Johnny Cueto throws batting practice, nears sim game

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Johnny Cueto took another step in his recovery from a strained lat muscle yesterday, throwing 30 pitches of live batting practice to Reds teammates.

Jeremy Warnemuende of MLB.com reports that a simulated game is next on the schedule, at which point Cueto could be cleared to return. And there’s been speculation that the Reds will bring him back as a reliever, with Tim Lincecum’s playoff run for the Giants last season serving as the optimistic model.

Cueto has started just nine games this season in between disabled list stints and all 158 of his big-league appearances have come as a starter.

Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson to table extension talks

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Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.

Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.

The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.

If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.