Johan Santana is “making strides” with his throwing program

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Johan Santana was originally scheduled to make his spring debut on March 2, but the Mets announced last week that it will be pushed back due to a conditioning issue related to his throwing. While he hasn’t returned to mound-work since, the Mets are pleased with the progress he has made in recent days.

According to ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin, Mets manager Terry Collins said earlier today that Santana has looked stronger in recent sessions off flat ground.

“I told him already today: He looked better today than he did five days ago,” Collins said. “I think the long-toss program is making strides.”

The Mets said last week that Santana’s issue wasn’t structural, so it appears his shoulder is fine. Spring training is longer than usual this year because of the World Baseball Classic, so the hope is that he’ll have enough time to get ready for the season as long as he makes his debut by March 10 or 11.

Santana, who turns 34 next month, posted a 4.85 ERA and 111/39 K/BB ratio over 117 innings last season prior to being shut down. He’s owed $25.5 million this season while his contract includes a $5.5 million buyout on a $25 million option for 2014.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.

The Red Sox sign Jhonny Peralta

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The Red Sox have signed third baseman Jhonny Peralta to a minor-league deal. He’ll report to Pawtucket.

Peralta, 35, hit a paltry .204/.259/.204 in 58 plate appearances for the Cardinals this year. But with Pablo Sandoval on the disabled list — and ineffective when he hasn’t been — the Sox could use some infield depth.

This is the second former Tiger that former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has picked up today, after signing Doug Fister. No word if he’s kicking the tires on Andy Dirks or Brennan Boesch.