Author: Aaron Gleeman

Garrett Richards AP

Garret Richards throws simulated game in comeback from knee surgery

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Angels right-hander Garret Richards took a major step in his comeback from August knee surgery, throwing a two-inning simulated game Tuesday.

He threw 41 total pitches, sitting in the dugout between simulated “innings” and afterward getting positive reviews from general manager Jerry Dipoto:

Physically, he’s probably ahead of 99 percent of the pitchers in Major League Baseball right now. But we have to make concessions for where he’s been and take it day by day.

Despite avoiding setbacks so far Richards still isn’t expected to be ready for Opening Day, with Alden Gonzalez of writing that he’ll likely begin the season on the disabled list and “come back around the middle of April.”

Pat Neshek says it was “disappointing” that the Cardinals never tried to re-sign him

Pat Neshek

Pat Neshek’s comeback season with the Cardinals was one of the feel-good stories of 2014, as the side-arming reliever made the All-Star team for the first time at age 33 and bounced back from physical and off-field challenges to post a 1.87 ERA in 67 innings.

And it was great timing too, as Neshek hit the open market as a free agent this offseason. He signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Astros and Neshek revealed Tuesday that he knew all along the Cardinals were never going to make an effort to re-sign him, telling Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

[General manager John Mozeliak] kept saying “lottery ticket” and “we’re not going to be able to sign you back.” Which, you know, you kind of go, “What the heck? You’re the Cardinals.” They’re not a small market. I don’t care what anybody says. Every game there is packed and it’s a baseball atmosphere.

In one sense it was kind of disappointing, but he knew it. He saw better. He could do something cheaper and try to get better. I see where they’re coming from. It was a good run. It worked out for everybody. … I probably would have given a discount at the end, but there was never anything exchanged. I got that hint right away.

On one hand it’s tough to blame the Cardinals for being skeptical about committing to multiple seasons of a pitcher they were able to sign to a minor-league deal a year earlier. On the other hand, $6 million per season for two years is hardly a massive deal and Neshek indicated that, all things being close to equal, he’d have liked to stay in St. Louis.

In addition to being a consistently excellent reliever when healthy throughout his career–he’s got a 2.78 ERA in eight seasons–Neshek is also one of the nicer, most fan-friendly players in baseball. Houston will love him.

Cubs shut down Jacob Turner with an elbow injury

Jacob Turner

Right-hander Jacob Turner was in the mix for the Cubs’ final rotation spot, but a sore right elbow has eliminated him from the competition and will likely cause him to begin the season on the disabled list.

J.J. Stankevitz of reports that an MRI exam revealed no structural damage in Turner’s elbow, but “did reveal a minor flexor strain and a bone bruise.”

Acquired from the Marlins last August, the 23-year-old former top-10 draft pick is out of minor-league options and must be kept on the 25-man roster (or the disabled list) unless the Cubs want to risk passing him through waivers. He has a 4.97 ERA in 299 career innings.

Pirates right-hander Brandon Cumpton undergoes Tommy John surgery

Brandon Cumpton Pirates
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Pittsburgh just lost some pitching depth, announcing that right-hander Brandon Cumpton underwent season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery.

Cumpton debuted with the Pirates in 2013 and threw 70 innings for them last season, posting a 4.89 ERA and 46/18 K/BB ratio split between the rotation and the bullpen as a 25-year-old.

He was competing for a long reliever gig this spring while serving as rotation insurance and will likely be out until early 2016.

Blue Jays lose Marcus Stroman for the season with a torn ACL

Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman seemed set for a breakout, star-making year after looking good as a rookie last season, but now the Blue Jays right-hander will miss the entire year with a torn left ACL suffered during fielding drills.

Stroman was the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, ranked as a consensus top-100 prospect in back-to-back seasons, and threw 131 innings with a 3.65 ERA and 111/28 K/BB ratio as a 23-year-old rookie.

His injury could motivate the Blue Jays to shift 22-year-old prospect Aaron Sanchez into the rotation full time after he thrived in a 24-game debut as a rookie last season. Or they may decide to enter the trade market for a veteran starter.

Spring training injuries, man.

UPDATE: Here’s a tweet from Stroman: