Unlikely hero to rescue

Officials with the Rangers and Tigers insist they have been kept in the dark on the process, but they should be lining up options to replace their guys. Cruz and Peralta will be free agents after the season, so it's asking a lot to expect them to appeal the suspensions so they can remain on the field. That would leave them still facing suspensions while lining up contracts, a very tricky business.

One option, which seems more viable for the Rangers than the Tigers, is to sign the players to contract extensions with the understanding that a 2013 suspension would be appealed, leaving it most likely to be served next season.

But the Tigers don't want to tie themselves to Peralta, believing they need a better defensive shortstop for the long haul. They could be a fit if the White Sox offload Alexei Ramirez, who reportedly is a consideration for the Cardinals.

The Rangers signed Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract when he returned from a short stint in Taiwan. But scouts who have seen him with Triple-A Round Rock question if he has the bat speed to hit big-league pitching.

Holding their breath: Jason Grilli might be replaceable as the Pirates' closer, but the 36-year-old first-time All-Star represents the spiritual center of his team. That's why so many teammates are worried about the extent of the strained right forearm that forced him out of Monday's game.

Grilli was found to have a strained flexor tendon, which could keep him out a month or more. That diagnosis doesn't sound horrible, but strained forearms have a way of turning into torn tendons, leading to Tommy John surgery. To see Grilli's remarkable season end early would be a horrible blow for baseball's most inspired contender.

Mark Melancon provides manager Clint Hurdle a solid option in the ninth inning. Not only is the bullpen plenty deep in front of Melancon, but there's time left for general manager Neal Huntington to add an arm. But Grilli is the key foundation piece for the pitching staff. Lots of fingers are crossed for a healthy return. He has a chance to be the first Pirate since Dave Giusti in 1971 to lead the NL in saves.

Hard work: George Brett's decision to return to an advisory role with the Royals demonstrates how remarkable it is that fellow Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg has spent the last seven seasons as a minor league manager and big-league coach, with the dream of managing in the majors.

Brett spent eight weeks as one of two hitting coaches on Ned Yost's staff but stepped away Thursday.

"It was a tough decision,'' Brett said. "I enjoyed it. … It was just time for me to sit with Dayton (Moore, the Royals' GM) in the suite again rather than travel around the country and do what I was doing."

Any job in uniform is highly demanding, and there's not much financial motivation for many former players to stay involved. Here's hoping the Phillies reward Sandberg for the sacrifices he's making. Jim Hendry and Theo Epstein decided against taking chances on him.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

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