Chien-Ming Wang close to rejoining Nationals after strong rehab start

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Chien-Ming Wang tossed six innings of two-run ball last night in a minor-league rehab start at Single-A and might be one more solid outing away from rejoining the Nationals.

Wang has been out since injuring his calf covering first base on March 15 and has also battled major shoulder problems for the past three seasons, but Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that “his cannonball sinker is back in the low-90s, and his breaking balls are better than ever.”

Wang racked up an uncharacteristic seven strikeouts versus Single-A hitters last night and also induced five ground-ball outs, but with Ross Detwiler pitching very well as the fill-in fifth starter the Nationals will have a tough decision to make once Wang is deemed ready to return as soon as next week.

Report: Padres interested in Maikel Franco

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals
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The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.

Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.

Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.