TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jose Pujols arrived at Angels camp Friday looking leaner and stronger after dropping 13-15 pounds over his first surgery-free offseason in two years."It's good to get back to my normal routine, be able to work out," Pujols said. "It's been two and a half years with surgery,
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jose Pujols arrived at Angels camp Friday looking leaner and stronger after dropping 13-15 pounds over his first surgery-free offseason in two years.
"It's good to get back to my normal routine, be able to work out," Pujols said. "It's been two and a half years with surgery, injury. It [stinks]. Good to have a normal offseason where you don't have to go to physical therapy, just get yourself in the gym and get yourself ready for Spring Training. I'm in better shape, for sure."
Pujols' ability to train during the offseason had been restricted in each of his previous two winters due to foot surgeries, and his rehab often carried over to Spring Training, preventing him from entering the regular season in optimal shape. But he faced no limitations this time, allowing him to focus on improving his conditioning ahead of his 18th Major League season.
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Though he normally returns to Missouri during the offseason, Pujols said he decided to stay in Southern California and train at Proactive Sports Performance in West Village, Calif., a facility that counts the Brewers' Christian Yelich, the Astros' George Springer and several NBA and NFL players as clients.
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"I stayed away from a lot of the heavy lifting," Pujols said. "They introduced me to a different workout that I never had. It was more agility, flexibility. Before, I spent two to two and a half hours in the gym, now I take care of everything in an hour and a half. You burn more calories and are able to hit the goal you want to hit. I feel great. It was something I needed. It was tough to come to Spring Training in great shape because of the injuries."
Pujols was limited to just six starts at first base in 2017, but he's expected to feature in the field more often this season to free up at-bats for Shohei Ohtani at designated hitter. Pujols, who has won two Gold Glove Awards at first base, said he's looking forward to playing more defense.
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"That's my position," Pujols said. "I get ready every year to play first base. Last couple years, because of injuries, I haven't been able to get my feet wet at that position, but I get ready [every] offseason to play that position."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn't say how often he hopes to use Pujols at first base, though the ideal number for the Angels would likely be two to three times a week to give Ohtani a chance to hit in between his starts on the mound.
"There is no doubt he can go out there and play first base enough to give us some versatility in lineups," Scioscia said. "I know he loves to play first base. We are a better team when he plays first base. He is a terrific first baseman. I don't know if we're going to put a number on it right now, but we'll see."
Pujols hit 23 home runs -- including his 600th career homer -- and drove in 101 runs for the Angels last season, but he also batted .241 with a .286 on-base percentage and a .386 slugging percentage, all of which were career-lows for the 38-year-old. Pujols, who will enter the 2018 season only 32 hits shy of 3,000, refused to blame injuries for the decline, but Scioscia said he believes they were a factor.
"Albert has performed at the plate, but like any hitter who drives the ball, you are sensitive to how your legs feel," Scioscia said. "That's no different than how it was the last couple years. We'll get into it. Albert is ready to go."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.
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