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Hyun-Jin Ryu pitches two scoreless innings in Cactus League debut

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Dodgers’ left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu made a triumphant return to the mound on Saturday after missing nearly two full seasons with elbow and shoulder injuries.

Ryu tossed two scoreless frames against the Angels, striking out two of the first three batters he faced and allowing just one single to designated hitter C.J. Cron in his 26-pitch outing. He also executed a flawless catch after Shane Robinson grounded out to first:

Ryu finished his outing with a simulated inning out of the bullpen, all very promising for someone who didn’t look capable of throwing a baseball several months ago. Prior to undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in 2015, the southpaw touted an impressive 3.17 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 7.7 SO/9 in two major league seasons with the Dodgers. He’s endured further setbacks to his health over the last year, including a minor groin strain and a debridement procedure on his left elbow, but finally appears healthy enough to work his way back up to a full-time gig.

While the 29-year-old is still considered a long shot to make the rotation by Opening Day, he’ll have approximately four more starts to tweak his mechanics and get stretched out before the 2017 season kicks off.

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.