Brett Gardner could take batting practice this weekend

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Brett Gardner has experienced a couple of setbacks in his recovery from a strained right elbow, but there’s increased optimism that he could rejoin the Yankees in the near future.

According to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, Gardner could begin taking batting practice this weekend. The speedy outfielder was cleared to take dry swings earlier this week and was scheduled to hit off a tee and do soft-toss drills for a second straight day today. If he progresses as hoped this weekend, he’ll likely be cleared to begin another minor league rehab assignment.

Gardner still has a few hurdles to cross and given his previous setbacks, the Yankees won’t count on him, but Marchand suggests that a return late next week is possible.

Gardner, 28, was batting .321/.424/.393 with two doubles, three RBI, two stolen bases and an .817 OPS over his first 34 plate appearances before landing on the disabled list in mid April.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.