MLB Notes: Albert Pujols looks to test knee

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MLB Notes: Albert Pujols looks to test knee

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols hopes to begin agility drills and light running in a couple of days to test his surgically repaired right knee.

Pujols underwent arthroscopic surgery on the knee in October, what he considered a minor cleanup procedure, but says he will ease into spring training with the hopes of being fully healthy for opening day. There's no reason to rush things in mid-February with the season nearly two months away (see full story).

Cards extend GM Mozeliak
JUPITER, Fla. -- The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a three-year contract extension with general manager John Mozeliak and exercised the 2014 option for manager Mike Matheny.

The 44-year-old Mozeliak will now be with the Cardinals through 2016. Matheny, in the second year of a two-year contract, is now guaranteed through next year. Terms were not announced.

Chairman William DeWitt says the management team shares the same vision and he praised both managers, saying Matheny did a "remarkable" job in his first season, coming within a win of taking the team to a second straight World Series (see full story).

Francona plans speech
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Terry Francona has his speech planned. To him, it's the biggest one he'll give all season. 

With Boston in his rear view mirror, Cleveland's new manager will stand before the revamped Indians on Friday and outline his expectations for training camp and the upcoming season. Francona, who spent a year as a broadcaster after eight seasons with the Red Sox, said it's vital to set the right tone with his team, one that has been overhauled by an unexpected spending spree.

The Indians invested $117 million in guaranteed money on free agents this winter, with the signings of outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn accounting for $104 million.
Bourn, an All-Star with Atlanta last season, arrived at the team's training facility on Thursday. He'll be introduced at a news conference shortly after the Indians have their first full-squad workout (see full story).

Youkilis changes sides
TAMPA, Fla. -- Kevin Youkilis has taken part in his first workout with the New York Yankees.

The one-time Boston Red Sox third baseman was part of a pre-spring training session Thursday at the Yankees' minor league complex.

Youkilis took batting practice and also stopped at Steinbrenner Field, where New York's pitchers and catchers held their second day of workouts, and talked with manager Joe Girardi.

A three-time All-Star, Youkilis figures to be the Yankees' starting third baseman for at least the first half of the season while Alex Rodriguez recovers from hip surgery. Youkilis agreed to a $12 million, one-year contract in December (see full story).

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

WASHINGTON – It looks as if the Phillies will have some action at the winter meetings.

The team is close to signing veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, sources tell CSNPhilly.com. The winter meetings officially begin on Monday. The signing is expected to be announced before the meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, is a veteran of 15 seasons in the majors. He is coming off a strong 2016 season in which he pitched in 51 games for Seattle and Toronto and recorded a 2.81 ERA.

Benoit began the 2016 season with the Mariners and had a 5.18 ERA in 26 games. He was traded to Toronto in July and gave up just one run in 23 2/3 innings over 25 games, but did not pitch in the postseason after suffering a torn calf muscle in late September.

The right-hander has pitched for six teams in his career and has a lifetime 3.79 ERA in 712 games.

Entering the offseason, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said he wanted to improve the bullpen. He opened the offseason by trading for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and last week claimed lefty David Rollins off waivers from Texas. Now, Klentak is poised to add Benoit.

Benoit has mostly pitched in a setup role in his career, but he does have closer experience. It is unclear what role he’d pitch in for the Phillies. The Phils have Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris returning to the back of their bullpen in 2017. Benoit could complement that pair or the Phillies could choose to trade Gomez or Neris.

Neris pitched in 79 games in 2016 and had a 2.58 ERA, so the Phillies would only deal him if they were to get a strong package of talent in return.

Phillies tender contracts to 3 players as Cody Asche becomes free agent

Phillies tender contracts to 3 players as Cody Asche becomes free agent

The Phillies tendered contracts to three arbitration-eligible players on Friday night and set another free.
 
Reliever Jeanmar Gomez and infielders Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis were tendered contracts for the 2017 season while outfielder Cody Asche was let go after four seasons with the club. 
 
The Phillies signaled their intention to let Asche go when they designated him for assignment, a move that removed him from the 40-man roster, on Friday afternoon. The club had the option of trading Asche — and likely had discussions with other clubs — but ultimately decided to non-tender him before the 8 p.m. deadline. The move made Asche a free agent.
 
The Phils had removed Asche from the 40-man roster to clear a spot for David Rollins, a left-handed reliever who was claimed off waivers from Texas on Friday (see story)
 
Galvis and Hernandez, the team’s regular shortstop and second baseman, respectively, were certain to receive contracts for 2017. Gomez was less certain. He saved 37 games for the Phils in 2016, but struggled badly late in the season.
 
Phillies officials will try to negotiate 2017 salaries with all three players. If an agreement cannot be reached with a player, an arbitration hearing will be held later in the winter to determine that player’s salary for the coming season.
 
Gomez made $1.4 million in 2016, Galvis $2 million and Hernandez $525,000. According to mlbtraderumors.com, Gomez projects to make $4.6 million in arbitration, Galvis $4.4 million and Hernandez $2.5 million. 

The Phillies' roster is full at 40.