Quick hits: Braves are making it interesting

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– The Braves might make a race of this thing. They won their fifth straight on Saturday afternoon,
storming past the last-place Nationals 11-5. They have won 13 out of
their last 15 games to move within three games of the Rockies for the
National League Wild Card. The Braves have eight games left, including
four against the Nationals again to close the season, so while a
comeback of epic proportions looks unlikely, don’t count them out.
After all, the Rockies aren’t exactly striding to the finish — they
are 5-5 over their last 10 games.

– According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, desperate for pitching help, the Diamondbacks may listen to offers for shortstop Stephen Drew
this winter. After a promising 2008, the former first-round pick is
batting just .259/.323/.430 with 12 homers and 59 RBI this season.
Since he is under the organization’s control through 2012, the club
hopes he might be an attractive piece on the trade market entering his
“Age 27” season. With agent Scott Boras in tow, the club is unlikely to
lock Drew up with a long-term deal at a reasonable price if he bounces
back in 2010.

– The hard-charging Twins will try to make it five in a row
when Scott Baker (13-9, 4.43) opposes Lenny DiNardo (0-1, 8.22) and the
Royals on Saturday night. The Twins have won 10 of 11 and currently sit
just two games behind the Tigers in the AL Central. Detroit will send
Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.13) to the hill against Freddy Garcia (2-3,
4.01). The Tigers were shut out by Jake Peavy on Friday night. It
should get very interesting when the Twins and Tigers meet for a
four-game series on Monday in Detroit.

– And finally, Lookout Landing has Ichiro’s first-career ejection covered from all angles, including some nifty .gifs. Gotta love it.

Danny Duffy exits spring training game with left shoulder tightness

Danny Duffy
AP Images
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Royals’ Opening Day starter Danny Duffy weathered a minor scare during Saturday’s Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks. The left-hander was removed from his final spring training start after experiencing some left shoulder tightness in the second and third innings. No lasting damage appears to have been done — Duffy told reporters that he simply felt a slight ache, nothing more — and it looks like he’ll remain on track to open the season with the team next Thursday.

The 29-year-old southpaw is coming off one of his best performances to date. Despite losing a few weeks to an oblique strain and elbow soreness, he went 9-10 in 24 starts and finished the 2017 season with a 3.81 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 over 146 1/3 innings. While Duffy entered camp with a clean bill of health, he struggled to execute against his spring training opponents and racked up 13 runs, four homers, seven walks and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings of Cactus League play.

The Royals are scheduled to kick off their home opener against the White Sox on Thursday, March 29 at 4:15 PM ET. Barring any further complications with his shoulder, Duffy will take the mound for the Royals, while James Shields is expected to make his first Opening Day appearance for the White Sox.