July 19, 2013

Major League Baseball: So many tales heading down the stretch

Baseball is ready to begin its second half with close division races and huge individual exploits.

By HOWIE RUMBERG The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

"He still hit them over the fence," Jones said.

A HALF FOR THE AGED

Move over whippersnappers, the old guard is back -- maybe.

Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey, Patrick Corbin and a record 39 first-time All-Stars grabbed the spotlight in the first half, but expect to see some seasoned stars in the next few weeks that could impact the pennant races.

The injury-ravaged Yankees have hung around in the potent AL East with a "Who's on First?" lineup. Now they should get Derek Jeter back after a one-game false start and Alex Rodriguez's return from offseason hip surgery is imminent.

The St. Louis Cardinals have surged to baseball's best record in part behind the pitching of some pretty good rookies. Imagine how much better they'll be if the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, Chris Carpenter, is fully recovered from a nerve injury and bad back.

Talking about back, how about Manny Ramirez, all the way from Taiwan? The twice suspended slugger is hitting .300 with three homers in eight games for Texas' top minor league club, Triple-A Round Rock, and the Rangers are in need of a big right-handed bat. Could it be Ramirez?

WHEELIN' AND DEALIN'

After pushing their payroll over $200 million this offseason, don't expect the Dodgers to sit quietly as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. They got an early start, acquiring Ricky Nolasco from the Marlins to bolster the rotation and could make further moves.

The resurgent Red Sox might be on the lookout for another reliever after picking up left-hander Matt Thornton when lefty Andrew Miller was lost for the season with an injury.

Teams hoping to fill a spot in the rotation can call Cubs executive Theo Epstein. Matt Garza is up for grabs and he's one of the most prominent names fans will hear in the next two weeks.

The flagging Phillies could look to move infielder Michael Young. The pitching-rich Giants might try to trade Tim Lincecum after he threw a no-hitter just before the break.

If A-Rod is unable to play because of his hip, expect the Yanks to seek a corner infielder. Pitchers Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain could be the bait.

 

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