Pujols tired of just homering, now calling his shots

Leave a comment

Albert Pujols went 4-for-5 with two homers, a double, and six RBIs
yesterday, including a game-breaking grand slam that he apparently
“called” shortly before the at-bat:

After opening the third inning with a fly out, Pujols returned to
the Cardinals clubhouse to review video. There he predicted to
assistant hitting coach Mike Aldrete that his next at-bat would
ricochet off the yet-to-open Royals Hall of Fame behind the visitors
bullpen in left field. “He didn’t say he might hit the Hall of Fame. He
said he would hit the Hall of Fame,” Aldrete recalled.

Pujols returned in the fourth inning against Royals starting pitcher
Gil Meche with the bases loaded and one out in a 4-4 game. Pujols and
Meche reached a full count. By then Meche had shown Pujols every pitch
in his repertoire except a change-up. When Meche finally threw the
pitch, Pujols swatted it some 423 feet off a Hall of Fame window.

Not quite Babe Ruth territory,
but amusing nonetheless. Actually, my favorite part of the whole story
is how Pujols’ teammates reacted when asked about his grand slam after
the game. Here are some examples …

Kyle McClellan: “If it’s 3-2 and he gets a strike, he’s going to hit it. He’s going to drive it. There’s not a question.”

Adam Wainwright: “Face it, I’m playing with the best player of all
time. It’s ridiculous. You almost have to focus on what you’re doing
because you can get caught up in what he’s doing. He’s that good.”

Khalil Greene: “He makes it look easy. I mean, how many guys in the league try to do that?”

Skip Schumaker: “After the second home run we just laughed. It’s
just so easy. It’s a higher level. It’s like he’s here and everybody
else is at Triple-A.”

One of the surest signs of greatness is when the amazing becomes
routine, and judging by those quotes from his teammates Pujols has
definitely reached that stage. Even setting aside the whole “called
shot” aspect yesterday’s grand slam was his third in four at-bats with
the bases loaded this season and tied him with Stan Musial for the most
in Cardinals history with nine.

Pujols is hitting .329 and leads the league in on-base percentage
(.448), slugging percentage (.722), and OPS (1.169) while being on a
60-homer, 160-RBI pace. As manager Tony La Russa put it: “He does it
over and over again. It’s impossible to describe how great he is.”

Steven Matz to skip next spring training start with elbow issues

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.

Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.

Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

Getty Images
2 Comments

Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.