Video: Manny Machado is already in regular season form

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A lot of spring training focus, especially early, is spent on hitters as the return of baseball means the return of dingers. And, no doubt, they’re fun to watch. I watched Mike Trout‘s first spring round-tripper on Monday at least 10 times.

But we’re in a pretty special era of baseball now as there are some prolific defenders. Trout, of course, is one of them with his penchant for robbing home runs. New Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons is on track for an historic defensive career with at least 25 runs above average in each of the last three seasons according to Baseball Reference. Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier had one of the best defensive seasons ever at any position.

Then there’s Manny Machado who, by virtue of his position, sometimes brings back memories of umpteen-time Gold Glove Award winner and former Oriole Brooks Robinson. Machado is big, listed at 6’3″, 185 pounds. He’s deceptively agile at the hot corner with a strong and accurate arm. Some third basemen have comparable range to Machado but lack the arm strength to capitalize on it, which is what makes the 23-year-old so good.

That was all on display Tuesday afternoon as the Orioles took on the Red Sox in Grapefruit League action. In the top of the fifth inning, Chris Young hit a sharp grounder down the third base line. Machado adroitly snagged the ball and whipped, seemingly effortlessly, the ball across the diamond to first base for the second out of the inning. He makes it look so easy. The live camera angle doesn’t do him much justice, but the replay certainly shows how difficult a play it was.

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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).