Bryce Harper has stitches removed from surgically repaired thumb

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Bryce Harper still has a ways to go before he rejoins the Nationals, but he’s moving in the right direction. Per Dan Kolko of MASN Sports, the 21-year-old outfielder had the stitches removed from his surgically-repaired left thumb today.

Harper, who had surgery on April 29 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb, has not been cleared to begin real rehab work. The timeline still calls for him to be sidelined until around early July, so the Nationals might have to make due without him for another two months. Nate McLouth has been asked to be the primary fill-in, but he entered tonight’s action batting just .078/.254/.157 over his first 64 plate appearances this season. Ouch.

Harper was batting .289/.352/.422 with one home run and nine RBI in 22 games prior to the injury.

Royals sign Clay Buchholz to minor league deal

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Royals have signed pitcher Clay Buchholz to a minor league deal. Buchholz will earn a $1.5 million salary if he makes the club’s major league roster and can earn an additional $250,000 through incentives. Buchholz has an opt-out date set for May 1, which means if he isn’t on the Royals’ 25-man roster by then, he can request his release.

Buchholz, 33, was acquired by the Phillies from the Red Sox in December 2016, but he made only two starts before an MRI revealed he had a partial tear of his right flexor pronator mass. He underwent surgery in April and missed the rest of the season.

The Royals recently lost Jesse Hahn, who was diagnosed with a sprained right UCL. Buchholz would likely be in consideration for a rotation spot if another starter were to suffer an injury. Presently, the Royals’ rotation appears set with Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Jake Junis, and Nate Karns.