Astros sign Jesse Crain

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Hey, actual news on December 31!

Jesse Crain has agreed to a one-year contract with the Astros, who add the veteran right-hander to a bullpen mix that also recently added Chad Qualls on a two-year, $6 million deal.

Crain was having a career-year for the White Sox when shoulder problems derailed him in late June. At the time he had a 0.74 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 37 innings and he was actually traded to the Rays while on the disabled list, but Crain never threw another pitch in 2013.

Obviously he’s a big question mark, but it’s a good fit for both sides. If healthy Crain will be the Astros’ best late-inning option and getting a chance in the closer role could lead to a nice payday when he hits the open market again next offseason at age 32.

Masahiro Tanaka to throw off a mound this weekend

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Earlier this month Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka strained both of his hamstrings while running the bases in an interleague game against the Mets and was sent to the 10-day DL. Today it was announced that the beginning of the end of most DL stints for pitchers — throwing off of a mound — is in Tanaka’s immediate future.

Tanaka is scheduled to throw off a mound Sunday, which will be his first real (well, fake real) pitching action since the June 9th injury. Assuming the session goes well, Tanaka is expected to return to the Yankees’ starting rotation sometime in early-to-mid July. With the All-Star break coming the week of July 16, it would not be hard to imagine the Yankees giving him a few extra days to get right.

Tanaka is 7-2 with a 4.58 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 73/19 in 72.2 innings on the season.