Guardians starter McKenzie progressing, Civale goes on IL

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

CLEVELAND — The Guardians’ starting rotation is rotating.

Cleveland got some encouraging news on injured starter Triston McKenzie while Aaron Civale was placed on the 15-day injured list with a strained left oblique – the latest setback for the right-hander.

Civale, who pitched seven scoreless innings in his season debut at Seattle, felt some tightness following his start in the home opener. The discomfort continued when he was going to do some long toss.

Imaging test showed the strain and the club placed Civale on the IL before opening a three-game series against the Yankees. Civale was on the IL three times last season and made just 20 starts for Cleveland.

The Guardians recalled reliever Peyton Battenfield from Triple-A Columbus. He’ll be placed in the bullpen for now, but could start the matinee in Civale’s stop against New York if he doesn’t pitch the next two days.

Meanwhile, McKenzie is set to resume a throwing program after making progress in his recovery from a shoulder strain.

The team said that McKenzie, who has been sidelined to start the season with a strained teres major muscle, was checked by Dr. Jason Genin. The right-hander was cleared to throw with a weighted ball.

As long as he doesn’t have any issues, McKenzie can begin throwing in a few days. Once he’s re-evaluated the Guardians will have a better sense of when he can pitch in games again. He’s been placed on the 60-day IL and won’t be eligible to be activated until May 29.

Initially, the defending AL Central champions were worried the 25-year-old McKenzie could miss two months.

“Actually he’s doing really well,” manager Terry Francona said. “We sat and talked to him also about the timeline and things like that because we wanted to include him in the decision, but he’s doing really well.

“That’s the important part and we’d love to have him back last week, but he’s doing well.”

McKenzie’s ailment has become more common across Major League Baseball. New York Mets ace Justin Verlander is out with the same injury.

McKenzie went 11-11 with a 2.96 ERA and 190 strikeouts in 30 starts last season while becoming one of the team’s most dependable starters. The Guardians have expressed interest in signing the popular McKenzie to a long-term contract extension.

Orioles sign OF Aaron Hicks, put Cedric Mullins on 10-day IL with groin strain

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles signed outfielder Aaron Hicks less than 24 hours after Cedric Mullins went down with a strained right groin.

Mullins went on the 10-day injured list, but the Orioles are hoping Hicks can help defensively in the spacious outfield at Camden Yards. Hicks was released last week by the New York Yankees with more than 2 1/2 seasons left on his contract.

“We had noticed that he was a free agent even before the injury,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said. “When the injury occurred and it became pretty clear this was going to be an IL, it seemed like a good fit even more so at that time.”

The Orioles are responsible for paying Hicks just $483,871, a prorated share of the $720,000 minimum salary. The Yankees owe him the rest of his $10.5 million salary this year, plus $9.5 million in each of the next two seasons and a $1 million buyout of a 2026 team option.

The 33-year-old Hicks hit just .188 in 28 games for the Yankees this year.

“We have stuff that we look at from a scouting and evaluation perspective,” Elias said. “It’s very different from just looking at the back of a baseball card, and we hope that we get a bounceback from anyone we bring here.”

Hicks batted .216 last season.

“Hopefully that’s a good thing for him,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of the Baltimore deal. “A lot of time here and a lot of good things happened for him here. I know the last couple of years have been a struggle. But hopefully it’s a good opportunity for him and certainly wish him well. Not too well being in our division and a team we’re chasing, but hopefully it’s a really good fit for him.”

Mullins left a loss to Cleveland after he pulled up while running out an infield grounder. Outfielder Colton Cowser – the fifth pick in the draft two years ago – is hitting .331 at Triple-A Norfolk, but he went on the IL in the past couple weeks.

“Certainly he was building a case towards promotion consideration prior to his injury and prior to Cedric’s injury,” Elias said. “We’ll just see where we’re at.”

Hicks was active for the game but not in the starting lineup. Austin Hays, normally Baltimore’s left field, was in Mullins’ usual spot in center.

When the wall in left at Camden Yards was pushed significantly back before last season, it made left field a bigger challenge defensively.

“In this park … you really need two center fielders,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Aaron’s got a lot of center-field experience. Played left field here before also. Brings the defensive aspect and then the switch-hitting.”