Report: Phillies “had a deal” for Hunter Pence, but Astros “backed off”

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At this point the Phillies’ strong interest in Astros outfielder Hunter Pence is no secret, but Jayson Stark of ESPN.com takes it a step further by quoting sources who claim Philadelphia “had a deal for him earlier in the week, only to have Houston back off.”

Stark couldn’t get confirmation of that from any Astros sources, but says “it’s believed the Phillies structured a deal around” their two best prospects, Single-A first baseman Jonathan Singleton and Single-A right-hander Jarred Cosart.

If that’s true and the Astros turned the offer down, their decision to keep the 28-year-old Pence and his good but not great .818 career OPS looks awfully questionable for a team that needs all the young, cheap, long-term building blocks it can get. That seems pretty close to “offer they can’t refuse” territory.

Hyun-Jin Ryu will open season in Dodgers’ rotation

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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu will open the regular season in the starting rotation, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports.

Ryu, 30, missed the entire 2015 season and made only one start last season due to shoulder and elbow injuries. The lefty has looked solid in three spring appearances, however, yielding a lone run on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in nine innings.

With Scott Kazmir likely to begin the season on the disabled list, that leaves Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ rotation.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.