Carlos Quentin cleared for live batting practice

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Carlos Quentin is far enough along in his recovery from March 19 knee surgery that he’s been cleared for live batting practice.

Quentin was initially given a 4-6 week return timetable and won’t be ready to return by the time he’s eligible to come off the disabled list on April 18, but manager Bud Black told Corey Brock of MLB.com that a minor-league rehab assignment isn’t far off if setbacks can be avoided.

Quentin was acquired from the White Sox for a pair of prospects in December and moving from power-inflating U.S. Cellular Field to pitcher’s haven Petco Park figures to drag down his raw numbers, but the Padres can definitely use his right-handed thump in the lineup. He averaged 33 homers per 150 games for the White Sox and they’ve been platooning Chris Denorfia and Will Venable in right field while playing Jesus Guzman everyday in left field in Quentin’s absence.

Bryce Harper will participate in the Home Run Derby if he makes the All-Star team

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Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.

Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.

Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.