The Cardinals are reportedly close to reaching a contract extension with catcher Yadier Molina, who has set a Sunday deadline on the negotiations. (File)

By Rob Rains

MEMPHIS - Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said before Thursday night’s exhibition game against the Memphis Redbirds that he believes there is time to complete a contract extension with Yadier Molina before the catcher’s deadline.

Molina has said he wants to have any contract extension discussions completed before the regular-season opener on Sunday night against the Cubs at Busch Stadium.

“I’m on the clock,” Mozeliak said. “I don’t like to characterize or over-engage when dealing with these types of things. It’s all about trying to find a place we’re both comfortable with.

“In my mind we still have time, so I’m not overly concerned at this point.”

Mozeliak’s attitude might have been based on knowledge that he was not interested in sharing with the media. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported on Twitter Thursday night that sources had told him the Cardinals and Molina were in the “final stages” of agreeing on an extension.

That agreement, according to Rosenthal, was expected to be for three years and be worth between $55 and $65 million. In terms of average annual value, that would place Molina ahead of the Giants’ Buster Posey as the highest paid catcher.

After those reports broke, Mozeliak met with the media again following the game and said a deal is not in place.

“I’m always careful to discuss negotiations because they are very fluid and things happen,” Mozeliak said. “I think the best way to handle this is just to say we’re optimistic, we’re hopeful that we can get something done. But it’s not complete yet.

“We obviously understand the timeline. We have a couple more days.”

Under Molina’s current contract, there is a mutual option for 2018, but he is not likely to exercise his half of the option, which would make him a free agent after this season.

Molina will turn 35 during this season, so his new deal, if completed, will keep him in a Cardinal uniform until his late 30s, almost certainly making him a lifetime Cardinal.

“The importance of what Yadi has meant to this organization is something that’s very unique,” Mozeliak said. “In terms of how I think about trying to making his legacy, and complete that, it’s something that’s very real in how we think about it. But until it (a contract) is done it’s not really something I want to weigh in on.”

Other news and notes from the Cardinals’ 24-hour stay in Memphis:

* Jhonny Peralta, who could open the season as the team’s cleanup hitter, was in that spot on Thursday night and hit a three-run homer in the first inning to lead the Cardinals to a 9-3 victory. He and Molina went back to back in the Cardinals’ five-run first off Chris Ellis, one of the players obtained by the Cardinals from Atlanta for Jaime Garcia.

Aledmys Diaz added a two-run homer in the second, also off Ellis and Jedd Gyorko hit the Cardinals’ fourth homer of the game in the third inning, a solo shot off Mike Mayers.

* The Cardinals placed four pitchers on the disabled list on Thursday, the first day clubs could make that roster move. The only surprise was Trevor Rosenthal, who is still having some issues with a lat strain which bothered him much of the spring.

Because of the new 10-day DL, Rosenthal could miss only the first week of the season, Mozeliak said. He, along with Tyler Lyons, likely will begin a rehab assignment with the Triple A team when the Redbirds’ season begins on April 6.

“It didn’t make any sense to push him right now,” Mozeliak said. “It’s something we don’t think is going to be serious and is something we think he can handle. We didn’t want to have any setbacks. April can be tricky, weather can be challenging.”

Also going on the DL were Lyons, John Gant and Alex Reyes.

To replace Rosenthal, the Cardinals recalled Sam Tuivailala from Memphis.

* Manager Mike Matheny said he decided before the Cardinals left Florida on Wednesday that Randal Grichuk would not play Thursday night after being hit on the right hand by a pitch.

Grichuk’s hand was still sore on Thursday, Matheny said, but that he would take batting practice and barring a setback should be in the lineup for Friday night’s final exhibition game in Springfield against the Cardinals’ Double A affiliate.

With Grichuk out of the lineup, Matt Adams got another start in left field.

* Lance Lynn, originally scheduled to start in Memphis, instead threw 80 pitches in a minor-league game in Jupiter on Thursday. It is likely he will pitch the third game of the series against the Cubs, following Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright.

* About a dozen members of the Cardinals, plus Matheny, spent Thursday morning taking a tour and visiting with patients at St. Jude Children’s Medical Center.

* Mike Leake will get the start in Friday night’s game in Springfield while Jack Flaherty, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, will pitch against the Cardinals.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains