Hanley Ramirez AP

Hanley Ramirez has cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Hanley Ramirez is still a few weeks away from joining the Dodgers’ lineup, but he’s making encouraging progress from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.

According to Tyler Emerick of MLB.com, Ramirez had the cast removed from his thumb yesterday. The 29-year-old reported feeling pain-free and has better range of motion than he originally expected.

“It feels awesome,” Ramirez said. “I’m definitely happy with it right now, the ligament has gotten a lot stronger already.”

Ramirez was already taking one-handed swings and fielding grounders prior to yesterday, but he should soon be able to test his thumb by making some throws. He will gradually increase his workload from there before going out on a minor league rehab assignment. Ramirez was given an eight-week timetable at the time of his surgery on March 22, so he’s likely looking at a return in late May.

Justin Sellers has functioned as the primary shortstop during Ramirez’s absence and is hitting .192 (5-for-26) with one home run in nine games.

Brett Lawrie will take a pay cut to avoid arbitration with White Sox

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 12: Brett Lawrie #15 of the Chicago White Sox fields a ground ball during batting practice before the start of the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 12, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
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Infielder Brett Lawrie successfully avoided arbitration and signed a one-year contract with the White Sox on Friday, per a team announcement. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman added that the deal was for $3.5 million, significantly lower than the $4.125 million Lawrie was paid by the White Sox in 2016.

The White Sox acquired Lawrie last December in a swap for minor league arms Zack Erwin and J.B. Wendelken. After splitting time at second and third base for the Athletics in 2015, Lawrie slotted in at second base and DH for the White Sox and batted .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs in 384 PA. While it’s strange to see a healthy, fairly productive player receive a salary reduction in arbitration, Lawrie missed nearly half of the season with a strain in his left hamstring, though he’s projected to return at full health by the start of the 2017 season.

Cubs sign LHP Brian Duensing to a one-year, $2 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Brian Duensing #50 of the Baltimore Orioles throws a pitch in the eleventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Left-hander Brian Duensing signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cubs on Friday, per a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.

The free agent spent the bulk of his 2016 season with the Orioles after receiving a call-up from Triple-A Norfolk in early June. He underwent elbow surgery several weeks later when a freak bullpen injury revealed cartilage chips and inflammation in his pitching elbow, but recovered to finish the season with a 4.05 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings for the club. The Orioles utilized him for a final out during the AL Wild Card game, during which Duensing recorded a five-pitch strikeout in the ninth inning of their 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

The 33-year-old is currently expected to bulk up the Cubs’ left-handed relief corps, with fellow left-hander Mike Montgomery slated for the rotation in 2017.