Get this: Albert Pujols is starting at third base tonight

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Here’s a good way to tell that Tony La Russa is back in the saddle: following a bad weekend, the Tinker-a-tron has been set to “ludicrous” and Albert Pujols is starting at third base.

Now, of course Pujols came up as a third baseman for the Cardinals — and he did get one sub-in there late in a game against the Braves a couple of weeks ago — but he hasn’t actually started a game at third base since 2002.  He has, however, been taking infield practice at third a lot recently, so the move is not a total shocker, even if it is still as unorthodox as all get-out.

As for the rest of the lineup weirdness, Derrick Goold reports that Nick Punto will be at 2B, Lance Berkman will be at first and that Allen Craig is in right field.

No word on whether this was inspired by Tony La Russa’s fantasy baseball needs.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.