David Freese and Nick Punto leaving yesterday afternoon’s game with injuries put the Cardinals in a tough spot and led to Albert Pujols playing third base for the first time since 2002.
He moved from first base to third base for the final 1.1 innings of a 6-5 loss to the Braves and handled his lone chance with ease, throwing out Chipper Jones on a ground ball.
Tony La Russa told Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he approached Pujols and simply asked, “Are you ready to play third?”
However, while seeing Pujols back at the hot corner was interesting it doesn’t sound like it’ll be anything more than an emergency option even with Freese out for a month with a broken hand. In between Pujols’ previous appearance at third base in 2002 and his brief action there yesterday the Cardinals used a total of 29 different third basemen.
Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.
Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.
Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.