Chris Carpenter throws two-inning simulated game

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Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter took a big step in the right direction Sunday, throwing two simulated innings to a group of teammates in camp.

Carpenter was diagnosed earlier this month with a bulging cervical disc in his neck and has not yet appeared in a Grapefruit League game. But he’s beginning to make progress and might not have to miss a turn in the regular-season starting rotation if he’s able to avoid setbacks from here on out.

“It was a good step,” Carpenter told reporters after Sunday’s workout, per Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I was excited to get back out there and throw a little bit. Now we move on to the next step. Hopefully, I wake up good enough tomorrow and go out and do that again sometime soon.”

Carpenter will need at least three exhibition outings to get properly geared up for April.

The 36-year-old right-hander registered a 3.45 ERA and 191/55 K/BB ratio across a league-leading 237 1/3 innings last year for the Cardinals before going 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA in six postseason starts.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.