Carl Crawford close to playing in extended spring training games

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Carl Crawford is still expected to miss most, if not all, of April, as he works his way back from January wrist surgery, but he is progressing toward game action.

According to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said today that Crawford should begin playing in extended spring training games “very soon.” The exact timeline isn’t clear, but that he isn’t expected to be present for the Red Sox home opener next Friday is a clear hint that he could begin playing in games next week.

“We’re trying to get a very comprehensive, yet not rushed program for him,” said Valentine. “I heard he’s progressing really nicely. … The way it seems right now, he’s feeling very good.”

Crawford will be eased into game action as a designated hitter before getting back in the outfield. Valentine previously estimated that the high-priced outfielder would need about 50 plate appearances before coming off the disabled list, but he clarified today that there’s no set number of at-bats.

Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross should continue to get most of the playing time in the corner outfield spots until Crawford is ready.

Padres, Mariners join list of teams to extend netting

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The Reds announced earlier that they plan to extend the protective netting at Great American Ball Park in time for Opening Day next season. You can add the Padres and Mariners to what will surely be a growing list.

A young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, which gave new life to the netting debate. Some fans and media types think Major League Baseball is not doing enough to protect fans. While Major League Baseball has issued guidelines for protective netting, it is ultimately up to the teams to decide just how much netting to use.

Zach Britton receives stem cell injection, likely done for the season

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Orioles closer Zach Britton is likely done for the remainder of the 2017 season after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee, Peter Schmuck and Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun report. Britton has been battling knee problems for most of the season.

The Orioles are still technically in the AL Wild Card race, entering play Thursday 5.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot. With only nine games remaining, however, the 73-80 Orioles are likely being realistic about their chances and not taking any unnecessary risks with Britton.

Britton, 29, put up a 2.89 ERA with 15 saves and a 29/18 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings this season. He will be eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason.