La Russa expected to return to Cardinals for 2011

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Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan informed the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Friday that he will be returning for the 2011 season. And now it looks like manager Tony La Russa is about to make the same call.

According to the Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss, a person close to La Russa said Saturday that he would be “very surprised” if the veteran skipper opts not to return to St. Louis next season. Strauss opines that the Cardinals are simply waiting to make the announcement and probably won’t until scouts from throughout the organization convene at Busch Stadium late next week.

La Russa led the Redbirds to a disappointing 86-76 record this season despite two Cy Young candidates in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, a Rookie of the Year candidate in Jaime Garcia and sluggers Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday.

The 66-year-old battled with young outfielder Colby Rasmus at different points in the season and insisted on giving frequent playing time to mediocre talent — like Aaron Miles and Randy Winn. That commitment to replacement-level players frustrated right fielder Ryan Ludwick, who moved on to San Diego at the trade deadline in search of an everyday role. The Cardinals landed Jake Westbrook in that trade, and Westbrook pitched quite well down the stretch, but he is a free agent this winter and the club may have to let him walk because of a looming extension for the one they call “El Hombre.”

Nonetheless, La Russa was formally invited back by the Cardinals last week and is almost certain to return. As for his coaching staff, including former slugger and steroid user Mark McGwire? It remains to be seen.

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.