Report: The Angels are the frontrunner to sign Roy Oswalt

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We’ve seen renewed speculation over the past 24 hours that the Cardinals could make a run at Roy Oswalt now that Chris Carpenter is sidelined indefinitely due to nerve irritation in his shoulder. While that may still happen, it appears that a surprise team has entered the mix.

Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM reported in the wee small hours of the morning that the Angels have “suddenly” emerged as the frontrunner for Oswalt’s services. He adds that the Red Sox are still in the picture while the Cardinals and Rangers have faded as possible landing spots.

The assumption all winter was that Oswalt preferred to pitch for St. Louis or Texas in order to be closer to his home in Mississippi, but it appears that he’s willing to broaden his scope with a midseason return in mind. As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick recently noted, Oswalt’s kids will done with school in June, so he could bring his family with him wherever he goes.

The Angels have Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana leading their rotation, but they don’t have much in the way of quality depth beyond that. Jerome Williams entered spring training as the favorite for the fifth starter gig, but he is working his way back from a hamstring injury. Other possibilities include Garrett Richards, Trevor Bell, Brad Mills and Eric Hurley.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.