– The Cardinals have signed C Yadier Molina to a 5-year/$75M contract extension with a mutual option for 2018, as well as a no-trade clause. Molina was already under contract for $7M this season, so the extension won’t begin until 2013. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch passed along word on the mutual option, which carries a salary of $15M. It’s the third-richest contract ever for a catcher behind Joe Mauer (8-years/$184M) and Mike Piazza (7-years/$91M) and the second-highest in AAV (average annual value) at $15M. He’ll stay in St. Louis until his age-34 season.
– Indians’ OF Grady Sizemore (back) underwent a micro discectomy procedure on Thursday and will be sidelined for 8-12 weeks. Sizemore injured his back last month while rehabbing from knee surgery. Thursday’s procedure could keep him sidelined through the first two months of the season. The Tribe re-signed him to a 1-year/$5M contract this offseason.
– C Jason Varitek officially announced his retirement Thursday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida. ”This last week is probably one of the hardest weeks you go through as a player. After months of deliberating what to do, I decided that it’s best for me and my family that I retire — that I retire a Red Sox.” Varitek, 39, will finish with a .256/.341/.435 career batting line, 193 home runs and 757 RBI.
– Pirates’ RHP A.J. Burnett (eye) was diagnosed with an orbital fracture of his right eye and will undergo surgery Friday in Pittsburgh. Burnett injured the eye during a bunting drill Wednesday. His status is unknown.
– Phillies’ OF Shane Victorino told reporters Thursday that locking him up would require a 5-year contract. ”I’d like five years, yeah. Why wouldn’t I? I signed for three. Why wouldn’t I want the next one to be longer? My agents say I can get a five-year deal on the market. Why not trust them?” Victorino, 31, is currently scheduled to become a free agent after the 2012 season. He batted .279/.355/.491 with 17 homers, 19 steals and 16 triples in 132 games last year.
– D’Backs’ SS Stephen Drew (ankle) said Thursday that he might not be ready for the start of the regular season. Drew, 28, suffered a fractured right ankle last July while sliding into home plate. “The doctor said it was going to be a year process, and now I’m at month seven. Flexibility is back to normal. Now I just have to get the strength back.”
– Mets’ LHP Johan Santana (shoulder) threw to hitters Thursday for the first time this spring. Santana threw 43 pitches over two rounds of batting practice. Santana hasn’t experienced any setbacks with his surgically-repaired shoulder thus far, and is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut Tuesday against the Cardinals.
– The Carroll County Times reports that the Ravens are expected to give free agent RB Ray Rice with the franchise tag on Friday. After tagging Rice, the Ravens will have until July 15 to work out a multi-year agreement, which remains the goal on both sides. Monday, March 5 is the franchise deadline, and teams want to avoid any last-minute hangups heading into the upcoming weekend. It’s been estimated that as many as 25 franchise tags will be handed out prior to March 5.
– ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed that the Steelers won’t use the franchise tag on RFA WR Mike Wallace. He’ll be targeted for RFA offer sheets on the 1st-round pick tender.
– The agent for ILB James Farrior said Wednesday that he expects the Steelers to release his client. ”It’s not a done deal, but the percentages just aren’t there,” said agent Ralph Cindrich. Farrior, a 15-year veteran and the Steelers’ defensive captain for the last eight seasons, is due $2.825M in 2012. All of that money would come off Pittsburgh’s salary cap if he is released. The Steelers have not approached Farrior about a pay cut, and he turned 37 in January.
– ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that free agent RB Peyton Hillis told the Browns “as recently as the end of the season” that he was considering retirement. Hillis, who is on his fourth agent since the 2010 season, appears to have a screw loose. Per Schefter, Hillis “even considered joining the CIA” at one point, and “wavered” about playing football throughout the past season. Schefter does report that it “now looks as if he will continue playing.” The Browns will not be franchise tagging Hillis and would like to re-sign him with as little guaranteed money as possible.
– According to Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole, the Saints and free agent QB Drew Brees remain “roughly $5M a year apart” on a new contract. The Saints may be forced to use the franchise tag on Brees by Monday’s deadline.
– Tim McManus of Philly Sports Daily reports free agent WR DeSean Jackson plans to sign his franchise tag tender “ASAP.” Agent Drew Rosenhaus indicated early in the week that he’d “roll up his sleeves” in hopes of converting the franchise tag to a long-term contract. GM Howie Roseman said, “We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul and this is a step … to accomplish that. We will continue our efforts on getting a long-term deal done with him.”
– PFT reports that Raiders’ OLB Kamerion Wimbley’s $11M 2012 salary and an additional $6.5M will become guaranteed if he’s still on the Raiders roster as of March 17. The Raiders can save $4.5M in cap space this year as well as a total savings of $17.5M in salary by cutting Wimbley. Although previous reports indicated Wimbley would balk at a pay cut, PFT is told he is willing to listen to any offers the Raiders will make over the coming weeks.
– Chargers’ LG Kris Dielman (concussions) officially retired on Thursday. The four-time Pro Bowler said it’s “what I have to do, not what I want to do.”
– The Steelers have released DE Aaron Smith. Smith had managed to play in just 15 of 48 games the past three years, failing to finish the season in four of the past five. The 2004 Pro Bowler was due $2.1M, and the Steelers are still working to free up salary cap space. He could be brought back at a discounted rate.
– The Raiders have franchise tagged SS Tyvon Branch, meaning free agent RB Michael Bush and FS Michael Huff will likely not be back. Branch finished last season as one of the premier in-the-box safeties in the NFL. His tag will cost roughly $6.2M.
– The NY Daily News reports that the Jets will pursue free agent SLB Jarret Johnson when the market opens.
– Boston’s TD Garden, the site of Monday’s RAW, is advertising The Rock and Shawn Michaels will be appearing in person.
– According to the Wrestling Observer, as of this week, there is still no word on whether Shaquille O’Neal will be appearing at WrestleMania. Shaq has stated several times that he will be at WrestleMania, even saying back in December that he would be wrestling the Big Show. The WWE website posted an article last week denying that Shaq would be appearing at WrestleMania, which caused even more confusion. For months, it was rumored that Shaq’s involvement with WWE would kick off next Monday’s RAW from Boston’s TD Garden. If Shaq doesn’t appear on that show or isn’t referenced in some way, he most likely won’t be a part of WrestleMania and it can be assumed his negotiations with the company fell through.
– WWE star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is featured on the new movie poster for the upcoming summer blockbuster, “G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation” The Rock tweeted the following movie poster on Wednesday, which features him in-character as “Roadblock” holding a machine gun. Rock tweeted a slogan: “The world ain’t saving itself.”
– According to the Wrestling Observer, as previously reported, the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony will take place on March 31 (the night before WrestleMania) – but will not air on the USA Network until Monday, April 2, as a 1-hour lead-in to RAW. As of this week, the plan is for the televised ceremony to feature the inductions of Edge and the Four Horsemen only. It is still expected that former WWE champion Yokozuna will be announced as on of the final members of the Class of 2012. The deceased Samoan/sumo warrior will be inducted by his cousin, The Rock. Edge is scheduled to be inducted last by Christian, while The Horsemen will be inducted by Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Dusty Rhodes. There was a push to include Rhodes on the Horsemen induction because he had some legendary wars with the Horsemen back in the 1980s. Because Hall of Fame speeches tend to run long, both Edge and the Horsemen have been given a 10 minute time limit on their speeches.
– WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross has updated his blog, which you can read in its entirety at JRsBarBQ.com. As always, you can buy his delicious line of BBQ products at WWEShop.com. In his latest blog entry, JR answered a ton of questions from his readers. Here are some highlights of what he said about:
Why does WWE change the names of wrestlers? “WWE is an entertainment company and they want to own all their intellectual property. Changing names of wrestlers allows them to own those names. It’s smart business and I would do the same if I owned a wrestling company. Wrestlers who are using a name that they used prior to joining WWE essentially ‘lease’ their name to WWE during the term of said wrestler’s WWE tenure.”
Is WWE going to do a Cruiserweight TV show? “I read those rumors online but I have no direct knowledge. If they do, I’d be more than willing to volunteer to do the play by play for those bouts. Smaller, skilled talents need a showcase to display their abilities.:
Thoughts on @CMPunk vs. @IAmJericho? “I love their in ring banter but at the end of the day it comes down to who leaves as WWE Champion and not who has the most witty repartee leading into the bout. Do I hope to hear them verbally spar on future RAW’s? Absolutely. But I’m much more interested in them delivering a classic, wrestling match come April 1. I think that gets done.”
Anyone in FCW ready to go? “Several are ‘this close.’ It’s all about timing and how individual talents are intergrated onto WWE TV. Why are they on TV? Who are they? What are they here to accomplish? Are they friend or foe? Can you help me get to know their TV persona? So, there are many elements involved in getting called up. Until then, the individuals themselves just need to continue to out work/perform their competition, put in more quality ring time, study more DVDS, and increase their strength and conditioning regiment.
– Kane is featured on the new poster for WWE’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view, which takes place on April 29th from Chicago, IL. Below are the official event synopsis, courtesy of InDemand:
“Extreme times call for extreme rules. Don’t miss John Cena, CM Punk, Randy Orton, The Miz and all your favorite WWE Superstars put it all on the line at Extreme Rules, Sunday, live on Pay-Per-View.”
– Former 6 time WWE Womens Champion Trish Stratus was recently interviewed by @Arda Ocal of The Score Television Network.. Here are highlights of Part 2 of this exclusive interview:
Comparing fighting in the WWE for so many years to fighting in movies. How is that all different to her : “So different. we approached it from a tradional movie stand point, which means we have to do stunt work. Thats what moves have stunts. The concept of not making contact in movies was difficult for me cause in WWE we made contact. Its very different from stunt work. I tip my hat off to the director Patrick cause he told his cast, whatever you wanna do with this script, go with it, make it look real, have fun with it, play with it”
Her match at Wrestlemania 18 in her hometown of Toronto, Onatrio where she faced Jazz and Lita in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Womens Championship. Her match was just after the bout between The Rock and Hulk Hogan. Was it bittersweet for her to be in that position at Wrestlemania 18 : “Looking at it on the paper, im like oh my god I cant beleive were in this match, it was really a tough act to follow. The crowd actually surprisinaly was with us which was great cause it was a testament to the hard work that the womens division point had done. Something interesting had happened. When the guys ( The Rock and Hulk Hogan ) had their match, the one thing I remember was I was about to go out to preform, its my first Wrestlemania as a wrestler. I got the heads up from Hulk and The Rock. Rock said to me ” good luck go get em kid”, and Hulk Hogan said “you got this kid”
Her yoga studio, “Stratusphere Yoga”. What is the business plan for “Stratusphere Yoga” ? Are there any plans for her to open up new locations anywhere else, also has she ever approached other WWE superstars about recommending trying yoga themselves: “I have, actually all the girls right now are doing it, the stratusphere yoga right now. DDP and I have been in touch. Randy Orton started doing it. Rey Mysterio, when he came back from his injury was like “you look great what are you doing, how did you make that comeback from that herniated disk” I told him about the yoga and he started trying that as well.”
– WWE its monthly “end of month” business figures for February this week and one of the more newsworthy items is that the 2012 Royal Rumble drew approximately 438,000 pay-per-view buys. 272,000 of the 438,000 buys were domestic (from the United States, while 166,000 buys were international. This year’s 428,000 buys is down from 446,000 in 2011 and the 462,000 in 2010.
– WWE Hall of Famer Steve Austin is featured in a new series of ads for the Kyocera Dura series of cell phones.
– The 2012 WWE Money In The Bank pay-per-view scheduled for July 15th has been moved from Las Vegas, Nevada to the US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Thanks to Devin Cutting)
– Actor James Roday of the USA Network’s original series “Psych” will guest star on the March 12th episode of RAW from Cleveland, Ohio. Roday will be promoting that week’s episode of Psych, which will feature an appearance by The Miz.
– As reported on Wednesday, WWE is interested in several top talents from Ring of Honor, including the Briscoe Brothers and Adam Cole. It’s believed WWE sent out “feelers” and expressed interest in them, but they are all under contract to ROH and until they become free agents, it’s a non-issue.
– Grizzlies’ F Zach Randolph (knee) will not make his return this weekend. The earliest Randolph will play is Wednesday’s game against the Warriors. There’s no setback, but the Grizzlies are wisely exercising extreme caution in order to make sure Randolph is fully healed. GM Chris Wallace said, “Whenever Zach returns, there’s obviously going to be a ramp-up period for him. He’s not expected to come in and carry the team right away.”
– Nuggets’ F Danilo Gallinari (ankle) is now targeting Monday’s game against the Kings for his return. ”I’m feeling much better and I think I’m very close to coming back. We’ll see day-by-day.”
– Hornets’ F Emeka Okafor (knee) is still dealing with swelling and is not close to a return. Okafor has missed the last eight games straight for the Hornets, but the team will have to continue without him for the foreseeable future.
– Celtics’ F Jermaine O’Neal (wrist) has no timetable for his return after meeting with a hand specialist. O’Neal’s injury is being called a sprain, but it’s an injury that he’s dealt with previously.
– Senators’ G Craig Anderson (finger) remains out indefinitely. “It’s hard to say … obviously the timeline is wide open right now. All I can do right now is make sure I stay in shape. I’m able to go out there and skate with my gear on. The main thing right now is keeping my legs, keeping everything strong, so when I do have a chance to come back, I’m physically ready to go.” Anderson required surgery to repair a severed tendon to his pinky, and he’s still unable to grip his stick.
– The Wild have signed F Charlie Coyle to a 3-year, entry-level deal. With the QMJHL’s Sea Dogs, he has 12 goals and 12 assists in 16 games.
– Blackhawks’ F Jonathan Toews (concussion) had an off-ice workout on Wednesday. It’s the first time that Toews has worked out since going down with the upper body injury on February 19. Toews did some work on the stationary bike as well. He missed his fifth straight game on Wednesday and there is no timetable for his return at this time.
– Donald Cerrone knocked out his sparring parter during a recent visit to an MMA training centre. Check out this great kick: