• Daily Dose: Oblique strain sidelines Upton

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    Justin Upton was putting together one of the greatest seasons in baseball history for a 21-year-old, batting .301/.374/.541 with 20 homers, 48 total extra-base hits, 66 RBIs, 68 runs, 16 steals, and 45 walks through 103 games before suffering a strained oblique Wednesday. He was placed on the disabled list Thursday and a similar injury cost Upton a month last year, so he may be out until September.

    Despite being benched on Opening Day by a manager who was fired, Upton has emerged as one of the game's brightest young stars by posting a .915 OPS that ranks 11th all time among 21-years-olds behind Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Albert Pujols, Mel Ott, Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Mathews, Cesar Cedeno, Joe Jackson, and Hal Trosky. His injury is a speed bump on a Hall of Fame path.

    While the Diamondbacks' hugely disappointing season takes another painful turn here are some other notes from around baseball …

    * Jason Bay and J.D. Drew are both banged up and Rocco Baldelli landed on the disabled list Thursday after fouling a ball off his foot, so Boston recalled prospect Josh Reddick and shifted Kevin Youkilis to left field. Youkilis has 17 career starts in the outfield and the move allowed the Red Sox to keep Mike Lowell and Victor Martinez in the lineup while giving Casey Kotchman his first start with the team.

    Kotchman responded by homering against the Yankees after going deep just six times in 336 plate appearances with the Braves. Bay may end missing the entire New York series with a strained hamstring, but Drew was able to reach base four times while playing through a groin injury. Reddick won't have any fantasy value, but Kotchman could have some brief AL-only upside if he gets hot right away.

    * After watching J.A. Happ's brilliant 10-strikeout complete-game shutout against the Rockies, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made it clear Thursday that he's in no danger of giving his spot in the Phillies' rotation to Pedro Martinez. Amaro said that Happ "isn't going anywhere" and "deserves to stay in the rotation" after going 6-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 14 starts, adding that a six-man rotation is possible.

    * John Smoltz struggled again Thursday, failing to make it out of the fourth inning versus the Yankees while allowing eight runs on nine hits and four walks. Smoltz is now 2-5 with an ugly 8.32 ERA in eight starts for the Red Sox and while a 33/9 K/BB ratio in 40 innings suggests that he's still somewhat effective eight homers and a .343 opponents' batting average show that he's hardly fooling anyone yet.

    AL Quick Hits: Frank Francisco pitched a scoreless eighth inning Thursday to set up C.J. Wilson for the save … Thanks to nice run support Joba Chamberlain won Thursday despite allowing two homers and a career-high seven walks … Tommy Hunter kept defying the odds Thursday with seven innings of three-run ball while improving to 4-2 with a 2.64 ERA … John Danks gave up seven runs Thursday and has struggled in three straight starts since missing a turn in the rotation with a finger injury … Jed Lowrie left Thursday's game after straining his forearm on a swing … Adrian Beltre singled in all four at-bats Thursday in his third game back from shoulder surgery … Bruce Chen won Thursday for the first time since 2005, snapping a streak of 13 straight losses … Juan Cruz (shoulder) went on the shelf Thursday after allowing 29 runs in his last 28 innings … Hank Blalock homered Thursday, but is hitting .198 with 24 strikeouts and zero walks since the break.

    NL Quick Hits: Guillermo Mota, Joe Torre, and Prince Fielder all avoided being suspended for Tuesday's bean-ball incident … After going deep in three straight games, Jimmy Rollins missed the cycle by a homer Thursday … Cliff Lee struck out nine over seven innings of one-run ball Thursday, making him 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA for the Phillies … Ryan Zimmerman was 4-for-4 with a homer Thursday and is now just one long ball shy of matching his career-high of 24 from 2007 … Alex Romero went 4-for-7 with a steal and hit a tie-breaking double in the 12th inning Thursday … Chris Coglan turned in his fifth straight multi-hit game Thursday and also swiped his sixth base … As expected, Bobby Parnell will replace Jon Niese (hamstring) in the rotation … Clint Barmes went hitless for a sixth straight game Thursday, making him 8-for-74 (.108) since the All-Star break … Despite winning 63 games last year and being 44-65 this season manager Bud Black's contract was extended Thursday by the Padres.

  • Link-O-Rama: No suspensions for Mota, Fielder, Torre

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    * Guillermo Mota intentionally plunked Prince Fielder with one out to go in a blowout Tuesday night, Russell Martin admitted afterward that manager Joe Torre ordered the hit, and Fielder tried to storm the Dodgers clubhouse following the game ... and surprisingly no one received a suspension for any of it.

    * Daisuke Matsuzaka backtracked yesterday on the statements he made last month suggesting that the Red Sox's training program played a part in his arm problems. Interestingly, the original statements came from an interview he did with a Japanese writer, but yesterday's follow-up came via what the Boston Herald called "his first-ever extended comments in English."

    * Random tidbit: Cubs backup catcher Koyie Hill started just five of 26 games from June 7 to July 6, but with Geovany Soto landing on the disabled list he's started an amazing 26 straight games behind the plate since then. Thankfully for Hill's well being, Soto is expected to come off the DL tomorrow.

    * Jason Bay is expected to be sidelined until at least Saturday after aggravating his hamstring injury.

    * Crazy story from Arizona: "A former assistant principal at a Valley school has been moonlighting as an escort" and "advertises $450 per hour for a 'girlfriend experience.'" Oh, and she also happens to be the ex-wife of longtime Red Sox outfielder Troy O'Leary.

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  • Giambi is healthy, but do the A's want him back?

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    Mychael Urban of MLB.com is one of my favorite beat reporters because he writes stuff like this about the A's not activating a healthy Jason Giambi from the disabled list.

    Sensing the frustration of my various colleagues who've been trying to get to the bottom of this whole Jason Giambi thing, I finally just came out with the question everyone wants the answer to. Point-blank, I asked Bob Geren: Will Jason be on the active roster again this year?

    If the answer is yes, you say yes, right? Of course you do. That's easy. If the answer is no, but you don't want to admit it, you hem and haw and haw and hem. Suffice to say Geren's answer was not yes. It was: "Promising anything in this game if difficult to do." Draw your own conclusions.

    Oakland is in last place at 47-60. Giambi is 38 years old and hit .193 with a career-worst .697 OPS through 83 games before going on the DL. There's no real reason for the A's to keep him around at this point, but he's making $4 million this season, has a $6.5 million option or $1.25 million buyout for 2010, and was a superstar in Oakland at the beginning of the decade, so the situation is somewhat complicated.

    Perhaps the A's will try to keep him on the shelf for as long as possible while taking a look at minor-league veteran Tommy Everidge at first base and then give Giambi some September starts as a nice sendoff once rosters expand? Whatever the case, as Urban's little chat with the manager shows Giambi is ready to play again and the A's are trying to avoid making a decision on his roster status.

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  • Happ to stay in Phillies' rotation, but will Moyer?

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    After watching J.A. Happ's brilliant 10-strikeout, complete-game shutout of the Rockies last night, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made it very clear this morning that the 26-year-old rookie will remain in the Phillies' rotation despite Pedro Martinez's impending arrival.

    "Happ's not going anywhere," Amaro said. "He's not going out of the rotation. He deserves to stay in the rotation. He has pitched very well. He's one of our most effective starters."

    Happ is "not going anywhere" and Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton are obviously safe, so that would seemingly mean that a) Jamie Moyer will lose his spot to Martinez after posting a 5.55 ERA through 21 starts, b) Martinez won't be joining the rotation after all, or c) the Phillies will go with some sort of six-man rotation. He's what Amaro said about those three possibilities:

    Why can't we go with a six-man rotation? We still haven't made a decision, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that six guys could pitch in our rotation. We haven't discussed it yet. There are a lot of possibilities. You never what's going to happen the next week to 10 days. A man could go down right now. There are a lot of things that could happen the next week or so that would change our thinking.

    It depends how you utilize [a six-man rotation]. You can be creative and set up the rotation so certain guys go every five days and other guys get pushed back. The fact of the matter is, we're not there yet. But we are in a situation where we have six starters, and we'll see how creative we can be.

    In other words, the Phillies are in no rush to add Martinez to the mix after three good but not great minor-league rehab starts. Interestingly, all of this would probably be a moot point if not for the 46-year-old Moyer being owed $6.5 million for next season. That makes it tougher for the Phillies to simply ditch him for Martinez, especially if they don't think that Moyer would take well to even a short-term bullpen role.

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  • Link-O-Rama: Neftali Feliz is human

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    * Neftali Feliz's second big-league outing didn't go quite as well as his first, as he learned the hard way that even major-league hitters with just 66 homers in 4,822 career plate appearances can catch up to a 97-mph fastball.

    * Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has an update on the seemingly never-ending saga of Dominican prospect Miguel Angel Sano, whose age still hasn't been verified and remains under investigation.

    Pittsburgh has long been considered the front-runner for Sano, who many consider the top international free agent available this year, but the Pirates have reportedly pulled their offer from the table. Basically, until his age is confirmed one way or another it's very difficult for any team to move forward in negotiations.

    * Clint Barmes has two hits in his last 43 at-bats and has gone 8-for-71 (.113) since the All-Star break, but for some reason manager Jim Tracy is sticking with the career .260/.300/.413 hitter as if big production is right around the corner once his epic slump ends.

    * Injuries have wrecked the Mets' roster to the point that they're now bringing back scrubs from seasons past, like Anderson Hernandez.

    * Unfortunately for the last-place Royals, cats are better than their hitters when it comes to getting on base at Kauffman Stadium.

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  • Daily Dose: Pedro Who?

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    With the Phillies facing a decision on who to bump from their rotation once Pedro Martinez is deemed ready, J.A. Happ submitted his case for remaining a starter with the best performance of his career Wednesday. He tossed a complete-game shutout against the Rockies, striking out a career-high 10 while allowing just four hits and two walks, and the 127-pitch effort makes him 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA.

    Happ's outing ranks among the top dozen starts in the NL this season and easily overshadowed the six innings of three-run ball that Martinez threw at Double-A in his third and perhaps final rehab appearance. Jamie Moyer is the obvious choice to be replaced by Martinez thanks to his 5.55 ERA, but the 46-year-old is signed for next season at $6.5 million and the Phillies don't see him as a bullpen option.

    That leaves poor Happ as the odd man out, because Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton obviously aren't going anywhere. There's no question that Happ is a better option than Moyer or Martinez down the stretch, but the Phillies may want to prep him for a postseason bullpen role and a six-game cushion in the division gives them a chance to do that without really risking their odds of getting there.

    While the Phillies make a choice between experience and money or performance and youth, here are some other notes from around baseball …

    * Believe it or not the Mets suffered another big injury Wednesday, as Jon Niese exited his start in the second inning with what turned out to be a complete tear of his right hamstring. He was just starting to look like he was in the majors to stay, but the 22-year-old lefty will miss the remainder of the season. Nelson Figueroa tossed 4.1 shutout innings in relief of Niese and could take his rotation spot.

    Bobby Parnell is another option, as Jerry Manuel admitted that he's considered a move back to the starting role that he filled in the minors and seemingly took the first step toward stretching out his arm with a three-inning relief appearance. His upside as a starter is fairly limited, because Parnell had a 4.67 ERA and 188/104 K/BB ratio in 45 starts between Double-A and Triple-A before moving to the pen.

    * Already on the disabled list with an injured shoulder, Erik Bedard is headed for an MRI exam after complaining of soreness following a bullpen session Tuesday. Bedard is eligible to come off the shelf on August 10 and if healthy could still be traded by the Mariners, but even a minor setback would rule that out and end the impending free agent's time in Seattle after 30 starts and 11 wins in two years.

    AL Quick Hits: Tim Wakefield (calf) felt strong enough to throw a bullpen session Wednesday, but there's no timetable yet for his return … Bobby Jenks was again unavailable Wednesday because of kidney stones … Jason Berken will remain in the rotation despite going 0-9 since winning his MLB debut … Boston inked Paul Byrd to a minor-league deal Wednesday and he could be a September rotation option … Acquired from the Cardinals last week to finish the Mark DeRosa deal, Jess Todd could claim a late-inning role in the Indians' bullpen … Cody Ransom began the season as Alex Rodriguez's fill-in, but was designated for assignment Wednesday after batting .190 … Brandon McCarthy (shoulder) is slated to begin a rehab stint Saturday at Triple-A … Francisco Liriano took his AL-high 11th loss Wednesday, allowing four runs before the bullpen imploded … David Ortiz was benched Wednesday versus lefty David Price, with Mike Lowell starting at DH.

    NL Quick Hits: Scott Rolen went deep in his return to the lineup Wednesday after getting beaned Sunday … Roy Oswalt (back) threw from flat ground Wednesday and will try a mound session Friday … Clint Barmes was hitless Wednesday and is now 8-for-66 (.121) since the All-Star break … After starting 54 straight games since being called up, dizziness kept Andrew McCutchen out Wednesday … B.J. Ryan will try to find another minor-league deal after being released Wednesday by the Cubs … Chris Young is expected to avoid surgery on his injured shoulder, but won't pitch again this year … Wandy Rodriguez (hamstring) tossed a bullpen session Wednesday and noted afterward that he "felt great" … Chad Gaudin had his second straight poor outing Wednesday after looking like he was ready to be a fantasy asset … Micah Owings (shoulder) threw a simulated game Wednesday and could begin a rehab stint next week … Jimmy Rollins homered Wednesday for the third straight game.

  • Link-O-Rama: Somebody hold me back!

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    * CBS2.com in Los Angeles has some footage of an irate Prince Fielder trying to force his way into the Dodgers' clubhouse to confront Guillermo Mota after being plunked with one out remaining in a 17-4 blowout last night. It took two teammates and a security guard to stop the 270-pound Fielder, who was still in uniform.

    * Because the Mets won't be satisfied until every player in the entire organization is on the disabled list, Jon Niese left this afternoon's start in the second inning with a hamstring strain. We're like two more injuries away from Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez coming out of the broadcast booth to play.

    * Jason Giambi is ready to come off the disabled list, but the A's may not want him back after the 38-year-old hit just .193/.332/.364 through 328 plate appearances.

    * Chico Harlan of the Washington Post has an interesting look at the last remaining trace of the Expos.

    * Jared Remy, who was recently fired by the Red Sox after being implicated in steroid use, revealed yesterday that his father and television announcer Jerry Remy is now cancer free.

    * If you're into Twitter, check me out @aarongleeman and also check Matthew Pouliot out @matthewpouliot. What we lack in unoriginal account names we'll try to make up for in Tweet frequency and good looks.

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  • Sidney Ponson is, once again, looking for work

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    Yesterday the Royals designated Sidney Ponson for assignment after he went 1-7 with a 7.36 ERA in 58.2 innings.

    What's amazing about Ponson is that he's pitched for seven different teams during the past seven seasons, including two stints with both the Orioles and Yankees, yet hasn't had an ERA below 5.00 since way back in 2003, when he went 17-12 with a 3.75 ERA in 216 innings as a 26-year-old. Since then he's 33-48 with a 5.82 ERA in 663 innings, including yearly ERAs of 5.30, 6.21, 6.25, 6.93, 5.04, and now 7.36.

    Along with the horrible pitching he also comes along with plenty of baggage, yet every year he latches on with another team or two before they come to their senses and cut him loose. At this point there's no possible reason for a major-league team to give Ponson a roster spot, let alone a place in the rotation, but then again that's been true for years now and he keeps getting paid handsomely to basically throw batting practice for a few months while dozens of far more capable pitchers rot in the minors.

    Seriously, throw a dart at a Triple-A roster and more likely than not you'll hit someone who can out-pitch Ponson. Does he have a collection of photographs depicting every single big-league general manager in some sort of compromising position and just randomly pulls a picture out whenever he needs a new gig? Every year some major-league team that spends millions of dollars employing experts on evaluating baseball talent signs Ponson and lets him lose a bunch of games while posting a 6.00 ERA.

    One of the oft-repeated criticisms when it comes to stats-based analysis is that scouts, managers, and "baseball men" have an eye for talent that simply goes beyond numbers. While certainly true in many instances, Ponson is a prime example of why that isn't always a positive thing. Based strictly on stats Ponson should have been out of baseball four years and six teams ago, and for all the bad moves made by all the misguided teams his continued presence in the big leagues is the most mind-boggling to me.

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  • Will the Phillies bump Moyer or Happ for Pedro?

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    Pedro Martinez is scheduled to make his third and perhaps final minor-league rehab start tonight at Double-A, but as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports the Phillies haven't revealed what they plan to do once he's deemed ready to join the rotation.

    Jamie Moyer turned in another rough outing last night and now has a 5.55 ERA through 21 starts, so bumping the 46-year-old southpaw would be the obvious move. Of course, manager Charlie Manuel is loyal to the veteran who won 16 games with a 3.71 ERA last season, Moyer makes $6.5 million this year with another $6.5 due in 2010, and Zolecki notes that he's "not seen as a viable bullpen option."

    Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton obviously aren't going anywhere, so if Moyer stays in the rotation and Martinez joins him that pushes J.A. Happ to the bullpen. As a 26-year-old rookie it's not surprising that Happ is seen as the most flexible in terms of not making a stink about his role and he's had past success as a reliever, but he's also dramatically out-pitched Moyer by going 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 starts.

    Prior to the Lee trade signing Martinez looked like a worthwhile move for the Phillies, but swapping Pedro for Happ while keeping Moyer and his bloated ERA in the rotation hardly looks like an upgrade. Martinez has incentives in his contract based on relief work, but the Phillies are clearly prepping him to start and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said that he's not a bullpen option.

    The good news for the Phillies is their five-game lead in a division that doesn't really look capable of challenging them much down the stretch, so regardless of who fills the last two rotation spots they're likely playoff bound. Once there Hamels, Lee, and Blanton will be the workhorses anyway as the need for a five-man rotation disappears, so maybe prepping Happ for a postseason bullpen role has some upside too.

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  • Joba Chamberlain's mom is in trouble again

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    Already awaiting trial after being charged with selling methamphetamine to an undercover police officer earlier this summer, Joba Chamberlain's mother has now been accused of leaving a threatening phone message for another woman in Nebraska. Here's more, from the Associated Press:

    Lincoln police spokeswoman Katie Flood said 44-year-old Jacqueline Standley was cited Monday on suspicion of disturbing the peace. Flood said a 28-year-old woman reported that Standley left a threatening message on her cell phone July 27.

    An officer who listened to the message said Standley told the woman "You'd better disappear. Keep your eyes open." Flood described the two women as former friends. Standley has a court hearing set for Sept. 4.

    Not a good sign when you're assigned a court date and have to check your schedule to make sure that you don't already have another hearing that day.

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