Indians president Mark Shapiro expects to sign a closer soon

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Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer reports that Indians president Mark Shapiro expects to sign a new closer soon. After releasing Chris Perez at the end of October, the Indians are currently without a closer and prefer to bring in one from outside rather than promote Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw.

Hoynes writes that the Indians have reportedly made a two-year offer to Joaquin Benoit and have also targeted John Axford, Grant Balfour, and Fernando Rodney. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports clarified, saying that the Indians are focused on Axford. Axford was non-tendered by the Cardinals as he was expected to make close to $5 million in arbitration. Since an impressive 2011 season with the Brewers which put him at the back end of NL Cy Young balloting, the right-hander has posted a 4.35 ERA in 134.1 innings.

Erasmo Ramirez to be shut down with a minor lat strain

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Mariners right-hander Erasmo Ramirez has been shut down for two weeks with a minor lat strain, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. It’s a precautionary move, as Ramirez felt some tightness in his arm and could not complete his scheduled bullpen session on Saturday.

There’s no word yet on whether Ramirez will be able to recover in time for the start of the season, though he’s expected to claim a rotation spot again this spring. The 28-year-old righty has been dogged by injuries throughout his six-year career, but finally managed to piece together a full season on the mound in back-to-back stints with the Rays and Mariners in 2017. He went 5-6 in 19 starts for the two clubs and turned in a cumulative 4.39 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 through 131 1/3 innings.

The Mariners are no stranger to pitcher injuries, either. They lost a number of their top arms to various elbow, arm and shoulder injuries last year and cycled through 40 total pitchers as they limped toward a 78-84 finish. Comments from club manager Scott Servais indicate that the team will keep a close eye on Ramirez throughout his recovery, though Divish notes that right-hander Andrew Moore and lefty Ariel Miranda could also slot into the no. 5 spot if Ramirez experiences further setbacks.