La Russa still undecided on returning to Cardinals in 2011

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Tony La Russa: will he or won’t he return for another season as manager of the Cardinals?

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is about as close to the team’s thinking as a columnist can get and passes along some insight in his Sunday edition of “Bernie’s Bytes.”

First, Miklasz says that the decision to return or not to return will be up to La Russa himself.  Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt III and GM John Mozeliak are firmly in the skipper’s corner despite a disappointing 2010 finish and a highly publicized mid-season rift with star center fielder Colby Rasmus. 

If La Russa leaves, it will be because he wanted to go.  If he stays, it will be on his own terms.

By all accounts, the 65-year-old La Russa should commit for at least one more season in St. Louis.  He’ll have a roster in 2011 that includes this generation’s greatest hitter in Albert Pujols, two Cy Young candidates in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, and a well-paid and highly-productive left fielder in Matt Holliday.  Oh, and let’s not forget about young left-hander Jaime Garcia, who might win the National League’s Rookie of the Year this season.

La Russa also ranks third on the list of all-time managerial wins with 2,628, behind only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763).  It’s feasible that he will catch McGraw and move into second place all-time with just two more years on the job.  That might not be the most important thing to La Russa, but he’s certainly not immune to the lure of establishing a long-lasting legacy.

La Russa has been operating on one-year contracts for a few seasons now.  If we’re to believe the current indications, he will likely ink a similar deal before winter fully sets in.

Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

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It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.

Blue Jays acquire Tom Koehler from Marlins

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The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.

The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.

Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.