Knee? What knee? Chase Utley is just fine

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Before Friday’s game against the Twins, Chase Utley addressed comments by first base coach Davey Lopes that he is currently dealing with a knee injury (via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com).

“I think there’s a little confusion and maybe a little bit of a
difference of opinion with what Davey said,” Utley said before the game.
“In my opinion, an injury is something that keeps you off the field.
When you play 162-games-plus over the course of the year, you’re going
to have aches and pains. That’s part of this game. That’s part of being a
baseball player. In my opinion there’s no injury whatsoever.”

Utley acknowledged that he has occasional soreness in his right knee, but said that it isn’t affecting his performance at the plate. His answer may not satisfy everyone, but he made a compelling argument on the field on Friday night by going 2-for-5 with a three-run home run and matching a season-high with four RBI. He had gone 88 at-bats since his last home run on May 20 against the Cubs. Utley also scored from first base on a triple by Ryan Howard in the first inning and made a fantastic diving play to rob Denard Span of a hit in the top of the third inning.

Okay, so we’ve learned not to rattle Utley’s cage, but what happens with Lopes now?

“All I can tell you is that Davey is not our spokesman for our medical
stuff,” Amaro said. “That comes from me or [assistant general manager]
Scott Proefrock or [head athletic trainer] Scott Sheridan or Dr.
[Michael] Ciccotti. This is not an injury. This is more preventative.
Take it for what it’s worth, I guess.”

There’s no word on if the Philly Phanatic will take over as the first base coach on an interim basis, though the Phillies probably wouldn’t mind at this point since he (it?) has a natural ability of not talking to people.

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.

Tigers to give Omar Infante some work in center field this spring

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Omar Infante #4 of the Detroit Tigers follows through on an RBI single scoring Prince Fielder #28 during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field  on September 11, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
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Veteran Omar Infante has spent the overwhelming majority of his career as an infielder, but the Tigers plan to give him some playing time in center field this spring. The Tigers’ center field situation is still murky and adding more versatility would increase Infante’s odds of making the roster.

Infante, 35, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers in December. He played 39 games for the Royals last season, batting .239/.279/.321 in 149 plate appearances while playing second base exclusively. Infante last played in the outfield in 2010 with the Braves, and last played center field specifically in ’09 with the Braves.

The Tigers currently have Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones at the top of their center field depth chart. It is not what one would call “optimal.”