Eric Hosmer cleared to begin swinging a bat

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Eric Hosmer has been sidelined for nearly a month with a stress fracture in his right hand, but Royals manager Ned Yost told Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star today that he has improved enough to where “he can swing but not hit.”

Hosmer stood in the batter’s box today and tracked pitches from left-handed reliever Scott Downs, who is currently making his way back from a neck sprain. The 24-year-old will continue to swing without contact until Thursday, when he’s expected to hit off a tee and take some soft toss. Yost envisions him going out on a minor league rehab assignment if Triple-A Omaha makes the playoffs, where he’d get potentially 15-20 at-bats before rejoining the Royals.

Billy Butler has functioned as the regular first baseman in Hosmer’s absence and the recently-acquired Josh Willingham has thrived as the regular designated hitter, but Hosmer’s return would provide more flexibility for Kansas City’s lineup.

Hosmer was batting .267 with six home runs and a .689 OPS over 104 games prior to the injury.

Lucas Giolito earns second shutout of season

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The Twins have arguably baseball’s scariest offense. Their average of 5.87 runs per game is second only to the Yankees (5.90) while leading the league in slugging percentage (.501), OPS (.840), and home runs (244). White Sox starter Lucas Giolito made their offense look impotent on Wednesday, blanking them over nine innings for his second shutout of the season. The White Sox won 4-0.

Giolito allowed just three hits and walked none while fanning 12 batters over his nine innings of work. He’s now 14-6 with a 3.20 ERA and a 194/51 K/BB ratio in 151 2/3 innings on the season. Giolito is very much in the AL Cy Young Award picture. The Astros’ Justin Verlander leads the league in ERA at 2.81. A strong finish to the season for Giolito could certainly see his ERA dip below 3.00.

As mentioned, Wednesday’s shutout was Giolito’s second of the season. He and the Indians’ Shane Bieber are the only pitchers with multiple shutouts this season. They are two of only 21 pitchers with a shutout.