Cardinals promote John Mabry to replace Mark McGwire as hitting coach

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As expected the Cardinals have promoted John Mabry from assistant hitting coach to hitting coach following Mark McGwire’s departure to take the same job with the Dodgers.

Mabry was chosen for manager Mike Matheny’s coaching staff last offseason after Mike Aldrete went from assistant hitting coach to bench coach. No word yet on who the Cardinals will turn to as their new assistant hitting coach, although Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch expects it to be an in-house choice.

St. Louis also announced Triple-A pitching coach Blaise Ilsley as their new bullpen coach, replacing Dyar Miller, who was the only member of Matheny’s coaching staff not asked to return.

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.