John Baker hoping to win roster spot even if he can’t catch

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John Baker has just recently started soft-tossing from 45 feet following September elbow surgery and likely won’t be cleared to catch again until at least May even if he avoids setbacks, but he’s still hoping to win a spot on the Marlins’ roster coming out of spring training.

He’ll be able to swing at full strength long before he’s able to do the same throwing, so Baker will try to show the Marlins that he’s capable of providing value as a pinch-hitter. When healthy Baker has a solid bat, hitting .273 with a .358 on-base percentage and .406 slugging percentage in 744 career plate appearances, but it may be tough for the Marlins to justify filling a roster spot with someone who can’t play defense at all.

Baker started 112 games behind the plate in 2009 and looked like the Marlins’ long-term answer at catcher before last year’s elbow injury, but this offseason Florida signed John Buck to a three-year, $18 million deal that seemingly makes him Baker’s replacement in 2011 and beyond. Where that leaves Baker, at age 30, is unclear, but he’s saying all the right things about focusing on getting healthy and being willing to fill whatever role he can while recovering.

Nationals place Jeremy Hellickson on disabled list with a sprained wrist

Jeremy Hellickson
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Nationals right-hander Jeremy Hellickson has been assigned to the 10-day disabled list after spraining his right wrist during a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday. The assignment is retroactive to August 15, though it’s not yet certain that Hellickson will be able to resume his role in the rotation after the minimum 10 days.

The 31-year-old righty was through 4 1/3 innings during Wednesday’s start when he threw a wild pitch behind the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina in the bottom of the fifth. He sprinted to cover home plate just as Harrison Bader took off from third base, and the two collided at the plate as Spencer Kieboom‘s throw home sailed over Hellickson’s head. He tumbled to the ground and rolled over his right wrist, then was forced to make a prompt exit from the field after feeling considerable soreness in his right hand.

While the X-rays returned negative, it makes sense for the Nationals to shelve Hellickson for the time being. In a best case scenario, he should miss only one turn through the rotation, provided that he’s able to work back up to full strength in the next week or so. The veteran righty is 5-3 in 18 starts this year with a 3.57 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 6.5 SO/9 across 88 1/3 innings. This will be his second official stint on the DL after missing nearly a month due to a right hamstring strain back in June.

In a corresponding move, fellow right-hander Jefry Rodriguez was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse and will fill in for Hellickson during Saturday’s set against the Marlins. Rodriguez, 25, has yet to get comfortable on the major league stage: entering Saturday, the rookie owns a 5.84 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9 through 24 2/3 innings.