Report: Marlins plan to make “aggressive push” to sign Albert Pujols

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It was easy to be cynical about the Marlins in the early days of the Hot Stove. With their new name/logo/uniforms and stadium, many believed that their courtship of big-ticket free agents was all an elaborate publicity stunt designed to drum up season ticket sales. Well, now that they have landed both Heath Bell and Jose Reyes, it’s about time we take them seriously.

With that in mind, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports that the Marlins plan to make an “aggressive push” over the next two days to sign free agent first baseman Albert Pujols.

Of course, the Marlins already made an offer to Pujols, though it was reportedly much lower than the one by the Cardinals (roughly $198-210 million over nine years, depending upon which report you read) way back in February. And that won’t get it done. They’re still a longshot here — all things being equal, he’d probably prefer to stay in St. Louis — but perhaps this is the leverage he needs to get the Cardinals to improve upon their offer.

By the way, the Marlins might not be the Cardinals’ only competition for Pujols. According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, other teams believe that the Cubs will make a push by offering Pujols a higher average annual salary over less years.

Corey Knebel sets modern record for consecutive appearances with a strikeout

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Brewers closer Corey Knebel set a modern major league record for relievers to start a season, as Thursday’s appearance marked his 38th consecutive appearance with a strikeout. He set down the side in order in the ninth inning, striking Josh Bell out to start the frame.

Aroldis Chapman held the record previously, recording a strikeout in his first 37 appearances of the season in 2014 with the Reds.

Knebel, 25, has flown under the radar despite having an incredibly good season. He moved into the closer’s role in mid-May when Neftali Feliz, now a free agent, struggled. After Thursday’s appearance, Knebel is 12-for-15 in save chances with a 0.96 ERA and a 65/17 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings.

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

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Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.