Between his poor production at the plate and labored running on the bases it’s been painful to watch Albert Pujols this season, but the future Hall of Famer has quietly started to turn things around this month.
Pujols is hitting .313 with four homers, five doubles, and a .952 OPS in 17 games this month, compared to .246 with a .733 OPS in April and May, and the 33-year-old told Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com: “I feel right now like my old me, like when I was in St. Louis.”
Pujols also admitted that he never felt good last season: “There were some streaks here and there that I hit, but I was battling. I never got to a point where I could say, ‘Holy cow, that’s my bat speed.'”
Obviously hitting well for a few weeks in June isn’t conclusive proof of Pujols returning to his old self, but the Angels will take any signs of optimism they can get at this point and he’s made some adjustments at the plate to take less of a toll on his knee and foot problems.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.