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National League notebook -- Thursday, July 5, 2012

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Arizona: LHP Joe Saunders (shoulder) will pitch in a rehab assignment Sunday and, if all goes well, he should be returning to the Diamondbacks' rotation after the All-Star break. "He's not happy about it, but I think that's the safe way to do it," manager Kirk Gibson said. ... LF Jason Kubel led all NL players with 27 RBI in June, then had three homers and eight RBI in his first three full games in July. From June 4 to July 4, his OPS rose from .798 to .904.

Atlanta: LH reliever Jonny Venters was placed on the disabled list because of a left elbow impingement, and LH reliever Luis Avilan was recalled from Class AAA Gwinnett (Lawrenceville, Ga.) one day after he was promoted from Class AA. Venters, who insisted for the last two months that he was healthy, has allowed six home runs in his last 21 innings after allowing just three in the first 182 1/3 innings of his career. ... 1B Freddie Freeman has been able to play despite his sore left index finger and thumb but thinks he will probably have two more cortisone shots in the finger -- one in the joint and one in the tendon -- at the All-Star break so they'll have four days to work.

Chicago: RHP Ryan Dempster (right lat) likely will find out today if he will come off the disabled list Sunday and pitch the finale before the All-Star break. Dempster said he felt good Thursday following Wednesday's bullpen session. ... RF Bryan LaHair started against Braves LHP Mike Minor. LaHair often sits against lefties, but he hit safely in the first three games of the series in Atlanta. His homer Wednesday was his 14th of the season and first since June 18.

Cincinnati: CF Drew Stubbs, who was 0 for his last 27, was out of the lineup. Stubbs had three hits in his first six at-bats after coming off the disabled list but then went into a funk, dropping his average to .214. ... SS Billy Hamilton, the Reds' top prospect, will likely get a promotion from high-A Bakersfield (Calif.) to Class AA Pensacola (Fla.) soon. "I don't know when we'll do it," said Bill Bavasi, the Reds' director of player development, scouting and international operations. "But I don't see him staying there (at Bakersfield) all year."

Colorado: OF/1B Tyler Colvin batted fourth for the first time this season. He has batted in every spot in the lineup except ninth. ... The Rockies hit the midpoint of the season Wednesday with a 5.34 staff ERA and a 6.19 ERA by the starting pitchers. The Rockies last had an overall ERA above 5.00 in 2005 (5.13), and their franchise-worst ERA was 6.01 in 1999. That was also the year that the starters had a 6.19 ERA, which ranks as the highest in club history.

Houston: RH reliever Enerio Del Rosario was called up from Class AAA Oklahoma City, and LHP Dallas Keuchel was sent down. The move allows the Astros to bring up a reliever for the last four games before the All-Star break, and Keuchel can be recalled to rejoin the rotation right after the break. ... OF Jordan Schafer was pulled from Wednesday's game for disciplinary reasons after his throw to the wrong base led to a Pirates run. "His play and behavior didn't match what we needed to get done and what everybody was doing," manager Brad Mills said.

Los Angeles: SS Dee Gordon was held out of the lineup one night after dislocating his right thumb while stealing third base. X-rays showed nothing broken. ... IF Luis Cruz batted fifth, becoming just the 13th Dodgers shortstop to bat fifth since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. Cruz, who had an RBI in each of his first three games through Wednesday, is the first Dodger with an RBI in his first three games with the team since Bill Mueller from April 3-5, 2006.

Miami: RF Giancarlo Stanton (sore right knee) was out of the lineup for the third straight game. An MRI on the knee revealed a loose body. ... 1B Gaby Sanchez hit a game-tying home run with two outs in the ninth inning Wednesday, then was told right after the game he was being sent down to Class AAA New Orleans to make room for Carlos Lee. But manager Ozzie Guillen said, "We gave Gaby a lot of opportunities. The reason they made this move is ... obvious. We did not have that much production from him. You don't send people down when they are playing good."

Milwaukee: RHP Shaun Marcum (elbow) will not return to the rotation after the All-Star break, as originally expected. Marcum cannot even throw bullpen sessions at this point. ... LF Ryan Braun grounded into three double plays in a game for the first time in his career. "A couple of balls I hit hard but right at guys," said Braun. "So, on to the next one."

New York: CF Andres Torres (lower back) was out of the lineup and was replaced by Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who was back in the lineup after missing two games because of a sore right hand. Nieuwenhuis injured the nerve taking a batting practice swing Tuesday but said he felt "much better" two days later. ... LF Jason Bay (concussion) is scheduled to fly to Florida today to begin the next phase of his rehab. Bay hopes to return to the Mets shortly after the All-Star break.

Philadelphia: 1B Ryan Howard (left Achilles) could return this weekend if he gets an OK from a doctor. He was scheduled to play a full rehab game for the first time Thursday, then play another one tonight. If that goes well, he could be activated Saturday. ... RHP Roy Halladay (right lat) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday and then begin a rehab assignment during the All-Star break.

Pittsburgh: LF Alex Presley (concussion) was placed on the seven-day disabled list, retroactive to Wednesday, and SS Jordy Mercer was recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis. Presley was injured Tuesday attempting a diving catch. ... CF Andrew McCutchen's 14 hits and 11 runs over the five games before Thursday marks the best such span in franchise history since inaugural Hall of Famer Honus Wagner had 15 hits and 11 runs over five games in June 1904.

St. Louis: IF/OF Matt Carpenter made his first pro start at second base. Manager Mike Matheny said he wanted to get Carpenter's bat in the lineup because the rookie had had only eight plate appearances in the previous six games. ... LHP Jaime Garcia (shoulder) threw 40 pitches from 60 feet on flat ground Wednesday for the first time in a month. "It felt really good," Garcia said. "I can definitely tell a big difference already."

San Diego: The Padres hit 15 homers in the 10-game road trip that ended Wednesday. That's one more than their season total for 40 home games at Petco Park. They averaged 5.8 runs per game on the trip compared to their home average of 3.1 runs per game. ... C Yasmani Grandal on Wednesday became the fourth player since 1900 to hit four homers in his first six games. The others: Sam Horn (Boston, 1987), Luis Medina (Cleveland, 1988) and Mike Jacobs (New York Mets, 2008).

San Francisco: 2B Freddy Sanchez underwent surgery to remove part of a disk in his back. He has not played in the majors since dislocating his right shoulder on June 10, 2011, and his contract is up at the end of the season. ... RF Gregor Blanco was out of the lineup, partly because the Nationals started LHP Ross Detwiler and partly because of Blanco's recent slump. He was 10 for his last 63 through Wednesday.

Washington: RHP Edwin Jackson's velocity, which had been down in the first inning in recent innings, was up to about 94 mph Wednesday, but he still gave up three runs. In his career, Jackson has a 5.54 ERA in the first inning, by far his highest in any inning. ... Manager Davey Johnson wasn't that sad to see OF Bryce Harper not get selected for the All-Star Game. Johnson told The Washington Post that Harper needs the time off to "catch his breath."
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