Albert Pujols downplays contract status … again

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Albert Pujols made an appearance at the Cardinals’ “winter warm-up” event this afternoon and naturally the assembled media asked him about his contract status despite the fact that he’s signed through 2011. Here’s what Pujols had to say:

My timetable is when I’m a free agent. Right now we’ve got a couple years. I don’t need to worry about that right now. Right now my job is to let my agent do my talking. We’re open to talk about it. But I’ll tell you: When the season starts we’re not talking about it.

Rarely has there been this much attention paid to the contract status of a player still two full seasons away from free agency, but I suppose everything is a little different for the best player in baseball. For comparison Joe Mauer is merely the best player in the American League, but unlike Pujols he’s just one season away from free agency and yet the Twin Cities media has paid about half as much attention to his contract status.

Video: Starling Marte refuses to take first base after being hit by pitch

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Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was hit on the hand by a Jack Flaherty pitch in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals. Rather than take first base, Marte — who came to the plate with a runner on first base — insisted to home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman that the ball hit the knob of the bat, not his hand. Marte was allowed to continue his at-bat, though manager Clint Hurdle came out to discuss the ruling with Dreckman. Marte eventually grounded into a fielder’s choice. He then got caught attempting to steal second base and the Pirates scored zero runs in the inning.

According to Baseball Prospectus, a team that has runners on first and second with no outs is expected to score 1.55 runs. Having a runner on first base with one out yields 0.56 expected runs. Marte essentially cost his team a run by rejecting first base. Oops.