Pujols tired of just homering, now calling his shots

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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.”

Yasiel Puig was late to a workout on Monday, so Dave Roberts benched him

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Earlier, Craig wrote about how Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is back in manager Dave Roberts’ doghouse once again. Puig didn’t slide into second base when he was caught stealing to end Saturday’s game, which irked Roberts.

Puig didn’t earn himself any brownie points on Monday as he was late to a team workout and was benched as a result, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Roberts said, “That was a decision he made, not me.” Roberts added that he was disappointed in Puig, though he did note that the former All-Star’s behavior has been improved for most of the season.

Puig, 26, has had a solid season, batting .259/.339/.474 with 26 home runs, 70 RBI, 66 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 554 plate appearances. While he hasn’t provided value on the same level as Justin Turner or Corey Seager, he’s been a valuable part of the lineup which makes this drama all the more unfortunate with just a week and a half before the start of the NLDS.

MLB, MLBPA grant Pirates exemption for Jung Ho Kang to participate in Dominican Winter League

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Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates were granted an exemption by Major League Baseball and the players’ union which will allow infielder Jung Ho Kang to participate in the Dominican Winter League without being removed from the restricted list.

Kang, 30, has been denied a visa by the Department of State as a result of his third DUI in South Korea last September. Kang was also under investigation in 2015 for alleged sexual assault.

Kang is under contract through the end of 2018 and the Pirates have a club option for the 2019 season as well, so it makes sense they would try to get him into some type of baseball action ahead of next season. The infielder has hit .273/.355/.483 in 837 plate appearances across two seasons in the majors. As Brink notes, Kang has already arrived to the Dominican Republic and will work out with his team, Aguilas Cibaenas, ahead of the start of the season on October 20.