Former USC star and El Segundo High School grad Lars Nootbaar slugged the first home run of his major league career last Thursday, helping the St. Louis Cardinals to a 7-6 over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pinch-hitting in the fourth inning, Nootbaar launched a two-run shot into the right-centerfield seats to give St. Louis a 5-3 lead. The coveted ball was retrieved, and Nootbaar reportedly offered some autographed swag to the fan who caught it in trade. He said the only plans he had for the ball thus far was to keep it out of the mouths of his dogs back home.

Lars Nootbar (St. Louis Cardinals-MLB)

The following night at Kansas City, Nootbaar struck again in a pinch-hitting role, clubbing his second big-league shot in a 6-0 St. Louis victory.

The left-hand-hitting outfielder was scheduled to start Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee. An eighth-round selection in the 2018 amateur draft, the 23-year-old made his MLB debut for the Cardinals in June at Detroit.

Pirates Sign Tsutsugo in Major League Deal

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced the signing Monday of outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to a major league deal.

The Pirates, currently bottom of the National League Central, are Tsutsugo’s third major league club since leaving Japan to join the Tampa Bay Rays on a two-year, $12 million contract last year.

The Rays traded Tsutsugo in May to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who removed the 29-year-old slugger from their roster last month after assigning him to minor league affiliate Oklahoma City while he treated a calf strain.

The Dodgers released Tsutsugo on Saturday, making him a free agent.

“I’m a little excited but also nervous. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of play I can produce,” Tsutsugo said before debuting for the Pirates on Monday, in the opener of a three-game road series against the Dodgers.

The left-handed batter went 1-for-1 against his former club, hitting a double in his sole plate appearance as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of a 2-1 loss for the Pirates. He also had a double in Tuesday’s game at L.A.

A former standout for the DeNA BayStars in Japan’s Central League, Tsutsugo appeared in 38 games for the Rays and Dodgers in 2021, hitting .155 and striking out 39 times in 103 at-bats. In 43 minor league games, he batted .257 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs.

Rafu staff and wire service reports

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