Former hitting coach Howard Johnson says benching Jason Bay is “ridiculous”

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Jason Bay was back in the starting lineup tonight against the Pirates following a brief two-game absence. In fact, he snapped his career-worst 0-for-24 hitless streak with a bloop single in the fourth inning. But former Mets hitting coach Howard Johnson told the New York Post that the struggling outfielder shouldn’t have been benched in the first place.

“It’s ridiculous it’s come to that,” the former Mets hitting coach said by phone yesterday. “If he’s supposed to be part of the solution, I don’t see the point of taking him out of the equation. It’s sending him mixed messages. I don’t care if he’s 0-for-50, you’re not going to get him relaxed by taking him out of the lineup.”

I assume Charlie Samuels wasn’t available for comment. I mean, he spent plenty of time in the Mets’ clubhouse last season, too, right? Let’s hear what he has to say about it.

Naturally, Mets manager Terry Collins wasn’t thrilled with Johnson’s commentary. According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, he fired back before tonight’s game against the Pirates.

“As soon as I showed up at the ballpark today, I was slapped in the face with Howard Johnson telling us we should play him and not bench him,” Collins said. “I don’t really call it a benching. I would call it more of a time off kind of thing. The other thing, and I think the world of Howard Johnson, but he hasn’t got all the facts. So he should be careful what he actually says when he doesn’t have all the facts.”

It’s not clear what Collins is alluding to here, but he did say before tonight’s game that Bay is going to be his regular left fielder moving forward. It seems like Bay was likely OK with the idea of sitting down for a couple days. Of course, I can’t say that for sure, but I’m pretty sure that Howard Johnson can’t either. We’re both speculating, after all.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.

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.