Reds sign Jeff Francis

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Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that the Reds have signed left-hander Jeff Francis to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Francis showed a lot of promise early in his career with the Rockies, but was sidetracked by injuries and has posted a 5.26 ERA in 471 innings since missing all of the 2009 season. Last season he had a 6.27 ERA in 70 innings for Colorado.

He’s actually returning to the Reds organization after spending part of 2012 pitching for their Triple-A team, but Francis never pitched for Cincinnati in the big leagues and at age 33 he’s mostly just minor-league depth at this point.

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.