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Pujols healthy, aims to be ready Opening Day

Veteran slugger won't rush process toward Spring Training action
February 17, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels first baseman Albert Pujols met with the media for the first time this spring on Sunday and said he's fully healthy after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in late August.Pujols was cleared to start swinging a bat in December, and he said he hasn't

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels first baseman Albert Pujols met with the media for the first time this spring on Sunday and said he's fully healthy after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in late August.
Pujols was cleared to start swinging a bat in December, and he said he hasn't had any issues with his knee since undergoing the operation.
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"Everything is good," Pujols said. "I had a normal offseason, got that [surgery] done early so I didn't have to interfere with my routine. I'm really excited with where I'm at right now."
Pujols, though, said he isn't sure when he'll play in his first Cactus League game, as the Angels are expected to ease him into action early in spring. The club will play its first Spring Training game on Saturday against the Giants at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
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"I know my routine and I know what I need to do," Pujols said. "My goal is to be ready for March 29 on Opening Day. I don't need to rush anything. Whether I play next when the games start or whether I play two weeks from now, I think I know what I need to do. I've had 20 years of experience, so I think I know what I need to do."
Pujols, 39, is coming off a season that saw him hit .245/.289/.411 with 19 homers, 20 doubles and 64 RBIs in 117 games. He also played first base 70 times after playing just six games at first in 2017 and 28 games there in '16.

The Angels added fellow first baseman Justin Bour via free agency this offseason, so manager Brad Ausmus will be tasked with finding the right balance at the position. Early in the season, Pujols or Bour can serve as designated hitter, but things will get more crowded once Shohei Ohtani returns from Tommy John surgery, as he can only serve as DH. Ohtani is expected to return in May.
Ausmus said production will dictate who plays on a daily basis once all three players are healthy.
"If he's playing well, he's going to play," Ausmus said of Pujols. "As simple as that. The most important thing in Spring Training is making sure he's healthy going into the season. We certainly don't want to overload him here and have an issue in April or May. That's the game plan. It's going to evolve as we go, but we're going to be cautious out of the gate."
Pujols arrived to camp early and said he's enjoyed working with new hitting coaches Shawn Wooten and Jeremy Reed. He's hopeful they can help him with their analytical and video-driven approach, but Pujols said the most important thing is feeling comfortable at the plate.
"I'm really open to what they have," Pujols said. "Their job is studying my swing, the video and just come to me and say, 'Hey what do you think about this?' I think so far we connected in those two days here last week, just with the ideas that I have, the things that I've been working on in the offseason. Just looking forward to it. But hitting, I always say, is about yourself, you need to know yourself what you're doing wrong at the plate and if you don't feel that, then it doesn't matter how many hitting coaches you have around."
Pujols, who remains under contract through the 2021 season with $88 million remaining on his 10-year deal, added that he' s not putting any extra pressure on himself to perform or to recapture his previous form.
"I don't need to show anybody," Pujols said. "My job is to just try to be healthy and help this ballclub to win a championship. I don't think I need to show anybody. I know what I can do when I'm healthy and that's what I try to do."

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.