Cardinals unlikely to tender a contract to John Axford

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Cardinals reliever John Axford is eligible for arbitration for the second time in his career and he is looking at a raise over 2013’s $5 million salary, despite posting a combined 4.35 ERA over the past two seasons. As salaries cannot be cut by more than 20 percent, he will make at least $4 million if he goes through the arbitration process. The Cardinals have more than enough quality relief pitching to boot. As a result, the 30-year-old is likely to be non-tendered prior to tomorrow’s deadline, per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch.

Axford will still draw interest from other teams — including the Cardinals — after he is non-tendered. In fact, Charlie Wilmoth of MLB Trade Rumors even suggests the possibility that Axford could still wind up with a two-year deal, which is quite rare among non-tendered players.

The Brewers traded Axford to the Cardinals just before the waiver deadline in August for a player to be named later (Michael Blazek). In 10.1 innings with the Cardinals, the right-hander struck out 11 and walked three while posting a 1.74 ERA, pitching mostly in the seventh and eighth innings. In the post-season, Axford made two appearances in each of the Cardinals’ three series, pitching a total of 5.2 innings with nine strikeouts, four walks, and a 1.59 ERA.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.