Cubs “leaning toward” using Carlos Villanueva as reliever

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When the Cubs signed Carlos Villanueva to a two-year, $10 million deal in December it was assumed that he’d be in the starting rotation, but now Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes that they “seem to be leaning toward using Villanueva out of the bullpen.”

Villanueva said all the right things about filling whatever role is asked of him, but did tell Muskat: “I’m a starter and I’ve always seen myself as a starter.”

Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Jeff Samardzija, and Scott Feldman are locked in as starters, so Villanueva’s chances of joining them in the rotation depend mostly on Scott Baker’s recovery from elbow surgery and partly on how impressive Travis Wood looks in camp.

Dodgers activate Adrian Gonzalez

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The Dodgers have reinstated first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the 60-day disabled list after his recovery from a herniated disc. To make room for him they have optioned Rob Segedin to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Gonzalez last played on June 11. Since then the Dodgers have gone an astounding 46-9, with shoe-in rookie of the year candidate Cody Bellinger handling first base duties and posting a .978 OPS. When Gonzalez went down he was hitting .255/.304/.339 and only one homer in 49 games.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of playing time he gets going forward. The Dodgers, of course, have a comfortable lead in the NL West, so they could afford to allow Gonzalez to play a good bit to see if his bat sharpens up while simultaneously giving Bellinger, who has never played more than 137 games in a season, a bit of a breather. Beyond that, though, the Dodgers ain’t broke, so it’s hard to see why anyone would want to tinker with things.

Rays activate Kevin Kiermaier

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The Tampa Bay Rays have activated outfielder Kevin Kiermaier from the 60-day disabled list.

Kiermaier, who fractured his hip in early June, is batting leadoff and playing center field in tonight’s game against the Mariners. He was just 3-for-24 on his rehab assignment, but those aren’t usually predictive of anything. He was hitting .258/.329/.408 when he went down. Getting his bat — and, more importantly, his glove — back in the lineup will boost the struggling Rays in their quest for a playoff spot.