Chris Carpenter’s comeback keeps chugging along … possibly as a starter

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Chris Carpenter threw another problem-free bullpen session yesterday, continuing an unexpected comeback from spine and shoulder problems that initially threatened to end his career.

Instead he’s eying a minor-league rehab assignment at some point within the next two weeks, assuming the 38-year-old can avoid a setback while throwing a few more bullpen sessions.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Carpenter told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. “I want to slowly get back involved and make sure that I’m doing the things that I need to do to be ready when it’s time.”

But here’s a twist: While most people had assumed any comeback would be as a reliever, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Carpenter’s work patterns in the bullpen sessions appear to have him conditioning himself to be a starter. Him returning at all would be a helluva story, but as a starter? Wow.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.