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.

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.