Drew Smyly and the Rays had an arbitration hearing on Wednesday

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Drew Smyly requested $3.75 million and was offered $3.2 million from the Rays’ front office when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That is a relatively small gap, but sometimes those small gaps are the hardest to close because neither side sees reason to budge.

Which is how we got to our first salary arbitration hearing of 2016 …

The two sides presented their cases in Phoenix, Arizona to arbitrators Elizabeth Neumeier, Andrew Strongin, and Phillip LaPorte. Teams like to avoid having to make those presentations because they can get personal and hurt feelings. That’s the nature of this system — an organization must argue why it doesn’t think one of its players deserves as much money as that player desires.

Smyly missed a large chunk of the 2015 season with a labrum tear in his left shoulder, but he posted a cool 3.11 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 77 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings (12 starts) when healthy. The 26-year-old left-hander boasts a 2.52 ERA in 114 1/3 innings since being traded from Detroit to Tampa Bay in mid-2014.

Smyly was eligible for arbitration for the second time as a Super Two.

He is under contractual control with the Rays through 2018.

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).