The Braves were dealt at least a modest blow Wednesday with the news that Ramiro Pena, who has been on the DL since June 21 with a right shoulder impingement, will need season-ending surgery for a torn labrum.
It was a big surprise this winter when the Braves signed Pena to a major league contract as a minor league free agent; the 27-year-old hit just .233/.266/.288 in 313 at-bats over part of four season with the Yankees. However, he was an immediate success as a utilityman for in Atlanta, driving in six runs in his first three starts for the team. Overall, he was hitting .278/.330/.443 in 97 at-bats.
The loss of Pena means Tyler Pastornicky will get a chance to stick as a utilityman. Last year’s Opening Day shortstop, Pastornicky was supposed to spend this season playing regularly in Triple-A. He’s gone 4-for-14 in two stints with the Braves this year.
The Braves likely will be in the market for a veteran infielder next month, preferably someone with enough pop to spell Chris Johnson at third against some righties.
The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.
Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.
While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.