Cole Hamels nearly ready to face live hitters

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Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels has yet to make an appearance in a Grapefruit League game because of shoulder tendinitis that he developed over the winter, but he told reporters last week that his arm is starting to feel “really good” again and he is expected to take a big step forward within the next few days.

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that Hamels threw 33 pitches off a bullpen mound on Sunday and has only one mound workout left before the Phillies’ medical staff clears him to face live hitters.

Hamels has already been ruled out for Opening Day, but he could be ready to debut around mid-to-late April if he avoids further setbacks.

The 30-year-old ace posted a 3.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 220 innings last season.

He signed a six-year, $144 million contract extension with the Phillies in July 2012.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.

The Red Sox sign Jhonny Peralta

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The Red Sox have signed third baseman Jhonny Peralta to a minor-league deal. He’ll report to Pawtucket.

Peralta, 35, hit a paltry .204/.259/.204 in 58 plate appearances for the Cardinals this year. But with Pablo Sandoval on the disabled list — and ineffective when he hasn’t been — the Sox could use some infield depth.

This is the second former Tiger that former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has picked up today, after signing Doug Fister. No word if he’s kicking the tires on Andy Dirks or Brennan Boesch.