It was revealed 18 days ago that Royals closer Joakim Soria had a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Four days after that, he opted to undergo Tommy John surgery. On Tuesday, he had the procedure. Now, finally, we know who will be taking Soria’s place in the ninth inning.
Manager Ned Yost revealed Thursday that it would be former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton that will open the season as the team’s stopper. Broxton gets the nod over Greg Holland, who was the Royals’ best reliever last season and in reality is probably their best option to close right now. But, managers love to have someone with closer experience, and Broxton fits the bill, having saved 84 games while in LA.
The problem, of course, is that while Broxton at one time was one of the most dominating closers in the game, he hasn’t been that way since 2009. The mammoth right-hander fell apart in the second half of 2010, and last season was a lost year for him, as he made just 14 appearances while dealing with elbow issues that eventually led to surgery.
Broxton did have a nice spring training, posting a 1.13 ERA and 11/4 K/BB ratio over eight innings. But, his velocity isn’t nearly what it once was, and we can’t count on him staying healthy. If you own Broxton, it would be wise to have Holland around as a backup plan.
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Baker Exits Rehab Start
Twins right-hander Scott Baker was placed on the disabled list last week with tendinitis in his pitching elbow. On Thursday, he made his first minor league rehab start, but, unfortunately, that outing lasted all of 11 pitches.
Baker removed himself from the game, according to general manager Terry Ryan, because he "just didn’t feel right."
"Baker just didn’t feel right tonight," said Ryan. "He couldn’t seem to get loose on the mound and instead of pushing the envelope, we decided we would go get him out of the game. We will evaluate him again (Friday)."
We don’t want to speculate at this point on Baker’s status before we know how Friday’s exam goes, but there has to be some level of concern. The 30-year-old was limited to just four starts and two relief appearances after the All-Star break last year due to a strained flexor muscle, and he pitched just 4 2/3 innings this spring. Even if nothing is found wrong structurally with his elbow, we’d think the Twins might just shut him down for a while so things can calm down.
Liam Hendriks will hold down a spot in the Twins rotation until Baker is ready.
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Second Base Dealings
If recent reports are any indication, it appears that a couple of the game’s top second basemen could soon find themselves much richer.
Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio reports that the Rangers are working towards inking two-time All-Star Ian Kinsler to a five-year contract extension. The team would exercise his $10 million option for next year as part of the deal and then give him approximately $14 million per season over the next five years, guaranteeing Kinsler a total of $80 million over the next six seasons.
It would be $8 million more than Dan Uggla received with his five-year extension last January, which is surely the deal the Rangers and Kinsler’s representatives have been working off of. While there’s certainly some risk involved in giving such a big deal to someone that has been injured often in his career, there’s no doubting that Kinsler is one of the best in the game at his position when healthy. He notched his second career 30/30 season in 2011 while playing in a career-high 155 games.
Also set to strike it rich is Brandon Phillips, who, according to Bowden, has been offered by the Reds a five-year extension “in the neighborhood" of $62.5 - $65 million. Unlike Kinsler, Phillips is currently slated for free agency after the season, so the Reds would need to lock him up sometime before the offseason to avoid him negotiating with other teams.
Unlike Kinsler, Phillips has been extremely durable for the Reds, playing in over 140 games in six straight seasons. But, he’s also a year older than Kinsler and isn’t quite as dynamic a talent when both players are healthy, which is probably why it looks like he’s not going to get as much money.
When the Reds inked Joey Votto to a monster 10-year, $225 million extension earlier this week, many assumed that meant Phillips would hit the open market, but apparently owner Bob Castellini is really ready to open up his wallet. The Phillips deal wouldn’t be as much of a risk simply because there’s way less money and years involved, but it would be another huge commitment for a team that’s never had a payroll higher than $81 million before this year.
National League Quick Hits: Andres Torres aggravated his left calf injury during the Mets’ opener Thursday and will need a stint on the disabled list. It’s unclear how long he’ll be out, but, given Torres’ injury history, we would think a longer than minimum stay is likely. Ruben Tejada will move into the leadoff spot while Torres is out … Clayton Kershaw tossed three shutout innings against the Padres Thursday, but he then left with a stomach bug. The good news is that he should be fine for his next start … Carlos Quentin was recently cleared to resume light swinging and remains on schedule to return sometime in the second half of April … Jed Lowrie hit soft toss and took swings off a tee Thursday with no pain in his sprained right thumb. He’s hoping to be in the lineup Friday for the Astros’ opener … Scott Linebrink has flown back to St. Louis to undergo an MRI on his sore right lat and is expected to need a DL stint. Victor Marte will have his contract purchased from Triple-A and take Linebrink’s spot in the bullpen … The Padres elected to place Tim Stauffer (triceps) on the DL after initially saying a move wouldn’t be needed. But, he felt fine after playing catch on Wednesday and should be ready by mid-April … John Lannan has requested a trade, but the Nats have no plans of moving him. They’ve received tepid interest, anyway … Drew Storen (elbow) will face live hitters in the next seven to 10 days before heading out on a rehab assignment. He should be back late this month … Bryan LaHair (back) sat out Thursday’s opener but is expected back over the weekend. Jeff Baker drew the start at first base … Logan Morrison received a day off Thursday after playing in Wednesday’s opener. The Marlins are taking it easy on him after he was slowed by his surgically-repaired knee in camp.
American League Quick Hits: Joey Devine (elbow) is scheduled to visit with Dr. James Andrews on Monday. The A’s suspect he’ll be fine, as manager Bob Melvin said Thursday that his understanding is that Devine's MRI didn't show any significant damage. It’s never a good sign when Andrews’ name is involved, though … Chris Perez blew his first save chance of the season Thursday, giving up three runs on three hits and two walks over just 2/3 of an inning before being pulled. Perez struggled down the stretch last year and dealt with an oblique injury this spring. It might be wise for his owners to pick up Vinnie Pestano as insurance … Michael Pineda (shoulder) felt fine after playing catch from a distance of 60 feet Thursday. Though he’s not in pain, Pineda’s velocity was down this spring, and the Yankees want to be sure he’s healthy before sticking him in the rotation … Victor Martinez had microfracture surgery in February and is scheduled to undergo ACL reconstructive knee surgery this week. He won’t play this year for the AL Central favorites … Al Albuquerque (elbow) was cleared to begin a throwing program Wednesday. He’ll play catch from a distance of 60 feet every other day for the next two weeks before eventually progressing to long toss. The hard-thrower is unlikely to join the Detroit bullpen until mid-July … Mike Adams could be sidelined several days with a left calf injury. The setup man was struck in the left calf by a line drive during an exhibition game Tuesday, suffering a contusion … Tyson Ross is likely to rejoin the A’s when a fifth starter is first needed on April 17. Ross was optioned to Triple-A Wednesday … The Rays have claimed left-hander John Gaub off waivers from the Cubs. Gaub will be assigned to Triple-A Durham … The Yankees claimed Cody Eppley off waivers from the Rangers. He’ll be assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.