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Milwaukee Brewers sign former All-Star Dee Strange-Gordon to minor league contract

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MILWAUKEE — Former All-Star Dee Strange-Gordon has signed a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers and has been assigned to the alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Strange-Gordon, who turns 33 on Thursday, had gone to spring training with the Cincinnati Reds with a minor league contract and was released on March 26 after hitting .281 with no homers and four RBIs in 32 at-bats over 10 games.

He had been working out at shortstop with the Reds. Strange-Gordon has primarily played second base and also has experience in the outfield.

The Brewers wanted to address some depth concerns in the infield after trading Orlando Arcia to the Atlanta Braves this month and losing Tim Lopes and Mark Mathias to injuries in spring training. Lopes and Mathias are both on the 60-day injured list.

Starting second baseman Kolten Wong is on the 10-day injured list, though he’s expected to be activated later this week

Strange-Gordon batted .200 with no homers, three RBIs and three steals in 33 games for the Seattle Mariners last season. He led the NL in batting average, hits and stolen bases in 2015 with the Miami Marlins. He also led the NL in steals in 2014 and 2017.

He made the NL All-Star team with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014 and with Miami in 2015. He has a .286 career batting average with a .319 on-base percentage and 333 steals.

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Albert Pujols officially released by Los Angeles Angels, becomes free agent

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Albert Pujols was released by the Los Angeles Angels after clearing waivers on Thursday, one week after the 41-year-old star slugger was designated for assignment.

Pujols became a free agent and can sign with any team. The Angels remain responsible for his $30 million salary in the final season of a $240 million, 10-year contract. A team signing the first baseman and designated hitter would pay only a prorated share of the $570,500 major league minimum, which would be offset against what the Angels owe him.

Pujols is hitting .198 with a .622 OPS this season with five homers and 12 RBIs in 92 plate appearances.

He is fifth in major league history with 667 homers and 13th with 3,253 hits. A three-time National League MVP and two-time World Series champion with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols has a .298 career average and .921 OPS. He is a 10-time All-Star and had been the oldest active player in the major leagues.

Pujols was in a 7-for-43 slump at the time he was cut.

He batted .328 with a 1.037 OPS in St. Louis, but hit .256 with a .758 OPS in Anaheim along with 222 homers.

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Touted Seattle Mariners prospects Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert making MLB debut

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SEATTLE — Jerry Dipoto couldn’t help but chuckle when Jarred Kelenic went deep in his first at-bat at the Triple-A level.

It was yet more evidence Kelenic was ready for the big leagues.

“I laughed out loud when he had a homer in his first Triple-A at-bat off a lefty, because that’s about as appropriate to how Jared Kelenic accepts challenges as you can imagine,” Dipoto said Thursday. “And I’m sure he’s going to be up for this next one, which is facing the best pitchers in the world night after night.”

Kelenic and right-handed pitcher Logan Gilbert are making their debuts for the Mariners on Thursday night as Seattle takes the next step in its rebuilding project. Kelenic is starting in left field and battling leadoff, while Gilbert will start on the mound as Seattle opens a four-game series with Cleveland.

“Players, sometimes they hit the ground running, and sometimes they don’t. The major leagues are difficult,” Dipoto said. “But there’s never any more excitement than with the anticipation of the arrival of talented young players like these and we’re excited to see what happens across the board. It’s gonna be a fun time for us.”

The additions Thursday are part of a major roster reshuffle for the Mariners. Coming up from Triple-A Tacoma along with Kelenic and Gilbert is right-hander Paul Sewald to bolster a taxed bullpen.

But Kelenic and Gilbert are the headliners. Kelenic has been regarded as one of the top prospects in the minors for several years and only reinforced his status with a torrid start at Triple-A, where he hit .370 with six runs, two homers, a double and five RBIs in just six games.

“He’s knocked every challenge we’ve given him out of the park, really, and has done that since he’s been a Mariner,” Dipoto said.

Kelenic will primarily play in left field, but Dipoto expects him to move around the outfield on days Kyle Lewis or Mitch Haniger need a break from playing in the field.

Kelenic said some of his nerves were eased because Gilbert was debuting on the same night.

“To be able to start this journey in the big leagues with someone that you started the journey with in the minor leagues makes this transition a little bit easier,” Kelenic said. “I was just talking with him in the clubhouse and as excited as I am to get going with my major league career, I’m just as excited for him.”

Gilbert’s arrival in Seattle was partly out of necessity. Dipoto said the team started targeting May for Gilbert’s potential arrival late last season. But major injuries to Seattle’s starting rotation may have prompted a slightly quicker decision on Gilbert, who made just one start in Triple-A.

With Seattle’s plan to use a six-man rotation, Dipoto said the Mariners believe they’ll be able to control Gilbert’s innings and keep him around the target of 110 to 120 this year.

“He’s, I believe, as ready for this opportunity as a young pitcher can be,” Dipoto said. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for him. It’s quite a challenge in the big leagues. But he’s so cerebral. He has been preparing for this start all of his life.”

Manager Scott Servais said the goal with Gilbert would be to get about five innings against Cleveland. He also revealed Gilbert had shoulder trouble early in spring training that has limited his workload to date.

“He’s completely healthy now. He’s good to go and the goal tonight would be about 85 pitches,” Servais said.

To clear space on the roster, Seattle optioned relievers Aaron Fletcher and Wyatt Mills to Tacoma, along with outfielder Taylor Trammell, whose spot is being taken by Kelenic for now. Trammell made his major league debut on Opening Day but is batting .157 in 27 games. Servais said Trammell needs more playing time and expects he’ll be back with the major league club at some point.

Seattle also transferred left-handed pitcher Nick Margevicius and right-hander Ljay Newsome to the 60-day injured list. Margevicius has been out since April 26 with shoulder issues. Newsome may be headed for Tommy John surgery. Dipoto said it appears both players could be done for the year.

Seattle also designated for assignment outfielder Braden Bishop.

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Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers join teams moving toward 100% fan capacity

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NEW YORK — The Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers have set plans to host 100% capacity at their ballparks, joining the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals.

The Twins, who started the season at 25% capacity, said Thursday they will increase to 60% for 12 home games at Target Field from May 14-30, move to 80% for 12 home games in June and 100% for the final 40 regular-season home games starting July 5.

“We are grateful that our state and region continue to be on a path toward improved health and a return to normalcy,” Twins president Dave St. Peter said in a statement.

Philadelphia started the season at 20%, and will increase capacity from 11,000 to 16,000 for a series against Boston starting Friday and followed by games against Washington (June 4-6) and Atlanta (June 8-10). Citizens Bank Park will be allowed 100% capacity starting with the Phillies’ series against the New York Yankees June 12-13. Limited pods will be available with socially distanced seating.

Tailgating also will be allowed.

Milwaukee, which began at 25%, said the Brewers’ American Family Field will shift to 100% capacity starting June 25.

The New York Yankees and Mets were given permission by New York state to increase capacity from 20% to 100% at their ballparks for home games starting May 19, but only as long as fans are vaccinated against COVID-19. The Mets said they planned to have sections for vaccinated fans at full capacity and for unvaccinated fans with social distancing.

The Chicago Cubs will increase Wrigley Field’s capacity to 60% starting with a series against Cincinnati that begins May 28. That will leave maximum attendance at just under 25,000, and there will be a minimum of one open seat between pods within the same row.

Illinois and Chicago officials are requiring a designated area for fully vaccinated fans, who will be required to present proof of vaccination and photo ID.

The Chicago White Sox will also increase capacity to 60% at Guaranteed Rate Field starting with a game against St. Louis on May 24, also with a minimum of one open seat between pods within the same row. The White Sox will have two full capacity sections for vaccinated fans when they host Kansas City this weekend.

Last year’s shortened MLB regular season was played entirely without fans, who were allowed back only for the National League Championship Series and World Series, and then in limited numbers for games moved to the neutral site of Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Texas was the only one of the major league teams to start the season at 100% capacity.

Atlanta said April 28 it would move to 100% at Truist Park starting May 7, and Arizona announced May 5 that it would shift to 100% at Bank One Ballpark starting May 25. Washington said this week that Nationals Park would allow 100% capacity starting June 11 after Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an order allowing it.

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