Justin Masterson tests strained oblique by playing catch

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Justin Masterson hasn’t pitched since September 2 due to a strained left oblique. While this type of injury often costs players a month or more, he hopes to be the exception as the Indians attempt to close ground for a Wild Card spot.

Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Masterson tested his oblique earlier today by playing catch from a distance of 90 feet. He’ll try it again tomorrow before the next step is decided.

“I still don’t know what the exact timetable is,” said Masterson, “but we’re moving in the right direction. We’ve got a baseball in our hand.”

Masterson, 28, is 14-10 with a 3.52 ERA and 188/75 K/BB ratio in 189 1/3 innings over 29 starts this season. The Indians will have to hope that they are still alive by the time he makes it back.

Report: Padres interested in Maikel Franco

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals
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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.