Padres will grant Brandon Maurer’s wish to be a starter again

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Brandon Maurer thrived in San Diego’s bullpen last season after previously struggling as a starter in Seattle, but now the Padres are moving him back to the rotation.

General manager A.J. Preller told Corey Brock of MLB.com that Maurer prefers to start and “you put a lot of stock in that.” And if things go poorly again as a starter “we know that he can pitch coming out of the bullpen.”

For his three-season career Maurer has a 6.62 ERA in 21 starts and a 3.40 ERA in 92 relief appearances, but he’s also just 25 years old and as new Padres manager Andy Green pointed out to Brock: “You look at his minor league track record, his dominance in Jackson in Double-A, he was a tremendous starter there.”

San Diego has already traded closer Craig Kimbrel and his primary setup man Joaquin Benoit, so moving Maurer to the rotation would complete a total bullpen overhaul.

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).