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Houston Astros put RHP Jake Odorizzi on IL; 2B Jose Altuve returns after COVID bout

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HOUSTON — Astros starter Jake Odorizzi has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a strained muscle in his right arm and second baseman Jose Altuve has been activated after a bout with COVID-19.

Odorizzi left his start on Saturday after just five pitches with what the team called tightness in his right forearm, and manager Dusty Baker announced Monday that he had a strained right pronator.

“We hope it’s short term,” Baker said. “He’ll miss at least two turns (in the rotation). And then hopefully he’s ready.”

Altuve, the 2017 AL MVP, was among five Astros who were placed on the COVID-19 list on April 14. The other four returned within days, but Altuve remained out. He cleared health and safety protocols on Friday and revealed Saturday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 but did not have any symptoms.

Altuve said he received the first dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines before testing positive, and that he has no idea how he contracted the virus.

Altuve is off to a strong start in 2021 after a down year in last season’s pandemic-shortened campaign. He is hitting .318 with one homer, three doubles and five RBIs in 11 games. Baker said he would bat leadoff on Monday night when the Astros begin a four-game series against the Mariners.

Odorizzi got a late start to the season after not signing with the Astros until March 8. His deal guarantees him $20.25 million over two years or $23.5 million over three seasons if a player option is exercised for 2023.

“I feel pretty fortunate that it was only something very minor,” he said. “And maybe the other day was just my body protecting itself and not letting it get into a worse position than I’m in right now. So I’m pretty optimistic about, I’m happy with the results.”

The 31-year-old Odorizzi is 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA in three starts this season.

An All-Star in 2019 with Minnesota, Odorizzi was hoping to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2020 season, when he pitched just 13 2/3 innings.

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Albert Pujols in agreement with Los Angeles Dodgers on major league deal, sources say

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The Los Angeles Dodgers and first baseman Albert Pujols are in agreement on a major league contract, sources told ESPN on Saturday, confirming a report by the Los Angeles Times.

The agreement isn’t expected to become official until Monday, a source said.

Pujols, in the last year of his 10-year, $240 million contract, was designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels on May 6 and was officially released on Thursday after clearing waivers.

Pujols, 41, would seemingly be coming in for a part-time role. Max Muncy has started 32 of the Dodgers’ first 38 games at first base, but he also provides the versatility to help at third base and second base, which would open up some playing time for Pujols at first base.

The Dodgers entered Saturday with a .663 OPS against opposing left-handed pitchers this season, 136 points less than the team’s OPS against righties.

Pujols, one of the best right-handed-hitters in baseball history, could help with that. Pujols was batting only .198/.250/.372 in his first 92 plate appearances this season, but his .513 expected slugging percentage suggested he had also been running into some bad luck.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tampa Bay Rays deal reliever Hunter Strickland to Los Angeles Angels

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The Tampa Bay Rays traded right-handed relief pitcher Hunter Strickland to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Strickland, 32, has appeared in 13 games for the Rays this season, registering a 1.69 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched.

He made the Rays roster in spring training as a non-roster invitee.

The eight-year veteran has a 16-16 career record with 21 saves and a 3.14 ERA and 249 strikeouts. He also has pitched for the Giants, Mariners, Nationals and Mets during his career.

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Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ ‘good’ after being activated from IL

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The Chicago Cubs activated outfielder Ian Happ from the injured list after he missed time due to bruised ribs.

“They’re good,” Happ said Saturday morning. “I feel great. It’s not like anything I’ve ever had before. Working out the last three to four days, being able to throw, hit, run and do everything it takes to play in a major league baseball game.”

Happ, 26, was injured in a collision with second baseman Nico Hoerner as both players converged on a pop up in the outfield earlier this month. Hoerner also spent time on the injured list with a forearm injury. He was activated on Friday.

To make room on the roster for Happ, infielder Ildemaro Vargas was designated for assignment. Happ is batting sixth and playing centerfield against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.

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