Albert Pujols is open to transitioning into coaching. Eventually. Just not yet.
The retired slugger popped into the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring-training camp Thursday to visit with former teammates and while he believes coaching or some other role within Major League Baseball will happen, he’s not eager to give a timetable.
“Listen 23 years and 24 years, following a schedule from February all the way to October is tough,” said Pujols, who retired in October after 22 years split mostly between the Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels. “Now I have the freedom to have my own schedule. That’s something that I’m grateful about.”
Pujols spent a week as a special assistant with the Angels in Arizona shortly after camp opened but the dalliance was just that. He’s embracing retired life after a career that ended with 703 home runs, fourth on the career list.
The almost certain future Hall-of-Famer likely wouldn’t have to look to hard to find work whenever the time comes. Yet he’s in no hurry. There’s too much golf to play, to many members of his family to visit for now. He even made an appearance in the NBA Celebrity game as part of the league’s All-Star weekend last month.
Pujols stressed he wasn’t going to put a “stamp” on when the right time will be to return to the game in a larger capacity.
“If it happens next year it’s great,” he said. “Knowing myself I think I’ll let that moment come and I’ll revisit if it’s something I think that works, I’ll do it for sure.”
• Harper hopeful — Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper thinks he could be ready as soon as the All-Star break as he recovers from offseason Tommy John surgery.
The two-time National League MVP said Thursday the team has solidified mid-July as the potential target date for Harper to return.
Harper spent most of last season as Philadelphia’s designated hitter after initially injuring his right elbow in April. He underwent surgery in November, not long after helping the Phillies to the World Series for the first time since 2009.
The 30-year-old Harper intends to serve as a designated hitter whenever he gets back in the lineup. Returning to right field could take considerably longer.
“Of course, I want to play the outfield,” Harper said “I want to get back out there and be in front of the fans in right field doing my stuff and hearing it from all the teams (fans) in the league, too.”
• Setback for Rodón — The New York Yankees will have to wait a bit for their investment in Carlos Rodón to pay off.
General manager Brian Cashman said the veteran left-handed pitcher will begin the season on the injured list due to a left forearm strain. Rodón won’t throw for 7-10 days, squashing any chance he’ll will be ready by opening day.
The Yankees signed Rodón to a $162 million, six-year contract during the offseason after Rodón put together back-to-back All-Star seasons, first with the Chicago White Sox in 2021 and then with the San Francisco Giants last summer.
• Greene gets Opening Day nod for Reds — Hunter Greene will be the Opening Day starter for the Cincinnati Reds.
The 23-year-old is getting the nod as he begins his second season in the majors.
“It means the world. It’s a huge honor considering the history in Cincinnati,” said Greene who went 5-13 in 24 starts during his rookie season. “It is a huge honor with the talent we have, Nick, Graham, Cessa [Luis]. Knowing the history and the potential we have to bring the team back [after 100 losses]. It’s a baseball city. We want to win as much as the fans do to bring that atmosphere back to the city.”
Greene threw 7⅓ no-hit innings against Pittsburgh in May and lost, and he was leading the National League in home runs allowed before missing 43 games with a right shoulder strain.
• Wacha, Hader prepping for Padres — San Diego starter Michael Wacha pitched three innings against Cleveland, giving up two unearned runs. Wacha, who didn’t sign with San Diego until last month, wasn’t worried about needing time to get up to speed.
“This is my 10th spring training, I’ve kind of gotten it figured out,” Wacha said after his outing. “Obviously over the years there have been some tweaks here and there, but even [before signing] I was continuing to do that.”
He gave up three hits and struck out two, and the runs were unearned.
Wacha, 31, was 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 23 starts for Boston last season.
Reliever Josh Hader followed Wacha to the mound. The hard-throwing lefty closer begins his first full season in San Diego after being acquired from Milwaukee.
Throwing several sliders in his second outing, Hader gave up two hits and a walk but no runs. He threw one wild pitch and struck out one.
“That was one of my goals, trying to get a lot of reps with that slider,” Hader said.
He said he threw more fastballs in his first outing, so he emphasized his slider this time. “Try to get them for strikes and see the reactions of the hitters, and seeing if I want to work on it more.
“Overall there was more good than bad.”
• Hill impressive as 43 looms — There appears to be plenty of life left in Rich Hill’s left arm on the eve of his 43rd birthday.
The 17-year veteran allowed one run and two hits for Pittsburgh on Thursday in a 10-7 loss to Detroit. Hill, who turns 43 on Saturday, mixed speeds and arm angles to keep the Tigers off balance.
Hill’s fastball topped out at 89 mph. His array of breaking balls dipped as low as 68 mph. He caught Detroit’s Justyn-Henry Malloy on three pitches in the second and followed it up by fanning Kerry Carpenter on a slider that hit just 68.8 mph on the radar gun.
The Pirates signed Hill to an $8 million. one-year deal, hoping he will provide both a boost on the mound and in the clubhouse for a team littered with young players, particularly in the starting rotation.
• Soto on his way back — Phillies reliever Gregory Soto threw 24 pitches over one inning during a simulated game one day after reporting for spring training. Soto’s arrival from the Dominican Republic was delayed due to visa problems.
The two-time All-Star was obtained from the Detroit Tigers as part of a five-player deal in January.
“I knew I was getting to a new team, and I wanted to get familiar with the new personnel, new teammates,” Soto said through an interpreter.
“So, the longer I was in the DR the less time was going to have here.”
Soto was able to work out at the Phillies’ academy in the Dominican Republic, which is about an hour away from his home.
The visa delay prevented Soto from pitching in this month’s World Baseball Classic.
“Right now it hurts a little,” Soto said. “But I know this is my priority.”
• Boone goes yard — Aaron Boone’s still got it.
The New York Yankees skipper celebrated his 50th birthday by taking a little batting practice, a round that included a shot over the left-field fence at George M Steinbrenner Field.
Boone, who hit 126 homers during a a 12-year major-league career and famously ended the 2003 AL Championship Series with a walk-off homer against Boston’s Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning in Game 7, dropped his bat after the ball left his bat while slugger Giancarlo Stanton roared his approval just outside the batting cage.
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