The biggest series in PNC Park history is off to a promising start. For the home team, that is.
The Cardinals entered the five-game set with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Pirates in the National League Central standings and are now 1 1/2 games back after three straight losses. But wait. There’s more.
According to MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch, Yadier Molina was lifted in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s 6-0 defeat with what’s being called a right knee sprain. Yadi allowed a rare passed ball in the second inning and did not even attempt a throw on a runner stealing second base a few pitches earlier.
The Cardinals are going to reevaluate the five-time Gold Glove winner on Wednesday morning. It seems highly possible that Tony Cruz and Rob Johnson will have to finish out this crucial series in Pittsburgh.
UPDATE, 11:33 p.m. ET: Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Molina is headed back to St. Louis for an MRI on his right knee. He is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Mariners’ right-hander Arquimedes Caminero is nearing a deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The club has reportedly agreed to sell the 29-year-old’s contract, Dutton writes, though no official move has been announced by either team yet. Caminero is under club control through 2020 and currently ineligible for arbitration.
The right-hander began the 2016 season with the Pirates but was sent to the Mariners in a trade for Seattle minor leaguers Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez in order to clear space in the Bucs’ bullpen. With the Mariners, Caminero produced a 3.66 ERA and 8.2 K/9 through 19 2/3 innings in the second half of the year. Although he boasts an electric fastball, one which consistently averaged 98.7 m.p.h. in 2016, his success rate has been tempered by poor control throughout his major league career. According to Dutton, the Mariners’ willingness to sell Caminero’s contract was a strong indication that they did not see him as a viable contender for their 2017 bullpen or as a potential trade chip further down the line.
Should the deal go through, the right-hander will be the second former Mariner to sign with a Japanese club for the 2017 season. Per Dutton’s report, outfielder Stefen Romero also picked up a contract with the Orix Buffaloes of NPB in late November.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.