Nationals targeting left-handed reliever J.P. Howell

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After watching Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny all sign elsewhere this offseason, the Nationals are in the market for a left-handed reliever. The pickings are starting to thin out, but Dan Kolko of MASNSports.com reports that J.P. Howell remains the club’s top choice in free agency.

Howell, who turns 30 in April, posted a 3.04 ERA and 42/22 K/BB ratio over 50 1/3 innings this past season with the Rays. He has held left-handed batters to a .241/.323/.351 batting line and a .675 OPS during his career. Considering what some of the other left-handed relievers have received this offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising if he lands a multi-year contract.

As of now, Zach Duke is the only left-handed reliever on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. Bill Bray signed a minor league deal with the club earlier this offseason, but he was limited to just 14 relief appearances with the Reds this past season due to back and groin injuries.

Rangers activate Elvis Andrus from disabled list

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The Rangers made a handful of roster moves on Monday, per the club’s executive VP of communications John Blake. Shortstop Elvis Andrus has been activated from the 60-day disabled list, pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock. Catcher Jose Trevino was optioned to Double-A Frisco. And yesterday, outfielder Ryan Rua was optioned to Round Rock.

The big news, of course, is the return of Andrus. He missed over two months of action after suffering a fractured right elbow on April 11 when he was hit by a 97 MPH fastball. Andrus had gotten off to a good start, batting .327/.426/.500 in 61 plate appearances.

Jurickson Profar handled shortstop while Andrus was out and did an adequate job. While his defense was subpar according to the metrics, he hit .243/.315/.456 across 267 trips to the plate. With Andrus back, Profar will likely slide back into a utility role for the Rangers.