(D)ecision Day for Mulder?

Mulder is getting married Saturday and there is expectation that he will make a decision before his wedding, which would have been Friday.

Mulder, who missed the second half of last season after rotator cuff surgery and didn't pitch well when he did play, (6-7, 7.14 ERA) is still a hot commodity on the free-agent market this winter.

The Cardinals with their backs against the wall looking for one or two starters still before next season, are hoping to re-sign the left-hander thinking he'll be able to return by midseason.

"We're still very hopeful," General Manager Jocketty said in a special meeting with reporters at Busch Stadium Wednesday. "I talked to his agent a couple days ago, and I think they're still going through their process. They want to do that before they make their final decision,

"He indicated to me that he still thought this was the best place for him. We certainly feel it's the best place for him."

Mulder, who is 103-57 in his seven-year Major League career, struggled with shoulder problems last season and eventually underwent rotator cuff surgery on his pitching shoulder, is drawing a lot of attention from other teams this offseason.

Mulder visited with Texas Rangers officials Tuesday, touring the stadium and the Dallas area with team owner Tom Hicks and there is a sense that the Rangers may land the former 21 game winner, with some pundits proclaiming a deal with Texas will be announced very soon which is a different message we are getting from the Mulder camp.

"We're not close," said Mulder's agent Gregg Clifton. "We had a great meeting with the Rangers, who really rolled out the red carpet for him . . . but obviously there are other teams that want him, too. Now, it's just about zeroing in on where he wants to go and what he wants to do."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday that Mulder was motivated to return to St. Louis to show Cardinal fans the real Mark Mulder. The manager talk with Mark over the weekend and is expected to call him again today.

Mulder was 88-40 with a 3.65 ERA in 155 starts between 2001-05, tying Bartolo Colon for the most victories by a Major League pitcher in that stretch, but never did live up to expectations in St. Louis after the Cardinals traded pitchers Dan Haren, Kiko Calero and top prospect Daric Barton to Oakland for the coveted pitcher. A deal even at the time, that many Cardinal fans thought St. Louis had given up too much for him.

Today Cardinals fans looking at the rotation and hearing things like manager Tony La Russa indicating he's considering moving relievers Braden Looper, Adam Wainwright and Brad Thompson into the rotation, are hoping St. Louis can get a deal done for Mulder and the sooner the better.

The Diamondbacks, Indians, Mets and Padres have also made inquiries about Mulder in addition to St. Louis and the Rangers.

My take is, it is down to St. Louis and the Texas Rangers, who have the best chance of signing him.

It's been reported that a decision may come Friday from Mark and his agent, but my take is, it's very likely that Mulder won't make a decision for several days.

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