David Brandt
Sports Reporter based in Phoenix
davidbrandtAPdbrandt@ap.org

Pujols gets spring hit for Cards with wife in brain surgery

March 30, 2022 GMT
St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols stands for the national anthem before a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols stands for the national anthem before a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols stands for the national anthem before a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols stands for the national anthem before a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols stands for the national anthem before a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

PHOENIX (AP) — Albert Pujols got a good hit and then some good news about his wife’s health.

Minutes after the 42-year-old smacked the first single of his second act with the St. Louis Cardinals, he received a text message saying Deidre Pujols’ brain surgery was a success.

Deidre Pujols posted on social media late Tuesday that she was preparing for surgery to remove a brain tumor discovered in October. Her husband signed with St. Louis earlier this week and arrived in camp on Monday knowing Deidre was prepping for what doctors told them was relatively routine operation.

“But any time you open your scalp and your head, you are always concerned about it,” he said. “You trust the doctor that they have that wisdom and that gift. As much as we take swings in the cage, they do surgery.”

Noting that Deidre’s mom and family were there to support her, Pujols doesn’t plan to leave camp early and return to California to be with his wife. He may head to see her during the days off between the end of camp and the start of the season.

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The Cardinals and Pujols agreed to a $2.5 million, one-year contract, giving him a chance to end his career in the place where it started. After a decade in Los Angeles, he returns to St. Louis with 679 career home runs.

Pujols hit .236 with 17 homers last season while splitting time with the Angels and Dodgers. But the right-handed hitter turned back the clock against left-handers in 2021, finishing with a .294 mark and 13 homers in just 136 at-bats.

GREENE MAKES REDS’ ROSTER

Hunter Greene has cracked the Cincinnati Reds’ season-opening rotation.

The second overall pick from the 2017 draft reached 104 mph with his fastball in Triple-A last season and could be one of the most exciting rookies in baseball this year. The right-hander will pitch behind opening-day starter Tyler Mahle during a weekend series against the World Series champion Atlanta Braves.

Greene missed the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery but looked to be at full strength last year, when he was 10-8 with a 3.30 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 106 1/3 innings between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville.

CEASE IN COMMAND FOR WHITE SOX

Chicago White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease pitched four scoreless innings against a Texas Rangers lineup that included sluggers Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. He allowed two hits, struck out three and walked one.

“I think that’s pretty game-like. Definitely the curveball for a strike is a big emphasis,” Cease said. “I think when I mix like that and I keep it in the strike zone, it’s hard to hit.”

Coming off a breakthrough season, the 26-year-old Cease is brimming with confidence in himself and his team. He went 13-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts last year, helping Chicago win the AL Central title.

FORMER MLB PLAYERS ON HR DERBY TOUR

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Former MLB players Jonny Gomes, Adrián González, Geovany Soto and Nick Swisher are going on a home run derby tour to London; Seoul, South Korea; and Mexico City.

MLB said Wednesday the four will participate in Home Run Derby X at London’s Crystal Palace Park on July 9, in Seoul on Sept. 17 and in Mexico City on Oct. 15. Venues for Seoul and Mexico City will be announced later.

The four former stars will be on four teams that include players from women’s baseball and softball, development systems and content creators. MLB said the competition will take place on a “reduced version of a baseball field” with home plate mounted on a stage and the pitcher’s mound on a podium.

BALKOVEC FEELING BETTER

Rachel Balkovec, hired by the New York Yankees as the first woman to manage a minor league affiliate of a Major League Baseball team, is nearing a return after being hit in the face by a batted ball during a drill last week.

Balkovec was struck on March 22, causing her to miss her first scheduled spring training game two days later with Class A Tampa.

“I saw her last night; she’s starting to feel better,” Kevin Reese, Yankees vice president of player development, said. “I think she’s getting close to being back on the field.”

The 34-year-old Balkovec didn’t suffer a concussion but had facial swelling that included the area around an eye. She was involved in a hitting drill in an indoor cage at the minor league complex when she was hurt.

Reese did not think the injury would prevent Balkovec from managing her first regular-season game on April 8 at Lakeland.

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AP Baseball Writer Jay Cohen and AP freelancer Chuck King contributed to this story.

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