Shin-Soo Choo making progress, will hit off tee Thursday

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Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo is on the right track to this point in his ongoing recovery from late-June surgery on his fractured left thumb.

According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, the Korean-born outfielder has been playing catch comfortably from a distance of 90 feet and is scheduled to hit baseballs off a tee Thursday for the first time since his June thumb procedure.

If he can avoid setbacks, Choo should arrive back in the major leagues by late August or early September.

The 29-year-old was batting just .244/.333/.353 with five home runs and 11 stolen bases through 306 plate appearances this season, but he has an .853 career OPS and could play a huge role for the Tribe down the stretch if they’re able to remain relevant in his absence.

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.