Shin-Soo Choo returns ahead of schedule from broken thumb

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Shin-Soo Choo was scheduled to come off the disabled list next week, but in a surprise move the Indians activated him today about six weeks into what was initially an 8-10 week recovery timetable for a broken left thumb.

They’re obviously confident that Choo is healthy, but he certainly didn’t show it by going 0-for-6 with two strikeouts in two rehab games at low Single-A.

To make room for Choo on the roster the Indians designated Austin Kearns for assignment after the veteran outfielder hit just .200 with two homers and a .589 OPS in 57 games. Kearns is only owed another $400,000 or so this season, so he’s cheap enough that another team could pick him up as a right-handed bench bat if they’re convinced he still has some upside, but he hasn’t cracked a .750 OPS since 2007.

Choo was also struggling before the injury, hitting .244 with a .687 OPS in 72 games after topping a .300 batting average and .875 OPS in each of the past three seasons. If healthy he’ll provide a huge boost to the Indians as they try to reclaim the AL Central lead, but the early return will be worth keeping an eye on.

Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

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You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.