Yadier Molina leaves game with oblique injury

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Yadier Molina left today’s game after straining his oblique muscle running the bases. Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that he legged out a double and then was on his way home on a David Freese single when Molina pulled up lame, exiting with a trainer by his side.
Jason LaRue replaced him and would step into the lineup as the Cardinals’ starter if Molina were to begin the season on the disabled list, but losing him would be a huge blow. Not only did Molina lead all of baseball by starting 136 games behind the plate last season, he did so while hitting .293/.366/.383 and throwing out 41 percent of steal attempts.
Beyond that LaRue turned 36 years old last week and is an awful hitter at this point, batting a combined .194 with a lowly .610 OPS in four seasons since losing his starting gig in Cincinnati. He’s palatable as a little-used backup, but if pressed into extended duty things could get ugly. Hummel speculates that Molina may only be out for a week or so, but oblique injuries are often tough to predict.

Tigers sign Edwin Espinal to minor league deal

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Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.

Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.

Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.