Albert Pujols poised for bounce-back year

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MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols will be ready for Opening Day after having off-season surgery on his right knee. The word “certain” appears in the headline, referring to the probability of Pujols appearing in the Opening Day lineup. Pujols should see some spring training action by the middle of the month if all goes according to plan.

Pujols hit 30 home runs with a .285 average, .343 on-base percentage, and .516 slugging percentage — all career lows for the veteran, entering his 13th year. However, it was mostly just his April that dragged him down. During the first month, he didn’t hit a single homer and posted a .570 OPS. He hit his first homer of the season on May 6, and from that point until the end of the season, he posted a .934 OPS, a number more in line with our expectations.

Some have soured on Pujols, citing his age (33) and vanishing unintentional walk rate, which fell to five percent last year after hovering between nine and 11 percent through 2010. Given what he did after April last year, though, there is no doubt he can continue being one of the best hitters in baseball.

Miguel Sano suspended one game for altercation with Tigers

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Twins third baseman Miguel Sano has been suspended one game for his role in Saturday’s altercation with the Tigers, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Sano will appeal his suspension, so he’ll be eligible to play until that is resolved.

On Saturday, Tigers outfielder JaCoby Jones was hit in the face by Twins pitcher Justin Haley. The Tigers’ Matt Boyd threw behind Sano when he came to the plate in the fifth inning, seemingly exacting revenge. Sano took exception, catcher James McCann pushed his glove into Sano’s face, and the benches emptied. Both Boyd and Sano were ejected from the game.

Sano has hit well in the early going, batting .241/.413/.569 with four home runs and 14 RBI with an MLB-best 17 walks in 75 plate appearances. Losing Sano for only one game won’t be the biggest deal for the Twins. Eduardo Escobar would get the start at third base to fill in for Sano if he loses his appeal.

Boyd was fined an undisclosed amount and not suspended, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck.

Matt Barnes suspended four games for throwing at Manny Machado

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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes has been suspended four games and fined an undisclosed amount for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado on Sunday. Barnes was exacting revenge for Machado’s slide which injured second baseman Dustin Pedroia on Friday, and was ejected immediately after throwing the pitch at Machado.

Barnes is appealing his suspension, so he will be able to participate in games until the issue is resolved. The 26-year-old right-hander has a 3.60 ERA and an 11/6 K/BB ratio in 10 innings so far this season.

The suspension is rather light considering Barnes’ intent. Barnes missed, thankfully, as he hit Machado’s bat rather than his helmet. Had he hit his intended target, though, baseball might’ve been out one superstar third baseman. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports wrote today that Major League Baseball needs to beef up its punishment for players attempting to injure other players. And he’s totally right about that. The punishment is neither enough to deter players from attempting to injure their peers, nor is it enough for teams to deter their own players from doing so.