Matt Szczur passes up football to stay with Cubs

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According to Jim Callis of Baseball America, Cubs prospect outfielder Matt Szczur has accepted a $1.5 million deal to stick with baseball rather than pursue a career in the NFL. The story was first reported by Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net.

Szczur originally signed for $100,000 after being drafted in the fifth round last June. The 21-year-old batted .347/.414/.465 over his first 116 professional plate appearances before returning to Villanova to play football for his senior year. As Callis notes, his initial contract would have secured him $500,000 if he made a written commitment before February 10, so the Cubs tripled their original offer in order to keep him.

Callis writes that Szczur “has a knack for barreling balls, which combined with his top-of-the-scale speed will allow him to hit for high averages.” His coach at Villanova Andy Talley called Szczur his fastest player ever, even ahead of former Eagles and current 49ers running back Brian Westbrook, so it’s easy to see why he was drawing some interest among NFL teams.

Baseball America recently ranked Szczur as the No. 7 prospect in the Cubs organization, but those rankings pre-dated the Matt Garza trade.

Indians’ Kluber has cast removed, making progress

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CLEVELAND (AP) Indians ace Corey Kluber had the hard cast protecting his broken right arm removed and the two-time Cy Young winner is healing as hoped.

Kluber underwent imaging texts Thursday, which showed that his ulna is mending properly. Cleveland manager Terry Francona said Kluber can begin range of motion and that he will be re-examined in two weeks.

The right-hander broke his arm when he was struck flush by a line drive hit by Miami’s Brian Anderson on May 1. At the time, the Indians said surgery wasn’t needed, and Francona said the medical staff told him Kluber was having “expected healing.”

Kluber has been fitted with a protective brace. He said it was a relief to have the cast off and is excited that he “can do a lot more now.”

The 33-year-old ran sprints in the outfield before the series opener against Tampa Bay.

Kluber won 20 games last season and at least 18 in each of the past three seasons. He is 2-3 with a 5.80 ERA in seven starts this year.

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