Colorado Rockies v Kansas City Royals

Jason Kendall is “ahead of the game” with recovery from shoulder surgery

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Initially expected to be sidelined for the first two months of the season following September shoulder surgery, Jason Kendall told Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star that he’s “ahead of the game” and could be cleared to resume throwing early next month.

Whether that would leave him enough time to potentially be ready for Opening Day is unclear, but Kendall seems very optimistic about his revised timetable:

They originally told me I wasn’t supposed to start throwing until June, but now I can start throwing in February. I still expect to be back for Opening Day. Is it going to happen? I don’t know. But if it’s not Opening Day, it’s going to be shortly after. I’m gonna play sooner than later, but I’m not gonna be foolish about it, either.

Brayan Pena will fill in for Kendall, which isn’t much of a dropoff (if any). Kendall allowed an MLB-high 101 steals last season, so teams will be running like crazy on his surgically repaired shoulder, and he also had the sixth-worst OPS among all players with 400 or more plate appearances.

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.