Charlie Manuel: “No way in hell we overused Jose Contreras”

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Jose Contreras was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a right flexor pronator strain and manager Charlie Manuel was questioned about whether the reliever’s recent heavy workload led to the elbow problems.

Not only did Manuel deny that premise, he did so very strongly. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com has the details:

I feel like, first of all, there’s no way in hell we overused Contreras. That’s how I feel. There’s no way. What did he pitch? The most [consecutive] games was three. Then he had a day off. He pitched five times in seven days. We weren’t trying to stay away from him. He was closing games. That’s how I look at it.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. commented that Contreras “had been pitching quite a bit” when the DL stint was announced, but he later clarified that he wasn’t criticizing Manuel’s handling of the 39-year-old. Manuel was asked if anyone in the front office said anything to him about pitcher workloads and responded: “That’s none of your business.”

Manuel no doubt had various reasons for using Contreras so often, not the least of which is that closer Brad Lidge was on the disabled list already, but ultimately a 39-year-old reliever pitching five times in seven days qualifies as a very heavy workload. I’m sure even Manuel would admit that if there wasn’t criticism attached.

Last but not least, my favorite part of Manuel’s rant when questioned about Contreras came when one reporter told him criticism is “the nature of the game” and he replied: “I don’t think I look like a nature boy.” That’s a funny quote coming from anyone, but becomes downright hilarious if you’ve ever seen and heard Charlie Manuel. Excuse me, Charlie “Not A Nature Boy” Manuel.

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.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.