Verlander, Pujols voted Comeback Players of the Year

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols won baseball’s Comeback Player of the Year awards Tuesday night.

Verlander, the American League recipient, returned from Tommy John surgery to lead Houston to its second World Series championship. He had the lowest ERA in the majors and was a unanimous winner of his third Cy Young Award – becoming the first player to earn the prize after not pitching in the previous season.

Pujols, honored in the National League, came back to St. Louis for his farewell season and posted his biggest numbers in years at age 42. The three-time MVP compiled an .895 OPS for the NL Central champions and became the fourth major leaguer to reach 700 career home runs.

The winners were chosen in voting by the 30 team beat reporters at MLB.com.

Verlander went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 28 starts and made his ninth All-Star team. He won Game 5 in Philadelphia for the first World Series win of his illustrious career, then became a free agent this month.

The 39-year-old right-hander made only one start in 2020 because of his elbow injury and missed the entire 2021 season while recovering from surgery.

Pujols batted .270 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs in 109 games for the Cardinals after getting released by the Los Angeles Angels in May 2021 and finishing last year with the Dodgers.

His OPS was his highest since his last season with the Cardinals in 2011 (.906) before joining the Angels, and his home runs were his most since hitting 31 in 2016 for the Angels.

The 11-time All-Star hit 18 home runs in the second half and retired after the Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs by Philadelphia in the wild-card round.

He finished his career fourth in major league annals in home runs (703), second in RBIs (2,218) and total bases (6,211), and ninth in hits (3,384).

Mariners add depth acquiring IF/OF Nick Solak from Reds

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – The Mariners acquired infielder/outfielder Nick Solak from the Cincinnati Reds on Friday for cash.

Solak was designated for assignment by the Reds on Thursday. Seattle had an open spot on its 40-man roster and assigned Solak to Triple-A Tacoma.

Before this season, the 28-year-old Solak spent his entire big league career with Texas. He appeared in 253 games over parts of the past four seasons with the Rangers. Solak’s most productive season came in 2021 when he appeared in 127 games and hit .242 with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs. Solak spent almost all of that season at second base but also played left field, center field and third base in his time with the Rangers.

Solak was a second-round pick by the New York Yankees in the 2016 amateur draft. His acquisition is likely a depth move for Seattle to stash a player with experience in the majors at Triple-A in case injuries arise.