Dan Johnson returns to the Rays as a knuckleball pitcher

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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1B/DH Dan Johnson hasn’t been seen in the majors much lately — he has just 105 plate appearances over the last four seasons — but he is still remembered for his penchant for timely hitting. Johnson delivered a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of Game 162 of the 2011 season, which helped the Rays get into the playoffs.

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Johnson also delivered a game-tying, ninth-inning home run for the Rays back in 2008 against the Red Sox.

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Johnson is back with the Rays, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported on Saturday, but not as a hitter. As a knuckleball pitcher. The veteran inked a minor league deal with the Rays and will work with pitching coordinator Charlie Haeger.

“It’s not the first time I’ve tried this out but this is the first time I feel like I can take it seriously,” he said. “This is the time. I’m 36 and ready to go on this.”

R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays and Steven Wright of the Red Sox are the only major league knuckleballers at the moment. If he gets the chance to get back to the big leagues, Johnson would be joining a small group of pitchers.

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).