Yadier Molina hit off a tee for the first time since thumb surgery

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Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina took a big step today in his recovery from a pair of thumb surgeries, hitting off a tee for the first time.

Molina told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch afterward that things went well enough that he plans to hit live pitching in a batting cage and possibly even catch in a game within the next week.

Molina initially had surgery in November to repair a torn thumb ligament, but then needed a follow-up surgery two months later. His uncertain status played a big part in the Cardinals signing backup catcher Brayan Pena to a two-year, $5 million deal after years of barely using backup Tony Cruz to give Molina time off.

Opening Day remains the goal for Molina, but it’s possible the 33-year-old seven-time All-Star will begin the season on the disabled list even if there isn’t a significant setback in the recovery process.

Royals, Alex Gordon close to contract agreement

Alex Gordon
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MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports that the Royals and outfielder Alex Gordon are “getting close” to an agreement on a one-year contract. Terms of the deal aren’t yet known, but the Royals could make it official within the next few days.

Gordon, who turns 36 years old next month, hit .266/.345/.396 with 13 home runs and 76 RBI over 633 plate appearances with the Royals this past season. His offense has waned, owning an adjusted OPS of 84 since 2016 (100 is average), but he still plays decent defense.

Gordon has spent all 13 years of his major league career with the Royals. With the club in a rebuilding phase, he will serve as the clubhouse leader and be a mentor to younger players on the roster.