Lorenzo Cain restarts rehab assignment following April setback

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The Royals traded Melky Cabrera to the Giants during the offseason with the idea that Lorenzo Cain would be their starting center fielder moving forward. That trade obviously hasn’t worked out so well for the Royals, as Cabrera is hitting .364 this season and leads the majors in hits while Jonathan Sanchez has been terrible in eight starts.

Making matters worse, Cain landed on the disabled list in mid-April with a groin injury and then suffered a torn hip flexor muscle during a minor league rehab assignment. However, it appears he is finally making some progress.

Cain restarted his rehab assignment last night with Double-A Northwest Arkansas and went 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout while playing five innings in center field. It was his first game action since April 24. The 26-year-old will likely need most of his 20-day rehab window given the lengthy absence, but he should be back with the Royals around the All-Star if all goes well.

Jarrod Dyson has filled in during Cain’s absence and is hitting just .263/.331/.306 over 183 plate appearances. If healthy, Cain should still get a long look as the team’s starting center fielder, but it’s worth noting that top prospect Wil Myers has started 18 games in center field this season with Triple-A Omaha. Still, most see the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Myers as a corner outfielder in the long-term, though he is blocked by Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur at the moment.

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.