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Cole Hamels scratched from Thursday’s start due to neck stiffness

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Rangers executive VP of communications John Blake announced that starter Cole Hamels has been scratched from Thursday night’s start against the White Sox due to neck stiffness. Doug Fister will start in his place. The Rangers haven’t announced who will start on Friday, when Fister had been scheduled to start.

Hamels, 34, has compiled a 3.48 ERA with a 57/21 K/BB ratio in 51 2/3 innings so far this season. He had his best start of the season last Friday when he tossed six scoreless, one-hit innings against the Astros, outdueling Justin Verlander in the process.

Fister, 34, has also been solid for the Rangers this year, putting up a 4.06 ERA with a 29/15 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings.

Report: Astros, Michael Brantley agree to two-year, $32 million contract

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros and outfielder Michael Brantley are closing in on an agreement for a two-year contract in the $32 million range.

Brantley, 31, played a mostly full season last year for the first time since 2015. He hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 631 plate appearances. He made the AL All-Star squad for the third time in his career.

Brantley’s health, though, is why he had to settle for a two-year deal as opposed to a longer contract for a player of his caliber. He will take over in left field. In the event Brantley succumbs to injury woes, the Astros have top prospect Kyle Tucker waiting in the wings.

Update: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who also reports that the deal is in place, the Astros plan to rotate Brantley between left field, first base, and DH. That opens up some more playing time for Tucker.