ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Albert Pujols isn’t ready to wrap up his second season with the Los Angeles Angels.
The $240 million first baseman said Thursday he wants to return from his partially torn plantar fascia when healthy, no matter where his struggling club sits in the standings. Although any chance of a return is still a few weeks off, Pujols is encouraged by the absence of pain in his left foot since he went on the disabled list Sunday.
“It’s still a long way until the season is done, so I don’t want to say that I’m done for the season,” Pujols said while standing in the tunnel outside the clubhouse at Angel Stadium, his left foot in a walking boot.
The Angels have determined Pujols won’t need surgery on his foot, which has bothered him all season. The three-time NL MVP partially tore those sore muscle fibers last weekend after running out a single in Oakland.
Many assumed the slugger’s season was finished with the Angels mired in their second disappointing season since the longtime St. Louis star joined the roster. Pujols could use the extra two months of offseason to rest his foot for spring training, when he’ll be 34 years old with eight seasons left on the third-largest contract in baseball history.
Not so, Pujols claims. Although he’ll be in a walking boot for another three weeks, he hopes to return when cleared.
“Stuff like this, you’ve just got to rest it, and hopefully it gets better,” Pujols said. “I know it’s going to get better, because over the weekend I was feeling good. And pain-wise, to tell you the truth, from a scale of zero to 10, it’s probably about 1. I was playing at 7 or 8 in the season, so it’s really something that’s just going to take some time, and I’m just going to see how it feels every day.”
Pujols said he wants to return for the final weeks even if the season is essentially over for the Angels (48-58).
Los Angeles has lost six straight to fall 14 games out of first place in the AL West, its playoff hopes already flickering with two months left in the season.
“I get paid to play this game,” Pujols said. “I was already playing (at) 45 percent (effectiveness) this year. Even if I feel 55 percent that I can come back and play, I’m going to be out there and playing, because I love this game and I grew up playing this game, and I’m going to do the best I can to help this organization win.”
The Angels, 11 games out of the final AL playoff spot, opened a seven-game homestand against Toronto and Texas on Thursday night. Angels manager Mike Scioscia could use Pujols’ bat in the lineup, but he’s more cautious about the possibility of seeing Pujols in uniform again this season.
“Right now, it’s a significant injury that Albert has,” Scioscia said. “How fast it heals or how it happens is not in anybody’s hands. We’ve just got to evaluate it and see where it is, but I know when Albert feels he can play baseball, he wants to play baseball. Obviously, it’s too far down the road to really even contemplate.”
Pujols’ injury forced him to start at designated hitter in 65 of his 99 games this season. He’s batting .258 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs, likely meaning he’ll finish with fewer than 30 homers for the first time in his 13-season major league career.
Pujols has never played in fewer than 143 games in a major league season, but the slugger with 492 career homers still hopes to add a few more in the final weeks, even if the Angels are headed to their fourth straight year out of the playoffs.
“There’s no doubt he was at times struggling with some of the basics you need to hit (and) play the field,” Scioscia said. “We took him off the field just to keep him comfortable in the batter’s box. We can see it, we can estimate, but Albert felt it every day. In the batter’s box, we could tell he was hurting.”