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.

Rays acquire C.J. Cron from Angels

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The Rays have acquired first baseman C.J. Cron from the Angels for a player to be named later, the teams announced Saturday. In a corresponding move, the Rays cleared a roster spot for Cron by designating outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment.

Cron wasn’t expected to factor prominently in the Angels’ plans for 2018, especially given the recent addition of pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani and the projected Luis Valbuena/Albert Pujols combo at first base. The 28-year-old infielder wasn’t overly impressive during his fourth season in Anaheim, either, slashing .248/.305/.437 with 16 home runs and 0.5 fWAR through 373 plate appearances in 2017. He’ll give the Rays a platoon option with fellow first baseman Brad Miller, though neither Cron nor Miller have looked particularly adept against left-handed pitching lately.

Dickerson, meanwhile, is coming off of a banner season with the Rays. The 29-year-old outfielder enjoyed his first All-Star nomination in 2017, rounding out the year with a .282/.325/.490 batting line and career-best 27 home runs and 2.6 fWAR in 629 PA. Some have already speculated that a trade is in the works; barring that, it’s a head-scratching move to make considering his clear offensive value to the team.