Mariners center fielder Mallex Smith has been sitting out the early portion of camp due to a strained flexor mass in his right forearm, but doctors have cleared him to begin baseball activities, Greg Johns of MLB.com tweets. Smith has already played light catch and will begin the process of getting himself into game shape. It’s perhaps a stretch to think he could be ready for the team’s two-game set against the A’s in Japan on March 20-21, but he still has a bit more than three weeks to prep for the Mariners’ home opener on March 28. Acquired in the trade that sent Mike Zunino to the Rays this winter, the 25-year-old Smith is penciled in as Seattle’s primary center fielder for the upcoming season. In 141 games for Tampa Bay last season, he hit .296/.367/.406 with a pair of homers and 40 stolen bases.
A few more injury updates from around the game…
- The competition to serve as the Cardinals’ backup to catcher Yadier Molina may have gained further clarity Tuesday, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that Francisco Pena will be sidelined for the next 10 to 15 days due to an apparent oblique injury. It’s awful timing for Pena, who looked like the primary choice to serve as Molina’s backup until the Cardinals signed Matt Wieters to a minor league contract last week. Now, with Pena ailing, Wieters looks all the more likely to secure a roster spot with the Cards come Opening Day. While Pena would be the stronger defensive option of the two, even Wieters’ diminished offensive production in recent seasons dwarfs that of Pena; in 271 plate appearances last season, Wieters slashed .238/.330/.374 to Pena’s .203/.239/.271 (142 PAs).
- Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks underwent an MRI after feeling discomfort in his back, per Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. Doctors didn’t express concern upon viewing the results of the test, and Hicks said he’s confident he’s headed in the right direction. However, there’s also no clear timeline for when Hicks will return to game activity. He’s been out since last Friday, and Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweets that it’ll be “several more days” before Hicks resumes batting practice. Hicks signed a seven-year, $70MM contract extension recently, forgoing a trip through free agency next offseason in the process.
- Nationals infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick could be headed for an MRI after exiting this morning’s Grapefruit League game with a hamstring strain, tweets Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. The 35-year-old is hoping for a bounceback season in terms of health after missing the majority of the 2018 campaign due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. Kendrick was excellent in the 40 games he played last year, hitting .303/.331/.474 through 160 plate appearances. He’ll back up all around the infield and in the outfield corners this season, health permitting, as he plays out the second season of a two-year, $7MM contract in D.C.