From Comcast SportsNetMIAMI (AP) -- A person familiar with discussions between Albert Pujols and the Florida Marlins says the free-agent slugger is visiting the team Friday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team hadn't commented publicly. The Marlins are expected to give Pujols a tour of their new ballpark, as they did earlier this week during visits by free agents Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. It is unknown whether the Marlins planned to make a contract offer. Pujols is a free agent for the first time after spending his first 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. The 31-year-old first baseman and the Cardinals didn't discuss a contract extension during the season, which ended with a World Series title.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Before he left camp on March 6, Buster Posey was telling teammates and team officials that his involvement in the World Baseball Classic was a one-and-done deal. On Friday, Posey returned to camp with a new outlook.
"It's a great tournament," Posey said. "If you were able to do it in the actual Olympics, it would be even better. I just don't know how to do that other than shutting down the season. But after playing in this tournament, I would be up for that.
"If I had a chance to do it again, I think I would. If you had asked me that three weeks ago, I would have said I don't think I would. That's how much fun I had."
Posey, Brandon Crawford and Mark Melancon were greeted by one teammate after another Friday morning, many of them fellow Americans congratulating the group on helping lead Team USA to its first WBC title. Posey and Crawford, who missed most of March, had kept in touch with teammates via text, and some who reached out said they often got the same message back: "If you have a chance to do this, don't pass it up."
Posey and Crawford will be hitting their mid 30s the next time around. It's no lock that they're still in position to play, but they made the most of their experience this month. Crawford had 10 hits and played his usual stellar defense, earring new fans who don't watch his Gold Glove on a nightly basis. Posey hit a pair of long home runs in four starts.
Most importantly, both of them returned healthy and ready to play Friday.
"I'm ready for some Cactus League!" Posey said, laughing.
Despite being gone for nearly three weeks, Posey hasn’t actually played that much this month. He started half of Team USA’s games but he was on the bench for the title game. He said that didn’t bother him. Manager Jim Leyland talked to Posey and Jonathan Lucroy before the tournament.
“Of course, as a competitor, you want to be in that game, but Lucroy is a great catcher and he did a great job with (Marcus) Stroman and the rest of the staff,” Posey said. “You can’t go wrong with having him out there.”
Asked if there was one player he enjoyed getting to know, Posey chose Lucroy, saying he has played against him for a long time but never really gotten to know him. He noted how sharp Luke Gregerson's two-seamer was from behind the plate and said he enjoyed catching Pat Neshek and Stroman.
Team USA grew close over the course of the month, and got better and better as the tournament wore on. Posey said the foreign fans at the early games in Miami helped get the juices flowing, and once the action moved to San Diego, there were loud American fans joining the fray. Team USA defeated the Dominican Republic to get out of that round (Posey hugged Johnny Cueto on Friday morning and chanted “USA! USA!” as he walked off) and then beat Japan in the semis.
Wednesday night’s championship came via a blowout of Puerto Rico. Posey has won at every level, but the moment was not lost on him.
“It’s cliche but there is a certain amount of pride when you have your country’s name on your chest,” he said. “It’s a vibe you get. A lot of us come from different parts of the country and you get to go out and play the game the way you played as a child. It’s America’s pastime, and it was a fun tournament and experience. That made it fun to win it.”
Programming note – Sharks-Stars coverage starts today at 5:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California
WHERE THEY STAND
Sharks: 42-24-7, 91 points, 1st Pacific Division
Stars: 29-33-11, 69 points, 6th Central Division
PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES
***Indications are that Jannik Hansen will return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a head injury, as the Sharks try to end their season-long four-game losing streak in regulation. The forward took part in the team’s optional skate on Friday morning at American Airlines Center, his second straight day on the ice after he was hurt last Saturday against Anaheim.
“You’ve got to go through a couple stages, make sure there are no setbacks, no nothing,” said Hansen, who was whacked in the head by defenseman Brandon Montour.
Coach Pete DeBoer spoke before Hansen, and would only call him a game-time decision. Regardless, the trade deadline acquisition will be welcomed back into the lineup after he seemed to give a boost to the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line.
“He’s missed quite a bit of hockey personally this year, which should make him fresh for the playoffs, but we also want to make sure we get him in enough games that he’s comfortable in our system and gets some chemistry going with the guys around him,” DeBoer said. “I think it’s important we get him back. He’s a key piece for us.”
Timo Meier appears to be the forward that will come out for Hansen. Melker Karlsson (lower body) doesn't seem to be ready just yet, but skated again Friday morning.
***Along with getting a key piece back in their lineup, the Sharks will be the more rested team, having not played since Tuesday’s 3-2 loss in Minnesota. Dallas dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in Chicago last night.
DeBoer was quick to point out, though, that the first two of the Sharks’ four straight losses came to St. Louis and Anaheim, both of which was playing in the second of a back-to-back.
“I don’t think that’s a factor at all,” DeBoer said. “We played [the Stars] a couple games ago. We know what they do. We know what we have to do better here tonight in order to find a way to score some goals. We’ve just got to execute.”
Dallas is 2-4-1 in its last seven games, but beat the Sharks on Monday, 1-0, behind 30 saves from Kari Lehtonen. Aaron Dell will start in net for San Jose, while the Stars’ starter is not yet known.
***The Sharks begin the night with just a two-point lead on Anaheim in the Pacific Division. The Ducks are hosting the Jets on Friday.
Have the Sharks discussed the tightening standings?
“No, all we think about it get back to the winning road,” Joonas Donskoi said. “I think we’ve been playing pretty well last games, just haven’t found a way to put the puck in the net. That’s all we concentrate on.”
KEEP AN EYE ON...
Sharks: Jannik Hansen. Hansen wouldn’t say if he was going to be back up on the top line, but in his first four games there after he was inserted into San Jose’s lineup, they generated one even strength goal in each. The 31-year-old is still looking for his first goal with the Sharks, posting one assist in six games with a minus-one rating.
Stars: Ales Hemsky. Limited to just 11 games this season, and coming off of hip surgery, the 33-year-old veteran forward potted two goals in Chicago on Thursday night. The Czech native has points in four of his last seven games (3g, 2a).
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Joonas Donskoi – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Marcus Sorensen
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko
Aaron Dell (starter)
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Remi Elie – Tyler Seguin – Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie – Adam Cracknell – Jiri Hudler
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Greg Pateryn
Patrik Nemeth – Stephen Johns
Sharks: Melker Karlsson (lower body) is doubtful.
Stars: Jason Spezza (back spasms) is day-to-day. Mattias Janmark (knee) and Antoine Roussel (hand) are out.
“Obviously we know where our position is in the standings. We know how tight it is right now. We know how important these last two games on the road trip [are]. But there’s no panic here. We’ve just got to go out and play some good hockey.” – Joe Thornton