Joakim Soria hopes to begin rehab assignment Thursday

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The Rangers signed reliever Joakim Soria to a two-year, $8 million contract over the winter, but he has yet to throw a pitch for the club because he’s still in recovery mode from the second Tommy John surgery of his career. However, they could finally get some bang for their buck soon.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that Soria made it through his second live batting practice session in the past four days this afternoon. He’s tentatively scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco on Thursday, which could set him up to make his Rangers’ debut around the All-Star break.

“It was really good,” Soria said of the session, in which he faced Craig Gentry, Geovany Soto and Chris McGuiness in a session of approximately 35-40 pitches. “My key is my command. My command was good. If my command is good, everything is good. I need to see real baseball, real batters in a game and up the intensity.”

Soria was originally expected to join the Rangers’ bullpen in May, but his timeline was pushed back in April after he suffered a strained pectoral muscle. Either way, he could make a major impact during the second half if he’s healthy. The 29-year-old right-hander owns a 2.40 ERA over 298 appearances in the majors.

Report: Padres interested in Maikel Franco

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The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.

Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.

Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.