Jeff Locke goes from rookie All-Star to Triple-A

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Left-hander Jeff Locke is recovered from an oblique injury and off the disabled list, but rather than adding him to the active roster the Pirates have demoted him to Triple-A.

Locke made the All-Star team as a (not quite technically) rookie last season after starting 8-2 with a 2.15 ERA, but posted a 6.12 ERA in the second half and was dumped from the rotation in September.

Pittsburgh just doesn’t have room for him in the rotation, as Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and Wandy Rodriguez aren’t going anywhere and Edinson Volquez was signed for $5 million to fill the fifth spot. And while going from rookie All-Star to Triple-A in less than a year is extreme, Locke never projected as a front-end starter, didn’t have the peripheral numbers to match his fast start last year, and is already 26 years old.

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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.