On second thought, Johan Santana has begun throwing a baseball

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The other night I wrote that Johan Santana was focusing on arm strengthening exercises before picking up a baseball. Turns out that wasn’t completely accurate.

Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York earlier today that Santana has already played catch three times while rehabbing near his home in Florida.

Mets officials have told Rubin that Santana could potentially return in June or July, but Warthen said that he doesn’t want the ace left-hander to push himself too soon.

“I just don’t want him, because of who he is, to push himself to try to get there too early and have another setback,” Warthen said. “We knew two years ago when he had the bone chips that he wasn’t ready to come out. We had to talk him into that. And even last year he wasn’t going to go out in that game [against the Braves]. That’s who Johan is. Common sense has to prevail somewhere.”

Santana, who turns 32 next month, is still owed $77.5 million guaranteed over the next three years.

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.