Joe Nathan cruises through second appearance after Tommy John surgery

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Joe Nathan turned in a hitless inning Tuesday in his first appearance back from Tommy John surgery and he took another measured step forward earlier today, needing just nine pitches to retire the Rays in order.

Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Nathan reached 95 mph on the stadium’s radar gun. We can’t know for sure if that’s anything close to accurate, but according to Kelly Thesier of MLB.com, Nathan was most encouraged by his ability to set up Jose Lobaton for a swinging strikeout to end the inning.

“The last hitter, especially, it really started feeling like my timing was getting better,” Nathan said. “It’s just getting a little more comfortable.”

“That last batter, I almost concentrated on what he was doing and how he was reacting to certain pitches,” the reliever added. “That’s a good sign that I’m getting away from just thinking about what I was doing.”

Nathan feels like he’s to the point where he can pitch every other day, but tells Thesier that he’s working this spring so that he will be able to throw on back to back days. In other words, he wants his closer role back.

Aaron Hicks to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.

Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.

Report: Phillies making Maikel Franco available in trade discussions

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Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Phillies are making third baseman Maikel Franco “more than available” in trade discussions.

Franco, 24, is having an abysmal season after showing promise in 2015 and ’16. Through 289 plate appearances, he’s hitting .221/.280/.365 with nine home runs and 37 RBI. His hitting has tanked and his already below-average defense hasn’t shown any improvement.

It’s a bit surprising that the Phillies would be so eager to move Franco with his value about as low as it can go. Franco is also under control of the rebuilding Phillies through the 2021 season, so the team doesn’t have to rush into moving him. He will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the season.

Furthermore, the Phillies don’t have an immediate replacement for Franco at third base. Andres Blanco would likely get everyday starts at the hot corner in the short-term, but as far as prospects go, there are no third baseman banging down the door. If the Phillies were to trade Franco, it would likely have to be in return for a young, talented third baseman who will be under team control for several more years.