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Padres catcher to have surgery on wrist

San Diego Padres: The slumping Padres got another jolt of bad news on Wednesday when catcher Ramon Hernandez decided to
have surgery on his injured left wrist.

Hernandez sought a second opinion from a specialist in Los
Angeles, who confirmed that he has a small cartilage tear. Surgery
is scheduled for Friday and Hernandez is expected to be out for
three to six weeks.

"It's a blow to the ballclub to lose your catcher," manager
Bruce Bochy said. "He's done such a great job. But you've got to
move forward. We've been through a lot this year. A lot of clubs
have. That's all we can do at this point."

The Padres will continue to have Robert Fick and Phil Nevin
catch until they can acquire a starter. Fick filled in admirably
when Hernandez was on the disabled list from June 18-July 7, and
Nevin caught Tuesday night. Nevin, who on Monday rejected a trade
to Baltimore for pitcher Sidney Ponson, lost the starting job at
first base because he's been slumping at the plate.

But Bochy pointed out that neither Fick nor Nevin have been
everyday catchers in some time.

The Padres recently sent backup catcher Miguel Ojeda to Triple-A
because he was hitting just .219.

Hernandez was hitting .294 with two homers and 13 RBI. He hurt
his wrist at Minnesota on June 17 when he collided with Justin
Morneau while diving back to first base after he rounded the bag on
a base hit.

He had been bothered by the wrist ever since coming off the DL.

Atlanta Braves: Catcher Johnny Estrada had his
three-game suspension for an altercation with umpire Doug Eddings
reduced to two games on Wednesday.

Estrada began serving the suspension with Wednesday night's game
against Washington. He said his fine had been reduced from $5,000
to $3,500.

"We just want to get this put aside and put to rest and go on
with the season," Estrada said.

Because Estrada has a lower back strain as the result of a home
plate collision with Darin Erstad of the Los Angeles Angels, he was
not scheduled to play Wednesday night and had been listed as
questionable for Thursday's game by manager Bobby Cox.

The Braves recalled catcher Brayan Pena from Triple-A Richmond
on Wednesday when they placed starting pitcher Mike Hampton on the
15-day disabled list as expected. Pena hit .130 (3-for-23) in an
earlier callup to Atlanta this season.

Pena likely will be sent back to Richmond when the Braves call
up a fill-in starting pitcher for Saturday's home game against
Pittsburgh.

Rookie Brian McCann, who had been playing only when John Smoltz
pitched, started Wednesday night and is scheduled to start again
Thursday. Pena will serve as the backup and is not scheduled to
start, according to Cox.

Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles placed outfielder Eli Marrero on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained right
thumb and recalled David Newhan from Triple-A Ottawa.

Marrero will miss six to eight weeks. He hurt his thumb Tuesday
night in a collision at home plate with Texas catcher Sandy Alomar
while trying to complete an inside-the-park homer.

Marrero was batting .220 with three homers and 10 RBI in 22
games since coming to Baltimore in a trade with Kansas City.

Newhan was optioned to Ottawa on July 7 after his second stint
with the Orioles this season. He was batting a collective .198 with
three homers and 12 RBI in 41 games.

Upon being sent to Ottawa for a second time, Newhan voiced his
displeasure over the manner in which he was used in Baltimore.

"For them to show this disloyalty to me, it's depressing. I
know it's a cutthroat business, but at some point you've got to get
a chance to go out there and play and perform and help the team
win," he said. "I guess I will be doing that in Ottawa."

Newhan batted .366 with a homer and eight RBI in 11 games with
the Lynx. He was expected to arrive in Baltimore on Thursday.

The Orioles could use his help. Besides losing Marrero,
Baltimore was also without outfielder Jay Gibbons, who missed
Tuesday's game against Texas with back spasms and was out of the
starting lineup Wednesday.

Houston Astros: Starter Brandon Backe is headed to
the 15-day disabled list because of a strained muscle near his rib
cage sustained during a throwing session between starts.

Backe (8-7) was supposed to start Thursday night against the New
York Mets, but was hurt while tossing in the bullpen Monday. He was
still in pain Tuesday and Wednesday, prompting the team to decide
he needs at least two weeks off.

"It's a little aggravating," Backe said. "I'll certainly be
back in a couple of weeks. I just hope it's back to 100 percent
instead of 90 percent."

Rookie Ezequiel Astacio (1-4) was called up from Triple-A Round
Rock and will take Backe's place in the rotation.

The move won't be officially made until Thursday. It will be
retroactive to Monday, because Backe last appeared in a game Sunday
-- albeit as a pinch-hitter in a 14-inning game. His last start was
Saturday, a 4-2 loss in Washington.

General manager Tim Purpura said he'll be cautious about when
Backe returns.

"It could be two weeks, three weeks or four weeks. This is one
of the most difficult injuries to predict," Purpura said. "The
problem is if you restrain it, it takes a lot to get back out
there."

Milwaukee Brewers: The two months after being impaled by a bat
during a minor-league game, right-hander Rick Helling is back in
the majors.

Before their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday,
the Milwaukee Brewers purchased the contract of Helling from
Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League and designated
right-hander Ricky Bottalico for assignment.

Helling, whose left arm was impaled by a piece of a broken bat
while pitching for Nashville on May 27, will be available in
Milwaukee's bullpen Wednesday.

The 34-year-old Helling, who has not pitched in the major
leagues since 2003, is 99-78 with a 4.77 ERA in 266 career games
-- including 225 starts -- with Texas, Florida, Arizona and
Baltimore. He went 20-7 with a 4.41 ERA with the Rangers in
1998.

Bottalico, 35, was 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA in 40 relief appearances
with the Brewers this season. Over his last eight outings,
however, he was 0-1 with a 10.13 ERA.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona designated slumping
center fielder Jose Cruz Jr. for assignment and purchased the contract of top prospect Conor Jackson from Triple-A
Tucson.

The move was made after the Diamondbacks' 3-0 victory over the
Milwaukee Brewers. Manager Bob Melvin said the 23-year-old Jackson
will share time with Tony Clark at first base, with Chad Tracy
moving from first to right field. Shawn Green will go from right to
center.

The Diamondbacks acquired Cruz and cash from the Devil Rays before the season for pitcher Casey Fossum. Cruz, in his
eighth major-league season, was to be the everyday center fielder.

But after a good start to the season, he missed 27 games with a
lower back strain and has struggled at the plate since his return
on May 8. He was hitting .213 with 12 home runs and 12 home runs in
64 games. His last homer came on July 2.

Jackson was batting .354 for the Sidewinders, with 38 doubles,
two triples, eight home runs and 73 RBI in 93 games.

Jackson was to join the team in Chicago for the series opener
against the Cubs on Thursday.

Tracy played third base last season, but was moved to first with
the acquisition of Troy Glaus. Tracy had started two games in left
field recently.

Arizona has 10 days to trade Cruz or put him on unconditional
release waivers. Cruz struck out as a pinch hitter on Wednesday.

Toronto Blue Jays: Left-hander Ted Lilly wasn't able to
throw on the side Wednesday and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said
he could be placed on the 15-day disabled list this week.

Lilly was originally expected to miss just one start with biceps
tendinitis. He left Sunday's start against Kansas City after four
innings after experiencing discomfort.

"It's still tender so he was unable to go today," Gibbons
said. "There's a chance he could go on the DL."

Lilly is 8-9 with a 5.52 ERA. He missed all of spring training
with shoulder tendinitis.

The Blue Jays haven't decided who will replace Lilly for
Saturday's start against Texas, but general manager J.P. Ricciardi
said top pitching prospect Dustin McGowan is an option.

McGowan is 0-2 with a 3.34 ERA in six starts with Double-A New
Hampshire. He underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in
May 2004.

Washington Nationals: Outfielder Kenny Kelly
cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A
New Orleans.

Kelly was claimed on waivers from Cincinnati last Wednesday.
Kelly did not have an at-bat with Washington when he was designated
for assignment before Tuesday night's game as the team cleared a
roster spot to activate first baseman Nick Johnson.

The Nationals also said Wednesday that first baseman Wil Cordero, who was released Monday, has cleared waivers and is a free
agent.

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers activated Placido Polanco, and the second baseman was atop the lineup for the
finale of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.

To make room on the roster, Curtis Granderson was optioned to
Triple-A Toledo. He batted .318 with two home runs and two RBI in
six games with Detroit.

Polanco, hitting .324 with 14 RBI in 27 games since being
acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in June, went on the 15-day
disabled list last Friday, retroactive to July 12, with a strained
left hamstring.

He was hurt while running out at grounder against Tampa Bay on
July 10.

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.