Timing of rehab for torn plantar fascia in left foot forces decision
ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols' faint hopes of returning before the end of the Angels' trying season were officially put to rest on Monday, when the organization announced their expensive, superstar first baseman was being shut down for the remainder of 2013.
The news wasn't altogether surprising, considering the partial tear in Pujols' left foot would've had him back by mid-September at the earliest, but it did bring clarity. Pujols -- owed $212 million from 2014-21 -- can now fully rehab from his injury, have a normal offseason and focus solely on coming back strong next spring.
"It was not an easy decision, as competitive of a player as I am," Pujols said. "But I also understand wanting to look past this season."
Pujols had been playing through a severe case of plantar fasciitis on his left foot since the middle of Spring Training, prompting him to start 65 of his 99 games at designated hitter while having difficulty running. On July 26, on a ninth-inning, two-run single off Grant Balfour in Oakland, he sustained a partial tear of the left plantar fascia, which naturally accomplished what invasive surgery would've done and shut him down for at least six weeks.
Pujols, who removed the protective boot on Friday, said he's feeling "pretty good." He's working out, doing some cardio, and estimated being at 90 percent in a couple weeks. But the Angels are 15 1/2 games out of first place entering Monday's series opener against the Indians, and there's little need to come back in September.
So, Pujols -- vehement about not giving up on 2013 when he met with the media on Aug. 1 -- ultimately conceded.
"It was a decision in the organization, because I don't make decisions here," Pujols said, referring to owner Arte Moreno and general manager Jerry Dipoto. "I put my uniform on and get ready to play."
For more than a decade in St. Louis, Pujols was the most consistent force in baseball, batting at least .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. But the Angels haven't seen that yet. The 33-year-old struggled mightily to start 2012, batting .212 with one homer in his first 36 games. He turned it around, somehow finishing the year with a .285 batting average, 30 homers and 105 RBIs, but plantar fasciitis reared its ugly head in March and Pujols was never able to shake it off in Year 2.
He'll finish 2013 eight homers shy of 500 and two RBIs short of 1,500, with career-lows in batting average (.258), homers (17), RBIs (64), OPS (.767) and games played (99).
But he'll probably never deal with plantar fasciitis on his left foot again, and he'll have a lot of time to get strong for next spring.
"I want to be out there and play. It's no fun being on the bench for four hours, but I also understand that it's not only this year -- I have eight more years left and hopefully more," Pujols said.
"I feel pretty good. I'm still going to do my activity to get myself ready for next year. At least now I have in my mind that I'm definitely not going to come back this year so I can pace myself knowing I don't have to come back right away."