A.J. Burnett prepares for ALCS start with simulated game

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A.J. Burnett went unused in the ALDS, but the Yankees will need him to make one start in the ALCS. He hasn’t pitched since October 2, so to shake some of the rust off Burnett is scheduled to throw four or five innings in a simulated game today.
Javier Vazquez and Chad Gaudin will also get some work in after being left off the ALDS roster, but Marc Carig of the Newark Star Ledger notes that Game 1 starter CC Sabathia “will stick to throwing extra side sessions” to keep sharp during the long layoff.
Francisco Cervelli caught Burnett in 25 of his 33 starts this season, but the Yankees have given no indication whether he’ll be behind the plate instead of Jorge Posada when Burnett takes the mound against the Rangers. Much has been made of Burnett and Posada not working well together and when paired up the battery has a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.