Hector Olivera’s camp denies any damage to ulnar collateral ligament

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UPDATE: Ben Badler of Baseball America got a stronger response from Olivera’s camp, who said that the report about possible UCL damage in his elbow is “absolutely not true.” Additionally, they say that he has taken for physicals and passed them all.

7:33 p.m. ET: According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, representatives for Hector Olivera “were surprised” to hear about Passan’s report and weren’t aware of any ligament damage in the elbow. They also said that he feels fine. This doesn’t necessarily clear anything up, though.

7:11 p.m. ET: After Yoan Moncada reached a deal with the Red Sox, the next big name Cuban player to sign with an MLB team was expected to be infielder Hector Olivera. However, it’s safe to say that his market just hit a bit of a snag. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has the story:

Serious concern exists that Cuban infielder Hector Olivera has a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm, potentially hindering the market for a free agent who many expected to contribute in the major leagues this season, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Olivera, 29, recently underwent physicals for a number of teams in anticipation of Major League Baseball clearing him to sign. The market for Olivera swelled following a strong series of showcases and private workouts in which the right-handed hitter showed the powerful bat that made him a star second baseman in Cuba.

According to Passan, Olivera already has one offer in hand for more than $50 million. However, a damaged UCL and the possibility of Tommy John surgery would almost certainly change things.

Of course, position players don’t need as much time to rehab from Tommy John surgery as pitchers, but it would still likely cost Olivera around 6-9 months. That would rule him out for all of 2015. And this isn’t a young player we are talking about here. He’ll be 30 this April.

Olivera batted some injuries toward the end of his time in Cuba, missing the entire 2012-13 season due to thrombosis in his left biceps, but he has done nothing but hit when healthy. He compiled a .323/.407/.505 batting line over 10 seasons with Asvispas de Santiago in Serie Nacional.

Carlos Martínez to pitch out of bullpen upon return from injured list

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Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said pitcher Carlos Martínez will work out of the bullpen when he returns from the injured list, The Athletic’s Mark Saxon reports. Shildt noted that the decision is based on Martínez’s needs rather than the team’s needs, which suggests he may not yet have the strength to pitch as a starter.

Martínez, 27, opened the season on the injured list due to a right rotator cuff strain. The right-hander was also injured last year, battling lat and oblique injuries. He will go to extended spring training and likely begin a minor league rehab assignment next week. Based on that time frame, Martínez should be activated around mid-May.

Last year, Martínez made 18 starts and 15 relief appearances, posting a 3.11 ERA with five saves and a 117/60 K/BB ratio across 118 2/3 innings. It is unclear what role(s) Martínez will have in the bullpen, but he could eventually help set up for closer Jordan Hicks.