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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Anibal Sanchez, catch of the day

I'm a little fried from the deadline week (so is my phone), and with that, there won't be a cutesy theme forced on you tonight. Bulleted content follows, with a comebacking Marlin getting his just due as the lead item. And if you stick with me for the full nine innings, there's an Easter Egg at the bottom of the column.

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It was Anibal Sanchez's first start in almost 15 months Thursday, coming off labrum surgery, and you had to be impressed as he defeated Colorado. The line was passable enough (5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K) and he did even better on the eye test, mixing low-90s heat with a decent slider, getting ahead of hitters. Given Sanchez's pedigree, home stadium and supporting cast, I'm putting more stock in him than I generally would someone who's just returning from a major injury. He's worth a shot in mixed leagues, and you'll need to be aggressive in NL-only groups (Sanchez went for $46 in the Tout Wars bidding last night – that's on a $100 budget).

The youth movement starts immediately in Washington, as the Nats decided to cut bait on veterans Paul Lo Duca, Johnny Estrada and Felipe Lopez Thursday. Rehabbing outfielder Elijah Dukes, who healed incredibly fast from his knee surgery, will take one of the roster spots, with intriguing second baseman Emilio Bonifacio grabbing the other. Look for Bonifacio to probably become the team's starting 2B right away; he's been on a Triple-A tear since the Nats acquired him from Arizona last week (14-for-31, four steals, nine runs), and he's one of the fastest players in professional baseball.

If Scott Baker can keep the ball in the park a little bit better and learn how to get deeper into games, the Twins are looking at a special right-hander. He fanned eight White Sox in his six-inning stint Thursday, giving him 89 whiffs over 102 innings this season. Three good pitches here, and when in doubt he can crank it up into the mid-90s, with movement.

Andre Ethier was dealing with flu-like symptoms Thursday, which meant we got to see Andruw Jones (.163) take another collar. If Jones continues to see regular time even after Manny Ramirez touches down in Los Angeles, I want to see those Polaroids.

No one likes filling out a lineup card more than Tony La Russa, and Thursday was one of those funky days where he empties out his bench and frustrates the heck out of us (if you're a card-carrying member of the Nick Stavinoha fan club, accept my apology). Ultimately the Cardinals lost because Joel Pineiro served up batting practice again (against a very pedestrian Atlanta lineup); he's been touched for 10 or more hits in five of his last six turns. The Dodgers are hoping they get a run at him next Wednesday.

Don't be thrown if your favorite Tiger or Indian didn't play Thursday – a host of them got the afternoon off on the heels of Wednesday's crazy affair, a 13-inning marathon that Detroit won, 14-12. Cleveland's big stick in Thursday's win was backup catcher Sal Fasano, a clear sign that we shouldn't spend too much time here. Oh yeah, Fausto Carmona – he wasn't electric by any means in his second start back (6.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K), but 12 ground-ball outs is a good place to start for the sinker specialist.

The aggressive Angels are already having an effect on Mark Teixeira – the team's new slugger stole his first base in almost two years Thursday. And unfortunately for the Yankees, the Angels also brought their bats to the stadium, piling up 18 hits and 12 runs and wrecking Andy Pettitte's stat sheet (5.1 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 3 BB, 4 K). You know the Halos have a deep lineup when they can bat Howie Kendrick seventh and Juan Rivera eighth; Kendrick had three hits and his eighth stolen base Thursday, while Rivera hit his third homer of the week. Jon Garland picked up his tenth win in his normal pitch-to-contact style (6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K). For the season, he has a modest 63 strikeouts over 138 innings.

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Rich Harden has allowed all of three runs in his four NL starts, and he's piled up 39 strikeouts. What the heck do we do with this cat? Sell high? Sit back and enjoy the ride? Mock Billy Beane as he walks out of Trader Joe's? What? Harden was more dominant Thursday at Milwaukee than the line indicates (7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 9 K), and you have to like his chances to keep it rolling Tuesday at home against the Astros.

Rafael Perez took the loss for Cleveland Sunday, but he's rebounded with two good outings in the Detroit series (3.1 IP, 0 R, 5 K). With Masa Kobayashi struggling of late, Perez is definitely a reliever to have on the radar – he's more than just a lefty specialist, and he's got the tasty strikeout rate (better than one per inning) you look for in a potential closer.

Injury Lap: Surgery has been recommended to Tim Hudson by multiple doctors (including James Andrews), but he's going to wait before he commits to the knife. It would be a stunner if Hudson can pitch again this year, but miracles do happen sometimes . . . Jeff Kent jammed his knee Wednesday and didn't start Thursday against Brandon Webb. He's day-to-day . . . Milton Bradley (quad) remains day-to-day and missed his second straight game Thursday . . . Alexi Casilla will wait at least a week before he makes a decision on thumb surgery. There's a good chance we won't see him again this year . . . Dustin McGowan had labrum surgery Thursday and should be able to throw in spring training . . . Frank Thomas (quad) came off the disabled list, which means Jack Cust will need to find a glove and start playing the outfield again . . . Khalil Greene has a fractured hand and might be done for the season . . . Joe Crede (back) will start a rehab assignment Friday and could return in a week.

Another clean inning and save for Brandon Lyon, who now has three straight conversions since Jon Rauch hit town. That's called marking your territory. Lyon was the only pitcher in the bigs to record a save on Thursday, a little odd given there were nine games played.

Speed Round: Michael Young took the collar (0-for-5) and is now 0-for-9 since he broke his ring finger. No strikeouts Thursday, but I'm still concerned here . . . Ramon Vazquez isn't much with the glove (another error Thursday), but he continues to hit (4-2-2-3, with a homer) and I'll probably run with him the remainder of the homestand . . . Chris Davis is well-represented on the Buzz Index, but his ownership level remains comically low. The Texas thumper rolled up three more hits and two more runs Thursday. He's not going away, friends . . . Jim Thome clubbed his 20th homer of the year at Minnesota and I don't expect he'll lose many at-bats to Ken Griffey. Paul Konerko, we're looking at you . . . Ryan Zimmerman left Thursday's game with a right hand contusion (courtesy of a Kyle Kendrick fastball) and is listed as day-to-day. Zimmerman was off to a decent start since rejoining the club (9-for-29, six walks), but the Nationals can't seem to get a break right now . . . The Arizona-Los Angeles match had only one walk, took just 2:18 to complete, and featured the elegant Vin Scully on the call. If only every game could be paced so well, and described so deftly.

Here's your reward for reading this far; I've buried a juicy item at the bottom. According to La Velle Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, there are strong indications that the Twins are ready to cut Livan Hernandez in order to make room for Francisco Liriano. If this move truly is imminent, something should break before Friday night – Liriano's turn is up with Triple-A Rochester. Let's not jinx this with 1,000 comments, friends – let's just hope justice finally prevails. The Twins could use a rotation boost for the pennant race, and so could many of our make-believe teams.

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