Cole Hamels throws live batting practice

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Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels took an important step this morning in his return from shoulder tendinitis, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that he threw two innings of live batting practice to hitters. It was his first time facing live hitters this spring.

Hamels, who was behind schedule at the start of camp and had a setback earlier this month, declared that he felt “great” during today’s session. The Phillies will likely see how he feels tomorrow before deciding when he’ll throw next, but it’s good news for a team that really needs it right now.

Hamels will begin the year on the disabled list, but he has a chance to join Philadelphia’s starting rotation by the end of April if all goes well.

Giants sign Austin Jackson to two-year, $6 million contract

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The Giants announced on Monday night the signing of outfielder Austin Jackson. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, it’s a two-year, $6 million deal with performance incentives that allow Jackson to earn up to an additional $2.5 million for a total of $8.5 million.

Jackson, who soon turns 31 years old, spent last season with the Indians. In 318 plate appearances, he hit .318/.387/.482 with seven home runs, 35 RBI, and 46 runs scored.

The Giants have been on the hunt for a center fielder and Jackson addresses that need relatively cheaply. Jackson will join Hunter Pence and newcomer Andrew McCutchen in the outfield.