Bill Baer

Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis hits a RBI double to center field against the Tampa Bay Rays during third inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 15, 2015 in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)  MANDATORY CREDIT
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

Devon Travis will start taking at-bats in extended spring training

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Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis underwent left shoulder surgery last September. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm caught up with Jays head athletic trainer George Poulis for updates on several injured players, including Travis. Here’s what Poulis had to say about Travis:

“He’s going to get some live at-bats with the extended team down in Florida on Friday. Big step for him, he’s very excited, he’s doing great, and we’re very optimistic, but no timeline right now on his return. We’re just going day by day, step by step.

“When you have something like that, it continues to heal even when you’re playing. We’re just trying to acclimate him and condition him to withstand all of the stress that he’s going to put on his shoulder … He won’t play in the field right now. We’ll mix that in, as well, but right now he’s just going to get some at-bats.”

The key phrase, of course, is “no timetable”. The second baseman’s rehab has gone slower than expected. Getting into some extended spring training games, though, signals progress.

Travis, 25, broke out last season, hitting .304/.361/.498 with eight home runs and 35 RBI in 239 plate appearances last season. The Jays have had Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney handle second base duties this year, but their aggregate .560 OPS is the worst mark in the American League.

Report: Alex Rios has received offers, but is seeking a significant role

Kansas City Royals right fielder Alex Rios watches during batting practice before Game 6 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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We’re almost into May and outfielder Alex Rios remains teamless. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Rios has received offers, but he hasn’t accepted any yet because he’s seeking a job with a “significant role”. Ostensibly, that means a starting role or possibly a platoon role.

Rios, 35, was on last year’s championship-winning Royals team, but he hit a meager .255/.287/.353 with four home runs and 32 RBI in 411 plate appearances. It’s understandable if teams aren’t willing to gamble on him rediscovering his once-potent bat now that he’s in his mid-30’s.

Rios earned $11 million last year on a one-year deal with the Royals. Now, he may have to settle for a minor league contract. If Rios doesn’t receive a palatable offer, Heyman suggests he may retire.

Video: Manny Machado clubs a grand slam to break it open against the White Sox

Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado celebrates scoring on a two-run double by Gerardo Parra during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in Toronto. The Orioles won 10-2. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP
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Manny Machado is good at baseball. The Orioles’ third baseman busted Thursday’s game wide open when he clubbed a grand slam to left-center field off of reliever Jake Petricka to boost his team’s lead to 10-2 in the sixth inning.

The blast was Machado’s second career grand slam and his seventh home run of the season. Along with that, he’s hitting .337/.394/.686 with 16 RBI on the season.

Report: Braves trying to buy draft picks by taking on bad contracts

Atlanta Braves team president John Schuerholz, center, answers questions about interim general manager John Hart, left, as former manager Bobby Cox looks on, after the baseball team fired general manager Frank Wren following a mid-summer collapse that caused the franchise to miss the playoffs, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Tulis)
AP Photo/David Tulis
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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the Braves are looking to buy tradable draft picks by taking on other teams’ bad contracts if those teams include draft picks in the deal. So far, no one has bit, Passan adds.

The Braves entered play on Thursday night with a 4-17 record, easily the worst in baseball. The club has made no secret it has embraced tanking as they prepare to move into their new stadium. Finishing with the worst record in baseball will net them the first overall pick in the 2017 draft. Adding more and more draft picks will simply increase the odds that they will discover a great player.

The Braves’ Opening Day payroll was only $86 million, their lowest since 2010. The club has less than $50 million in obligations for next season so it can certainly afford to take on a bad contract or two to stock up on young talent.

The Nationals haven’t scored in their last 22 innings

Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Jeanmar Gomez is congratulated by catcher Cameron Rupp after having Washington Nationals Bryce Harper ground out for the final out of the baseball game, Tuesday, April 26, 2016 in Washington. Philadelphia won 4-3. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
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The Nationals were 14-4 entering their home series against the Phillies that started on Tuesday. They scored twice in the fifth inning to tie the game at 3-3, but eventually went on to lose 4-3. The Nationals lost 3-0 on Wednesday and were shut out 3-0 again on Thursday, running their consecutive scoreless innings streak to 22.

Jeremy Hellickson tossed seven shutout innings on Wednesday. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez combined to handle the final two innings. Aaron Nola matched Hellickson with seven shutout frames of his own on Thursday. Dalier Hinojosa, Elvis Araujo, and Gomez combined to handle the final two innings.

Reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper was a non-factor at the plate during the series. He singled once with two walks on Tuesday, went 0-for-2 with two walks on Wednesday, and went 1-for-4 on Thursday. He had a tough time handling a bullet hit by Cameron Rupp in the top of the ninth inning on Thursday, which perturbed closer Jonathan Papelbon. There was no choking, at least not that we were able to see.

The Nationals are now 14-7, which is still good. But they’ve played the Marlins, Braves, and Phillies six times each and the Twins three times. Their schedule has not exactly been tough. Now they hit the road for 10 days to play the Cardinals, Royals, and Cubs.