Albert Pujols sets spring training deadline for contract talks

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That’s the sobering news from the team’s annual Winter Warm-Up event this afternoon.

According to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak confirmed that Albert Pujols and his agent Don Lozano will not negotiate a contract extension once spring training begins. It’s not clear if this has been the deadline all along, but some have speculated that the deadline would be the start of the season. Not so.

Consistent with an agreement to keep negotiations confidential, Mozeliak declined to go into any specifics, but he did say that the two sides continue to talk.

“We don’t want to sit here and handicap or guess or kind of give any type of gut feels as to where this thing is headed right now,” Mozeliak said. “In respect to that, that’s all I can really add to the topic at this time. Hopefully in the near future it’s something we can talk more about it.”

“I don’t think it would benefit anybody for me to weigh in at this point.”

By the way, as Rains notes, position players are scheduled to report to the team’s spring training complex in Jupiter on February 18. Ticktock, ticktock…

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.