Joe Mauer dugout

Joe Mauer won’t be catching in the early part of spring training

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Joe Mauer received a shot of medicine earlier today to help lubricate his left knee joint, according to Kelly Theisier of MLB.com. Of course, Mauer underwent minor surgery in December to take care of some lingering inflammation in the very same knee.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said today that he plans to take it easy with his star catcher in the early part of spring training.

“I want to make sure those things take effect,” Gardenhire said of the shot. “He’s feeling a lot better. You can see him moving and feeling great and we want to keep it that way. So we’re going to kind of guard him and back him off, and we’ll eventually get him in the ballgames, too.”

“I’m not thinking that he’s going to be catching in the games right away, either,” said Gardenhire. “I’m just going to bide my time with that and make sure we get him in situations and get him ready. It’s more important for him to see the pitchers on the side, a few bullpens on the side, but I want to make sure we clean that knee up before we get anything going.”

Maybe we shouldn’t be alarmed quite yet, but the long-term health of Mauer’s knee is obviously of critical importance given the rigors of the catcher position. The 27-year-old has started 105 and 107 games behind the dish in the past two seasons and I’d honestly be surprised if that number will increase as he gets up there in age.

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.