Joe Maddon concerned about the work, and lack of work, for two of his players in the WBC

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Marc Topkin reports that Joe Maddon is concerned about two Rays players currently in the WBC. One because he’s working too much, the other because he’s not working enough.

Closer Fernando Rodney has pitched in all six games, closing five, over 10 days for the Dominican Republic. On the other hand, catcher Jose Molina has had only three plate appearances for Puerto Rico backing up his little brother Yadier.

Not sure that Molina’s lack of playing time should be such a concern. Wear and tear on a catcher over the course of a season can be considerable, even when that catcher is one of the seemingly indestructible Molina brothers. And while I suppose rust at the plate is a concern, it’s not like Molina hasn’t spent most of his career as a backup catcher anyway, for whom at bats have always been few and far between. And let’s be honest: what’s the inactivity gonna do? Sap his status as an offensive juggernaut? The guy is a career .238/.286/.355 hitter. Can it really get much worse?

As for Rodney: those six games are on top of three spring training games he tossed for the Rays before the WBC began. Scanning around the league, closers who are not in the WBC have typically pitched in four games so far, though some have pitched in as many as seven.  They’re different kind of innings — stressful vs. stress free, basically — but it’s not like Rodney is on another planet. And it’s not as if Rodney has had any games in which he’s labored or thrown a ton of pitches.

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 701st home run, connecting Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pujols launched a slider from former teammate Johan Oviedo over the Big Mac Land sign in left field at Busch Stadium. The solo drive in the fourth inning made it 1-all.

Pujols faced Oviedo for the first time and made the 24-year-old righty the 456th different pitcher he’s homered against.

The St. Louis star hadn’t homered in a week since hitting No. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium last Friday. Pujols had gone 10 at-bats without a home run after two starts and one pinch-hit appearance.

The Busch Stadium crowd gave the 42-year-old Pujols a long standing ovation before he came out of the Cardinals dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

Pujols hit his 22nd home run this season for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).