Houston Astros v St. Louis Cardinals

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.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.