon that he will begin a minor league rehab assignment Friday with High-A St. Lucie.

Cuddyer has been sidelined since July 21 due to a bone bruise behind his knee. He was originally hoping to return to the Mets on Saturday, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York now hears that he’s unlikely to be activated until Monday’s game against the Rockies.

The Mets surrendered a first-round pick to sign Cuddyer to a two-year, $21 million contract over the winter, but he’s batting just .250/.303/.380 with eight home runs and 30 RBI over 82 games this season. There was much hemming and hawing prior to him finally being placed on the disabled list, but it was clear he wasn’t doing the team much good by staying on the active roster. Either Michael Conforto or Eric Campbell will be sent out when Cuddyer is deemed ready, though the 36-year-old will likely have to take on a part-time role after the recent addition of Yoenis Cespedes.

Video: Zack Greinke hits homer, shows off impressive bat-flipping skills

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 6: Zack Greinke #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers rounds third base after hitting a home run in the third inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 6, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Zack Greinke got the win this afternoon against the Phillies, but he wasn’t at his best on the mound, allowing six runs (five of them in the first inning) over six innings of work. However, he had a heck of a day with the bat, finishing 3-for-3 with his fifth career home run. Watch his solo shot and bat-flip against David Buchanan:

You might think that Greinke learned his bat-flipping skills by watching Yasiel Puig or Juan Uribe. On the contrary, he says.

Just in case there’s any doubt remaining, Zack Greinke is the best.

Adrian Beltre needs just five innings for the third cycle of his career

San Francisco at Texas
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Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre hit for the cycle tonight against the Astros. And he needed just five innings to do it.

Beltre had a two-run triple in the first inning before reaching on a double in the second and a single in the third. That put him just a home run away. The veteran slugger remedied that in his very next at-bat, taking Mike Fiers deep for a solo shot. Check it out below:

This was the third cycle of Beltre’s career, which puts him in some crazy company.

According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Beltre is the first player to complete a cycle by the fifth inning since B.J. Upton in 2009.