Pujols, pitchers eyeing big milestones in 2013

Angels slugger in reach of 500th homer; three in line to record 200th victory

Pujols, pitchers eyeing big milestones in 2013
In baseball, a sport with a rich history, each season leaves its own unique mark in the form of new records or milestones.

The upcoming season will be no different.

Significant milestones are within reach for some of baseball's biggest stars. Albert Pujols is likely to complete his journey to 500 home runs and Alex Rodriguez's might reach 3,000 hits, and there are plenty more.

Pujols sits just 25 home runs away from becoming the 26th player in Major League history to hit 500. He has yet to produce a season with fewer than 30 long balls, so that bit of history appears to be set for sometime in August or September.

But that's not the only mark within Pujols' grasp. With 66 RBIs, he'll become the 52nd player to reach the 1,500-RBI mark.

As for Rodriguez, health will be a big factor in whether he'll get the 99 hits he needs to join the prestigious 3,000-hit club.

"Six months is a reasonable time frame for return to play when we're doing the procedure we're discussing with a bone correction," said Dr. Bryan Kelly, who performed arthroscopic surgery on Rodriguez's left hip last week. "Optimistically speaking, what we're hoping for is for him to be able to return after the All-Star break."

That would make a 3,000th hit this year a bit of a stretch. The same goes for the incredibly elite 2,000-RBI club, from which A-Rod sits just 50 away. He would join three baseball immortals -- Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Cap Anson -- as the only ones to drive in so many runs.

Derek Jeter, Rodriguez's teammate, was the last to reach 3,000 hits. And while there aren't many nice, round numbers within Jeter's grasp in 2013, he sits just 116 hits away from passing Carl Yastrzemski for the American League record for most hits while having played with just one team.

On the pitching side of things, three hurlers will enter the season with 200 victories well within reach. It's possible that Roy Halladay (199), Tim Hudson (197) and CC Sabathia (191) will all reach the milestone before the All-Star break.

At 37, Hudson figures to be finished passing wins milestones once he reaches 200. But Halladay (35) and Sabathia (32) are aces for whom the increasingly difficult 300-victory milestone is within reach. The way bullpens have taken over the game, they may be two of the last pitchers for a long time to approach the mark.

"You don't want to say never, but this could be it with Randy," 305-game winner Tom Glavine said of Randy Johnson when he accomplished the feat in 2009. "It wouldn't surprise me if there's not another."

As for strikeouts, four pitchers are within 100 of reaching 2,000. Livan Hernandez (1,976) is a free agent, but the Mets' Johan Santana (1,988), the Pirates' A.J. Burnett (1,971) and Boston's Ryan Dempster (1,918) all seem like locks to crack the milestone, which would put them in a club with only five other active pitchers.

Offensively, it isn't just A-Rod and Albert on the verge of milestones. Torii Hunter, who moved from the Angels to the Tigers this offseason, is three homers shy of 300, and while he's the only player for whom that marker appears to be a lock, there are three others who may have a shot shot at it.

Bobby Abreu is still a free agent, but he sits at 287. Carlos Pena, who recently signed a one-year deal with Houston, needs 23 to reach 300. He hit 19 last season, but slugged 28, 28, 39, 31 and 46 in the preceding five years. Detroit's Prince Fielder has put up two seasons of 40-plus homers. If he does so again in 2013, he'll reach 300 as well.

As for Hunter, he's one of a handful of players with 2,000 hits within reach. In fact, he's the closest, with 1,986. Also among that group are Milwaukee's Aramis Ramirez (1,959), the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano (1,897, and who could also reach 400 home runs with 28 dingers) and David Ortiz (1,863).

But perhaps the most intriguing member of that bunch is Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers' Triple Crown slugger needs 198 knocks to join an elite list of players who reached the 2,000-hit mark as a 30-year-old. Cabrera has until April 18, 2014, to accomplish that feat, but there's a good chance he'll reach it in 2013. He is coming off a 205-hit campaign and has averaged 191 hits per season (setting aside his shortened rookie year of 2003).

The other 30-year-olds to hit the 2,000-hit plateau: Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Hank Aaron, Joe Medwick, Jimmie Foxx, Robin Yount and Rodriguez. Only Ty Cobb cracked 2,000 hits before his 30th birthday.

Another milestone worth noting is Todd Helton's quest to become just the 15th player in history to reach 600 doubles. No one has accomplished that feat since Barry Bonds did so in 2007.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.