Ricky Romero AP

Ricky Romero says his elbow feels “100 times better”

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After finishing sixth in the AL with a 2.92 ERA in 2011, Ricky Romero endured a nightmare campaign last year in which he struggled to the tune of a 5.77 ERA and 124/105 K/BB ratio over 181 innings. While the drop-off was alarming, it was somewhat explained when the southpaw had an elbow cleanup in October and received platelet-rich plasma injections in both of his knees. Now he’s hoping for a big bounce back year.

According to Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com, Romero threw off a mound several times before reporting to Jays’ camp and can already feel the difference with his elbow.

“It feels 100 times better,” said Romero, who avoided the DL in 2012. “I wasn’t able to rotate [the elbow] at one point, I was so sore at the end of the year. That’s when I decided we should get it checked out. Right now, it feels great, pretty much back to how it should feel.

“The knees have been a work in progress. I think that’s been the toughest part, that tendinitis doesn’t go away easily. We’ve been hitting it hard every day, I’m here getting treatment, doing the small things, foam-rolling, stuff like that, just to kind of get them ready every day.”

Encouraging news for a team who clearly sees an opening in the AL East. The Blue Jays strengthened their rotation over the winter by adding R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, but getting a healthy and effective Romero back would be the equivalent of another significant offseason addition.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.