Joe Mauer returns to Twins’ lineup after back spasms

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Joe Mauer has returned to the Twins’ lineup this afternoon against the Tigers after missing five straight games with lower back spasms. He’ll serve as the designated hitter and hit third against Max Scherzer.

Mauer hasn’t played since leaving a game last Sunday against the Orioles. While he described the back spasms as “pretty brutal,” he managed to avoid a stint on the disabled list. The Twins will ease him back into things today, but a return to first base shouldn’t be far off if he feels good.

Mauer was really heating up prior to the back issue, hitting .394 (13-for-33) with one home run, five RBI, and five walks over his last nine games. The 31-year-old owns a .296/.393/.374 batting line so far this season.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.