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Cron reflects on Pujols' 3,000-hits milestone

First basemen played together in Angels' organization
MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- Albert Pujols collected his 3,000th career hit Friday night. Rays first baseman C.J. Cron spoke with admiration of his former Angels teammate.

"I mean it's just a crazy milestone," Cron said. "If you just think about 3,000 hits. If a guy gets 180 in a year, that's really good. It's unbelievable.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Albert Pujols collected his 3,000th career hit Friday night. Rays first baseman C.J. Cron spoke with admiration of his former Angels teammate.

"I mean it's just a crazy milestone," Cron said. "If you just think about 3,000 hits. If a guy gets 180 in a year, that's really good. It's unbelievable.

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"Coming up through the Angels' system, he was the other first baseman. So we would always be taking ground balls, and he would help me all the time. It was pretty special to see how happy he was to get that knock."

Cron said Pujols was "an open book" to him.

"He helped me. Any questions I had he was there," Cron said. "I think being around him daily and seeing the professionalism he brought to the field every day, it just kind of paved the way for me. It's the way baseball should be played. He was influential for sure."

Cron was driving home after the Rays' 6-2 win over the Blue Jays on Friday night when Pujols got his milestone hit, but he watched the replay. Later he congratulated Pujols via a text.

"He got back to me, it was cool," Cron said.

Tweet from @PujolsFive: Thank you to all of my family, friends and fans for the support I���ve been given throughout my career. 3,000 hits was a special milestone for me and it is an honor to have shared it with all of you. May all glory be to God. pic.twitter.com/s08LrMNw0e

Cron called Pujols a "complete hitter" and noted that Pujols was only the fourth player in Major League history to have 600 home runs and 3,000 hits.

"That's pretty crazy," Cron said. "He's had an awesome career, and he's still going."

While Cron was Pujols' teammate with the Angels, Cron began watching him hit before that, when Pujols played for the Cardinals.

"If [the pitch] was outside, he'd take it over the right-field wall," Cron said. "If it was inside, he was pulling it 450 feet. There was really no way to get him out. He has a unique stance and a unique setup. But it works for him. He's super balanced. And I think the numbers speak for themselves. He's a pretty good hitter."

Worth noting
Ryne Stanek, who was recalled from Triple-A Durham after Friday night's game, said the shuttle of players between the Major Leagues and Durham has the Bulls' pitchers "excited."

"When you see everybody moving up and down, nobody's upset, everybody's happy for the other person," Stanek said. "Everybody there is throwing well. It's one of those things where everybody's going to get their opportunity, so everybody's excited. It's exciting because everybody knows they're right there, going to get a chance. It's been kind of interesting to see how everything has happened so far."

Rays manager Kevin Cash believes the hard-throwing Stanek has a huge upside.

"I just like the fact that he's been in the zone," Cash said. "I've said it many times, we've got to find a way to get him comfortable. The same mentality he takes on the Durham mound, he's got to take at the Trop. And when he does that, he's going to help us. And for many years."

Nathan Eovaldi (right elbow surgery to remove loose bodies) made his first rehab start for Class A Advanced Charlotte on Friday night. He allowed a run on two hits and threw 17 pitches, 13 of which were strikes. Cash was asked about what's next for the right-hander.

"He'll get on a five-man rotation," Cash said. "He'll throw a bullpen. And then the next time a two [innings] and 35 [pitches] session, whatever comes first."

Eovaldi will likely remain with Charlotte.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, C.J. Cron