Shane Victorino is finally close to rejoining the Red Sox

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Shane Victorino landed on the disabled list in May after he aggravated a right hamstring strain and suffered a setback in June due to a back issue, but he’s finally close to rejoining the Red Sox.

After playing three games with Class A Lowell over the past week, Victorino moved his minor league rehab assignment up to Triple-A Pawtucket tonight. Batting second and playing right field, he went 2-for-4 with two singles and two runs scored while playing all nine innings. Red Sox manager John Farrell told Steven Patrella of MLB.com earlier this evening wants him to play back-to-back games before being activated, so it’s feasible that he could make his long-awaited return this weekend if all goes well.

“Ideally, we see him play back-to-back games before we would activate him,” Farrell said Thursday. “So how he comes through tonight has a lot of bearing on that. And ideally he’s back in the lineup tomorrow.”

After being an important part of Boston’s World Series run last year, Victorino has only appeared in 21 games this season while batting just .242/.276/.352 over 99 plate appearances.

Report: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.