Nelson Cruz altering running style to avoid hamstring injuries

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Nelson Cruz missed 54 games and spent three different stints on the disabled list last season because of hamstring injuries and Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com reports that the Rangers outfielder is working with a trainer “focused on running more upright to possibly relieve some of the stress on his legs.”

Cruz’s trainer is actually Rangers reliever Darren O’Day’s brother, who according to Durrett “combines rehab, biomechanics, and coaching techniques to help athletes become both more efficient and less injury prone.”

Cruz also missed time in 2009 with an ankle injury and was in the lineup for just 236 of a possible 324 games over the past two seasons. During that same time period his .900 OPS ranked fifth among all big-league outfielders behind only Matt Holliday, Manny Ramirez, Jose Bautista, and Ryan Braun.

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.