Albert Pujols hugs Cubs GM with Wrigley faithful looking on

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The embrace that will start a million rumors.

CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports that Albert Pujols and Cubs GM Jim Hendry shared a hug prior to Tuesday’s Cardinals-Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

And he has the picture to prove it.

A simple bro hug it wasn’t.

No word yet on whether Hendry whispered “$300 million” into Pujols’ right ear.  And we can’t imagine that there’s anything to the rumors that the Cubs inflicted Tony La Russa with shingles so that Hendry and Pujols could have some time alone.

Pujols, of course, is a free agent at season’s end, and the Cubs are viewed as a top candidate to sign him if he opts to leave St. Louis.

“I can’t win,” Hendry said, stating the obvious (he works for the Cubs after all). “I like Albert. We’ve always gotten along. He’s a great, great player. I admire the heck out of him. He plays the game the right way every day.”

Hendry tried to deflect attention by saying he also hugged Ryan Theriot, though we’ve seen no photographic evidence of such an event.

(Pic: Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro informs Pujols of where he’ll be standing when he’s playing first base for the team next year.)

Padres, Mariners join list of teams to extend netting

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The Reds announced earlier that they plan to extend the protective netting at Great American Ball Park in time for Opening Day next season. You can add the Padres and Mariners to what will surely be a growing list.

A young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, which gave new life to the netting debate. Some fans and media types think Major League Baseball is not doing enough to protect fans. While Major League Baseball has issued guidelines for protective netting, it is ultimately up to the teams to decide just how much netting to use.

Zach Britton receives stem cell injection, likely done for the season

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Orioles closer Zach Britton is likely done for the remainder of the 2017 season after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee, Peter Schmuck and Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun report. Britton has been battling knee problems for most of the season.

The Orioles are still technically in the AL Wild Card race, entering play Thursday 5.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot. With only nine games remaining, however, the 73-80 Orioles are likely being realistic about their chances and not taking any unnecessary risks with Britton.

Britton, 29, put up a 2.89 ERA with 15 saves and a 29/18 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings this season. He will be eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason.