Brett Lawrie activated from disabled list, will play second base in return

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After missing six weeks with a sprained left ankle, Brett Lawrie was activated from the disabled list today by the Blue Jays. Derek Wetmore of MLB.com reports that he will play second base in his return this afternoon against the Orioles, confirming what was hinted by Blue Jays manager John Gibbons on Thursday.

Lawrie batted .250 (8-for-32) with one home run and a 10/7 K/BB ratio over 10 minor league rehab games. The 23-year-old started at second base in each of his final three games with Triple-A Buffalo. While he has exclusively played third base in the majors, he began his professional career at second base with the Brewers.

Lawrie hasn’t played regularly at second base since back in 2010, so he’s no lock to stick at the position, but the Blue Jays are ready to see if he can form a dynamic double-play combo with shortstop Jose Reyes. Maicer Izturis figures to get most of the starts at third base while Mark DeRosa and Edwin Encarnacion could also see occasional playing time there. Jose Bautista has made two starts at third base this season, but Gibbons told John Lott of the National Post that they have no plans to move him from right field.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.