Tony La Russa returns to Cardinals after six-game absence

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UPDATE: As expected, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Tony La Russa has rejoined the Cardinals and will manage tonight’s game.

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Drew wrote yesterday about how Tony La Russa is feeling better after leaving the Cardinals to have his shingles treated and now Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that La Russa ” is expected to return to the dugout for tonight’s series opener against the Phillies.”

La Russa has missed six games while being examined at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, but general manager John Mozeliak told Strauss that the manager could be cleared to return today: “The condition isn’t going to progress. It’s more about what Tony can tolerate.”

Strauss writes that La Russa has been in constant contact with fill-in manager Joe Pettini and felt good enough to tape radio and television shows yesterday. In his absence the Cardinals are 2-4, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Reds.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.