Heyman: Cards have “virtually no chance” of deal with Pujols

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Albert Pujols is scheduled to arrive at the Cardinals’ spring training complex on February 16, one week from today. He has asked that all talks involving a contract extension be put to an end by the time he unpacks his things and begins preparing for what could be his final year in St. Louis.

In essence, the Cards have one week to lock up the best hitter in baseball or they will risk losing him to free agency next winter.

The two sides agreed early on to keep details of the negotiations out of the media and that agreement has largely been upheld.  But the clock is ticking louder than ever now and reports, whether true or not, are beginning to stream in.  First there was Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports saying that the Cardinals had not yet made a formal offer to the slugger.  Now SI.com’s Jon Heyman is reporting that there is “virtually no chance” an agreement can be reached by Pujols’ self-imposed deadline.

It’s hard to guess where Brown and Heyman might be getting their information.  Perhaps the Cards’ front office is leaking details in the hope of gaining some kind of leverage that, to this point, they have not had.  Or maybe Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, is giving out certain information that could potentially help his client.

Whatever the case, Heyman is hearing from someone and from somewhere that the Cardinals and their franchise player are too far apart at the moment to believe that a deal will be struck this spring.  And Brown pretty much echoed that idea on Tuesday in his column.

Pujols is thought to be asking for a contract similar to the 10-year, $275 million behemoth that Alex Rodriguez is currently operating under with the Yankees.  The St. Louis front office, meanwhile, reportedly wants to keep a deal to six or seven years.  That is quite a gap.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.