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Royals sign Jake Diekman to one-year, $2.25 million contract

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The Royals announced on Wednesday that the club signed lefty reliever Jake Diekman to a one-year, $2.25 million contract that includes a mutual option for the 2020 season with a $500,000 buyout. The Athletic’s Rustin Dodd provided the specifics. To make room for Diekman on the 40-man roster, the Royals transferred pitcher Jesse Hahn to the 60-day injured list.

Diekman, 32, spent last season between the Rangers and Diamondbacks. He posted a 4.73 ERA with a 66/31 K/BB ratio in 53 1/3 innings. He was much better in his 39 innings with the Rangers, as he posted a 3.69 ERA. He yielded 15 runs (12 earned) in 14 1/3 innings with the D-Backs.

Diekman will slot into the back of the Royals’ bullpen along with Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger. Manager Ned Yost said earlier today, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, that he’s not ready to name a closer, so Diekman could potentially enter into that competition.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.