Allen Craig missed the first month of the season while recovering from knee surgery and another two weeks while nursing a hamstring ailment. He’s doing his best to make up for the lost time.
After banging out two more home runs Monday, giving him four over his last four contests, Craig is now hitting .322/.394/.651 with 13 longballs and 42 RBI over 40 games this season. Despite missing six weeks of action, he’s still on pace for 26 home runs and 85 RBI. Not bad for a guy that’s eligible at second base in many leagues.
The interesting thing will be what the Cardinals do with Craig when Lance Berkman returns from the disabled list, which evidently could be just after the All-Star break. Berkman rejoined the Cards in St. Louis over the weekend after rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee in Houston. He’s running without any apparent issues and should resume baseball-related activities soon.
"The plan all along was get [the rehab started] in Houston to where I could do the baseball stuff, then come back here and do the baseball stuff and be ready to go," Berkman said on MLB.com. "So far it's worked exactly like we anticipated it."
It might be more realistic to expect Berkman back late this month rather than just after the break, but unless he has a setback, it’s clear that he’s close. So where does that leave Craig? Well, Berkman probably won’t be an everyday player initially, and he’ll likely sit most games against left-handed pitching in favor of Craig. Carlos Beltran could also probably need a few more days off, giving Craig some starts in right field. There’s also the possibility that he could be shoehorned in at second base some nights, though manager Mike Matheny isn’t keen to that idea.
The bottom line is that “Wrench” is showing he needs to be in the lineup most nights, and we’re expecting the Cards to make that happen.
Oakland Duo Making Progress
The A’s rotation has been pretty solid for most of the season despite the absence of two of their better starters in Brett Anderson (elbow) and Dallas Braden (shoulder). With any luck, the two left-handers should be added to the rotation sometime in the second half.
Anderson has thrown a few bullpen sessions with no issues and is scheduled to face live hitters Friday for the first time since his setback in May. He’ll throw to hitters 2-3 times before going out on a rehab assignment after the All-Star break. A return sometime in August is likely at this point.
As far as Braden goes, he threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Monday, which is the first time he’s thrown from a mound since he had a setback during spring training. He was very pleased with the results.
“I was kind of lost and confused because everything was working so fluidly,” Braden told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Very exciting.”
Braden is a little behind Anderson, but manager Bob Melvin said he’s still expecting the 28-year-old to make a contribution before the end of the season.
Kemp to Begin Rehab
Matt Kemp has been running without any issues for a couple weeks now and is ready to test out his hamstring on a rehab assignment.
The talented 27-year-old will head to High-A Rancho Cucamonga Tuesday to play a handful of minor league games. He’ll be used in the DH spot Tuesday before playing five innings in center field Wednesday and then returning to DH the next day.
If Kemp can avoid another aggravation of his left hamstring injury, he’ll return for the first game of the second half. While he will not participate in the All-Star game next week, he will be part of the Home Run Derby, for which he is the National League’s captain.
National League Quick Hits: Zack Cozart left Monday’s game after being hit on the helmet by a pitch. He’s been diagnosed with a mild concussion for now, but more should be known on his status Tuesday after he’s been re-evaluated … Jeff Samardzija was lights-out Monday, punching out a career-high 11 batters while limiting the Braves to one run over seven innings. It breaks a streak of five straight non-quality starts for the righty … Andre Ethier (oblique) missed a fifth straight start Monday, but the Dodgers remain confident he’ll be able to avoid a trip to the disabled list … The Braves were scouting Zack Greinke’s start Monday. If the Brewers make him available, Atlanta surely won’t be the only ones in on him … Joey Votto (knee) sat out a second straight game Monday, but the Reds are confident he’ll return to the lineup soon … Chris Carpenter (shoulder) didn’t throw a scheduled bullpen session Monday and might not throw Tuesday, either. It’s possible he’s suffered another setback … Dexter Fowler didn’t start Monday due to a strained lat. He was able to pinch-hit, though, and should return to the lineup soon.
American League Quick Hits: The Red Sox haven’t ruled out a trip to the disabled list for Will Middlebrooks (hamstring). Middlebrooks, though, says he’s feeling better and thinks he’ll be back during the series with the A’s … An X-ray on Mike Trout’s right pinkie finger came back negative. He should be back in the lineup in a day or two … Max Scherzer (hamstring) will not make his scheduled start Tuesday but is expected to be ready by this weekend. Duane Below will come out of the bullpen for a spot start … Ricky Romero was pummeled for eight earned runs Monday for the second straight start. He now holds a 5.35 ERA and 1.49 WHIP for the season and can’t be trusted in mixed leagues for the time being … Brian Roberts didn’t play Monday due to groin soreness that originally cropped up Sunday. It’s not clear at this point how long he’ll be out … Dontrelle Willis has announced his retirement. He posted an 8.53 ERA over four appearances in the minors with the Orioles this season.