Joe Blanton set to make final rehab appearance

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Sidelined since the end of spring training with an oblique injury, Joe Blanton is scheduled to make his third and final minor league rehab start Wednesday. Blanton threw just three innings in his previous outing, so he’ll need to increase his pitch count significantly in order to rejoin the Phillies’ rotation as planned next week.
Kyle Kendrick will almost surely be bumped from the rotation once Blanton is ready to return. He turned in another poor performance yesterday, giving him a 7.71 ERA and 9/9 K/BB ratio in 18.2 innings while allowing opponents to hit .316 with a .983 OPS against him. By comparison, for his career Alex Rodriguez has hit .305 with a .965 OPS, so Kendrick has basically turned every hitter he’s faced this season into a slightly better version of Rodriguez.
Current fourth starter Jamie Moyer also hasn’t been particularly effective, but has gone six innings in each of his three starts and sports a 5.00 ERA with an 11/4 K/BB ratio overall. Opponents have hit .257 with a .723 OPS versus Moyer, so the Phillies won’t have much of a decision to make when it comes to bumping a pitcher from the rotation to clear room for Blanton. Philadelphia sits atop the NL East at 11-7, 1.5 games ahead of Florida, New York, and Washington.

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)
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)
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.