Don Mattingly willingly takes the bat out of Matt Kemp’s hands

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Look, I’m not saying I would be a better manager than Don Mattingly. I know I wouldn’t be. I’d screw up every single double switch, I’d forget to warm up guys in the bullpen, I’d drop F-bombs on my local radio show and the first time my clubhouse got a little out of control I’d handle it poorly and have a revolt on my hands that even A.J. Hinch would mock.

But I do think that, if I managed the Los Angeles Dodgers, I’d do everything in my power to make sure the bat was never taken out of Matt Kemp’s hands if it could be helped.  This is something Donnie Baseball did not do last night.

The scene: eighth inning of last night’s Dodgers-Giants game.  Bobby Abreu on second base, Dee Gordon on first, Mark Ellis at the plate. No one out. Mattingly has Ellis bunt and he’s “successful.”  That success, however, ensures that Kemp — who was on deck — would be walked because it put runners on second and third with one out and first base open.

So Kemp was walked, Bruce Bochy brought in lefty Javier Lopez to face lefty Andre Ethier (and behind him were two more lefties, so it was certain that Bochy would bring in Lopez).  Eithier hits into a double play, ending the last best chance the Dodgers had to win the game.

Mattingly defended the move after the game, saying that Ethier led the league in RBI and he had confidence in him and all of that.  But really: wouldn’t you rather have Matt Kemp in a position to where he could do some damage rather than have him given the inevitable free pass? And that’s before you figure in what Ellis giving away an out does for your scoring chances.

I don’t usually second-guess like this, but man, there is no one hitting like Matt Kemp right now. I think I’d let the man hit.

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.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.