PLAYING TIME: McCarthy's status questionable following injury

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Comebacker hospitalizes McCarthy

Brandon McCarthy (RHP, OAK) apparently escaped serious injury after being struck in the back of the head by a line drive in the fourth inning of his Wednesday start vs. LAA.  McCarthy managed to somehow walk off the field with minimal support, but he's at least a 50-50 chance to miss at least a start as doctors look for signs of concussion or other trauma over the next few days.  McCarthy owners need to monitor this carefully, and might not want to rush him back.

An embarrassment of OAK pitching riches should help soften this blow somewhat. Travis Blackley (LHP, OAK) replaced McCarthy and then blanked the Angels for three innings.  Blackley has a 50% PQS-DOM% and a 3.97 ERA in 12 starts, and has been nails at home regardless of role in a pitcher-friendly venue with a 3.25 ERA over 44 IP.  He doesn't own elite skills, but his experience, a 2.6 Cmd and 47% GB suggest that Blackley's downside is limited, even if he doesn't get many starts during the stretch run in McCarthy's absence.

The other starting possibility in McCarthy's absence is inexperienced rookie Dan Straily (RHP, OAK), whose three MLB starts in 2012 have scored PQS-5, PQS-0 and PQS-3.  Straily's stunning 190/42 K/BB and 2.78 ERA over 152 IP between AA and AAA in 2012 scream upside longer term, but he's obviously an inexperienced risk in the heat of a pennant race.  Pitching-needy owners considering the OAK replacements for McCarthy will need to pick their poison.

AL short takes

Mark Reynolds (1B, BAL) has carried his torrid August into September, with four HR in five games entering Thursday.  And it has been this power resurgence—245 PX, 10 HR since August 1—for the streaky Reynolds that is responsible for his full-time play at 1B with the Orioles recently.  But Reynolds' .209 BA and six HR in the 1H speak to what he is—a high-risk/reward play for the final weeks of the season.  Three or four consecutive oh-fers could easily relegate him to part-time play once again ...

Chris Tillman's (RHP, BAL) Tuesday MRI showed no major damage, but enough inflammation to reportedly shut him down for the next couple of weeks.  Prior to  leaving his last start with elbow soreness, Tillman was hinting at legitimate growth as Dave Adler noted yesterday—particularly in August, as suggested by his 3.73/3.73 ERA/xERA combination.  Unfortunately his ability to contribute in September is now in question.  BAL has yet to announce an interim replacement ...

After a flare-up of his chronic back problems during a minor league rehab,  David Cooper (1B/DH, TOR) has been shut down the remainder of the season.  A line-drive contact hitter with doubles power, Cooper's long-term upside doesn't look appreciable.  But he was quite productive in significant August playing time—.867 OPS, .331 xBA in 70 AB—fueled by a 37% h% before he went down.  Cooper's owners hoping for more of the same in September can drop him now ...

Nick Maronde (LHP, LAA) has now faced four MLB hitters—all LHBs—and come away with four strikeouts.  As noted here in our Daily Call-Ups space, Maronde has good long-term value as an SP, but may have value now as a lefty-killer coming out of the pen.  He's showing no fear, and LAA manager Mike Scioscia is not showing reluctance to utilize him in high-leverage situations.  A strikeout flyer from now through year-end, a name to watch longer term ...

NATIONAL LEAGUE 

Holt producing at 2B for PIT

Neil Walker (2B, PIT) was absent again from the Pirates' starting lineup Wednesday night, making it nine consecutive games that he's been out with lower back issues.  As noted in this space recently, Walker had been enjoying a stellar 2H through mid-August—912 OPS, 10 HR, 158 PX—until first a bruised pinky finger and then this latest injury shelved him.  Walker has yet to participate in baseball activity, and even with an imminent return, he'll be hard-pressed to pick up the momentum he left behind.

Taking over the Pirates' 2B duties from bench-player Josh Harrison in Walker's absence now is Brock Holt (MIF, PIT), who was called up with expansion for his MLB debut on September 1—and profiled here in our Daily Call-Ups space earlier this week.  Batting leadoff, Holt hasn't looked overmatched offensively in the early going—6-for-13 with a double entering Wednesday's games—and could conceivably hold down 2B until Walker's return. Holt was in the middle of things again in Wednesday's contest with a single, sac fly, sac bunt and two RBIs vs. HOU. 

From a skills perspective as noted by Jeremy Deloney, Holt has good patience, makes solid contact and runs well. A .344/.406/.453 line in 477 AB between AA and AAA ball has hiked his prospect status, though a .317 career BA  and an 86% ct% suggests that Holt has always been able to make things happen when he puts the ball in play.  Brock's significant experience at SS is another reason why deep-leaguers desperate for middle-infield lightning-in-a-bottle could do worse than grabbing him as a late-season flyer.

NL short takes

After coming off blood-thinning medication in 10 days, Kenley Jansen (RHP, LA) is expected to return to the Dodgers sometime between September 18-20 vs. WAS.  Longer term, doctors are hopeful that they can arrest Jansen's irregular heartbeat with an offseason procedure, which suggests that there's hope he can remain the LA closer.  But his role for the remainder of 2012 is likely up-in-the-air, particularly if the current closing combo of Ronald Belisario (RHP, LA) and Brandon League (RHP, LA) get the job done in his absence ...

LA placed Chad Billingsley (RHP, LA) and his balky elbow on the 60-day DL, ending his 2012 season.  Billingsley is scheduled to receive another plasma injection that won't leave much time for recovery.  No ramifications for the Dodger rotation, thanks the acquisitions of Joe Blanton and Josh Beckett, but Billingsley owners needing pitching should start looking elsewhere.  And his keeper league owners should begin discounting his 2013 value at least slightly ... 


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