Royals sticking with Jonathan Broxton as closer

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Ned Yost took his time announcing that Jonathan Broxton and not Greg Holland would replace the injured Joakim Soria as closer, but the Royals manager wasted no time making it clear that he’s sticking with Broxton in the ninth-inning role despite an ugly blown save Wednesday.

Broxton walked two batters, hit two more, and allowed two runs to turn a 4-3 lead into a 5-4 loss against the A’s, but Yost was quick to point out that the big right-hander’s raw stuff was still plenty impressive.

“He just lost command of his fastball,” Yost told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. “But he’s a two-time All-Star and he has really rebounded nicely from this arm surgery. He’s got his velocity back up to 97, 98, with an 86-, 87-mph slider, which is a killer, hard slider.”

Sure enough, Pitch-F/X data shows that Broxton has averaged 95.2 miles per hour with fastball and 87.8 mph with his slider, up from 94.0 mph and 86.4 mph last season before undergoing elbow surgery. It remains to be seen if Broxton can reestablish himself as a dominant reliever, but velocity wise he’s back.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.