Luke Gregerson thinks he should still be the Astros’ closer

AP Photo/Richard Carson

Luke Gregerson was solid in his first year as a full-time closer, saving 31 games in 36 chances with a 3.10 ERA and a 59/10 K/BB ratio in 61 innings for the Astros last season. But this offseason, the Astros acquired the hard-throwing Ken Giles from the Phillies and Gregerson showed up to camp with a sore left oblique, as Evan Drellich reported for the Houston Chronicle. Still, Gregerson doesn’t see any reason why his grip on the closer’s role should be any weaker, per’s Brian McTaggart:

“I don’t see any reason why I should lose my job because of it,” he said. “I was pretty happy with how things went last year. I think it could have went even better, just a few outings here and there [were rough]. We’ll just move forward and see where it takes us.”

The Astros haven’t officially named a closer yet. The expectation is that Giles will be named a closer, but there is some incentive for the Astros to keep Giles in the eighth inning. The club is already locked into paying Gregerson $6.25 million this season as well as next season. Giles can become eligible for arbitration after the 2017 season. If he spends the next two seasons succeeding in the closer’s role and racking up saves, he’ll become quite expensive for the Astros. He’ll be much less expensive if he sets up for Gregerson in 2016 and/or ’17 because a lot of arbitration arguments, for better or for worse, hinge on save totals.

Perhaps this argument is something that can be quelled with the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams have an incentive to keep the best guy out of the spotlight, and that’s bad for the game.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.