Cardinals activate David Freese and Nick Punto from DL

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St. Louis’ packed disabled list got a little lighter today, as the Cardinals activated third baseman David Freese and utility infielder Nick Punto.

Freese has been out for two months with a broken left hand, but hit .356 with an .865 OPS in 25 games before the injury and will slide right back into the lineup as the everyday third baseman after Daniel Descalso hit just .244 with a .666 OPS filling in.

Punto returns after missing six weeks with a forearm injury and previously sat out the first three weeks of the season following hernia surgery. He’ll play considerably less than Freese, but Tony La Russa will no doubt find plenty of opportunities to get his glove into the lineup.

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.