Chase Utley hopes to be back before the All-Star break

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According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Chase Utley spoke with reporters earlier this morning and said that he has made some progress with his ailing right knee. Specifically, he has begun to take some “light ground balls” over the past few days.

It doesn’t sound like much, but Utley said he is optimistic about avoiding surgery and getting back on the field at some point this season.

While Utley refused to offer a specific timetable for his return, he confirmed that one of his goals would be to play before the All-Star break. For what it’s worth, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. later added that they have no plans to place Utley on the 60-day disabled list, which at least opens the door for a return in the early part of the season.

Zolecki has the whole conversation over at his blog, so it’s worth checking out if you have the time, but this is my favorite part.

Q: Who is the specialist you saw? And how many have you seen?
A: If I tell you I have to kill you.

Q: What’s the big secret?
A: I don’t know. You guys know me by now, right?

This whole process has been clouded in such secrecy that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Utley blast a couple homers dressed as Green Man on Opening Day.

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.