– Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak said late Monday night that the club and 1B Albert Pujols’ representatives have been making “regular” contact. The two sides have a little over 24 hours to reach a contract extension before Pujols’ self-imposed Wednesday deadline. Talks have not gone smoothly to this point, but anything could happen. “I don’t want to sit here and lead people on or characterize something one way or the other. Our approach has been pretty consistent since Day 1, and that’s to allow this to be done in a confidential state.” Stay tuned.
– Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News heard from a source Monday that LHP C.C. Sabathia plans to use his contract’s opt-out clause after 2011. 3B Alex Rodriguez did the same thing a few of years ago to command more money from the spend-happy Yankees. GM Brian Cashman has advocated against issuing irresponsibly large contracts in some recent cases, but the Steinbrenners would probably pay up if Sabathia puts together another workhorse-type season. He’s owed $23M per year through 2015.
– Jordan Bastian of MLB.com writes that Indians’ C Carlos Santana (knee) “looks fine” in the opening workouts of spring training, showing no ill effects from his major knee surgery. Santana caught a couple of bullpen sessions and then ran through some agility tests on Monday. After several impressive years in the minors, the 24-year-old batted .260/.401/.467 over his first 192 major league plate appearances last season.
– The Eagles assigned the franchise tag to QB Michael Vick, and the transition tag to K David Akers. The Eagles’ ability to sign Vick to a long-term extension may go a long way toward determining whether they trade QB Kevin Kolb this offseason, because the franchise tag is only a 1-year contract proposal worth roughly $20M for quarterbacks. The Eagles surprisingly decided to retain Akers despite two missed field goals in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
– The Nuggets and Knicks discussed a F Carmelo Anthony trade but talks fizzled when the Nuggets refused to lower their “steep” demands, a source tells the NY Daily News. The Nuggets reportedly asked for F Danilo Gallinari, G Raymond Felton, another starter, F Eddy Curry’s expiring contract plus at least one 1st-round pick in exchange for Anthony and G Chauncey Billups. Obviously, the Knicks think they are giving up too much in that deal. The Nuggets will go back out and try to gain more leverage by talking to the Bulls, Rockets, Mavs, Nets and whoever else will listen. The trade deadline is just 9 days away.
– The Maple Leafs have acquired F Aaron Voros from the Ducks for a conditional 7th-round pick. Voros will report directly to the Marlies.
– Leafs’ GM Brian Burke recently conducted a conference call. The highlights:
The Versteeg-to-Flyers deal has been on the table for a week. He was shopped around the league hard, but this was the best deal out there and he didn’t feel it would be there on the February 28 on Deadline Day.
The 3rd-round pick from the Flyers is in play and has already been offered to another team. He doesn’t know if a deal will happen. The deal being discussed would involve acquiring a forward and taking on salary.
The 1st-round pick may be in play with the right deal.
Team will continue to look for players that are NHL ready or are close to being there.
The club and D Tomas Kaberle have agreed on complete secrecy.
May not be in a position to move G J.S. Giguere because of Gustavsson (heart) and Rynnas (broken finger).
– It was announced at Monday’s WWE Monday Night RAW from Anaheim, California that former WWE Champion and future Hall of Famer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be the special guest host at WrestleMania 27 in Atlanta, Georgia in April.
Following Monday’s RAW, The Rock took part in an online chat at the WWE website. Here are some highlights of what the Great One said about:
Why He’s Returning Now: “Because I felt the time was right to so something special. Not only can I feed my own need and desire to perform. More importantly than that, do something special for you WWE fans.”
His Goal For WrestleMania: “My goal is to create an incredible show. The guys have prepared for this night all year and they are going to put on incredible wrestling matches and I am there to not only support their matches but work with the great WWE production team and put on an electrifying show. That means I will be backstage and in the ring creating unforgettable and iconic WrestleMania moments.”
John Cena: “John Cena said a variety of things that came across my desk which at first I thought was interesting and then I felt was laughable because the comments really didn’t make any sense to me. To be clear, not that they ever make me mad. I just thought the comments were an interesting choice of things to say.”
– Many past and present WWE superstars wrote messages on Twitter following The Rock’s return to WWE on RAW. Here’s what the following people said about The Rock:
John Cena: “CeNation. Rock was in rare form tonight. It was great to see him enjoying himself out there. Even if it was at my expense. I’ve been Called alot worse. Just glad to see him back in action.”
CM Punk: “Rock owes me fifty bucks for going 20 minutes past the hour, making me miss my valentines day reservations at Nobu.”
Big Show: “Did anyone notice the chill bumps on Rocks arms as he gave his catch phrase? The rock is back!”
Jim Ross: “Got 2 hand it 2 WWE…HBK in HOF, Austin on Tough Enough, Rock to host/star @ WM27…MUCH more on the way. Look out Atlanta!”
Val Venis: “I am just as happy as anyone else the Rock is back. As long as he sticks to the mic, we are good. Cuz his wrestling ability is questionable. Not hating on Rock. He is AWESOME on the mic. His charisma is unmatched. But lets be honest, Rock>Hardy & Venis>Rock! HONESTLY!”
Taz: “GREAT JOB by Rock! Miss having steaks with him & Dud’s after shows!!! Great times! 1 of the greatest of all times!!!”
Chris Jericho: “Congratulations to one of my favorite opponents and greatest rivals on returning to the WWE. The Rock is the BEST promo man of all time…”
Steve Austin: “it was great to see The Rock back on RAW tonight…helluva promo from an electrifying cat. great stuff heading into Mania.”