Sluggers Pujols, Holliday arrive at Cardinals camp
For the first time in several springs, Albert Pujols has peace
of mind. Reconstructive elbow surgery no longer hangs over his
Last year’s unanimous NL MVP had a half-dozen bone spurs removed
from his chronically troublesome right elbow during offseason
surgery. When he awoke, doctors told him it was likely he’ll never
have to undergo reconstructive surgery. That had been a possibility
Pre- and postoperative consultation with Dr. James Andrews and
Dr. George Paletta, the team physician, eased any worries.
“I told Dr. Paletta and Dr. Andrews ‘If you go in there and you
see something different from the test, go ahead and get it done,”’
Pujols said Sunday. “They didn’t. It’s good news to hear Dr.
Andrews tell me that probably you will never have to worry about
having the Tommy John (surgery).”
The three-time MVP, however, is getting tired talking about a
Pujols has a year remaining on a seven-year, $100 million
contract, plus the Cardinals have an option for 2011. The
30-year-old Pujols has consistently said there’s no hurry for a new
“It’s getting to the point that it’s getting irritating to talk
about my contract,” Pujols said. “Let’s wait until something
happens, and then we’re going to have all the answers and you can
throw every question you want.
“As of right now, man, I don’t want to talk about it because
I’m so sick and tired of everybody talking about my contract or
writing about my contract every time,” he said.
Pujols said he’s not about to walk into the offices of chairman
Bill DeWitt Jr. or general manager John Mozeliak to talk about a
“That’s why I have my agent, and things are going to work
out,” Pujols said.
Pujols and Matt Holliday both hit the field for the first time
on Sunday, two days ahead of the first full-squad workout. That’s
peace of mind for manager Tony La Russa, who joked, “We got better
today, didn’t we?”
Pujols brought his family, including two-week-old son Ezra,
anxious to swap snowy St. Louis for mid-70s temperatures at the
team’s spring training complex in south Florida.
Holliday showed up not to knock off rust but to hit the ground
“I come in ready to get after it,” Holliday said. “The first
at-bat of the first game, I’ll be expecting results. It’s probably
not a good idea but I’m here to compete.”
Both players had sessions with new hitting instructor Mark
McGwire, and were eager to work with the former home run king.
Holliday already had a good idea of McGwire’s approach after he and
fifth-place hitter Ryan Ludwick spent two days with Big Mac in
Austin, Texas, last month.
Pujols was a rookie in 2001, McGwire’s last season, and said he
might have been too shy or too reluctant to invade the veterans’
space that year.
“We talked a little bit about things I did toward the end of
last year, things that I saw in my videotape,” Pujols said. “Now
I’m going to take advantage and talk to him about hitting because I
Pujols has been hitting and throwing for six weeks and said the
elbow was 95 percent healed. The elbow has bothered him off and on
since the 2003 season when he was a left fielder and La Russa
instructed shortstop Edgar Renteria to trot out into the outfield
to collect underhand tosses to keep Pujols’ bat in the lineup.
He arrives at camp with no limitations, except to convince
himself not to try to do too much too soon. Talking about the
extension in his swing brings a smile, along with the memory of
what used to be.
“You take six bone spurs almost as big as your pinkie
fingernail and you know, that’s pretty huge,” Pujols said. “Some
of those pieces, I remember Dr. Andrews and Dr. Paletta said ‘I
can’t believe how you swing with these things,’ so I’m pretty
“I’m going to try to play pain-free and hopefully I’ll stay
La Russa guessed that Pujols had “significant pain” in more
than half of his seasons.
“That’s part of his greatness,” La Russa said. “He’s not
oblivious to it but he deals with it.”
Pujols blames himself for being “such a hard head” and
refusing days off. He said his elbow bothered him a lot the first
six weeks last season, but he didn’t want to make any excuses.
After all, he batted .327 and led the NL in homers (47), runs
(124), on-base percentage (.443), slugging percentage (.658) and
intentional walks (44). The homer count is a career best, even
though he had none after Sept. 9.
Bringing up the homer drought remains a surefire way to rile
“If I would have been striking out and hitting ground balls and
popping the ball up, then I’d be concerned,” Pujols said. “But I
don’t recall those things happening.”
Holliday spurred the Cardinals to a runaway NL Central title
after arriving in mid-July, with 55 RBIs and a .353 average in 63
games. He signed a seven-year, $120 million free agent deal in
January, and vowed Sunday that it wouldn’t change his game.
“I have expectations of myself whether I’m making the league
minimum or whatever,” Holliday said. “I expect to do well, that’s
how I look at it.”