Hisashi Iwakuma is healthy and ready for his season debut

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Out since early spring training with a finger injury, Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to come off the disabled list and make his season debut Saturday against the Astros.

Iwakuma stretched out to 86 pitches in a minor-league rehab start Sunday, so he should be more or less without restrictions versus Houston. He wasn’t particularly sharp in the final tune-up outing, however.

Iwakuma was one of the elite pitchers in baseball last season, throwing 220 innings with a 2.66 ERA and 185 strikeouts. Seattle is still waiting for rookies Taijuan Walker and James Paxton to get healthy to complete what has a chance to be one of the best rotations in the league, but Iwakuma joining Felix Hernandez will provide a huge boost in the meantime.

Report: Cardinals to sign Paul Goldschmidt to five-year contract extension

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Extension season continues. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Cardinals and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt are close to an agreement on a five-year extension. The value is believed to be around $130 million, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goldschmidt was set to become a free agent after the season.

The Cardinals acquired Goldschmidt, 31, from the Diamondbacks in December in exchange for Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, Andy Young, and a 2019 competitive balance round B pick. The slugger is a six-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, and a four-time Silver Slugger Award winner. Goldschmidt owns a career .297/.398/.532 triple-slash line along with 209 home runs, 710 RBI, 709 runs scored, and 124 stolen bases. He is also well-regarded for his defense at first base. As a result, he has accumulated 40.3 Wins Above Replacement over eight seasons, according to Baseball Reference.

With Goldschmidt in place, the Cardinals are set at first base for the foreseeable future. Though Goldschmidt got off to a slow start last season, carrying an OPS barely above .700 into June, he recovered and finished with a .922 OPS. That two-month blip aside, there’s no reason to think Goldschmidt’s production is about to fall off anytime soon.