Five no hitters, four home runs in one game by Josh Hamilton, three four-strikeout efforts by Adam Dunn, two perfect games, one Melky Cabrera — that was one heck of a first half.
But at the end of the day, the first half is really only good for one thing: setting the stage for the second. And what a doozy it will be. Save for the American League East, every division has at least three teams within 4.5 games of first (that includes the first place teams). And while baseball’s toughest division might not be so cozy at the top, all five of its inhabitants are at least .500.
So unless you’re a fan of the Padres, it’s time to buckle up...on Friday. For the first time in recent memory (forgive me for not having the energy to look this up), the All-Star break is four days long for all 30 teams. With another slow news day ahead, there’s no better time to get caught up on the league’s various bumps and bruises. As you may have heard, there’s been a lot of star players landing on the shelf this season. Here’s when most are expected back, with an emphasis are those returning this month.
American League East Injury Update: Nick Markakis (hand surgery) has already been activated, and will return Friday against the Tigers. … Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) is all systems go to return tomorrow against the Rays. … Carl Crawford (elbow) is expected to make his season debut Monday against the White Sox. … Clay Buchholz (illness) will come off the DL Saturday against the Rays. … CC Sabathia (groin) is set to return Tuesday against the Blue Jays. … Brandon Morrow (oblique) remains without a firm timetable, but should be back before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. … Dustin Pedroia (thumb) won’t be back until late-July, at the earliest. … The same is true for Brett Gardner (elbow). … Matt Joyce (oblique, back) could be back as early as Friday against the Red Sox. It’s doubtful he’ll be sidelined beyond the weekend. … Evan Longoria (hamstring), however, won’t be back before mid-August.
American League Central Injury Update: Matt Capps (shoulder) could resume closing as early as Friday. … Philip Humber (elbow) will rejoin the White Sox rotation on Tuesday against the Red Sox. … Luke Hochevar (ankle) won’t miss a start.
American League West Injury Update: Colby Lewis (forearm) will return on Wednesday against the A’s. … Neftali Feliz (elbow) will begin a rehab assignment Sunday, putting him on track to rejoin the Rangers rotation before the end of the month. … Dan Haren (back) could be activated when first eligible on July 19. … Vernon Wells (thumb) will be back before the end of the month. … Jerome Williams (chest) will rejoin the Angels immediately following the break. … Yoenis Cespedes (thumb) should be with the A’s this weekend. … Brandon McCarthy (shoulder) is unlikely to return before August 1. … Brett Anderson (elbow) and Dallas Braden (shoulder) are both tentatively in line for August returns. … Franklin Gutierrez (concussion) is unlikely to be activated this weekend.
National League East Injury Update: Roy Halladay (shoulder) should rejoin the Phillies rotation on Tuesday against the Dodgers. … Jayson Werth (wrist) has a shot at returning before the end of the month. … Xavier Nady (wrist) should rejoin the Nats bench before the end of the month. … Jonny Venters (elbow) is expected to return when first eligible on July 20. … Giancarlo Stanton (knee surgery) won’t be back until mid-to-late August. … Juan Carlos Oviedo (suspension) should return soon after he’s first eligible on July 23. … Emilio Bonifacio (thumb) will be in Friday’s lineup.
National League Central Injury Update: Barring a setback during his weekend rehab assignment, Lance Berkman (knee surgery) will rejoin the Cardinals on Monday in Milwaukee. … Jaime Garcia (shoulder) is tentatively hoping to return in the first or second week of August. … Jonathan Lucroy (hand surgery) will definitely return before August 1. … Shaun Marcum’s (elbow) timetable is murky, but he should be back before the end of the month. … Justin Maxwell (ankle) will be activated when first eligible Friday. … Alex Presley (concussion) will be back before August 1.
National League West Injury Update: Matt Kemp (hamstring) will be manning center field on Friday against the Padres. … Andre Ethier (oblique) will return Monday at the latest. … Ted Lilly (shoulder) is doubtful to pitch this month. … Joe Saunders (shoulder) is expected to return Saturday against the Cubs. … Ramon Hernandez (hand) will likely return next week. It’s unclear if he’ll do so wearing a Mets or Rockies uniform. … Troy Tulowitzki (groin surgery) won’t be back before the end of the month, and should be sidelined until mid-August. … Jhoulys Chacin (pectoralis muscle) should return soon after August 1. … Juan Nicasio (knee surgery) will likely be sidelined at least another month. … Andrew Cashner (lat) should be back in early August. … Tim Stauffer (elbow) is doubtful to return in July. … So is Anthony Bass (shoulder). … Aubrey Huff (knee) should return to the Giants bench this weekend.
Prospects To Monitor in the Second Half: Wil Myers, Tyler Skaggs, Starling Marte, Matt Harvey, Danny Hultzen, Julio Teheran, Jacob Turner, Nick Franklin, Grant Green, Brett Jackson, Adam Eaton, Anthony Gose, Jedd Gyorko, James Darnell, Jake Odorizzi.
First Half Stats: Five players posted sub-.600 OPSs: Justin Smoak, Jamey Carroll, Cameron Maybin, Cliff Pennington, Dee Gordon. … Austin Jackson posted the highest BABIP at .417. Joey Votto’s .408 was second. … Votto and Andrew McCutchen are 1-2 in a lot of things, including OPS+. ... 36.8 percent of Adam Dunn’s plate appearances ended in strikeouts. … Of the National League’s top four pitchers by ERA (Ryan Dempster, Ryan Vogelsong, James McDonald and Johnny Cueto), none made the All-Star Game. … Derek Jeter’s 88 singles led the league. … Despite having his OPS bottom out at .657 on May 5, Robinson Cano entered the break tied for second in extra-base hits with 47. … Edinson Volquez leads the league in walks. … Jason Kipnis and Mike Trout are the only players with at least 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases. … Carlos Santana hasn’t homered since May 15. … Adrian Gonzalez has one fewer home run than Omar Infante. ... Going by Baseball Reference’s dWAR, Brett Lawrie has been the best defensive player in the league.