Orioles “cautiously optimistic” about Jim Thome’s return


Baltimore losing Nick Markakis for the rest of the regular season was a big blow, but the Orioles may be adding a different strong left-handed bat to the lineup soon.

Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports that the Orioles are “cautiously optimistic” about Jim Thome being ready to return from a herniated disk in his neck during their upcoming road trip, which begins tomorrow and runs through September 23.

Thome has been out since late July, but has been swinging a bat without any problems since last week and posted a solid .797 OPS in 42 games before being shut down. As a part-time designated hitter and bat off the bench Thome could provide a nice little boost.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.