Neftali Feliz has UCL sprain in elbow, shut down for four weeks

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UPDATE: According to Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said earlier this evening that Feliz has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He won’t throw for four weeks, but he could be shut down for longer.

7:36 PM: The Rangers placed Neftali Feliz on the 15-day disabled list this afternoon with right elbow inflammation. While an MRI revealed no structural damage in the elbow, it will be a while before we see him back in the big leagues.

According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said this afternoon that Feliz will be shut down for a month. He’ll resume a throwing program after that, but assuming that he’ll likely need at least a couple minor league rehab starts, that places his return somewhere around the All-Star break. And that’s assuming no setbacks.

Feliz, who is making the transition from closer to starting pitcher, has a 3.16 ERA and 37/23 K/BB ratio over 42 2/3 innings this season. Scott Feldman will fill his spot in the starting rotation for now.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.