Joe Blanton set to make final rehab appearance

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Sidelined since the end of spring training with an oblique injury, Joe Blanton is scheduled to make his third and final minor league rehab start Wednesday. Blanton threw just three innings in his previous outing, so he’ll need to increase his pitch count significantly in order to rejoin the Phillies’ rotation as planned next week.
Kyle Kendrick will almost surely be bumped from the rotation once Blanton is ready to return. He turned in another poor performance yesterday, giving him a 7.71 ERA and 9/9 K/BB ratio in 18.2 innings while allowing opponents to hit .316 with a .983 OPS against him. By comparison, for his career Alex Rodriguez has hit .305 with a .965 OPS, so Kendrick has basically turned every hitter he’s faced this season into a slightly better version of Rodriguez.
Current fourth starter Jamie Moyer also hasn’t been particularly effective, but has gone six innings in each of his three starts and sports a 5.00 ERA with an 11/4 K/BB ratio overall. Opponents have hit .257 with a .723 OPS versus Moyer, so the Phillies won’t have much of a decision to make when it comes to bumping a pitcher from the rotation to clear room for Blanton. Philadelphia sits atop the NL East at 11-7, 1.5 games ahead of Florida, New York, and Washington.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.