Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte getting close to returning

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Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte participated in a simulated game this morning, according to Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger.

With Reggie Jackson calling balls and strikes and Yankees manager Joe Girardi observing, Pettitte threw 50 pitches over three simulated innings against A-Rod, Greg Golson and Ramiro Pena. He reported no problems with left groin.

“It felt better each inning I went out there,” Pettitte said. “I felt
like the last inning I turned it up pretty good and wasn’t worrying
about anything at all.”

The veteran left-hander hopes to throw a bullpen session Monday before facing live hitters Wednesday, either in the form of another simulated game or in the minor leagues. Barring any setbacks, he still has enough time to make a couple starts before the end of the regular season.

As for Rodriguez, in addition to facing Pettitte, he participated in batting practice, took grounders and ran the bases. 

“I feel good,” he said. “It was an encouraging day. No setbacks.”

He declined to say whether he would be activated from the disabled list when he is eligible tomorrow, but all signs are pointing in that direction. Rodriguez has been on the disabled list since August 21 due to a left calf strain.

For all the problems the Yankees have had with their rotation lately, things are looking pretty good for the Yankees right now. They enter play Saturday with a seven-game winning streak and lead the Rays by 1 1/2 games in the American League East.

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.