What we're watching – June 29

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– Roy Halladay returns from the disabled list to face the Rays for the
first time this season. He’s won seven in a row since his only loss of
the year on April 21, but the Rays have often challenged him. He went
just 2-3 with a 4.11 ERA against Tampa Bay last year, leaving him 11-7
in his career against a team that’s typically resided in the cellar.
Jeff Niemann will oppose Halladay. The Rays have scored at least eight
runs in eight of his last nine starts.

– The AL West’s top two teams will face off for the second time this
season, with the Angels again playing in Texas. They were swept in
Arlington back in May, but they’re playing far better baseball now, as
they finished with a MLB-best 14-4 record during interleague play. Sean
O’Sullivan and Vicente Padilla are the scheduled starters.

– Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez actually entered this season 4-0 against
the Dodgers in his career, but he’s gone 0-3 with a 10.20 ERA against
the NL West leaders in 2009. In his other 12 starts this season, he’s
6-4 with a 2.66 ERA. Jimenez will face L.A. for a fourth time tonight
and a second time with the Dodgers minus Manny Ramirez. The Dodgers
will use Randy Wolf, who is 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA in June after pitching
extremely well during the first two months.

Game of the Night

San Francisco vs. St. Louis – Tim Lincecum will have to go through
Albert Pujols as he attempts to earn his ninth victory. The 25-year-old
has won all three of his previous starts against the Giants, allowing
five runs over 19 innings in the process. Pujols is 2-for-5 with a walk
and two strikeouts against him. The Cardinals will throw Brad Thompson,
who has gone 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA in five starts since joining the
rotation. A solid week would help his case for keeping the spot over
Todd Wellemeyer when Kyle Lohse returns.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.