MRI on Yasiel Puig’s back shows no damage

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Yasiel Puig made an early exit from the Dodgers’ second of two games in Australia with an apparent back injury. The situation did not sit well with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who told Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com that Puig “grabs something every time he takes a swing and misses.”

But some positive news came down the pike on Tuesday as the Dodgers settled back into camp.

As first reported by beat writer Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, an MRI showed no major damage — only inflammation — in Puig’s back. He’s considered day-to-day for now and should be ready for the Dodgers’ March 30 game in San Diego.

Puig went 3-for-10 with a double and two RBI in that two-game season-opening series against the Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The 23-year-old Cuban outfielder batted .319/.391/.534 with 19 home runs and 11 stolen bases in his first 104 major league games last season.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.