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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.
Some thoughts from the Yankees-Red Sox game Thursday night:
-- The game was nearly four hours long, coming in at 3:52. About an hour of it was interesting. Basically, the Chamberlain-Smoltz matchup/disaster, plus the Pedroia plunking in the 8th. (You think Josh Beckett will have something to say about that on Friday?)
-- The game was so long, I was hearing calls for umpire Derryl Cousins to widen his strike zone to actually encompass the entire plate. With a strike zone like that, even Yuniesky Betancourt could have drawn a walk.
-- *The game was so long, John Smoltz had surgery, underwent rehab and returned to watch the final three innings.
*This is not true, but might be something to consider.
-- Speaking of Smoltz, it may be time to pull the plug, and he knows it. "I'm not doing it right now. I'm a big enough man to stand up here and say I'm not doing it. Time may not be on my side if this continues. I've been here before, but not like this."
-- I know Jorge Posada was one of the heroes and all (3-for-5, one mammoth 3-run homer), but how could he not slide on that play at the plate in the second inning? He was tagged out easily while sort of gently bumping Victor Martinez. If you remember, Posada was the guy who helped create the Derek Jeter legend by tagging out a non-sliding Jeremy Giambi in the 2001 playoffs. Talk about not learning from history.
-- Not sure if he was praising the Yankees, ripping Yankee Stadium, or a little bit of both, but Terry Francona said: "That's an unforgiving lineup in an unforgiving ballpark."
-- In going 0-for-5, David Ortiz played as if Saturday's press conference is weighing on his mind.
-- Lost in the shuffle: Casey Kotchman hit a two-run home run in his first start for Boston, and Kevin Youkilis played passably well in left field.
David Aardsma listed as "minute-to-minute."
Mariners closer David Aardsma was a great find by GM Jack Zduriencik in the offseason. He's saved 26 of 28 chances this season, crucial to a team that has specialized in one-run victories.
However, it's not all rosey for Aardsma, who is listed as manager Don Wakamatsu put it, as "minute-to-minute" after having a boil removed from his posterior.
As uncomfortable as that sounds, it must have been even worse to have the entire team, including coaches, enter the training room to look at the thing, as reported by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.
Hasn't been anything attracting this much interest in a visitors' clubhouse since Omar Vizquel of the Texas Rangers came to Safeco Field with a bunch of baby kangaroos back in July.
No offense to Aardsma, who I'm sure developed himself a fine boil, but I'm going with kangaroos on this one.
This is part of a series articles examining what every team's roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I'm compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
As I'm starting out writing these articles, I still don't have a set order for how I'm going to rank most of the teams. However, three rosters really stood out from the pack with only a casual view. One of those rosters will take the top spot in the rankings. The other two belonged to Kansas City and Cincinnati.
Well, the Royals have an ace. And the bullpen looks pretty solid with Howell, Affeldt and Calero. Unfortunately, there's just no rotation after Greinke and Hochevar, and Hochevar has a 5.40 ERA despite showing signs of improvement this year.
Durbin, Snyder and Rusch all had ERAs right around 6.00 in their Royals career, combining to go 25-56. Still, they might at least be able to eat some innings. One could argue for putting Howell or Affeldt in the rotation, but both had plenty of time to succeed as starters and never did. They're almost certainly more valuable protecting leads, not that they'd have much chance of that on this squad.
If you think Tom Gordon might have something left, you can squeeze him in over Bass or the third lefty, Byrdak. There isn't much else to choose from.
LF Johnny Damon
CF Carlos Beltran
RF David DeJesus
DH Billy Butler
3B Alex Gordon
2B Mark Ellis
1B Kila Ka'aihue
SS Mike Aviles
C Matt Treanor
INF Joe Dillon
C Sal Fasano
OF Mitch Maier
INF Andres Blanco
Kansas City's lineup outshines its pitching staff, thanks largely to a pair of outfielders who have long since moved on. DeJesus will have to play out of position in right, but that's still a strong outfield. The rest of the group is less impressive. Butler and Gordon still have some work to do to prove they're going to be above average regulars. Ellis is solid, but prone to injury and there isn't much behind him. I'm going with Ka'aihue at first, with Dillon as his platoonmate against lefties. Aviles gets the nod at short, since the only alternative is Blanco. Treanor and Fasano comprise the catching duo, leaving Paul Phillips out of the mix.
Mike Sweeney didn't make the cut. Dillon is probably the better hitter right now, and he offers some versatility.
GM Dayton Moore doesn't deserve much of the blame for this mess, even if it does look like the Royals are 0-for-3 in hiring GMs since John Schuerholz left in 1990. Herk Robinson brought in Beltran and Damon, but that's still not much of a haul for a 10-year reign, and Allard Baird's run was brutal. If it seems that the Royals have had a lot of bad luck when it comes to prospects, they've brought much of it on themselves. They overworked their young pitchers, and they encouraged their young hitters to be overly aggressive at the plate. Those practices seem to have stopped, and the team's drafts have gotten considerably better under Moore. Still, it's going to be a long time before the turnaround is complete.
* 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.
I'll be hosting a live blog/chat during the Red Sox-Yankees game tonight. Check back then for four hours of Big Papi harassment, home runs and maybe some humor (hopefully supplied by you).
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.