Report: Rays re-sign left-hander J.P. Howell

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According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, the Rays have re-signed left-hander J.P. Howell.

Howell was non-tendered earlier this month, primarily in an effort to avoid paying him through the arbitration process, but Rays VP Andrew Friedman said last week that the club was making progress towards keeping him in the fold. He made $1.8 million this past season.

Howell, 27, posted a 2.48 ERA and averaged 9.9 K/9 for the Rays from 2008-09, but missed the entire 2010 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in May. While Howell told Topkin earlier this month that he was optimistic about his chances of being ready for the early part of the 2011 season, the southpaw is a real wild card for what is expected to be a new-look bullpen in Tampa Bay.

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 701st home run, connecting Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pujols launched a slider from former teammate Johan Oviedo over the Big Mac Land sign in left field at Busch Stadium. The solo drive in the fourth inning made it 1-all.

Pujols faced Oviedo for the first time and made the 24-year-old righty the 456th different pitcher he’s homered against.

The St. Louis star hadn’t homered in a week since hitting No. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium last Friday. Pujols had gone 10 at-bats without a home run after two starts and one pinch-hit appearance.

The Busch Stadium crowd gave the 42-year-old Pujols a long standing ovation before he came out of the Cardinals dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

Pujols hit his 22nd home run this season for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).