Daily Dose: Brandon Webb doesn't need shoulder surgery

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After being examined by three different doctors in three different
states this week Brandon Webb was told that he doesn’t need shoulder
surgery. However, he has also been advised not to throw for at least
another six weeks and is not expected to come off the disabled list
before September, if at all this year. Even if he’s not going to pitch
again this season Webb’s recovery is vital to his status for 2010.

Arizona holds an $8 million option on Webb for next year, along with
a $2 million buyout, so as long as he can avoid another setback while
making some progress the team seems almost certain to bring him back.
However, the Diamondbacks’ decision to pull a long-term contract offer
from the table in the middle of last year because of concerns about
Webb’s health now looks brilliant.

While one of the most durable pitchers of this era faces the
possibility of making just one start this season, here are some other
notes from around baseball …

* Fredi Gonzalez continues to say that the Marlins will use a
closer-by-committee approach with Matt Lindstrom sidelined, but Leo
Nunez picked up his fourth save Wednesday while Dan Meyer set him up by
working the eighth inning. Those are the only two real candidates for
ninth-inning duties at the moment, so Nunez has clearly taken over
primary closing duties until further notice.

* Koji Uehara was off to a nice start after coming over from Japan
this offseason, posting a 4.05 ERA and 48/12 K/BB ratio in 67 innings
before last week’s trip to the disabled list with an elbow strain.
After further tests he’s been diagnosed with a partially torn flexor
tendon, which is expected to sideline the 34-year-old for six weeks at
minimum. David Hernandez will replace him and has AL-only potential.

* On the heels of trading Lastings Milledge to the Pirates, the
Nationals demoted Elijah Dukes to Triple-A on Wednesday. Dukes is
similar to Milledge in that he’s disappointed offensively and
defensively while bringing various off-field issues to the table, but
also like Milledge he still has plenty of long-term upside and turned 25 years old last week. If the Nationals deal Dukes, they’ll be selling low again.

* Mike Aviles came out of nowhere to hit .325 as a 27-year-old rookie,
but hit just .183 through 36 games this season before being placed on
the disabled list with a strained forearm. His forearm soreness turned
out to be a torn elbow ligament and the Royals announced Wednesday that
he’ll undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. Aviles now faces 9-12
months of recovery and an uncertain future.

AL Quick Hits: Alex Rodriguez homered Wednesday and has gone
deep in four of the past six games … Frank Francisco blew the save
Wednesday just hours after Ron Washington announced that he’d reclaimed
closer duties … Jason Bay struck out in all five of his at-bats
Wednesday and is in a 0-for-15 slump … Ervin Santana (triceps) is
scheduled to rejoin the rotation on Friday, according to Mike Scioscia
… Alexei Ramirez is headed for X-rays after exiting Wednesday’s game
with a finger injury … Brad Bergeson held Boston to one run over eight
innings Wednesday, but relievers blew a four-run lead … Initially set
to return Saturday, Erik Bedard (shoulder) is now due to come off the
disabled list Tuesday … Jered Weaver allowed a season-high seven runs
in a no-decision Wednesday … Jose Contreras threw eight innings of
two-run ball Wednesday, whiffing eight … Justin Morneau, Nick Punto,
and Mike Redmond left Wednesday’s game with injuries.

NL Quick Hits: Cole Hamels was knocked around for seven runs
Wednesday to leave his ERA at 4.98 … Adam Wainwright had a career-high
12 strikeouts and allowed one run in nine innings Wednesday, but took a
no-decision … Matt Diaz made a rare start Wednesday, going 3-for-5 with
a homer to put his OPS above .800 … Randy Wells induced a dozen
ground-ball outs while giving up one run in seven innings Wednesday,
giving him a 2.43 ERA in 10 starts … Jason Hammel took a complete-game
loss Wednesday despite allowing just one run because Clayton Kershaw
combined with three relievers for a shutout … Jair Jurrjens had seven
innings of one-run, one-hit ball Wednesday to even his mark at 6-6 …
San Diego is shopping Kevin Kouzmanoff, with Seattle said to be
interested … Colby Rasmus delivered a walk-off homer Wednesday after
Pablo Sandoval dropped a foul ball … Johnny Cueto tossed six shutout
innings in a 1-0 victory Wednesday.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.

White Sox reportedly considering Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.

After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.

Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.

Pirates sign reliever Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty
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Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.

O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.

It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.