Royals sign Joe Saunders

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Released by the Rangers last week, left-hander Joe Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals and will report to Triple-A.

Saunders has repeatedly insisted on being viewed only as a starter despite having a 5.42 ERA in 40 starts since the beginning of last season and career-long platoon splits that suggest the 33-year-old could still fare well as a situational southpaw reliever.

Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes that the Royals indeed still view Saunders as a starter, but may also try to use him as a middle reliever down the stretch. For now he’ll try to impress in Omaha.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.