Ryan Braun takes over NL home run lead

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Ryan Braun has, temporarily at least, lost his hold on a starting spot for the National League All-Star team. He does, however, possess the league lead in homers after hitting his 20th today.

He overtook Carlos Beltran, who has been stuck on 19 for a week now.

Braun went 3-for-4 in leading the Brewers to an 8-3 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday. The homer, off Luis Perez, was his fifth in seven games, and he’s currently riding a 15-game hitting streak.

It seems pretty obvious that Braun’s positive steroid test last winter, even though it was later overturned on appeal, has hurt his popularity. Last year, he was the NL’s leading vote-getter in the All-Star balloting, and he actually has better numbers now than he did at his point in 2011 (though it’s worth noting that his awesome April last year might have stuck better in the voters’ minds then than his down May and June).

Of course, Braun seems awfully likely to start the All-Star Game anyway. First, he’s the obvious choice to DH for the NL if he doesn’t get the lineup spot. Second, he could easily pass Melky Cabrera to reclaim a starting spot in the balloting. Third, he’d likely be moved into the lineup if Matt Kemp, the NL’s current leading vote-getter, isn’t ready to play in the All-Star Game as he recovers from his strained hamstring.

Padres release Phil Hughes

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The Padres have released right-hander Phil Hughes. He was recently designated for assignment.

Hughes was traded from the Twins to the Padres at the end of May in a deal that was, essentially, the Padres acquiring a Competitive Balance pick and agreeing to pick up half of Hughes outstanding salary, which is $13.2 million in 2019. The Padres used him for 16 relief appearances but he was terrible, posting a 6.10 ERA.

The 32-year-old is a 12-year veteran. Given that he’ll basically be free to anyone who wants him, it’s not unreasonable to think he’ll get a non-roster invite to someone’s spring training next year, but it could very well be the end for him as well.