Scouts “stunned by Phil Hughes’ lack of velocity this spring”

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This morning my Twitter feed has been full of talk about Phil Hughes’ declining velocity, starting with a couple reports quoting scouts.

First, here’s Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com:

Scouts following Yankees have been stunned by Phil Hughes’ lack of velocity this spring 87-89 mph, with more 87s than 89s.

And now here’s Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

I can give amens to DKnobler’s scout take about Hughes’ velocity being down. Yankees say was down last yr, too, and came up in Apr. But one scout said had Hughes at 90-94mph this time last yr and it is 87-89 now with heavy reliance on cutter.

What’s especially interesting is that Ben Shpigel of the New York Times wrote an article Wednesday about how Hughes had “unveiled” an altered grip on his slider that made the pitch more like a cutter and was very pleased with the pitch after it accounted for six of his seven strikeouts against the Blue Jays. In talking about the pitch Hughes explained that “it’s just something to get them off my fastball.”

Of course, that takes on a slightly different tone when accompanied by reports of his fastball being in the high-80s. Hughes’ average fastball clocked in at 92.6 miles per hour last season, which was down from 93.8 mph in 2009 but still well above the MLB average. If he’s indeed relying far more on a cutter his overall velocity readings are going to be down, but assuming scouts are isolating his fastball when they pass along readings in the high-80s there’s certainly some reason for concern.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.