Russell Martin ahead of schedule, set for opener

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Russell Martin was initially expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a groin injury suffered early in spring training, but he’s far enough ahead of schedule that manager Joe Torre now expects the 27-year-old to be ready for Opening Day:

That’s what we’re expecting right now. Once we made the commitment to play him in the regular spring-training games, we pretty much made that choice, as opposed to starting him on the DL. I’m very comfortable. I think the only thing he’ll be a little behind on is getting his rhythm and timing. But hopefully he’ll get that done shortly.

Over the past three seasons Martin logged more innings behind the plate than any other catcher, leading baseball in innings caught in both 2007 and 2009 while ranking second to Jason Kendall in 2008.
In other words, his not rushing back from what was at first deemed a fairly significant injury could have turned into a positive thing in terms of keeping him healthy and fresh all season. For his career Martin has hit .287 with an .800 OPS in the first half compared to .263 with a .744 OPS in the second half, and August and September have been his two worst months.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.