Indians sign Jeff Francoeur

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The Indians just announced that they have signed outfielder Jeff Francoeur to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported earlier this evening that the two sides were close to a deal.

Francoeur, who turns 30 on Wednesday, hit rock bottom last season by batting just .204/.238/.298 with three home runs and 17 RBI over 81 games between the Royals and Giants. His .536 OPS was third-lowest in MLB among players with at least 250 plate appearances. Only Jeff Mathis and Brendan Ryan were worse. And that’s not where you want to be. Francoeur wasn’t much better in 2012, putting up 16 homers and a .665 OPS in 148 games, so his days as a regular are probably over.

The Indians already have a right-handed hitting outfielder with Ryan Raburn, so it could be a challenge for Francoeur to crack the Opening Day roster. And hey, if he ends up at Triple-A Columbus, at least he would have a new best friend close by.

UPDATE: Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Francoeur will receive a $1 million base salary if he makes the Indians and could earn more with incentives.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.