Joakim Soria hopes to begin rehab assignment Thursday

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The Rangers signed reliever Joakim Soria to a two-year, $8 million contract over the winter, but he has yet to throw a pitch for the club because he’s still in recovery mode from the second Tommy John surgery of his career. However, they could finally get some bang for their buck soon.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that Soria made it through his second live batting practice session in the past four days this afternoon. He’s tentatively scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco on Thursday, which could set him up to make his Rangers’ debut around the All-Star break.

“It was really good,” Soria said of the session, in which he faced Craig Gentry, Geovany Soto and Chris McGuiness in a session of approximately 35-40 pitches. “My key is my command. My command was good. If my command is good, everything is good. I need to see real baseball, real batters in a game and up the intensity.”

Soria was originally expected to join the Rangers’ bullpen in May, but his timeline was pushed back in April after he suffered a strained pectoral muscle. Either way, he could make a major impact during the second half if he’s healthy. The 29-year-old right-hander owns a 2.40 ERA over 298 appearances in the majors.

Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title

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The Marlins announced on Sunday that outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title when the city of Miami host’s the All-Star Game festivities next month.

Stanton, 27, defeated Todd Frazier in the finals of last year’s Home Run Derby at Petco Park, hitting 20 home runs to Frazier’s 13. Stanton hit a total of 61 home runs in the Derby. This will be the third Home Run Derby in which Stanton has participated.

Stanton also went 1-for-3 with a solo home run to help the Marlins defeat the Cubs 4-2 on Sunday. He’s now batting .274/.357/.551 with 20 home runs and 49 RBI in 311 plate appearances.

Aaron Hicks to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.

Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.