As Albert Pujols returns home to St. Louis for only the second time since inking a massive $240 million payday from the Angels, he does so with Dodgers across his chest. A name and team he tormented for 11 seasons as a Cardinal.
However, the now 41-year-old returns in a platoon/pinch hitting role that leaves regular playing time at a premium. Still, Dave Roberts — being the good human that he is — plans on working the future Hall of Famer into the lineup… and it’s not just for the crowd at Busch Stadium.
“He’ll play Tuesday and Thursday. And that’s to give Max [Muncy] and Corey [Seager] a day off.”
Pujols has delivered more than expected since coming to the Dodgers after being DFA’d by Anaheim. The veteran slugger has smacked 11 home runs and driven in 36 runners — including a pinch hit, 2-run homer on Sunday night — in 69 games with Los Angeles. Moreover, he’s crushed left-handed pitching, posting an OPS over .920 this season. So with the Cardinals scheduled to send lefties J.A. Happ and Kwang Hyun Kim to the mound on Tuesday and Thursday, the timing of the starts make a whole bunch of sense.
Still, even with the loss of AJ Pollock to a hamstring strain, Pujols shouldn’t expect much more than then these spot starts off lefty hurlers, something Roberts confirmed on Sunday.
Tío Albert hit career home run 678 on Sunday (5th on the all-time list), continuing his pursuit of the exclusive 700 homer club. While that number is certainly in doubt in 2021, the free-agent-to-be hasn’t mentioned any plans of retirement after the season. Despite the fact that he’ll be 42 in January of 2022, the veteran has proven that he can still get it done at the plate, even in his 21st season in the big leagues. Beyond that, he’s also proven that he brings much more to the clubhouse than veteran presence.
“He has mentored everyone,” Dave Roberts said on Sunday. “And that’s myself, coaches, players — veterans, young players — and everyone’s gravitated towards him. … In a short period of time, what he’s done for the Dodgers organization will sustain itself for quite some time.”
The Dodgers send another future Hall of Famer to the mound tonight in St. Louis in Max Scherzer. The right-hander has gone 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 6 starts with Los Angeles. However, he’s coming off a hamstring issue that made him exit his last start despite throwing just 76 pitches over 6 innings.