Chase Utley eyeing mid-June return

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Phillies second baseman Chase Utley strained his right oblique muscle taking cuts during batting practice prior to the team’s May 21 game against the Marlins. Initial estimates had the veteran missing between two weeks and a month. Today marks two and a half weeks. CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that the 34-year-old is feeling good and is hoping to return some time in mid-June.

“I’m definitely feeling better,” Utley said Friday evening. “Hopefully I’ll take some swings in the next three or four days and at that point I’ll known where I’m at. I actually feel like I could have swung today, but I want to play it safe.”

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Utley began taking ground balls a week ago and has responded well. Once he gets a reading on his condition after starting to swing again, he will have an idea of when he might be ready to go on a minor-league rehab assignment. He might only need a game or two in the minors once he’s healthy.

Utley had been his team’s most productive player prior to the injury, hitting .272 with an .814 OPS in 177 plate appearances. Domonic Brown hadn’t quite caught on fire at the time Utley went on the disabled list.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.