Andrew Bailey set for ligament surgery, likely to miss first half

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A second opinion confirmed that Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey has a torn UCL in his right thumb. He’s scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday and will likely miss 3-4 months.

It turns out that Bailey was hurt in a collision with Pittsburgh’s Alex Presley at first base in his March 21 outing, though he thought nothing of it initially and made two more appearances afterwards on March 24 and 25. When his thumb became more of a problem, the Red Sox sent him for tests and the torn ligament was found.

While it’s disappointing news on the heels of a seemingly disappointing winter for Red Sox fans, this isn’t necessarily the worst thing for the team. Given his history of elbow problems, Bailey wasn’t at all likely to pitch 70 innings this season anyway. Now he’ll only need his elbow to hold up for half the year, increasing the chances that he’ll help the Red Sox in September and, hopefully, October.

In the meantime, the Red Sox can turn the closer’s role over to either Mark Melancon, who closed for the Astros last year, or Mr. Versatility, Alfredo Aceves. The guess here is that Melancon will get the first crack at the role, with Aceves serving as the fallback.

The Red Sox have no plans to shift Daniel Bard back to the pen to help replace Bailey, but that too will be a possibility if he doesn’t adjust well to a rotation role. Aaron Cook has looked better than expected while being brought along slowly this spring and could step into the rotation by the end of April if the Red Sox decide Bard isn’t working out.

Update: A source told the Boston Herald that Bailey is more likely to miss 4-5 months than 3-4. Bobby Valentine said he has no plans to identify a closer right now and that we’ll just have to settle for finding out when the first save situation arises.

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.