Joe Mauer’s rehab progresses to extended spring training

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There’s still no timetable for his return from bilateral leg weakness, but Joe Mauer is taking a significant step in his recovery by reporting to extended spring training in Florida.

For now he’ll merely work out in Fort Myers alongside Jim Thome and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, building up strength in his surgically repaired knee after admitting that beginning the season on the active roster was a mistake.

Being without Mauer for all but nine games has obviously contributed to the Twins’ horrendous start, but his backups hitting like pitchers has compounded the problem further. As a group Minnesota catchers have hit .139 with zero homers and a .358 OPS. NL pitchers are hitting .137 with a .338 OPS.

Report: Astros, Michael Brantley agree to two-year, $32 million contract

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros and outfielder Michael Brantley are closing in on an agreement for a two-year contract in the $32 million range.

Brantley, 31, played a mostly full season last year for the first time since 2015. He hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 631 plate appearances. He made the AL All-Star squad for the third time in his career.

Brantley’s health, though, is why he had to settle for a two-year deal as opposed to a longer contract for a player of his caliber. He will take over in left field. In the event Brantley succumbs to injury woes, the Astros have top prospect Kyle Tucker waiting in the wings.

Update: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who also reports that the deal is in place, the Astros plan to rotate Brantley between left field, first base, and DH. That opens up some more playing time for Tucker.