If Albert Pujols appeared to be slowing down in his old age, he must have only been doing it to set a trap for his opponents. Battling plantar fasciitis last season, Pujols finished 2013 with a career-low 17 home runs and a .767 OPS. Pujols smacked a pair of dingers on Sunday afternoon against the Rays, giving him 12 on the season already along with a respectable .257/.319/.497 slash line. The Angels emerged victorious by a 6-2 margin, keeping them within 3.5 games of the Athletics for first place in the AL West.
The pair of homers gives Pujols 504 for his career, putting him into a tie for 25th all time with Eddie Murray. Pujols, 34, could reasonably move into 18th all-time with at least 522 (he’d need 18 more) by the end of the season. He would leapfrog Gary Sheffield (509), Mel Ott (511), Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews (512), and Willie McCovey, Ted Williams, and Frank Thomas (521).
You can watch both of Pujols’ home runs here and here.
The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.
Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.
Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.