Jesus Flores begins long road back from shoulder surgery

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After missing nearly all of the past two seasons with shoulder injuries one-time Nationals “catcher of the future” Jesus Flores began his long road back to the majors by playing six innings in an instructional league game yesterday.
Flores reported no problems hitting or throwing with his surgically repaired shoulder, but has a grand total of just three at-bats since originally suffering the injury in May of 2009 and has been surpassed by Wilson Ramos as the Nationals’ long-term answer behind the plate.
Washington also has Ivan Rodriguez signed for $3 million next season, presumably setting up a job-sharing arrangement between the future Hall of Famer and the 22-year-old Ramos that leaves Flores on the outside looking in even if he’s fully healthy. Catching depth is always a nice thing to have, but in the big picture the 25-year-old Flores may be better off trying to make his comeback elsewhere.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.