Albert Pujols leaves Angels to have ailing left foot examined

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UPDATE: Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that Pujols will have an MRI on his foot. If the tendon in his foot isn’t torn, he will likely receive a cortisone shot.

1:38 PM: Albert Pujols has been hobbled by plantar fasciitis in his left foot for most of the season, but it sounds like he could finally be reaching a breaking point.

According to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, Pujols has left the team in order to have his foot evaluated. Angels manager Mike Scioscia would only say “we’ll see” when asked whether he’ll face an extended absence.

Pujols has swung the bat well since the All-Star break, hitting .353 (12-for-34) with two homers and seven RBI in eight games, but he told Gonzalez yesterday that he hasn’t felt any improvement with his foot.

“It’s been the same,” Pujols said in Spanish. “I still feel some pain. I still feel it bothering me a bit. That’s something that in the offseason, with time and with rest, hopefully the pain can go away.”

Pujols has made 65 out of 99 starts of the DH spot this season and just hasn’t looked comfortable moving around. With the Angels 11 games out in the AL West and 8.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, it might be time to put pride aside and be realistic.

Pujols, 33, still has about $218 million remaining on his 10-year contract with the Angels which runs through 2021.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.