Cardinals put Yadier Molina at third base for an inning

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No, the headline isn’t an April Fool’s Day joke.

Monday afternoon’s Cardinals-Pirates game in Pittsburgh got weird. The Pirates wasted a 4-0 lead, serving up a three-spot to the Cardinals in the seventh, then let them tie the game in the eighth. The Pirates retook the lead in the bottom half of the lead only to let the Cardinals tie it up again in the ninth.

With the teams deadlocked at five runs apiece, Matt Carpenter led off the top of the 11th against Pirates lefty Steven Brault. After working the count 2-1, Carpenter took a slider high and inside for strike two. Carpenter didn’t like the call, although the pitch did indeed appear to cross the strike zone. Brault threw another slider, outside this time, that Carpenter check-swung at. Home plate umpire Vic Carapazza sent the appeal to third base umpire Jordan Baker, who ruled that Carpenter swung for strike three. Carpenter said something that Carapazza didn’t like and was immediately ejected.

Paul Goldschmid flied out, Paul DeJong singled, pinch-hitter Matt Wieters was hit by a pitch, and Yadier Molina walked to load the bases. Nick Kingham then came in to relieve Brault. Facing Yairo Muñoz, Kingham threw a ball in the dirt that got past catcher Francisco Cervelli, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Kingham uncorked a wild pitch, but the ball took a fortuitous carom back to Cervelli, who found Molina straying a bit too far off of second base. Molina got into a rundown that eventually resulted in Wieters being tagged out at home.

That wasn’t the end of the weirdness. Because the Cardinals were now without Carpenter, the bench was short, and Wieters had to stay in the game, Molina started the bottom of the 11th at third base. It’s the first time Molina has ever appeared at a defensive position other than catcher and first base in his professional baseball career. Perhaps fortunately, the ball never found Molina. Facing right-hander John Gant, J.B. Shuck grounded out. Then, after Adam Frazier walked, Starling Marte grounded into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play. The Cardinals won, 6-5.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.