Albert Pujols unveils statue of himself outside restaurant

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If Albert Pujols leaves St. Louis this winter, at least its residents will still have a 10-foot tall reminder of him outside of his restaurant in Westport.

Pujols unveiled the 1,100-pound bronze statue, which features his likeness pointing with both hands towards the sky, outside Pujols’s Westport Grill this morning.

“There’s going to be a lot of people asking, ‘Well, why is he not swinging the bat?'” Pujols told the crowd during his speech. “That’s to remind me it’s not about me, but it’s about Jesus Christ who gave his life so we can have eternal life. It’s really easy to lose focus when you have millions of people telling you how great you are.”

Boy, you can say that again. Oh yeah…

The funds for the statue were provided by an anonymous donor two years ago. It was created by Harry Weber, who is also responsible for the statues of Stan Musial and Lou Brock outside Busch Stadium.

Pujols didn’t have much to say about free agency during the unveiling, but he did respond when asked if the Pujols Family Foundation would remain in St. Louis if he signed elsewhere.

“Hopefully I don’t have to make that decision,” Pujols said. “We’re just going to see where God takes us. I don’t want to get ahead of God’s plan and say ‘Oh, we’re going to be here,’ and then something happens and I look bad. Whether it’s here or wherever, I believe our foundation is going to help the city of St. Louis.”

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.