TEMPE, Ariz. — Albert Pujols’ daily routine hasn’t changed much since spring training began 2 1/2 weeks ago. He’s taking batting practice, fielding ground balls hit right at him and jogging on a treadmill. He has not yet run on a field, and he appears at least two weeks away from playing in an exhibition game.
But the Angels first baseman, who underwent surgery to clean out his right knee in October, seemed almost defiant Friday in the face of questions about whether he would be ready by the April 1 season opener at Cincinnati and whether he’d be able to play defense early on.
Asked if he had a feeling when he might be ready to play in a game, Pujols said, “April 1.” How many spring games would he need to be ready for the season? “None,” he said. “As long as my body feels good, I’m ready to go.”
Seriously? Wouldn’t Pujols, who overcame a horrendous April to hit .285 with 30 home runs, 50 doubles and 105 runs batted in last season, need at least a few at-bats to get his timing down?
“I’ve got 8,000 at-bats in the big leagues,” Pujols said. “I think I’ve got plenty.”
Pujols injured his knee in late August last season and was relegated to DH for much of September. But he takes pride in his defense and is not ready to concede that he may have to DH more than he’d like early in the season.
“It depends how I feel,” Pujols said. “It’s hard to read the future. This is the first time in my career I’ve come to spring training dealing with an injury. You go by how you feel and go from there.”
Pujols did acknowledge that he would need to run the bases for about a week before playing in a game. Manager Mike Scioscia said he expected Pujols to begin running on the field by the end of this week.
“If the season started tomorrow, I’d be out there playing, but there is no reason for me to go out and play when we have five more weeks before Opening Day,” Pujols said. “We’re being cautious because we have time. There’s no reason to push it.”