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Nationals place Jonathan Papelbon on the disabled list with an intercostal strain

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If it seemed odd that Nationals manager Dusty Baker used Shawn Kelley to close out Monday’s 4-1 victory against the Cubs instead of Jonathan Papelbon, there was a reason. Papelbon was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a strained intercostal, the club announced. The Nationals reinstated reliever Matt Belisle from the disabled list.

Papelbon struggled in his most recent appearance against the Phillies on Sunday, giving up a leadoff home run to Maikel Franco to break a 3-3 tie. However, the Nationals were able to storm for two runs in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off win.

Thus far, Papelbon has been solid but not his usual elite self. He has registered the save in 16 of 18 attempts with a 3.28 ERA and a 19/8 K/BB ratio in 24 2/3 innings. The 35-year-old currently holds what would be a career-low strikeout rate (18.6%) if the season were to end today. His 7.8 percent walk rate would be his highest since 2010.

The Nationals have been linked in trade rumors to the Yankees, who could make Aroldis Chapman and/or Andrew Miller available. Kelley should be reliable in the short-term, though, as he owns a 2.70 ERA with a dynamite 34/5 K/BB ratio in 23 1/3 innings this season.

Reds are the frontrunner for Nicholas Castellanos

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Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Reds “have emerged as the frontrunner” to sign free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Morosi says the Reds and Castellanos “have made progress over the past several days.”

The Reds were going to have a lot of outfielders already when they hit Goodyear, Arizona in a couple of weeks, with newcomer Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Scott Schebler, and Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton. Senzel was an infielder before last year, of course, so he could move back to the dirt, perhaps. And, of course, the Reds could trade from their outfield surplus if, indeed, they end up with an outfield surplus.

Without question, however, Castellanos would be the big dog, at least offensively, in that setup. He had a breakout year at the plate in 2019, hitting .289/.337/.525 overall (OPS+ 121), but slugging at a blistering .321/.356/.646 pace (OPS+ 151) after being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs. In Chicago — rescued from cavernous Comerica Park — his big doubles power turned into big homer power. If he were to sign to play half his season in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark one can only imagine the damage he’d do.