D.J. Short

Baseball Daily Dose

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Roy to the Rescue?

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Phillies stumbled into the All-Star break by losing four straight and 10 out of their last 11. They'll enter the second half of the season at just 37-50 on the year, 14 games behind the Nationals in the division and 10 games back in the Wild Card race. With the trade deadline just two and a half weeks away, it's more likely that the Phillies become sellers than make a postseason run. But there is some pretty significant help on the way.

On the heels of Chase Utley's return late last month and Ryan Howard's activation last week, Roy Halladay made a minor league rehab start Thursday with High-A Clearwater. It was his first game action since being placed on the disabled list in late May with a strained right lat muscle.

Halladay gave up one unearned run on four hits over three innings while striking out four and walking none. He danced around trouble in his final inning of work by notching a strikeout to strand runners at second and third. The veteran right-hander threw 43 out of 61 pitches for strikes and topped out at 91 mph on the radar gun.

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com notes that the plan calls for Halladay to join the Phillies in Denver on Friday and throw a bullpen session over the weekend. If all goes well, he will rejoin the starting rotation on Tuesday against the Dodgers.

Halladay was 4-5 with a 3.98 ERA and 56/14 K/BB ratio over 72 1/3 innings prior to being placed on the disabled list. It might be too late for Doc to resuscitate the Phillies' season, but he can still provide a lift to fantasy owners who invested an early pick on draft day.

Puma Nears Return

While Lance Berkman will not be activated from the disabled list for Friday's second-half opener against the Reds, his return could happen any day now.

Berkman's right knee felt fine after batting practice Thursday and he was able to convince the Cardinals that he will not require a minor league rehab assignment. While the 36-year-old will be with the team in Cincinnati, they want to see how he responds to increased activity before activating him from the disabled list. Still, he's expected to return at some point during the team's upcoming six-game road trip.

After hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers, 94 RBI and a .959 OPS with the Cardinals in 2011, Berkman has been limited to just 13 games this season and has been sidelined since surgery on May 25 to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee.

Even though Berkman will be eased back in the starting lineup, his return will cut into the playing time of both Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter. Craig is hitting .313 with 13 homers, 44 RBI and a .991 OPS in 46 games this season, so the Cardinals should do everything they can to find ways to fit him into the lineup. Carpenter recently made his first professional start at second base and there's a chance we could see more of that during the second half.  

Edwin Gets Paid

We were starting to hear some speculation in recent days that the Blue Jays could dangle Edwin Encarnacion to contenders leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Well, it's safe to say that won't happen now.

The Blue Jays announced Thursday that they agreed to terms with Encarnacion on a three-year contract extension with a club option for 2016, thus preventing him from testing the open market this winter. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the 28-year-old is guaranteed $29 million over the life of the contract, including $8 million next season, $9 million in 2014, $10 million in 2015 and a $2 million buyout on the $10 million club option.

Encarnacion has always had good pop, but he has emerged as one of the game's top sluggers this year after making some changes to his swing. He's hitting .295/.382/.565 through 83 games and is tied for fourth in the league with 23 home runs and ranks seventh with a .947 OPS. Just icing on the cake, he's not hurting the Jays as much on defense anymore, as he has mostly split time between first base and the DH spot.

I'm cautiously optimistic that the power spike is for real, as Encarnacion is hitting more fly balls than ever before and chasing less pitches outside the strike zone. It's also important to note that Rogers Centre is one of the most favorable environments for right-handed power. Encarnacion doesn't have to be a star to be worth his contract, but the Jays could come out looking pretty good if his breakout first half is legitimate.

NL Quick Hits: ESPN's Jayson Stark hears that the Phillies are preparing a "substantial offer" for impending free agent Cole HamelsStephen Strasburg told ESPN's Buster Olney on Thursday that he has not discussed an innings limit with the Nationals … Hanley Ramirez (hand) expects to play Friday against the Nationals … Giants manager Bruce Bochy indicated that Tim Lincecum's next start could be skipped if he struggles Saturday against the Astros … Citing insufficient evidence, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department said Thursday that Pablo Sandoval is not expected to be charged for an alleged sexual assault … Drew Storen (elbow) gave up one run over two innings while striking out five Thursday in his fourth rehab appearance with High-A Potomac. He's on track to return shortly after the All-Star break … Emilio Bonifacio (thumb) is slated to be activated from the disabled list Friday … The Nationals are hoping that Jayson Werth (wrist) will be ready to return from the disabled list in early August … Santiago Casilla (blister) is expected to be available Friday … The Mets haven't ruled out prospect right-hander Matt Harvey as an option to start next week … The Dodgers could use Bobby Abreu out of the leadoff spot … Andrew Cashner (lat) will likely be sidelined until mid-August at the earliest … Kyle McClellan underwent season-ending surgery Tuesday to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder … With Friday's 5 p.m. ET deadline looming, Jim Callis of Baseball America reports that the Marlins will not sign their first round-pick Andrew Heaney

AL Quick Hits: Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) is expected to be activated from the disabled list Friday … Carl Crawford (wrist, elbow, groin) restarted his rehab assignment Thursday with Triple-A Pawtucket and went 2-for-3 with a run scored while playing five innings in left field. He's on track to be activated Monday … Dustin Pedroia (thumb) took batting practice Thursday and hopes to return from the disabled list when he's first eligible … Dan Haren (back) threw a bullpen session Thursday for the first time since landing on the disabled list … Matt Joyce (oblique, back) said Thursday that he's aiming to return from the disabled list "within two weeks" … Jesus Montero (concussion) has been cleared for baseball activities … Will Middlebrooks (hamstring) is expected to return to the starting lineup Friday … Brandon Morrow (oblique) is scheduled to progress to mound work this weekend … Neftali Feliz (elbow) is slated to begin a minor league rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Round Rock and will be stretched out as a starter … Matt Capps (shoulder) is expected to be activated from the disabled list Friday … White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said during a radio appearance Thursday that John Danks (shoulder) is unlikely to return in the next two or three weeks … Jerome Williams (chest) is slated to return from the disabled list Saturday against the Yankees … Alexi Ogando (groin) tossed a scoreless inning Thursday in his first rehab appearance with Triple-A Round Rock … Phil Humber allowed one run over six innings Thursday in a rehab start with Double-A Birmingham and remains on track to return from the disabled list Tuesday against the Red Sox … Jeff Niemann (fibula) is expected to return at some point in August … Zach Britton tossed seven shutout innings Thursday with Triple-A Norfolk and is projected to join the Orioles' rotation next Tuesday against the Twins … The Yankees signed first-rounder Ty Hensley for $1.2 million … The Rays are reportedly close to an agreement with first-round pick Richie Shaffer … Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears that the Orioles have made "significant progress" with No. 4 overall pick Kevin Gausman and that a deal "seems likely" before Friday's deadline …

D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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