José Bautista is hoping to come back as a two-way player

Associated Press
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You may know that, after a 12-year absence, baseball is returning for the Olympics this summer. As part of that there will be some Olympic qualifiers played at the end of this month in Florida. Amateurs and players who are not on teams are obviously eligible to play. Likewise, players who are on 40-man rosters of big league teams but who are not on the major league roster are permitted to take part in the qualifiers.

Today Jeff Passan of ESPN has an article up about the Dominican Republic’s team as it heads into qualifiers. Among those players who are on the 40-man but not on a big league roster who plans to take part is Wander Franco, the top prospect in the Rays’ system and, indeed, in all of baseball. Not a shock, really. He’d be a great addition to the D.R.’s Olympic team.

A bit more surprising: José Bautista, who has not played in the bigs since 2018. Only a bit more surprising, though, as he can still probably hit pretty well against the lesser competition in the Olympic games (Major League players will not be taking part).  But here’s the real surprising part:

Bautista is expected to play first base, a position he manned 30 times in more than 1,650 major league games during which he hit 344 home runs and drove in nearly 1,000 runs. He last played in the major leagues in 2018, though he spent this winter working out as a pitcher in hopes of returning as a two-way player, sources said.

That seems pretty far-fetched, but on Twitter Passan added this:

“@STR0” is Marcus Stroman.

I doubt Bautista will actually make it to a big league roster, but given that rosters now allow for 26 players, and given that there are now special rules for two-way players, it’s not the most insane thing to contemplate. I bet teams will send some scouts to see him in the qualifier to see if the bat is anywhere close to serviceable anymore and, if it is, they may call him in for a bullpen session.

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

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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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.