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.

Marlins give Don Mattingly two-year extension

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The Marlins have announced that they have inked manager Don Mattingly to a two-year contract extensions. There’s a third year in the form of a mutual option.

Mattingly is finishing up the final year of the four-year contract he signed with the Marlins prior to the 2016 season. He’s 272-364 in that period and the club has lost 99 games already this season. The current bad run, however, obviously corresponds with a massive rebuild the team began undertaking following the 2017 season and the team’s change in ownership. Mattingly has not had much to work with over the past two seasons but he has likewise, largely, kept the team on as even a keel as one could hope under the circumstances. He has certainly impressed the Marlins’ brass enough to take the unusual step of keeping on a manager they inherited from a previous ownership and front office group.

In other news, the Marlins also announced a two-year contract extension for shortstop Miguel Rojas valued at $10.25 million. There’s a vesting option for a third year. The deal buys out Rojas’ final year of arbitration eligibility and one year of free agency, plus that option.

Rojas, 30, is hitting .285/.335/.383 (OPS+ 92) this year.