Neal Huntington intends to keep Russell Martin in a Pirates uniform

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Pirates catcher Russell Martin knocked in the Pirates’ only run in Sunday’s 1-0 win against the Brewers, helping them inch their way closer to punching at least a ticket to the National League Wild Card play-in game. That came after slugging a go-ahead three-run home run in the eighth inning on Friday to send the Pirates to a late win over the Brewers. Both underscore Martin’s importance to the team.

In fact, had Martin not missed a month between late April and late May, he would very likely have a solid case in the NL MVP conversation. Along with solid defense at the most important position on the diamond, Martin has hit .297/.408/.442 with 11 home runs and 67 RBI. The .408 on-base percentage is tops in baseball.

Martin is also a free agent after the season, which presents an issue for the Pirates. If they’re going to keep him around, they are going to have to commit more years and more money than the two-year, $17 million contract they signed him to back in November 2012. Pirates GM Neal Huntington wants to keep Martin around, though. Via Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune:

Huntington is not wrong to be apprehensive. Martin is 31 and is having what is, by far, the best season of his career. He plays a position in which players are regularly beat up and injuries are commonplace. It’s easy to have a multi-year deal with a catcher go sour very quickly. But, for the contending Pirates, they may not have any better option, as the free agent market is no longer filled to the brim with talent.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.