Jed Lowrie’s thumb injury may land him on the disabled list

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X-rays and an MRI both came back negative after Jed Lowrie sprained his right thumb diving back into second base on a pickoff throw on Wednesday, but the Astros are still concerned that he might miss the start of the season.

Lowrie took some ground balls and played catch yesterday, but Astros manager Brad Mills told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that his thumb was still “pretty tender” and that “he wasn’t able to grip the ball as well as we’d like.” He also expressed doubt about whether he would be able to play in any exhibition games next week.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said that it wouldn’t be “the end of the world” if Lowrie starts the season on the disabled list, so it’s clear they won’t rush him if he’s not ready. Assuming he is held out of Grapefruit League action, the Astros could backdate a potential DL-stint to Wednesday, so he may only end up missing the first few games of the season.

Rule 5 pick Marwin Gonzalez and last year’s Opening Day shortstop Angel Sanchez are among the potential alternatives if Lowrie needs more time to recover.

Tigers sign Edwin Espinal to minor league deal

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Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.

Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.

Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.