Twins showing interest in Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan

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The Cardinals drew only minimal interest when trying to shop shortstop Brendan Ryan at last week’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida.  It appears their luck has changed.

According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Twins are exploring a trade for Ryan, hoping to add middle infield depth in the wake of Friday’s J.J. Hardy swap.

Ryan, 28, batted just .223 with a 573 OPS in 486 plate appearances for St. Louis this past year, but he’s one of the best defensive shortstops in all of baseball and would be a useful utility infielder on just about any roster.

The Twins won exclusive negotiating rights to 2010 Japanese batting champ Tsuyoshi Nishioka and are expected to work out a deal with the shortstop.  They also have 26-year-old Alexi Casilla on board.  A moving carousel of Nishioka, Casilla and Ryan at second base and shortstop would be plenty respectable.

Adrian Beltre cleared for extended spring training

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Adrian Beltre has been on the disabled list all year because of nagging right calf strain, but he’s about to take a big step toward getting back to action.

Beltre has been cleared to begin playing in extended spring training games. He’ll commence them tomorrow at the Rangers facility in Surprise, Arizona. After three games the team’s doctors will reevaluate him. If things go well, he’ll likely be sent off for a full minor league rehab assignment.

Joey Gallo has filled in for Beltre all season, bringing a lot of power but not much else to the table. While Beltre is 38, his all-around game would be welcomed back on the field and his leadership would be welcomed back in the Rangers clubhouse. On a personal note, Beltre is only 58 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.

Barring a setback, he’ll be back with the big club in early June and will hit the milestone eventually.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.