After almost two months of talking about Adam Wainwright as the unmatched ace of the staff and talking to Wainwright about a long-term contract...

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JUPITER, Fla. — After almost two months of talking about Adam Wainwright as the unmatched ace of the staff and talking to Wainwright about a long-term contract, the Cardinals agreed with the right-hander on a deal Wednesday that turns all that talking into permanence.

Wainwright and the Cardinals reached an agreement on a five-year, $97.5 million extension, two sources with knowledge of the deal told the Post-Dispatch.

The contract will keep the righty a fixture in the rotation through 2018.

It is the richest deal the Cardinals have ever finalized with a pitcher.

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The terms of the deal were submitted to Major League Baseball and the players union for approval, and the deal is expected to be signed Thursday.

Earlier in spring, Wainwright, 31, said spending his big-league career with one team would “be a real cool thing.”

Wainwright, who will start opening day against Arizona on Monday, debuted with the Cardinals in 2005, shined for the Cardinals in 2006 as the rookie closer for a World Series title, and ascended to ace with two top-three finishes in National League Cy Young Award voting. He led the NL with 19 wins in 2009 and then 20 games in 2010. Wainwright finished second to Phillies righty Roy Halladay for the Cy Young in 2010.

Only five starters in baseball have an earned-run average better than Wainwright’s 3.14 since 2007. All five have won at least one Cy Young award.

McCarver to retire after season

Tim McCarver will make his 55th straight season of Major League Baseball his last.

The two-time champion catcher will call the World Series this year and then retire from his analyst job at Fox.

“I wanted to step down while I know I can still do the job and proud of the job I’ve done,” the 71-year-old McCarver said.

His health is good, McCarver said. So are his passion and energy for the game.

It was just time.

“It’s not a tough call,” he said. “It’s not a sad thing for me.”

McCarver had been thinking about moving on for a couple of years. When Fox executives tried to discuss extending his contract, which expires after the 2013 season, McCarver had already made up his mind.

McCarver has seen other people in various businesses stay at their jobs until their health eventually forced them out, and their quality of life was often not very good after they retired. McCarver didn’t want that for himself.


• Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt agreed to a $900,000, one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, rejoining the team he helped to win the 2011 NL Central title. The 31-year-old former Mariner was in spring training with Philadelphia and batted .447 in 18 games but was released Sunday.

• Arizona Diamondbacks utility player Willie Bloomquist will start the season on the disabled list. An MRI showed a grade-2 right oblique strain. There was no timetable for his return.

• New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes, who has a bulging disk in his back, will start the season on the disabled list.

• Right-hander Jason Hammel was named the starter for the Baltimore Orioles’ opener at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

• Left-hander Jeff Locke has won the competition to be the Pittsburgh Pirates’ No. 5 starter.

• Pitcher J.A. Happ and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a $9.1 million, two-year contract that adds an additional $5.4 million and one season to the deal he reached in January. Happ’s salary remains $3.7 million for this year.

• Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman homered three times to lead a split squad of Nationals to an 11-2 win over the Atlanta Braves in Viera, Fla.

Jaime Garcia pitched eight sharp innings and the St. Louis Cardinals topped a split squad of Nationals 10-1 in Jupiter, Fla.

Colby Rasmus hit a grand slam that capped a six-run rally in the eighth inning and the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1 in Port Charlotte, Fla.

• Forbes estimated the New York Yankees have the highest-valued baseball franchise for the 16th straight year at $2.3 billion, and the average for an MLB team increased by 23 percent in the last year to $744 million. The Mariners are ranked 12th at $644 million.

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