It doesn’t sound like Yadier Molina is planning to offer the Cardinals much of a hometown discount in negotiations toward a long-term contract extension.
The 29-year-old catcher, who is currently slated to become a free agent five days after the conclusion of the 2012 World Series, spoke Thursday evening with Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“I love the city. I love the fans, I love the park,” said Molina. “But it’s out of my hands. Whatever they like to do is how it is. … They let Albert [Pujols] go. It’s business for the team, too. It’s out of my hands.”
Molina is regarded as one of the best — if not the best — defensive catchers in baseball. He also had a breakout season at the plate in 2011, batting .305 with a career-high .814 OPS, 14 home runs and 65 RBI in 518 plate appearances. With an equally strong 2012, he could attract a ton of interest on the open market.
Justin Verlander is approaching the tail end of a fantastic year with the Astros — arguably one of his best in the last decade — and on Saturday, he kicked off his last regular season start at Minute Maid Park with a strikeout, his 270th of the year. While that’s still a few shy of Max Scherzer‘s league-best mark of 290, it was a new personal record for Verlander, who had yet to beat the previous career record he set with 269 strikeouts in 2009.
Verlander’s moment arrived at the top of the first inning on a seven-pitch called strikeout against the Angels’ Kole Calhoun. Cole worked a 2-2 count, then fouled off a pair of 95-MPH fastballs before missing the seventh and final pitch at the top of the strike zone.
Jose Fernandez battled twice as long in the next at-bat, albeit with far more disastrous results. His 14-pitch duel against the Astros’ righty ended when he caught a fastball on his hand and was forced to come out of the game.
After expending a total of 27 pitches in the first inning, however, Verlander returned in the second to strike out the side, then logged another pair of strikeouts in the third. With six strikeouts through three innings, he boosted his season strikeout total to 275 — just a hair above fellow Houston righty Gerrit Cole (and all other AL pitchers), who previously led the team with 272 whiffs on the year.