LEADING OFF: Pujols in St Louis, Judge back, Keuchel debut

Sports
Albert Pujols

Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols watches his two-run home run off Tampa Bay Rays’ Ryan Yarbrough during the fifth inning of a baseball game Thursday, June 13, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

A look at what’s happening around the majors today:

BACK WHERE IT BEGAN

Albert Pujols returns for his first game in St. Louis since leaving the Cardinals to sign a $240 million contract with the Angels before the 2012 season. The slugger won three NL MVP awards and made nine All-Star teams with the Cardinals, leading them to World Series championships in 2006 and 2011. Pujols, sixth on the career list with 645 home runs, batted .328 with 455 doubles, 445 homers and 1,329 RBIs in 1,705 games for St. Louis. He is scheduled to meet the media at Busch Stadium before the opener of an interleague series.

JUDGE-MENT DAY

Aaron Judge is all set to swing back into action for the first-place New York Yankees. The slugger is expected to be reinstated from the injured list to play against Houston, his first game since straining his left oblique April 20. “I’m not going to try to baby it or go at 80%. We’re in the major leagues,” Judge said Thursday at Yankee Stadium. “We’re ready to go. That’s not something I’m worried about happening again.” Judge wrapped up a five-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, going 2 for 16 with a homer.

BRAVE NEW WORLD

Dallas Keuchel makes his season debut in his initial start for first-place Atlanta at Washington. After a long wait in free agency, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner signed a one-year deal this month that pays him $13 million. The two-time All-Star went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 34 starts last season for Houston. Stephen Strasburg (7-4, 3.75 ERA) takes the ball for the Nationals, who are coming off a three-game sweep of Philadelphia in a rain-shortened series. They’ve used a 17-7 surge to get within two games of .500 (36-38) for the first time since April 28.

NORTHERN EXPOSURE?

Starved for fans despite success on the field, the Tampa Bay Rays have been given the go-ahead by Major League Baseball to look into playing a split season in Montreal. No timetable for the possible plan was announced. An idea under consideration is for the Rays to play early in the season in Tampa Bay and finish up in Montreal, home of the Expos from 1969-2004 before they moved to Washington and became the Nationals.

“My priority remains the same, I am committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come,” Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg said in a statement. “I believe this concept is worthy of serious exploration.”

Forget it, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said. Tropicana Field is located in his city.

“I want to be crystal clear. The Rays cannot explore playing any Major League Baseball games in Montreal, or anywhere else for that matter, prior to 2028 without reaching a formal memorandum of understanding with the city of St. Petersburg,” he said. “And ultimately such a decision is up to me, and I have no intention of bringing this idea to our city council to consider. In fact, I believe this is getting a bit silly.”

ENCORE! ENCORE!

Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer (5-6) ended the longest winless drought of his career with his first major league shutout Sunday in Detroit. Now he gets to face the Tigers again. After a 5-2 road trip, Cleveland is home for the opener of a weekend series. Bauer is back on the mound five days after his four-hitter with eight strikeouts and no walks against the Tigers. He was 0-5 over his previous eight outings before Cleveland won 8-0 in his 166th career start since his big league debut in 2012.

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