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Baseball Daily Dose

Cards Add Pujols Back to the Deck

by Ryan Boyer
Updated On: March 29, 2022, 10:06 am ET

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Between Yadier Molina saying he’ll retire after this year and Adam Wainwright expected to join him, the Cardinals’ 2022 season was already shaping up to be something of a farewell tour.

On Monday, the team added another member to the band.

Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and the Cardinals have reunited on a one-year, $2.5 million contract for what the 42-year-old confirmed will be his “last run.”

Pujols, of course, was drafted by the Cardinals and reached superstardom in St. Louis. He went on an 11-year run which will go as one of the most dominant in major league history.

During that stretch, Pujols batted .328/.421/.617 with 445 home runs. He won the Rookie of the Year award, went to 10 All-Star Games and won three National League MVPs. The Cards won two World Series (in 2006 and 2011) while being led by Pujols.

Of course, things didn’t go nearly as well for Pujols with the Angels. His first year there in 2012 was the only one when he had at least a .800 OPS, and over the last five seasons he’s batted just .241/.290/.410. He was abruptly released by the Angels in early May of 2021, finishing up the year with the Dodgers.

The Cardinals plan to use Pujols as a designated hitter and bat off the bench. Most likely, the lion’s share of his playing time will come against left-handers, with Corey Dickerson serving as the left-handed hitting complement against righties. Pujols did fare well versus southpaws in 2021, batting .294/.336/.603 with 13 of his 17 home runs.

In terms of fantasy impact, Pujols almost surely won’t have one, at least not directly. His presence would seem to lessen the chances of one of the team’s younger bats like Juan Yepez and/or Nolan Gorman seeing ample time in the DH spot.

Longoria to have Finger Surgery

With just barely more than a week to go prior to Opening Day, the Giants have lost one of their key bats.

Evan Longoria will undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair a ligament in his right index finger. It’s an injury he originally suffered on a hit by pitch late last season, and it’s kept him out of action this spring after it flared up on him again.

It’s not known at this point how long Longoria might be sidelined, as the club is expected to know more about a timetable after the operation is performed. However, at minimum, the finger is expected to be immobilized for at least 10 days.

Manager Gabe Kapler loves his platoons, but the Giants’ lineup does lean a little left-handed heavy right now. They were counting on Longo again being one of their mashers against left-handed in 2022. He posted a robust 1.088 OPS versus southpaws with six home runs in 82 plate appearances in 2021.

Jason Vosler is the team’s only left-handed hitting option at third base, which might make him the favorite to fill in at the hot corner against righties. The Giants have Wilmer Flores, Thairo Estrada, Mauricio Dubon and Alex Blandino as options from the right side. Flores, though, is already pegged to start at second base versus lefties.

It’s a group of less-than-inspiring candidates for Kapler, who no doubt is hoping for good news on Longoria post-op.

Vaughn Dodges Major Injury

When Andrew Vaughn had to be carted off the field with a hip injury Sunday, White Sox manager Tony La Russa admitted that he “feared the worst.” Instead, what the skipper got was about as favorable an outcome as he could’ve hoped for.

Vaughn has been diagnosed with a right hip pointer, which, in layman’s terms, is a bruised pelvis. The team anticipates him being ready to return to game action in 1-2 weeks, although that timetable could very well change depending on how Vaughn progresses.

“Real good. Feared the worst,” La Russa said. “The first report was there was nothing fractured and then the CT and this morning MRI, said hip pointer, sore. Very good news. It was scary.”

Vaughn was a relative disappointment in his rookie season, posting a .705 OPS with 15 home runs over 127 games. The batted ball data was more promising, though, with an exit velocity in the 82 percentile and max exit velocity in the 94th percentile. Most expect the former No. 3 overall pick to take a step forward in 2022, and he was off to a 7-for-15 start with one home run this spring.

It sounds like Vaughn’s season debut won’t be delayed too long, but the White Sox will need to find another right fielder while he’s on the shelf. La Russa has downplayed the need for the club to look outside the organization for help, so it would appear they’ll fill the void internally.

Gavin Sheets is projected to start in the designated hitter spot against righties but made his first start of the spring in right field on Monday. He and Leury Garcia (a switch-hitter) give the White Sox options from the left side, while Adam Engel and Micker Adolfo represent options from the right side.

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American League Quick Hits: The Twins have signed Chris Archer to a one-year, $3.5 million contract with a $10 million mutual option for 2023. … The Guardians and Jose Ramirez’s representatives "have been talking on and off for the last couple of weeks" about a potential contract extension, per Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. … The initial recommendation for the Rays is that they shut down Pete Fairbanks (lat) for six weeks. … Andrew Benintendi swatted a pair of home runs Monday during Cactus League play versus the Guardians. … Cristian Javier will begin the season in the Astros’ bullpen … Lucas Gioito struck out five across 3 2/3 scoreless frames against the Padres on Monday. … Noah Syndergaard permitted just one unearned run over 3 2/3 innings Monday in his Cactus League debut against the Athletics. … Framber Valdez spun three hitless innings Monday against the Cardinals. … Brent Honeywell Jr. has been shut down from throwing indefinitely after tests revealed an olecranon stress reaction in his right elbow.

National League Quick Hits: Both Luis Castillo (shoulder) and Mike Minor (shoulder) are slated to begin the season on the injured list. … Luis Urias (quad) will begin the season on the injured list. … Clayton Kershaw fanned three across four shutout innings Monday versus the Diamondbacks. … Corbin Burnes tallied eight strikeouts over five innings of one-run ball Monday against the Giants. … The Pirates are planning to share the closer duties between David Bednar and Chris Stratton this season. … The Giants have named Logan Webb their Opening Day starter. … Ozzie Albies homered and doubled Monday versus the Blue Jays. … Nick Castellanos homered and doubled Monday in Grapefruit League play against the Orioles. … LaMonte Wade Jr. hurt his left knee during Monday’s game, but initial testing seemed favorable. … Tommy La Stella (Achilles) is slated to make his Cactus League debut Tuesday.