Albert Pujols plays field, declares himself ready for opener

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Albert Pujols played first base Tuesday for the first time in this year’s Cactus League and reported no issues with his surgically-repaired right knee.

Pujols got pulled after five innings and was never really tested on defense, but the slugger told USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale after his day was through that he is feeling good and fully expects to be in the Angels’ lineup for the regular-season opener on April 1 against the Reds. It’s at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati — where Pujols was a .316/.404/.598 career hitter during his time with the Cardinals.

Pujols was 0-for-2 at the plate in Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to the Brewers, but he still boasts a .313 batting average in eight spring games. He posted the worst OPS (.859) and OPS+ (141) of his career in 2012 with Anaheim.

The Angels still owe the 33-year-old first baseman a whopping $228 million.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

Minnesota Twis v Kansas City Royals
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.