Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz played a month with forearm stress fracture

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Yadier Molina returning from a sprained knee yesterday led to the Cardinals placing catcher Tony Cruz on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his right forearm. And as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports, it turns out Cruz had been playing through the stress fracture for weeks and possibly as long as a month.

According to Goold an MRI exam and CT scan Monday revealed the stress fracture in the middle of his forearm … and then Cruz still started at catcher on Tuesday and Wednesday, explaining:

There was a chance of an actual break. That was the risk I was taking. … It was bothering me quite a bit and it’s a grind. I tried to hang in there as long as I could. I’d rather be out there with the guys. Hopefully this is what it takes to get better.

Asked about allowing Cruz to continue playing with the injury, manager Mike Matheny said:

We were told he’d be OK to play as long as we were real careful and we were aware of what was going on in there. We were careful.

Obviously the Molina injury left the Cardinals short-handed behind the plate, but to risk Cruz’s health like that certainly seems questionable. And it’s not like Cruz is a superstar player they absolutely needed in the lineup at all costs. He’s a 26-year-old with little big-league experience and a sub-.700 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A.

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.