Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is finally beginning to show signs of progress in his ongoing recovery from right knee tendinitis.
According to Dave Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, Utley has been cleared to start a running program and did some light jogging on Wednesday without feeling any abnormal discomfort in his knee.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel expressed some optimism about his All-Star second baseman on Thursday, but cautioned that Utley is not close to returning to the major league starting lineup.
“It’s still the same,” Manuel said. “It’s a day-to-day thing. He’s slowly getting better. He’s slowly feeling better. Hopefully, he keeps going that way.”
The Phillies have given most of the open playing time at second base to Wilson Valdez, who has rewarded them with a cool .353/.389/.441 batting line and five RBI through 37 plate appearances. That high level of production won’t last, but the Fightin’ Phils have enough pitching and enough other pieces to remain near the top of the National League East standings until Utley is finally ready to roar.
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.
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.