It’s difficult to call a five-inning start spectacular, but at the very least, Stephen Strasburg’s return was a sign of spectacular things to come. Making his first start just over a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Strasburg held the Dodgers to two hits and no walks with four strikeouts, throwing 56 pitches (and 40 strikes) over five innings.
It ended up fizzling into a no-decision after his bullpen allowed seven runs over the next four innings, but there’s little doubt that the 23-year-old has already rediscovered something resembling peak form. And he has a chance to break out an explosive line with a start against the punchless Astros this weekend.
* Speaking of notable pitching returns, Dustin McGowan made his first big league appearance since July 2008, and though he struggled somewhat (three runs on five hits and three walks over four relief innings against Boston), McGowan did record five strikeouts while hitting 96 mph on the gun.
* And while we’re on the topic of hard-throwing right-handers, Josh Beckett has been diagnosed with a sprained right ankle, and Gorden Edes of ESPN Boston reports that the Red Sox are hoping he’ll only miss 1-2 starts, beginning with Sunday’s scheduled turn in the rotation.
* Meanwhile, Beckett’s teammate, Clay Buchholz, is still hoping to return as a starter, and though the Red Sox haven’t ruled that out, it appears that Buchholz wouldn’t be ready to start until the postseason, meaning that any regular season innings he sees would likely be as a reliever.
* In other pitching news, Johan Santana looked impressive during a Tuesday bullpen session, with Josh Thole (who caught the bullpen) telling MLB.com: “He might not be the exact same person, but I’ll tell you: the ball is coming out of his hand just as good as ever.” Assuming he doesn’t have another setback, Santana will make a rehab start on Friday and could rejoin the Mets next week.
* And speaking of left-handers (I know, the transitions in this Dose so far have been nothing short of astounding), Rockies prospect Drew Pomeranz will make his big league debut against the Reds on Sunday. Acquired in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, Pomeranz is just a couple weeks removed from an Aug. 20 emergency appendectomy, and while the Rockies will likely play it careful with him down the stretch, there’s significant upside here for next year. The 2010 first-round pick posted a 1.78 ERA with a 119/38 K/BB ratio in his first 20 professional starts this year.
* The good news on Rickie Weeks (ankle) is that he could return from the DL this weekend against the Phillies, but any enthusiasm on that front should be tempered by the fact that Weeks isn’t ready to play the field yet, meaning that he’ll initially be a pinch-hitter upon his return.
* Jason Kipnis (1-for-3 on Tuesday) rejoined the Indians after a three-week absence due to hamstring and oblique injuries, and warrants a look where available after hitting .279 with six homers in his first 18 major league games.
* Jose Tabata, who left Monday’s game early, has been diagnosed with a small fracture in his left hand. The Pirates reportedly plan to shut him down for the next 10 days before reevaluating the injury, so it’s very possible we’ve seen the 23-year-old’s last meaningful contributions this season.
* Jason Motte picked up his third save Tuesday, and though it was an ugly one (three hits and a run), he’s beginning to look like the preferred closing option in St. Louis after having received three of the last four save chances for the Cards, and allowing just one earned run since late June.
* After Bobby Parnell struggled again on Tuesday, Terry Collins told ESPN New York that the right-hander could get a break from the closer’s role. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Collins could turn to anyone from among Josh Stinson, Manny Acosta, Pedro Beato or Jason Isringhausen if he does use someone else to close. For any fantasy owners brave enough to try extracting saves from this mess of a bullpen, it should be noted that Stinson picked up his first major league save with a perfect 12th inning on Tuesday.
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Pitcher injury notes: Carlos Carrasco (elbow) will undergo Tommy John surgery next week, meaning he’s likely out until late 2012 or early 2013… Josh Tomlin (elbow) has been cleared to begin playing catch, but may return as a reliever if he’s able to make it back this year… Paul Maholm (shoulder) and Kevin Correia (oblique) are officially done for the season… Bronson Arroyo (knee) is expected to make his next scheduled start… Francisco Liriano (shoulder) is slated to throw a bullpen later this week, but it remains unclear if he’ll make it back in 2011.
Position player injury notes: Nelson Cruz (hamstring) is hoping to return when eligible on Tuesday… Mike Stanton (hamstring) appeared as a pinch-hitter, but indications are that he might not rejoin the starting lineup until this weekend… Hanley Ramirez (shoulder) will undergo surgery on Sept. 15 and could miss 4-6 months, potentially putting the beginning of his 2012 season in doubt… The Orioles activated Chris Davis (shoulder) from the 15-day DL… Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told MLB.com that Jimmy Rollins (groin) is “getting closer,” but still isn’t quite ready to return… Aubrey Huff got a day off after leaving Monday’s game with back tightness, and Brett Pill homered in his major league debut while playing first in Huff’s place… Blake DeWitt (hamstring) is currently only available to pinch-hit… Coco Crisp (foot) was a late scratch Tuesday, but could be back Wednesday… Ryan Howard admitted that he’s still bothered by bursitis in his heel and Achilles, which could result in some days off later this month after the Phillies clinch… Justin Morneau (concussion) is expected to take BP Wednesday, but there remains no timetable for his return.
Position player injury notes, Part II: Shin-Soo Choo is hoping to return on Sept. 13… Scott Rolen (shoulder) is still optimistic about a return this season… Franklin Gutierrez hit the 60-day DL, putting an end to his disappointing 2011… Conor Jackson (knee) was scheduled to hit off a tee Tuesday and should be ready to return soon… Jed Lowrie (shoulder) entered Tuesday’s blowout win off the bench… Denard Span (head) went through a full workout and is still attempting to return this month… As expected, Brennan Boesch (thumb) underwent season-ending surgery and now faces 10-12 weeks of recovery… Ike Davis (ankle), Jonathan Herrera (finger) and Rajai Davis (hamstring) are officially done for the season… Yunel Escobar (wrist) returned to action … Travis Hafner (foot) might still need offseason surgery even if he is able to return this month… Johnny Damon (leg) was available as a pinch-hitter Tuesday… Colby Rasmus (wrist) hit off a tee Tuesday, but manager John Farrell reportedly wants him to get some minor league at-bats before he returns… Mike Cameron left Tuesday’s game in the 11th inning with a tight right hamstring.
Miscellaneous notes: Rockies prospect catcher Wilin Rosario (.249 average, 21 homers at Double-A) went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in his major league debut… Alexi Ogando (5.01 ERA since the All-Star break) will rejoin the rotation on Saturday after having his last turn skipped… The Dodgers recalled Jerry Sands, who returns with no guarantees of playing time in left field… Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-3 in his return from Triple-A… The Blue Jays recalled Kyle Drabek, who will be used as a reliever after struggling badly as a starter this year… The Mariners recalled Alex Liddi (28 homers, 101 RBI at Triple-A), but he may not get enough starts to be relevant… Brian Matusz (9.84 ERA in 10 starts this season) has not surprisingly been removed from the rotation… The Nationals called up Brad Peacock, but the right-hander will pitch as a reliever down the stretch… Nats 2B prospect Steve Lombardozzi (.309 average with eight homers and 30 steals in the minors) drew a walk in his major league debut as a pinch-hitter… Josh Johnson, who’s out for the year due to his shoulder injury, is hoping to prevent future shoulder trouble by improving his posture.
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Notable pitching: Jon Lester picked up his 15th win with 11 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings against the Jays… Sergio Santos bounced back from a couple shaky outings to pick up his 29th save… Jake Peavy threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings with nine K’s against the Twins… C.J. Wilson threw his first career shutout en route to his 15th win… Kyle Lohse picked up win No. 13 with six shutout innings against Milwaukee… Jeff Niemann struggled against Texas for a second consecutive start… Vance Worley moved to 11-1 after allowing two runs in six innings against the Braves… Mike Leake held the Cubs to two runs over nine innings in what may have been his last start of the season.
Notable hitting: The currently scalding David Murphy went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a homer and four RBI… Jon Jay homered for a second straight game… Marco Scutaro went 4-for-5 with four RBI… Eric Hosmer homered for the fourth time in his last seven games… Starting over Jesus Montero Tuesday, Jorge Posada homered in just his second appearance since Aug. 30… Troy Tulowitzki hit No. 30 on the season… Matt Wieters homered for the sixth time in his last 13 games.