Jim Thome on the verge of rejoining Orioles

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Jim Thome continues to make progress in his recovery from a herniated disk in his neck and could be back in the Orioles’ lineup within a week, according to manager Buck Showalter.

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Thome took a handful of at-bats in a simulated game yesterday “and experienced no pain.” He’ll take more at-bats in simulated and instructional league games today and tomorrow, at which point the 40-year-old designated hitter could be cleared to return.

At the very least Thome would give the Orioles a nice late-inning option off the bench, but with Nick Markakis and Wilson Betemit both injured Showalter could also turn to him as the regular DH to add some left-handed pop to the lineup.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.