Astros sign Jesse Crain

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Hey, actual news on December 31!

Jesse Crain has agreed to a one-year contract with the Astros, who add the veteran right-hander to a bullpen mix that also recently added Chad Qualls on a two-year, $6 million deal.

Crain was having a career-year for the White Sox when shoulder problems derailed him in late June. At the time he had a 0.74 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 37 innings and he was actually traded to the Rays while on the disabled list, but Crain never threw another pitch in 2013.

Obviously he’s a big question mark, but it’s a good fit for both sides. If healthy Crain will be the Astros’ best late-inning option and getting a chance in the closer role could lead to a nice payday when he hits the open market again next offseason at age 32.

Cubs place Ben Zobrist on 10-day disabled list with back soreness

Ben Zobrist
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Cubs infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with back soreness. The move is retroactive to April 14. While it doesn’t appear to be the precursor to any serious injury, Zobrist has already missed six straight days of activity after feeling his back tighten up last weekend. Should he see the minimum time on the DL, as expected, he’ll be eligible to return by the start of the Cubs’ series against the Indians on Tuesday.

Prior to his injury, the 36-year-old outfielder raked an impressive .326/.408/.465 with three extra-base hits in 49 plate appearances. He last appeared for the Cubs during their homestand last weekend and helped propel the team to a 14-10 win over the Braves with three hits, two walks and two RBI. Provided that he can remain healthy going forward, it’s a promising start for the veteran outfielder, who has yet to return to the All-Star-worthy numbers he posted with the club in 2016.

With Zobrist sidelined for the time being, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shared the leadoff spot and center field duties over the last week. Happ went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two games before passing the baton to Almora, who collected five hits and two RBI in 11 at-bats.