Anthony Rizzo is terrorizing Triple-A pitchers while waiting for Cubs call-up

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Interleague games in AL ballparks gave the Cubs a short-term opportunity to call up first base prospect Anthony Rizzo and play him without having to bench anyone, but they passed on the chance and so Rizzo continues to be a nightmare for Triple-A pitchers.

He homered twice Sunday and two more times Monday, and Rizzo is now hitting .370 with 22 homers, 16 doubles, and a .753 slugging percentage in 59 games for a 1.183 OPS that leads all of minor-league baseball.

Toss in the damage he did as a minor leaguer while in the Padres’ farm system last season and Rizzo has the following career numbers at Triple-A: .345 batting average with 48 homers, 50 doubles, 158 RBIs, and a 1.093 OPS in 152 games.

Based on merit alone he’d presumably already be in Chicago, but because finding a spot for him in the lineup would require shifting Bryan LaHair to the outfield and/or lessening the role of a suddenly hot-hitting Alfonso Soriano the 22-year-old Rizzo is left to do his Babe Ruth impression in Iowa against a bunch of pitchers with no shot to get him out.

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.