Manfred: MLB likely to have an exhibition game in Cuba in 2016

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It was reported last month that the Red Sox and Orioles were interested in playing exhibition games in Cuba this spring. That’s not going to happen at this point, but in an interview with Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred expressed optimism that there will be a spring training game in Cuba in 2016.

With the two countries looking to normalize relations, Manfred said he’s encouraged by the feedback he has received from U.S. government officials.

“To the extent that we can play a role in helping the United States government effectuate a change in policy, that we’re following their lead and we’re acting in a way that’s consistent with what they want us to do, that’s an honor for us,” Manfred said.

No MLB team has played in Cuba since the Orioles played against the Cuban national team on March 28, 1999.

As Manfred says in the interview, it makes all sorts of sense for MLB to try to have an expanded presence in Cuba, as some of the game’s top talents have come from there in recent years. It’s worth noting that many of those players had to put their lives in the hands of smugglers in order to get into the United States. Hopefully those days are over for good. Manfred believes there will be an effort to “regularize the flow of baseball talent,” though he isn’t quite sure how the process will work yet.

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

albert pujols
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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).