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.

2017 Preview: The American League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League East

Boston may have the most talent and, in Mookie Betts, the best player. The Yankees have the best farm system. Baltimore has all the dingers and the best closer. Toronto may have the best collection of heels, at least in the view of fans of the other AL East teams.  The Rays have the best . . . hmm. I’ll get back to you on that.

Anyway, here are our previews for the American League East:

Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.