Pedro Alvarez could begin rehab assignment early next week

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Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez took another few steps in the right direction this week as he continues his recovery from a right quadriceps strain.

According to Jenifer Langosch, beat writer for MLB.com, the young infielder has now played four games at extended spring training in Bradenton, Florida and could be cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment early next week.

Alvarez is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list Sunday, but the Pirates will almost certainly ask him to play several games at one of their minor league affiliates before they consider penciling his name back into the big league lineup.

The 24-year-old was batting just .208/.283/.304 with two homers in 36 games before the injury. He clearly needs to get his timing right at the plate, and a week-long stay at Triple-A Indianapolis should do the trick.

Padres, Mariners join list of teams to extend netting

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The Reds announced earlier that they plan to extend the protective netting at Great American Ball Park in time for Opening Day next season. You can add the Padres and Mariners to what will surely be a growing list.

A young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, which gave new life to the netting debate. Some fans and media types think Major League Baseball is not doing enough to protect fans. While Major League Baseball has issued guidelines for protective netting, it is ultimately up to the teams to decide just how much netting to use.

Zach Britton receives stem cell injection, likely done for the season

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Orioles closer Zach Britton is likely done for the remainder of the 2017 season after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee, Peter Schmuck and Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun report. Britton has been battling knee problems for most of the season.

The Orioles are still technically in the AL Wild Card race, entering play Thursday 5.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot. With only nine games remaining, however, the 73-80 Orioles are likely being realistic about their chances and not taking any unnecessary risks with Britton.

Britton, 29, put up a 2.89 ERA with 15 saves and a 29/18 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings this season. He will be eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason.