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Steve Pearce exits game with lower back stiffness

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Steve Pearce didn’t make it out of the first inning on Friday. He struck out looking against the Tigers’ Buck Farmer and was replaced by rookie left fielder Teoscar Hernandez at the start of the second inning. A later report by the club revealed lower back stiffness, but a timeline for his return has yet to be established.

Pearce, 34, doesn’t appear to have a history of back injuries. He missed 110 days with a combination of calf tightness and a right knee contusion earlier this season, but has been relatively healthy since his return to the field in June and slashed .249/.320/.446 with seven home runs and a .766 OPS in the second half.

Following Pearce’s early exit, Hernandez went 1-for-2 with an RBI double to put the Blue Jays on the board in the fifth. They currently trail the Tigers 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.