Looking ahead to Game 163

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And you thought we’d have no baseball today. What a bonus for everyone who isn’t a Rangers and Rays fan. Rangers and Rays fans get heartburn to go along with it, and one of those fan bases will go to bed sad, so it’s something of a mixed bag.

But what we all get is David Price vs. Martin Perez. Which, on the surface seems like a bit of mismatch given that Price is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and Perez has 25 starts to his name. Perez, however, is 7-2 in last ten starts with 3.26 ERA while Price has struggled mightily against the Rangers. In eight starts against Texas he’s 1-4 with a 5.98 ERA. In Arlington — where he pitches tonight — his ERA is 10.26.

Also worth watching: Nelson Cruz, who returns to action for the Rangers following his 50-game suspension in the Biogenesis scandal. Cruz has had a lot of success against Price — 9 for 23 with three homers — and if he comes up big tonight you can expect a lot of people to ask whether it was appropriate for him to be eligible. Of course, people asking that will be ignorant of how 50-game suspensions actually work — Cruz has served his time so of course he should be eligible — but that sort of logic tends not to stop people from going crazy anyway.

So here it is, bonus baseball! One more winner-take-all affair. Grab your Alka-Seltzer, Rays and Rangers fans. Grab your popcorn everyone else

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.