Victor Martinez expected to begin minor league rehab assignment Sunday

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Justin Verlander will make his long-awaited season debut this afternoon against the Indians and an important part of the Tigers’ lineup isn’t too far away from a return.

According to Jason Beck of MLB.com, the plan calls for Victor Martinez to begin a minor league rehab assignment tomorrow with Triple-A Toledo as he works his way back from inflammation in his surgically-repaired left knee. He’s slated to play four games before being re-evaluated.

Martinez, 36, had surgery on the knee in the spring and it has clearly impacted his performance at the plate. He was batting just .216 with one home run and a .516 OPS through 130 plate appearances prior to landing on the disabled list last month. The hope is that he rest will prove beneficial.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.