Contenders monitoring injuries, returns
Right-hander Brad Boxberger was removed from the closer role after giving up six runs in two innings in his first four September appearances. Manager Torey Lovullo said he will choose a closer based on matchups instead.
Ronald Acuna Jr. didn’t become the leadoff hitter until July 20, but by Sept. 5 he already had led off eight games with home runs, the franchise record for a season. He was one short of Chris Young’s major league rookie record, set in 2007, when he had 84 games in the leadoff spot. Acuna’s eight home runs came in 44 leadoff starts.
Closer Brandon Morrow threw from a mound Sept. 9 for the first time since going on the disabled list July 16 because of a strained right biceps. However, the team is unsure whether he will be able to return this season. Pedro Strop has been filling in as closer.
Right-hander Homer Bailey was dropped from the rotation after going 1-14 with a 6.09 ERA in 20 starts. The Reds were 1-19 when he pitched. The Reds considered moving Bailey, making $21 million this season in the fifth year of a six-year, $105 million contract, to the bullpen, but he does not feel capable of pitching in relief. Tyler Mahle took Bailey’s spot in the rotation.
Kyle Freeland probably won’t win the Cy Young award but deserves consideration. He has a 2.21 ERA at Coors Field this year. His 2.91 ERA overall is fourth when adjusted for league and ballpark.
❚ Nolan Arenado said his balky throwing shoulder won’t be 100 percent until the offseason, but it doesn’t affect his hitting.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Ross Stripling stands to ramp up his workload this week as a reliever. An All-Star starter this season, he came off the disabled list last week and faced two Rockies hitters Sept. 7. He registered his fastest clocking (95.4 mph) since April.
Left-hander Gio Gonzalez, acquired from Washington on Aug. 31, won his Brewers debut Sept. 8, holding the Giants to one unearned run and three hits in 52⁄3 innings. Gonzales showed no rustiness despite having not pitched since Aug. 29, when he was hammered for six runs in five innings by the Phillies.
Rookie center fielder Lewis Brinson, who struggled badly in the first half of the season and then spent nearly two months on the disabled list, had four multihit games in his first week off the DL. “I want to just kind of be the player that I know that I’m supposed to be and that I can be,” Brinson said.
New York Mets
David Wright wants to play in a major league game before the end of the season, but the Mets were unwilling to commit to letting him do it. Assistant general manager John Ricco insisted that even though Wright was able to play in 12 minor league games on a rehab assignment, he was not yet physically ready to play even one game for a team that is out of the race.
Third baseman Maikel Franco, among the Phillies’ leaders with 22 home runs, could return before the end of the season after an MRI showed no serious damage in his right wrist. Franco jammed the wrist on a swing in late August, then went hitless in 13 at-bats before coming out of the lineup and seeing a specialist.
Right fielder Gregory Polanco will miss the rest of the season because of a bone bruise in his left knee and will be replaced primarily by rookie Jordan Luplow. Polanco was injured Sept. 7 when he slid awkwardly into second base while legging out a double. Polanco is leading the team in home runs (23), RBI (81) and extra-base hits (61) while batting .254 in 130 games.
St. Louis Cardinals
After being out since May because of a sore elbow, righthander Adam Wainwright was scheduled to return to the rotation Sept. 10 for a start against the Pirates. But right-hander Michael Wacha (strained muscle in left side) is out for the season after he was scratched from a rehab start for Class AAA Memphis (Tennessee) because of soreness.
San Diego Padres
Barring trades, a competition looms among several outfielders next year. Strong finishes by Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes have broadened a group that includes Franchy Cordero, Manuel Margot, Travis Jankowski and perhaps Wil Myers and Francisco Mejia.
San Francisco Giants
There’s logic to returning Derek Holland to a rotation projected to include Madison Bumgarner, Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, but Holland is due a raise on his $1.75 million salary. The staff’s innings leader, Holland is eligible for free agency.
Closer Sean Doolittle, whose toe injury cost him two months on the disabled list, finally rejoined the active roster. Doolittle was 22-for-23 in saves with a 1.45 ERA when he was hurt. The Nationals bullpen had a 4.72 ERA and five blown saves while Doolittle was on the DL.
Contributing: Danny Knobler, John Perrotto, Tom Krasovic, wire reports
Rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. hit his eighth leadoff homer Sept. 2, setting a Braves franchise record for a year. He was one short of Chris Young’s major league rookie record.