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Royals remove Kelvin Herrera from closer role

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Royals’ right-hander Kelvin Herrera will step down from the closer role, manager Ned Yost announced Friday. The shift comes as little surprise after Herrera’s implosion during the team’s 4-2 loss on Thursday; coupled with a nagging forearm strain and the Royals’ current position in the AL wild card standings, it’s a necessary, albeit temporary, move.

The 27-year-old righty hasn’t looked quite himself this year, touting career-worst numbers in nearly every category with a 4.24 ERA, 3.5 BB/9 and 9.0 SO/9 through 51 innings. The forearm tightness he experienced back in August, while a factor in his decline, still appears to be mild and may not lead to a stint on the disabled list. Although the Royals haven’t ruled out Herrera’s return to the mound this season, they’ll push forward with a closer-by-committee approach as they try to vault over the Twins, Angels, Orioles, Rangers and Rays for a wild card spot.

According to Yost, closing duties will be divided among left-hander Mike Minor and right-handers Brandon Maurer and Scott Alexander in Herrera’s absence. Minor and Alexander stick out from the bunch with sub-3.00 ERAs, while Maurer has found it difficult to adjust after a midseason trade to Kansas City, pairing a 7.02 ERA with a 4.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 over just 16 2/3 innings so far.

Shohei Ohtani medically cleared to begin 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.