A.J. Burnett makes first minor league rehab start

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After suffering a fractured orbital bone in his right eye during a bunting drill on February 29, the expectation was that A.J. Burnett would need around eight to 12 weeks of recovery time. It sounds like he’ll meet the lower end of that timetable.

Burnett made his first minor league rehab start with High-A Bradenton last night and allowed one run on two hits over 4 2/3 innings. He threw approximately 70 pitches while striking out five and walking just one.

Burnett told Tom Singer of MLB.com that he felt good and should be ready to make the next step in his rehab process in five days.

“We’ll see how I feel five days from now, and go from there,” he said. “But everything feels good right now. Every time out, I’m getting better and better. I’d let them know if I can’t go, or if I need more time.”

There’s no formal timetable, but assuming no setbacks, Burnett should be stretched out in time to make his Pirates’ debut before the end of the month.

Burnett, 35, was acquired from Yankees in February for a couple of minor leaguers and cash considerations. He posted a 5.15 ERA and 173/83 K/BB ratio in 190 1/3 innings last year.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.

Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.

Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.