The Phillies might have checked in with Ervin Santana

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The Phillies are reeling after Cole Hamels suffered a setback, pushing his 2014 debut into May most likely. They’re thin on starting pitching depth even after adding A.J. Burnett last month. As a result, they have checked in with Ervin Santana according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

Or maybe not. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported shortly after Cafardo’s tweet that a team source told him that the Phillies have not checked in on Santana. [.gif of Larry David hemming and hawing]

It would be surprising if the Phillies wound up with Santana because it isn’t as if they’ve lost Hamels for an entire year. Additionally, they have set a franchise-high payroll following the Burnett signing. Not counting pre-arbitration players, they sat at close to $172 million, per Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly back in February. Once you include those pre-arb players, they’re close to $180 million. Adding in their 1/30 share for player-benefit costs (between $10-11 million), they’re right up against the $189 million luxury tax threshold. Adding Santana would undoubtedly push them over. The Phillies would then have to pay a 17.5 percent penalty on the amount they exceed the threshold, and it would put them in line for a harsher penalty next season if they were to exceed it again. There’s an incentive to stay under if you don’t have unlimited amounts of money like the Yankees and Dodgers.

Amaro recently said in an interview with MLB Network Radio that he needed ownership approval to sign Burnett and would undoubtedly need it once more to sign Santana, which might be one wrench in his plans if Cafardo’s tweet is true. As it stands, the Phillies can hope Jonathan Pettibone is healthy by mid-April, that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez can handle Major League competition, or choose from a handful of non-roster invitees including David Buchanan, Jeff Manship, Sean O’Sullivan, and Mario Hollands.

Santana, by the way, recently fired his agent. Seems he isn’t happy about being unemployed going into March.

Shohei Ohtani medically cleared to begin a throwing progression

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The Angels released a medical update on P/DH Shohei Ohtani Thursday evening. Ohtani was reevaluated by Dr. Steve Yoon at the Kerlan Jobe Institute. The right-hander’s sprained UCL showed improved healing and, as a result, he has been cleared to begin a throwing progression.

Ohtani, 24, was diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow after his June 6 start against the Royals and hasn’t pitched since, though he has been in the lineup as a hitter since July 3. It was initially believed he would undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. Then the thought was that Ohtani wouldn’t pitch again for the rest of the season, but this update suggests a possibility he could return to the mound before the season is over.

In nine starts, Ohtani put together a 3.10 ERA with a 61/20 K/BB ratio in 49 1/3 innings. As a hitter, he batted .283/.365/.522 with seven home runs and 22 RBI in 157 plate appearances.