Joe Mauer not ready to return from DL when eligible Thursday

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Joe Mauer is eligible to be activated from the disabled list Thursday, but general manager Bill Smith confirmed today that he won’t be ready to return then.

In fact, there’s no official timetable for Mauer’s return and his status continues to be somewhat mysterious between the initial diagnosis of bilateral leg weakness and a subsequent flu bug that caused him to lose 15 pounds.

Smith told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Mauer is finally over the viral infection and is now working to build his leg strength, with a minor-league rehab assignment likely required before rejoining the Twins’ lineup is a possibility.

Drew Butera and Steve Holm have split catching duties in Mauer’s absence, combining to hit .200 with zero homers in 11 games.

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.