Clay Buchholz makes early exit from start due to stiff back

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Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal passes along word that right-hander Clay Buchholz had to be pulled prematurely from his Thursday evening start against the Rays due to back stiffness.

Buchholz surrendered just two hits and one earned run over five innings before exiting and had thrown only 81 pitches. He’s been bothered by this back ailment since the beginning of June and has also been pitching through a blister on his finger.

The Red Sox are calling his early departure “precautionary” and have not indicated that he’s going to need to miss his next start, but they’re adding rotation depth in Andrew Miller next week and could simply skip Buchholz one time through the rotation to be safe. Ian Browne of MLB.com has an indication of what that might look like.

Buchholz, 26, has registered a quality 3.48 ERA and 1.29 WHIP through 14 starts this season.

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.