Albert Pujols has a bum hamstring

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Last night we saw Albert Pujols walk off the field a tad gimpy after running out a grounder and subsequently leave the game early. Now we know what we had previously only suspected: he has a hamstring strain.

It’s being termed “mild,” so that’s good, but either way the Cardinals would be wise to let him sit for the upcoming series against the Astros. Sure, he’s essential, but unlike in past years, Tony La Russa has a plausible if only temporary replacement for Pujols at first base in Lance Berkman.

It looks like it will be a long and tough fight in the NL Central this year. Better to have the big guy healthy later even if it means resting him up now.

Nathan Eovaldi to make 2018 debut for Rays soon

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Rays manager Kevin Cash said that pitcher Nathan Eovaldi will join the starting rotation on Monday or Tuesday to face the Athletics, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Eovaldi’s rehab outing with Triple-A Durham went well, even though he gave up eight runs in four innings.

Eovaldi, 28, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He had arthroscopic surgery in March to remove loose bodies in his elbow. It’s been a long road back. Knowing Eovaldi needed to recover from surgery, the Rays signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract in 2017 that included a $2 million club option for 2018 that they exercised last November.

When Eovaldi last pitched, he ranked among baseball’s hardest throwers, particularly among starters. He averaged 97.1 MPH on his fastball in 2016. Among starters who racked up at least 100 innings that season, only the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard had a higher average velocity (97.9 MPH). It remains to be seen if he still has that velocity after undergoing two procedures on his elbow.

The Rays will be glad to have Eovaldi back. The club has sustained injuries to Jake Faria, Yonny Chirinos, and Jose De Leon.