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#pounditThursday, February 22, 2024

Did AL pitcher admit to grooving fastballs to Albert Pujols in All-Star Game?

Albert Pujols looking on

May 27, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols (5) walks on the field before the game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

One pitcher apparently tried to extend Albert Pujols’ Home Run Derby to the next day.

Oakland Athletics pitcher Paul Blackburn seemed to reveal to the media on Thursday that he intentionally grooved fastballs to Pujols during the MLB All-Star Game. Blackburn said he noticed while on the mound that catcher Alejandro Kirk of the Toronto Blue Jays (his battery mate for the day) was calling for nothing but inside fastballs with Pujols at the plate. Blackburn added that he went along with it, per Athletics announcer Vince Cotroneo.

The St. Louis Cardinals veteran Pujols, playing in his final season and his final All-Star Game, faced Blackburn in the bottom of the fourth inning. Pujols did get a good pitch to hit on a 2-2 count, lifting one deep into left field that was caught for an out just shy of the warning track. It ended up being Pujols’ only at-bat of the game.

Even during the All-Star Game, grooving pitches (or at least speaking openly about doing so) is a controversial topic, seen by some purists as the breaking of an unwritten rule. Several years ago, another pitcher admitted to similarly grooving fastballs for a legend at the All-Star Game and got backlash for it.

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