After serving as the designated hitter for the past 16 games, Albert Pujols is back at first base for tonight’s game against the Royals. Pujols hasn’t started at first base since he injured his right calf while running the bases on August 22, but he’s feeling much better now.
While the Angels have played things safe with their $240 million investment over the past three weeks, the calf hasn’t had a huge impact on Pujols’ production. The 32-year-old is hitting .303/.343/.515 with two homers, eight doubles, 10 RBI and an .858 OPS in 70 plate appearances since returning to the lineup on August 26. He is batting .286/.344/.531 with 30 homers, 96 RBI and an .875 OPS on the year.
With Pujols back at first base tonight, the struggling Mark Trumbo will slide into the DH spot while Vernon Wells will start in left field. The Angels open play tonight at 78-66 on the year, 7 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the American League West and 3 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race.
An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.
As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.
While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.