Albert Pujols would be fine if the Cardinals gave his number away

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No matter the way the relationship ended, Albert Pujols’ No. 5 seems destined to be retired by the Cardinals someday after his career is over. Pujols, though, told USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale he wouldn’t mind if they choose to give it away.

“It’s just a number, so if someone else wants to wear it, that won’t hurt my feelings,” Pujols says. “Would I be shocked if St. Louis gave that number to somebody? No. They can do whatever they want. I don’t play there anymore. I’m being honest; that won’t bother me at all.”

Pujols ranks second in Cardinals franchise history in homers (445), doubles (455) and RBI (1,329), trailing only Stan Musial in each category. He also played a big role in two World Series victories. Given that the franchise hasn’t been especially shy about retiring numbers (Bruce Sutter and Ken Boyer are among their retirees), it would be pretty shocking if anyone ever again wears No. 5, unless maybe Pujols goes back and does it himself at the very end of his career.

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.