Report: D-Backs’ Mike Leake opts out of the 2020 season

Leake opts out 2020 season
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MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports that Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake opts out of the 2020 season. He is, at the present moment, the only MLB player to have opted out of the season, but it is highly unlikely he will be the only one.

Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Leake’s agent Dan Horwits said, “During this global pandemic, Mike and his family had many discussions about playing this season. They took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family. After thorough consideration, he has chosen to opt out of playing in 2020. This was not an easy decision for Mike. He wishes the best of luck and health for his Diamondback teammates this season and he’s looking forward to 2021.”

Leake, 32, is in the final guaranteed year of his contract. Both sides can agree on a mutual option worth $18 million for the 2021 season, otherwise Leake will be bought out for $5 million. In 2019, between the Mariners and D-Backs, the right-hander posted a 4.29 ERA with 127 strikeouts and 27 walks across 197 innings of work.

Leake’s absence will likely mean that Alex Young and Merrill Kelly will duke it out for the fifth spot in the D-Backs’ rotation.

On Friday, Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman wrote for the Associated Press that he was “still deciding whether to play” this season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Unless the player opting out is considered “high risk,” he will forfeit both pay and service time in doing so.

Last year, Nationals reliever Daniel Hudson received criticism when he left his team during the NLCS for the birth of his child. If players receive blowback for that, there will no doubt be critics of players who choose to sit out the season because of COVID-19. It will be completely undeserved, just as Hudson’s criticism was undeserved. Players should receive full support from their teams, from their peers, from the media, and from fans for sitting out the season for any reason.

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Update (3:14 PM ET): Nationals pitcher Joe Ross is also expected to opt out, per The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli.

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.