INSIDE PITCH, USA TODAY
Now that Albert Pujols has gone to the Los Angeles Angels, catcher Yadier Molina is the longest tenured position player on the Cardinals. With his contract up at the end of the season, Molina could move on, too.
Molina said he loved St. Louis but the Pujols offseason departure showed him a different side of baseball.
"We've been through a lot of the same things together," said Molina, an early reportee at Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Fla. "When you see a guy like Albert leave the club, you have to know this is business.
"Albert had to make a decision. He made the decision that was good for him and his family. I wish him the best. I'm going to miss him. But it's part of business."
The club picked up the $7 million option on the 2012 contract for the 29-year-old Molina, a four-time Gold Glover, and general manager John Mozeliak said he hoped he would be able to work out an extension.
"I'm open to staying here," said Molina. "I love the city. I love the fans. I love the ballpark. But it's out of my hands. Whatever they like to do is how it is. They let Albert go."
Though Molina, who led the world champions in batting average at .305 in 2011, would prefer the matter be resolved before opening day, he won't cut off the possibility of negotiations during the season.
Molina said: "I would like to concentrate and keep my focus on what's happening in the game rather than worry about a contract and what they're talking about. It makes it tougher. But I'm not going to say we couldn't listen to something once the season started. Until something is close, that's between the team and my agent (Melvin Roman). When something is close, he'll call me."
When Molina didn't show up for the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up in St. Louis or the baseball writers' dinner or the trip to the White House, some perceived it as his being angry that good friend Pujols had not been re-signed by the Cardinals. Molina said he was doing charity work in his native Puerto Rico.
"I'm sorry I didn't make it the last two years, but I had something I had to do back home," Molina said. "It doesn't mean I won't come next year or hopefully the next five or six years."
-RHP Scott Linebrink agreed to a minor league contract that includes a non-roster invitation to spring training. Linebrink, 35, appeared in 64 games for the Atlanta Braves last season, his most work since the 2007 season. The 6-3, 220-pound right-hander finished the 2011 season with a 4-4 record and a 3.64 ERA, striking out 42 batters in 54 1/3 innings.
-RHP Adam Wainwright, on the comeback trail after missing all of 2011 following Tommy John elbow surgery, has been impressive in pre-camp workouts in Jupiter, Fla. "Too much work has been put into this by too many people, especially our training staff, for me to be surprised," said Wainwright, who is throwing all his pitches without discomfort. Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist said, "I'm very positive about where he's at and how he feels. There could be something moving forward that would cause us to give him extra rest. As of right now, he's on schedule. His workload is good."
-RHP Kyle McClellan, back in the bullpen but still perhaps on the trading block, also reported early. After being conditioned as a starter the last couple of springs and actually starting for more than half the season last year, McClellan is working on a relievers' pace this spring. "Give me two days of long toss and two days of bullpens and I'll be ready to go," McClellan said.
-OF Allen Craig, a postseason star despite playing on an injured knee, continued to rehab from offseason knee surgery. Craig is expected back in late April or early May.
-The Cardinals signed veteran Alex Cora to a minor league contract with an invitation to camp. Cora, 36, hit .224 for the Washington Nationals in 2011 while appearing at all four positions in the infield. Cora was considering a move to coaching, which the Cardinals have interest in, as Cora tries for a bench job.
-The Cardinals appeared to back off in their pursuit of free agent pitcher Roy Oswalt despite the latter's apparent desire to play for them. Oswalt reportedly was seeking a larger guarantee and salary and also the promise of a starting spot.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 - Number of players who were members of the 2006 and 2011 world champion Cardinals teams. Catcher Yadier Molina and RHP Chris Carpenter appeared in both World Series. RHP Adam Wainwright was on the 2006 squad but was injured and missed all of last season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you see a guy like that leave, it affects you. But, at the same time, you have to concentrate on doing your job." - Catcher Yadier Molina on the defection of 1B Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels.
The Cardinals are coming off a World Series title, but general manager John Mozeliak realizes the big turnaround in the season came in late July and early August when the club changed 20 percent of its roster with five additions. Now that first baseman Albert Pujols is gone, the Cardinals are entering a new era, and they replaced some of Pujols' offense by signing OF Carlos Beltran.
ARRIVALS: OF Carlos Beltran (free agent from Giants), LHP J.C. Romero (free agent from Rockies), INF Alex Cora (free agent from Nationals).
DEPARTURES: 1B Albert Pujols (free agent, signed with Angels), RHP Octavio Dotel (free agent, signed with Tigers), C Gerald Laird (free agent, signed with Tigers), INF Nick Punto (free agent, signed with Red Sox), INF Ryan Theriot (free agent, signed with Giants), OF Corey Patterson (free agent, signed minor league deal with Brewers), RHP Edwin Jackson (free agent, signed with Nationals).
FREE AGENTS: LHP Arthur Rhodes.
-OF Allen Craig (knee surgery) is out until May.
-RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery) was expected to go to Jupiter, Fla., just after Jan. 1 to begin throwing in earnest. He expects to be ready for spring training