Matt Joyce again close to returning from DL after setback

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Matt Joyce has been out since mid-June with a strained oblique muscle and suffered a setback last week that canceled his plans to be off the disabled list by now, but the Rays outfielder said yesterday that he’s aiming to return within two weeks.

Joyce told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he’s “pretty optimistic” about that timetable being doable and is slated to begin a minor-league rehab assignment next week.

Joyce was playing in the minors when he tweaked his back on July 4, so the Rays may ask him to spend a little extra time there before a return just to be safe.

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.