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Howard agrees to contract extension

Associated Press

Ryan Howard preferred securing his future in Philadelphia to testing free agency in two years.

The slugging first baseman agreed to a $125-million, five-year contract extension Monday that could keep him with the Phillies until 2017.

The 30-year-old Howard will make $20 million each in 2012 and 2013 and $25 million annually from 2014-16. The Phillies have a $23-million club option for 2017 with a $10-million buyout.

The two-time All-Star led the Phillies to two straight trips to the World Series, winning a championship in 2008.

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The $25-million guaranteed average salary in the extension will be baseball’s second-highest behind Alex Rodriguez’s $27.5-million average under a 10-year contract with the New York Yankees running through 2017.

One of the factors that might have influenced Howard in agreeing to the deal now is that he would have been eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, when he will be 32.

Matsuzaka on track to pitch Saturday

Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a 69-pitch simulated game before the Red Sox played the Toronto Blue Jays, the injured right-hander’s final hurdle before returning to Boston’s starting rotation.

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Matsuzaka was put on the 15-day disabled list April 4 because of a strained neck.

Matsuzaka is scheduled to make his season debut Saturday at Baltimore, replacing Tim Wakefield in Boston’s rotation.

Etc.

Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist gets a $561,900 signing bonus as part of a three-year contract extension that guarantees him $18 million for 2010-13 The St. Louis Cardinals put infielder Felipe Lopez on the 15-day disabled list because of a right elbow strain.

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