Pujols lands on DL …
Plantar fasciitis had hindered Albert Pujols all year. And now, it’ll likely force him to miss the rest of 2013.
The Angels placed their ailing designated hitter on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday morning with what an MRI revealed was a partial tear of the left plantar fascia. Pujols, currently in a walking boot and resting in Southern California, will miss “a significant amount of time,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
In all likelihood, he won’t return until the start of 2014.
“This is a big blow to our team right now,” Scioscia said. “We have to move forward and find a way to generate offense that will support the good pitching that we need. It’s naturally something you would hope could have made it through to the offseason , but it didn’t happen and you just have to move on.”
Pujols had been playing through a severe case of plantar fasciitis all season, starting 65 of his 99 games at DH while producing a .258/.330/.437 slash line with 17 homers and 64 RBIs. But he aggravated the foot even further on Friday night, when he ripped a ninth-inning, two-out, two-run single down the left-field line against A’s closer Grant Balfour.
Pujols was in obvious pain when he reached first base, then signaled toward the dugout to be removed for a pinch-runner and spent Saturday back in Southern California receiving an MRI on the foot.
“There is no doubt on that one it was a different level of pain,” Scioscia said.
The partial tear naturally accomplished what the invasive procedure to treat plantar fasciitis would’ve essentially done. He’ll see a foot specialist on Monday and will likely spend the next two months rehabbing, but it looks like surgery is no longer necessary.
The blessing in disguise for the Angels – 12 games out of first place, six games below .500 and in need of a miracle run just to stay relevant – is that Pujols will have extra time to recover from an ailment he was eventually going to have to take care of. Now, if he gets through the rehab fine, he can have a normal offseason. And that may be the Angels’ best chance of getting Pujols – making $212 million from 2014-21 – back in prime form.
If this is the end of Pujols’ 2013 season, it’ll end eight homers shy of 500 and two RBIs shy of 1,500. He had never played less than 143 games in his previous 12 years in the big leagues, going on the disabled list only three other times.
His hope this year was to continue to play every day, even though he was clearly in severe pain.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player that really just wants to go out there and play,” Scioscia said, “and wants to do everything he can till the last drop of his body is used up before considering going on the DL, and can really play at a high level at what is maybe 50-60 percent of his health. He still goes out and is productive.”
Erick Aybar, one of Pujols’ best friends on the team, spoke to the iconic slugger on the phone Saturday night.
“He was really down,” Aybar said. “You couldn’t even tell it was him. He really wanted to play. I don’t think he’ll sleep thinking about this.”
Mike Trout will continue to fill in for Pujols in the No. 3 spot of the Angels’ lineup and left-handed-hitting outfielder Kole Calhoun was called up from the Minors to take his place on the 25-man roster.
Calhoun, who can play all three outfield spots, recovered nicely after missing about six weeks with a fractured hamate bone in his right hand early in the season, eventually batting .354 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs for Triple-A Salt Lake. Three of those homers came in one game on Tuesday, and Calhoun was batting .583 over his last 10 games.
“It wasn’t a very good start to 2013, that’s for sure,” said Calhoun, who started in right field and batted eighth on Sunday, pushing Josh Hamilton to left. “But if you look at it, I guess I kind of got a second chance. I got to start all over, so I just tried to make the most out of the situation.”
Pujols has dealt with spurts of plantar fasciitis throughout his career, but it’s never been this bad. It was never this prolonged, and it never affected him this much.
All those years of playing through it, Pujols believes, had caught up to him.
“That’s how it is when you’ve been playing with something nine years,” Pujols told MLB.com prior to Friday’s game. “That’s what the doctor told me. He said, ‘Look, you’ve been nine or 10 years playing with this, and it gets worse.’ It’s like if you have an injury in your arm and you keep throwing. What do you think? It’s a long year, and it’s going to catch up to you. That’s what happens.”