Albert Pujols is still not running, and he won't be playing when the exhibition games begin Feb. 23, but the Angels slugger remains optimistic that he'll be good to go on opening day.
"I'm taking it easy and working my way into it," Pujols said Thursday, the day before the team's first full-squad workout of the spring. "My main goal is to be ready for opening day, not for spring training. We have plenty of time, so I'm not going to rush myself and take an injury into the season."
Pujols, 33, had a cleanup procedure on his right knee just after the season ended last October. The Angels have insisted it was a minor surgery that wouldn't threaten his readiness for opening day, but it's something he's still dealing with.
Pujols spent much of the season's final month limited to designated hitter duty.
"You saw the last six, seven weeks of the season I was in a lot of pain," Pujols said. "But everything is good now. I'm rehabbing well."
Pujols is looking to not only bounce back from the injury that slowed him at the end, but to get off to a better start. Last season he hit .217 with no homers in April. He rallied to finish at .285 with 30 homers and 105 RBI.
When asked to reflect on last year's bad start, Pujols grudgingly conceded that being in a new league and facing the pressure of a new team caused him trouble.
"I don't look for excuses," he said. "It was a different league. Now it's going to be different. I know some of the guys I will face. Maybe I tried to do a little too much last year in the first month. (Mark) Trumbo was the only one who was hitting. We were all trying to do too much.
"We knew we were better than our record was showing and we tried to press. If you don't do that, you aren't human. I spread the strike zone a little bit, tried to hit a two-run homer with nobody on base. It happens. I'm glad it did happen because it taught me a lot, to relax and go back to myself and keep it simple."
Angels' Pujols not rushing his return from knee surgery
Orange County Register | Feb 15