<span class="vcard">Aaron Gleeman</span>

utley getty

Chase Utley still not recovered from January ankle injury

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Phillies second baseman Chase Utley sprained his ankle while doing offseason workouts in mid-January and was expected to be fully healthy for spring training, but he’s still hurting.

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports that Utley was held out of Monday’s workouts and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said: “They’re not going to play him for a little while.”

As of now the Phillies have given no indication that they think the 36-year-old’s injury is more serious than initially believed. Utley played 155 games last season, which was his most action since 2009.

Brad Ausmus says Justin Verlander looks “the best I’ve seen” after rough year

Justin Verlander Getty
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Not only is Justin Verlander in The Best Shape Of His Life after adding “20 pounds of muscle” this offseason, the former MVP is apparently throwing a lot better than he did during a disappointing 2014 season.

Verlander threw a live batting practice session Sunday, after which manager Brad Ausmus told Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press:

That’s the best I’ve seen Ver stuff-wise, off the mound, since I’ve gotten this job. It was exactly what he wanted. He looked very good today.

It’s worth noting that “since I’ve gotten this job” is a span of exactly one season, so Ausmus isn’t talking about Verlander’s award-winning peak. And not only was Verlander’s performance bad last season–including his worst ERA since 2008, his worst strikeout rate since 2006, and the most earned runs allowed in the league–his once-great fastball velocity dipped to an average of 92.3 miles per hour.

Verlander has an awful lot of wear and tear on his arm at age 32, throwing the second-most innings and the most pitches of any pitcher during the past six seasons. Detroit owes him $28 million per season through 2019.

Glen Perkins is “strong and healthy” after late-season arm problems

Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins
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In late August closer Glen Perkins was cruising along to another fantastic season for the Twins with a 2.44 ERA and 64/9 K/BB ratio in 55 innings when forearm and elbow problems popped up.

Perkins struggled for the rest of the year, first trying to pitch through the injury and then finally shutting things down in mid-September after allowing 10 runs–including five homers–in the span of eight appearances.

Because of how his season ended Perkins’ health was a big question mark all winter, but after facing live hitters for the first time this spring–and tossing some particularly good sliders–the left-hander pronounced himself “strong and healthy.”

As part of a below-market contract extension signed last spring Perkins is under the Twins’ control through 2018 and since shifting to the bullpen full time in 2011 the Minnesota native has a 2.74 ERA and 286/63 K/BB ratio in 256 innings to emerge as one of baseball’s top lefty relievers.

Rockies add John Axford to 40-man roster, guarantee $2.6 million salary

John Axford
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Less than a month after signing John Axford to a minor-league contract the Rockies have added him to the 40-man roster, guaranteeing the veteran reliever’s $2.6 million salary for this season.

Based on the quick move it seems likely that the Rockies all but assured Axford he’d make the Opening Day roster and the non-guaranteed nature of the initial contract was merely a roster-rule formality.

Axford had a 3.92 ERA and 63/36 K/BB ratio in 55 innings for the Indians last season, spending most of the year in a setup role after losing the closing gig early on.

Derek Lowe is talking to the Red Sox about a coaching job

Derek Lowe Red Sox
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Derek Lowe, who announced his retirement in mid-2013, is looking to get back into the game as a coach and Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com reports that the Red Sox are talking to him about a part-time gig as a minor-league instructor.

Lowe pitched for the Red Sox from 1997-2004 and lives near their spring training complex in Florida.

He pitched a total of 17 seasons in the majors for seven different teams, throwing 2,671 innings with a 4.03 ERA as a sinker-balling starter and reliever.