Lance Berkman to begin season on disabled list

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Lance Berkman was doing well enough in his recovery from March 13 knee surgery that he took batting practice and did some running yesterday, but afterward his knee swelled up and this morning the Astros placed him on the disabled list.
Berkman will miss at least the first four games of the season and Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports that veteran utility man Geoff Blum is expected to replace him at first base. Seriously.
Berkman batted .274 with 25 homers in 136 games last season, posting a .907 OPS that actually ranks as the second-worst of his excellent career. By comparison, Blum batted .247 with a .681 OPS in 120 games last season, hasn’t topped a .705 OPS since 2002, and sports a career line of .250/.310/.398 in 11 seasons.
Obviously the Astros are hoping that Berkman will be ready to come off the disabled list by mid-April, in which case replacing him with Blum isn’t such a big deal, but if their best hitter needs an extended stay on the disabled list and his replacement is a 36-year-old with a .698 career OPS … well, they may be headed for a third losing season in the past four years.

Braves ink Blaine Boyer to a minor league deal

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 2:  Relief pitcher Blaine Boyer #48 of the Milwaukee Brewers delivers to home plate during the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 2, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.

Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.

Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.