The Mariners will shut down Taijuan Walker after Monday’s start

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Mariners rookie starter Taijuan Walker will make his final start of the 2013 season against the Astros on Monday, reports MLB.com’s Greg Johns. Brandon Maurer will take his spot in the rotation.

Walker spent most of his season between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma, posting an aggregate 2.93 ERA in 141.1 innings. He made his Major League debut on August 30 against the Astros, shutting them out on two hits and a walk in five innings. His second start didn’t go as well, as he allowed four runs to the Royals in five frames.

MLB.com ranked Walker, drafted by the Mariners 43rd overall in the 2010 draft, as the #5 overall prospect entering the season. He is expected to be a mainstay in the Seattle rotation starting next season.

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.