JUPITER, Fla. (AP) The St. Louis Cardinals have scheduled a Thursday afternoon news conference to announce a new contract for four-time Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina.
The 29-year-old Molina is a lifetime Cardinal entering the final year of his contract. He's considered one of the best defensively at any position, winning a platinum glove last season in voting by fans, and also is coming off the best offensive season of his career.
Molina batted .305 in 2011 with 14 home runs and 65 RBIs, and added 12 RBIs during the team's World Series title run. He's been durable, too, averaging 138 games the last three seasons.
New manager Mike Matheny was a three-time Gold Glove catcher for St. Louis from 2000-04, leaving for free agency in 2005 after losing his job to Molina. He said Molina came to camp motivated and has set the tone for younger players.
"I don't think you can have any expectations higher than he has for himself," Matheny said earlier in camp. "I can honestly say I've watched him quite a few years and I don't think I've seen him work as hard ... I think certain players have the ability to push themselves beyond contracts, beyond recognition."
The Cardinals had been saying since the start of spring training that they were hopeful of reaching a deal. Molina came to camp with a stance hardened by close friend Albert Pujols' departure for a free agent deal with the Angels, and said the team would not get a hometown discount.
Earlier in camp, Molina said Pujols was like a big brother to him, and that the failed negotiations in St. Louis definitely affected him. But he also has emphasized he's happy in St. Louis, and that his absence from the team's Winter Warmup fan festival and the team's White House appearance were simply because he had other commitments.
The Cardinals had offered Pujols more than 200 million over 10 seasons, and have used those funds and more to build a contender without the three-time NL MVP. Outfielder Carlos Beltran signed a two-year, 26 million free agent deal and shortstop Rafael Furcal re-signed, getting a two-year, 12 million contract.
And now the team has Molina, the youngest and most talented of three brothers to catch on in the major leagues. Molina's arm has been particularly deadly on pickoff picks at first base with Pujols. He'll have to develop teamwork with new first baseman Lance Berkman this season.