Pujols in good spirits to open camp …
Albert Pujols arrived to Spring Training early, as usual. Is looking trim, as usual.
And is feeling unusually healthy.
“You’re going to see it when I run around and move around,” the Angels’ high-priced first baseman said with a big grin. “I’ll let your eyes judge. … I might sneak five or six [stolen bases] this year.”
Pujols is ready to go after a season that was cut to 99 games because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot and a right knee that still wasn’t fully recovered from offseason surgery. He arrived to the Angels’ Spring Training facility on Wednesday, the day before pitchers and catchers reported, about seven pounds lighter and doesn’t expect to have any restrictions running or playing first base when full workouts begin late next week.
“It was a great offseason,” Pujols said Thursday morning from Tempe Diablo Stadium. “Like I told you guys at the end of the season last year, everything happens for a reason. It sucked sitting on the bench for almost two and a half months last year, as competitive an athlete as I am. But at the same time, it happened for the best because I was able to not have the surgery on my heel and miss maybe some of my offseason training.”
Pujols had an unprecedented 11-year run to start his career, batting .328/.420/.617 with 445 homers. In his first season with the Angels in 2012 — the first of a 10-year, $240 million contract — the 34-year-old recovered from a rough start to bat .285/.343/.516. Last year, his numbers dipped to .258/.330/.437, with most of his games coming as a designated hitter, and his season ended on July 26 with a partial tear of his left plantar fascia.
“It was like playing with a flat tire and a broken rim,” is how Pujols described last season, referencing his left foot and right knee.
That, however, allowed Pujols to have a normal offseason, though he hit earlier than usual to make up for the lost time.
How much difference will that have on his numbers?
“You can’t read the future and put pressure on yourself and say, ‘I need to do this,'” Pujols said. “I didn’t change my program. I did the things that I’ve always done in the offseason to prepare myself to come to Spring Training. Obviously this year was a little bit better because I didn’t have to worry about the injuries, like I did in the offseason of 2012 after my knee surgery.
“But as long as I stay healthy, I know I’m going to hit and I’m going to play this game as hard as I can and try to have a big smile and try to help this organization win a championship. This is not about Albert Pujols.”
— Alden Gonzalez