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Prince Fielder out of Rangers’ Lineup Saturday with Herniated Disk in Neck

Prince Fielder is out of the Texas Rangers‘ starting lineup on Saturday with a herniated disk in his neck, Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News reports. The loss of Fielder is just another blow to a Rangers team who have already seen the likes of Derek Holland, Jurickson Profar, Matt Harrison and others hit the shelf this season. 

Grant reports that Fielder received an injection Saturday to help combat the neck issue, and the severity of the injury remains unclear at this point. We’ve seen players miss a week with similar injuries (as Baltimore‘s Nick Markakis did in spring training of 2013), while others have undergone surgery (as New York’s Bobby Parnell did in September of 2013). 

From an on-field standpoint, the loss isn’t a drastic one for the Rangers, as Fielder was hitting just .247 with three home runs and 16 RBIs to this point. However, he did have three multi-hit days in his last four games, so seeing him miss time right as he was starting to get hot is certainly a letdown for Texas.

Fielder has been a disappointment with the Rangers so far, as many thought that moving his power to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington could make him an MVP candidate. The Rangers acquired Fielder last offseason in a one-for-one swap with the Tigers that sent Ian Kinsler to Detroit. Kinsler has thrived with the Tigers thus far, hitting .301 with four home runs and 19 RBIs, so if Fielder misses significant time, Detroit will be walking away as the early winners of the trade. 

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Washington Nationals Considering Moving Ryan Zimmerman to Left Field

Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is currently on the disabled list with a broken thumb, but when he comes back, he may no longer be “Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals third baseman.”

According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, the Nationals officials and coaches have internally discussed the idea of moving Zimmerman to left field when he returns from the disabled list.

The idea of moving Zimmerman away from third base has been floated around for multiple years now, and with his latest defensive struggles and Anthony Rendon playing strongly at third, it appears the time to do so could be now. And with Zimmerman’s arthritic shoulder, the sooner he can move away from the hot corner, the better.

As Kilgore points out, the Nationals have some confidence in the idea, based on the logic that if Michael Morse can learn left field, the more-defensively solid Zimmerman should have no troubles doing so. Morse was a shortstop coming up through the minors and moved to first base upon reaching the majors. 

Kilgore also brings up the point that the Nationals have no reason to make this idea public just yet. The team is still unsure of when Zimmerman will return from the disabled list, and Zimmerman himself would probably not be fond of worrying about position change speculation during his rehab. The idea is also not set in stone just yet, so the team will likely keep quiet until it is.

The other interesting part of this idea is what becomes of current left fielder Bryce Harper in all of this. Harper, like Zimmerman, is currently on the shelf as he recovers from his own broken thumb that he injured sliding into a base. But when he comes back (most think in early July), there’s no doubt the Nationals will want to get his bat right back into the lineup.

The most likely scenario if Zimmerman does move to left field is sliding Harper over to center. Denard Span is currently manning center field, but he’s posted an unimpressive (though steadily improving) .243 average and .296 on-base percentage to this point. Span is also set to become a free agent after this season, so the Nationals presumably would make taking care of Harper and Zimmerman (both signed through at least 2018) their priority. 

Harper, a converted outfielder in his own right, has had experience in center before. In 2012, he played 92 games at the position and he saw nine more games in 2013. While it may sound like he’d struggle transitioning defensively, Harper has actually posted a higher fielding percentage (.978 as opposed to .971) and UZR (9.8 as opposed to -3.1) in center field than left over the course of his big-league career.

While first base has long seemed like the most likely new position for Zimmerman, current first baseman Adam LaRoche is hitting too well (.319, five home runs, 21 RBIs) to justify benching him in favor of the third baseman. Additionally, locking Zimmerman in as the first baseman of the future would potentially limit the team’s power production from the position down the line; Zimmerman’s bat fits much better out of left field. It’s an idea that we haven’t heard before, but when it’s broken down, it just might make perfect sense.

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Miami Marlins Should Still Look to Compete in Spite of Jose Fernandez Injury

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Miami Marlins have a 20-18 record, good for third place in the National League East. However, they could be losing one of their biggest stars.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Dr. Neal ElAttrache diagnosed Miami ace Jose Fernandez with a “significant tear” of his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and recommended him for surgery. Fernandez was placed on the disabled list Monday with a right elbow injury and has undergone two MRIs in the past 24 hours.

Regardless of whether Fernandez has the surgery done or not, chances are he’ll be out for most, if not all of 2014. Despite losing the leader of their rotation, the Marlins still shouldn’t punt on this season.

It’s an understatement to say that the Marlins aren’t World Series favorites this year, or even a likely pick to make the playoffs. That being said, they’ve managed to post a .526 winning percentage over a 38-game span, proving that this roster has the pieces to get it done. So, when the trade deadline rolls around, Miami should be inclined to hold onto its veterans.

Of course, if quality big league-ready prospects are being offered in deals for Garrett Jones or Casey McGehee, Dan Jennings and company shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. That will only strengthen an already-solid core of young talent going into 2015.

But if the Marlins are looking at marginal returns or prospects that are still multiple years from the big leagues in exchange for their expiring contracts, keeping those players around as a veteran presence might prove more valuable for the Marlins. Allowing young players like Yelich, Ozuna, etc. to experience a winning atmosphere will prove valuable when the team is ready to be a contender in 2015.

In addition to hanging on to McGehee, Jones, etc., the Marlins should actually consider being a buyer come the July trade deadline. While expiring contracts like Jason Hammel and Chase Headley won’t do anything for Miami, players under contract beyond 2014 (David Price, Jeff Samardzija, etc.) would be worth pursuing in an effort to build for the 2015 season.

While Price might be a reach (though not unattainable if Jennings were motivated), Samardzija could certainly be an option. With a farm system deep in pitching, the Marlins could afford to send young arms Justin Nicolino and Trevor Williams to Chicago along with outfielder Jake Marisnick and catcher Austin Barnes to make a very formidable package.

With Stanton, Ozuna and Yelich already manning all three outfield spots, Marisnick is expendable, while Miami has enough pitching (Fernandez, Eovaldi, newly-acquired Samardzija, Alvarez, Heaney, Conley, etc.) to part with Nicolino and Williams.

Again, it’s fair to say that the Marlins probably won’t be doing any serious damage this season, but they have an opportunity to position themselves for a very successful 2015 if they do things right. By adding some quality veterans to their talented young core and establishing a competitive atmosphere in the club house, they just might be able to challenge the Braves and Nationals for the division crown next season.

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Bryce Harper Has Fun with NFL Draft, Jadeveon Clowney Pick on Twitter

On Tuesday, it will be 11 months to the day since Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper uttered his famous “That’s a clown question, bro” response to a reporter during a game in Toronto. The response ultimately turned into a pop-culture reference, as well as a line of Under Armour T-shirts. Almost a year later, the 21-year-old is still willing to laugh about it.

When South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney went first overall to the Texans in the 2014 NFL draft on Thursday night, Harper made the joke that everyone was hoping for. 



To be clear, Harper was just having fun, and congratulated Clowney as well, tweeting “Congrats to on being the number 1 pick in the draft..He deserves it! Guy is an absolute stud! .”

But it’s good to see that Harper is willing to laugh about something that has probably got on his nerves over the last year, and the Internet benefited because of it.

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Washington Nationals Should Stand Pat at Catcher in Wake of Wilson Ramos Injury

It was recently reported by the Washington Post that Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos is likely headed for surgery on his left hand that could keep him out for four to eight weeks. That leaves current backup Jose Lobaton in line to get the majority of the action behind the dish, with Jhonatan Solano likely in line to become the team’s new backup. 

As indicated by the fact that Ramos hit fourth (ahead of All-Star Bryce Harper and Silver Slugger Ian Desmond) on Monday, the Nationals clearly expected him to be a big contributor in the lineup. But suddenly, whoever starts at catcher will be an obvious candidate to bat eighth each game, and the depth in Washington’s lineup takes a significant hit. 

However, the Nationals shouldn’t panic. A lineup featuring the likes of Harper, Desmond, Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Adam LaRoche is still plenty talented enough to score enough runs to win ballgames. And at this stage of the season—the Nationals have yet to play their second gameit’s unlikely that Washington will be able to acquire a catcher who presents a significant upgrade over the team’s in-house options without vastly overpaying. 

And to be fair, Lobaton hasn’t yet had a chance to show what he can do. He hit just under .250 (.249) in 277 at-bats with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, so based on his track record, he’s not a total liability offensively and deserves a shot to prove he’s worthy of the starting job. Considering Washington gave up Nathan Karns, their former Minor League Pitcher of the Year, to get Lobaton, they obviously think somewhat highly of him. 

Worst case, Lobaton struggles for a week or two and the Nationals go out and acquire a catcher. If the team loses enough games in that span that they’re in a significant hole in the standings, there are more serious issues at hand than Jose Lobaton being the starting catcher anyway, so why not give him a shot? 

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AL Central: Could Detroit Tigers Trade for Eduardo Nunez?

Five players capable of handling the middle infield made the Yankees‘ Opening Day roster. Eduardo Nunez was not one of them.

Surprise rookie Yangervis Solarte made the roster after a very impressive spring training, while fellow rookie Dean Anna will presumably be filling in on the Yankees bench until Brendan Ryan comes off the disabled list. Regardless, the surplus resulted in the Yankees designating Nunez for assignment.

Now, the Yankees have eight more days to decide what to do with Nunez. They could send him to the minors, trade him or release him. He makes a quality depth option, but there may be a job for Nunez on one of the American League‘s best teams.  

With Jose Iglesias out for most, if not all, of 2014, the Tigers went out and acquired Alex Gonzalez from the Baltimore Orioles to take the reigns at shortstop. Gonzalez proved Dave Dombrowski right quickly, playing hero in the Tigers’ 4-3 win on Monday. However, the 37-year old has played in just 65 games over the last two seasons, and in addition to putting up average defense (-3.1 UZR in 2012, 0.5 UZR in 2013), Gonzalez struggled at the plate in 2013, hitting just .177 in 113 at-bats with the Brewers last season. 

So a strong Opening Day aside, Gonzalez isn’t exactly a strong option at short when put into the context of his last two seasons. And if the Tigers are going to pursue Stephen Drew, it seems at this point like they will wait until after the draft in June to avoid giving up draft pick compensation. So unless they want to ante up to acquire Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks or Nick Franklin from the Mariners, there aren’t exactly a plethora of quality shortstops available at a reasonable price.

Nunez is average at best as a defensive shortstop, but at the dish, his bat is a significant upgrade over the .177 average Gonzalez posted in 2013. While Nunez is as far from a power hitter as there is, he did hit 17 doubles in just 90 games in 2013, also stealing 10 bases (out of 13 attempts) in just over half a season. And even if the Tigers want to give Gonzalez a shot, having Nunez there to platoon with him will give Brad Ausmus a reliable option when Gonzalez needs a day off, which he will at some point.

Nunez is not as young as Gregorius or Franklin, nor does he have nearly as high a ceiling. But while there aren’t currently any reports indicating that the Tigers will claim Nunez if he makes it to their spot in the waiver order, he was once considered the heir to Yankee legend Derek Jeter, and while he’s certainly not a game-changing acquisition, the fact that he is both cheap and an upgrade makes swinging a deal for the 26-year-old a no-brainer for Detroit. 

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Oakland Athletics Find Quality Depth in Starter Joe Blanton

The Oakland Athletics announced on Monday that they signed former Angels pitcher Joe Blanton to a minor league deal, assigning him to Triple-A Sacramento. For Blanton, who was originally drafted by the Athletics, the signing results in a homecoming as well as an opportunity to bounce back from a forgettable year with the Angels. But it’s also a quality addition on the part of Billy Beane and the A’s. 

Sure, Blanton may not be a flashy acquisition that can replace injured ace Jarrod Parker, but considering the circumstances, he could certainly provide the Athletics with some good bang for their buck if brought up to their big league roster.

With the way things currently sit for the A’s, there is a very real possibility that Blanton could get called up sooner rather than later. As of Monday, Jesse Chavez, who has made just seven career starts over parts of nine seasons, was slated to be Oakland’s third starter—joining Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone in an injury-riddled rotation. Chavez has pitched well to this point in his two seasons with the Athletics, but in a very small sample size—meaning Bob Melvin could be quick to look elsewhere if Chavez struggles. 

Drew Pomeranz, currently one of two lefty relievers in Oakland’s bullpen, was originally drafted as a starter and would be more than capable of making a spot start if need be. But with Sean Doolittle as the only other lefty in the Athletics’ relief corps, Melvin may very well prefer to give Blanton the starting spot over Pomeranz if such a situation arose.

Many seem to think that Blanton’s career is essentially over, as he is coming off a career worst 6.08 ERA in 20 starts with the Angels last year. However, while it’s unlikely Blanton comes in and pitches 3.00 ERA-ball in Oakland, the Athletics’ spacious home ballpark and top-tier defense could definitely go a long way in helping Blanton return to form. If another Oakland starter goes down, don’t be surprised if Blanton’s name is called to slide into the rotation, and don’t have a funny look on your face if he’s putting up solid numbers again either.

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