Alex Rodriguez could begin playing in rehab games Friday

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George King III of the New York Post passes along word that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez could be cleared to begin playing in minor league rehab games as early as Friday.

Rodriguez has been sidelined since early July with a torn meniscus in his right knee and is still recovering from the surgical procedure that was required to correct it. But he’s made good progress and has managed to avoid setbacks to this point.

A-Rod ran backward and side-to-side on Saturday at the Yankees’ spring training complex, also taking grounders and participating in live batting practice. He will up the intensity of his workouts with each passing day this week before having a checkup with a knee specialist on Wednesday or Thursday. If everything looks healthy, the probably week-long minor league rehab assignment can officially begin.

Rodriguez, 35, was batting .295/.366/.485 with 13 homers and 52 RBI in 344 plate appearances before the injury. There’s not expected to be any fallout from reports of his participation in high-stakes poker games.

2017 Preview: The American League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League East

Boston may have the most talent and, in Mookie Betts, the best player. The Yankees have the best farm system. Baltimore has all the dingers and the best closer. Toronto may have the best collection of heels, at least in the view of fans of the other AL East teams.  The Rays have the best . . . hmm. I’ll get back to you on that.

Anyway, here are our previews for the American League East:

Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.